LGBT Prisoner Safety Act Squashed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

In California, Equality California sponsored seven bills that would improve LGBT equality. On Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed one of these important bills, the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act.

The bill was introduced by Tom Ammiano, a member of the Assembly from San Francisco. The bill would have protected LGBT people in the state prison system from violence. And considering that a UC Irvine study revealed that 69 percent of transgender inmates report sexual victimization in jail, the bill was extremely important.

According to Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors, “The legislation would have been an important tool in preventing violence against LGBT prisoners and ensuring that they have access to the same safeguards under the law as other inmates.”

Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, said: “By vetoing AB 633, Governor Schwarzenegger has yet again neglected to help alleviate violence in California prisons. Transgender people are thirteen times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison than non-transgender inmates.”

The bill would have preventing assaults against LGBT prisoners by amending the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act (SADEA) of 2005 to include information from inmates on safety concerns related to sexual orientation and gender identity when assessing if inmates are at a heightened risk for assault. Currently, risk assessment is based on factors such as age, type of offense, and prior time served. The bill would also protect LGBT inmates’ privacy and allow them to choose not to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to prison officials.

By vetoing the LGBT Prisoner Safety Act, Schwarzenegger has done a great disservice to the LGBT community. Not only will LGBT inmates suffer, but he’s sent the message that safeguards shouldn’t be in place to protect LGBT people.

Currently, LGBT Californians are faced with a variety of discriminatory and unjust laws. Please take action to urge Schwarzenegger to sign the remaining pro-equality bills.

Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson