(WB) U.S. Attorney General William Barr affirmed on Thursday his position of “zero tolerance” for hate crimes against LGBT people in a statement to Justice Department employees recognizing Pride Month.
In the statement, which was sent to Justice Department employees on Thursday and shared with the Washington Blade, Barr declares the department is “fortunate to have many talented and dedicated LGBT public servants who work hard on behalf of the American people.”
“While we recognize and celebrate these employees’ contributions to the department and the nation, it remains the fact that LGBT individuals are too often subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence,” Barr continues. “The department has zero tolerance for violence that is motivated by hatred for our fellow citizens, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We will vigorously prosecute such hate crimes.”
The statement echoes a testimony Barr gave in his confirmation hearing when he said he’d have “zero tolerance” for hate crimes, including violence against LGBT people, and would enforce the 2009 Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Barr also points out in his statement that he updated the equal opportunity statement affirming non-discrimination for LGBT employees in the Justice Department.
“All employees deserve to be treated with respect and to be judged on merit alone,” Barr says.
Barr updated the equal opportunity statement amid complaints of discrimination against LGBT employees within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Prisons, which were brought to his attention by DOJ Pride, the affinity group for LGBT employees within the department.
“As Pride month concludes, I want our LGBT colleagues to know that I value their dedication, integrity and the contributions they make to the pursuit of justice,” Barr writes.
A Justice Department spokesperson confirmed the accuracy of the statement, which Barr issued during the first Pride Month that has occurred since his confirmation as U.S. attorney general.
Nothing in the statement recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which the LGBT community is celebrating this year along with Pride Month.
The Pride Month recognition comes just weeks after he met with LGBT attorneys and law enforcement officials within DOJ Pride for Pride Month, as exclusively reported by the Washington Blade. The statement was also issued shortly after LGBT employees at the Justice Department took part in an official ceremony recognizing Pride Month, which included a showing of the 2010 PBS documentary “Stonewall Uprising.”
Although the Pride statement recognizes anti-LGBT violence, it says nothing in particular about violence against transgender people, especially transgender people of color, who are afflicted with violence at disproportionate rates.
On the same day Barr issued his statement, news emerged that Brooklyn Lindsay, a 32-year-old trans woman, was found beaten to death in Kansas City. At least 11 black transgender women have been the victims of fatal violence in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
But the statement is far and beyond what other Trump administration Cabinet officials have done for Pride Month. The Blade is unaware of any other Cabinet-level Trump official issuing a Pride Month statement. Trump recognized Pride Month via Twitter, but issued no official proclamation.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has faced criticism from LGBT groups for not issuing a Pride Month statement for 2019. Instead, Pompeo reissued to employees an old statement he issued in 2018.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department continues to maintain anti-LGBT litigation positions and defends in court the transgender military ban.
The Justice Department during the Trump administration has previously asserted LGBT people aren’t protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workforce.
It remains to be seen whether the Justice Department will reverse its litigation position regarding Title VII now that the issue is before the Supreme Court, but that seems unlikely.
STATEMENT FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
During the month of June, the Federal Government and communities across the United States acknowledge the outstanding contributions and accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. The Department of Justice is fortunate to have many talented and dedicated LGBT public servants who work hard on behalf of the American people.
While we recognize and celebrate these employees’ contributions to the Department and the Nation, it remains the fact that LGBT individuals are too often subjected to discrimination, harassment, and violence. The Department has zero tolerance for violence that is motivated by hatred for our fellow citizens, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We will vigorously prosecute such hate crimes. As Attorney General, I have also reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to keeping our workplace free from discrimination and harassment, including against LGBT employees. All employees deserve to be treated with respect and to be judged on merit alone.
As Pride month concludes, I want our LGBT colleagues to know that I value their dedication, integrity, and the contributions they make to the pursuit of justice. Thank you for your service.
William P. Barr