Protecting LGBT Victims of Domestic Violence
Tomorrow, the D.C. Council will hold a public hearing [PDF] on the "Protecting Victims of Crime Amendment Act of 2010." The legislation would amend the D.C. Human Rights Act to "protect victims and family members of victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and stalking against discrimination by employers." Tomorrow, Rainbow Response Coalition co-chair Amy Loudermilk will testify in support of the legislation, and how it will help victims of intimate partner violence in the LGBT community in particular. Here's an excerpt of Loudermilk's planned testimony:
Research shows that intimate partner violence occurs at the same rate in the LGBTQ communities as in the heterosexual community. Last year, Rainbow Response released a groundbreaking report on IPV in the District, which confirmed that DC’s LGBTQ communities experience IPV at the same rate as the heterosexual community. However, for a variety of reasons, survivors of IPV in the LGBTQ communities do not have equal access to services to help them escape; therefore it’s critical that our community be afforded as many protections and resources as possible.
Although there is no federal law outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in the workplace, the District has outlawed this type of discrimination for many years. Unfortunately, it remains perfectly legal to terminate an LGBTQ employee who happens to be a victim of IPV, simply for reasons related to the abuse. For example, three years ago one of my good friends, who is a lesbian and was out to her employer, found herself in an abusive relationship and was forced to miss work periodically because she was either in court seeking a protection order, or was at home waiting for the bruises on her face to disappear. Noticing that she had been taking time off from work, her employer threatened to fire her even after my friend disclosed the reasons for her absence. Fortunately, this talk happened just as her abusive partner finally decided to leave the relationship, and the District, for good. However, if my friend’s employer had fired her, she would have had no recourse available. Not only would she have been abused by her partner, she would have become abused by the system too.
. . . Much has been discussed about the comprehensive provisions in the bill, including requiring employers to post notice of these protections, develop workplace violence policies, and provide training for staff on domestic violence. Many questions and concerns have been raised about these provisions that are important and valid. I have tremendous respect for both the business and domestic violence community, and have no doubt that we can all work together with Committee staff to revise the bill where necessary to ensure it moves forward. But please let me remind us what the core issue of this bill is about at the end of the day: discrimination. If we as a society are committed to creating a safe and healthy District of Columbia, then we must help those who are in need, and protect them while they heal, not unravel the fragile threads that are supporting them.