Amid observances of the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) reintroduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at improving data collection on violence and suicide among LGBT people.
The legislation, known as the PRIDE Act to Combat Violence, was first introduced last year in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre and would authorize $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to collect information on the LGBT status of deceased individuals through the National Violent Death Reporting System.
During a news conference on Capitol Hill announcing the introduction of the legislation, Maloney, a gay lawmaker who’s a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said the measure was needed “so that we know who’s been made a victim because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“This is the season for Pride and for determination, and part of being determined is being smart, and being smart means you need to have the facts and that data, and that’s all we’re doing today,” Maloney said. “We’re saying we want to know nationally the statistics of violent crimes when it’s related to sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Under the current system, the National Violent Death Reporting System collects only a small amount of information on sexual orientation and gender identity. The lives lost in the Orlando attack weren’t recorded as anti-LGBT murders in any data collection.
According to Maloney’s office, all data collection at the National Violent Death Reporting System is performed on a voluntary basis and the results are only released in aggregate to protect the privacy of decedents.
Two states — Colorado and Nevada — have instituted policy for data collection on anti-LGBT murders and suicides in their states, but those are pilot programs.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) said at the news conference Nevada’s system of data collection on anti-LGBT homicides and suicides was “on systemic fashion” and additional funding will help with that effort at the federal level.
“Other states do bits and pieces of it as they collect data from local entities, but this funding will allow us to have a more systematic approach and do it the way that Nevada does it,” Titus said.
Other lawmakers present at the news conference in support of the PRIDE Act to Combat Violence were Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who’s gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus; Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who recently called for the impeachment of President Trump on the House floor.
LGBT advocates there in support of the bill were David Stacy, the Human Rights Campaign’s government affairs director; Amy Loudermilk, associate director of government affairs at the Trevor Project; and Diego Sanchez, director of policy for PFLAG National.
Loudermilk said the legislation represents a landmark shift in the way LGBT deaths are reported and signals to LGBT youths “their lives matter.”
“Right now, it’s as if we’re in the dark ages of LGBTQ youth suicide prevention because we don’t have a baseline number of deaths from which to assess the effectiveness of policy and interventions and appropriate distribution of resources,” Loudermilk said.
The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, in addition instituting federal penalties for anti-LGBT hate crimes allows for data collection on those acts.
Stacy said the PRIDE Act to Combat Violence is needed because that law allows only collection of data on hate crimes, not on suicides or homicides.
“That covers hate crimes, and this is a much broader thing,” Stacy said. “It’s about all kinds of violent deaths, so suicide is obviously something really critically important, but there are lots of violent deaths that may be connected to other vulnerabilities that the LGBTQ community has.”
Stacy added transgender women of color are particularly vulnerable as a a result of bias-motivated attacks as well as lack of economic opportunity and housing.
“Having the data would allow us to tease out what those things are and what those factors are, and then we could address them piece by piece,” Stacy said.
Maloney said he hasn’t spoken with the CDC about the bill since the beginning of the Trump administration, but said the agency under President Obama would be amicable to the measure.
Courtney Lenard, a CDC spokesperson, said “there would be a value add for any additional information and/or data collected through the National Violent Death Reporting System,” but added federal agencies aren’t able to comment on pending legislation.