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LGBTQ Legal Rights Organizations Move to Protect California’s Trans-Inclusive Incarceration Policy

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Lambda Legal, Transgender Law Center, and ACLU Foundation of Southern California file to intervene in anti-trans challenge to SB132: The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act
May 9, 2022

Today, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center (TLC), and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by anti-transgender activists against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) challenging SB132, the groundbreaking law protecting transgender people incarcerated in the state of California. The three organizations, along with pro-bono co-counsel O’Melveny & Myers, represent the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGI Justice Project) and four individuals currently incarcerated in California prisons.

“SB132 has been the law in California for more than a year, and we are intervening to defend it from the bigoted distortions and flagrant misrepresentations of the anti-trans groups challenging this law,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Nora Huppert said. “Transgender people in prisons are extremely vulnerable and are disproportionately subject to harassment and violent assault. California must do more, not less, to protect incarcerated transgender people.”

The Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), an anti-trans organization based in Washington, DC, filed Chandler v. CDCR in November in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. WoLF filed the lawsuit on behalf of three incarcerated women and Woman II Woman, a California-based nonprofit. The filing was replete with intentional and serial misgendering, and rehashed sensationalist and debunked claims about transgender women supposedly perpetrating violence.

Shawn Thomas Meerkamper, Senior Staff Attorney at Transgender Law Center, added, “Trans voices should be heard and centered in any case about trans people. This intervention is necessary so that trans people can stand up to these lies, counter false and dangerous narratives, and fight for their rights in their own words.”

Amanda C. Goad, Audrey Irmas Director of the ACLU SoCal’s LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, added, “Prisons are not a safe environment for anyone, but being forced to serve time in an institution designated for the wrong gender is especially horrific and dangerous. We are asking the court to listen to actual transgender people as it considers the plaintiffs’ false and caricatured portrayals of them.”

“Woman II Woman’s lawsuit is an attempt to ensure that a vulnerable population continues to face alarmingly high rates of sexual assault and physical attack on the basis of their TGI status,” said Alex Binsfeld, Legal Director at TGIJP. “We at TGIJP are intervening in this case to ensure that our loved ones in prison can continue to use SB 132 to try to access safety.”

“If these plaintiffs get what they want, I’ll be sent back to a men’s prison, where I would face relentless sexual harassment and the constant threat of rape. That was my reality for years, and I am terrified to go back. I am a woman, and I don’t belong in a men’s prison,” said Tremayne Carroll, one of the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“O’Melveny is proud to work with our co-counsel to protect the civil rights of incarcerated transgender individuals in a law that was enacted by the duly elected California Legislature and signed into law by Governor Newsom,” said O’Melveny partner Dimitri Portnoi.

Read the motion to intervene here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/chandler_ca_20220509_brief

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Contact Info

Tom Warnke: 213-841-4503; twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Related Issues: Transgender Rights

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