Roman Catholic bishops oppose Violence Against Women Act because it protects LGBT women

Happy International Women's Day. In another move that further demonstrates that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is more interested in securing its own power than serving those in need (or even following its own teaching regarding the inherent dignity and worth of all people), five key Roman Catholic bishops in the United States have stated their opposition to the newly signed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

The reason for their opposition? VAWA states that the law will apply regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to a statement released by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, “These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference.”

This essentially means that the fight against marriage equality or relationship recognition for LGBT people is more important to the Roman Catholic Bishops than the call to serve the most vulnerable in our population.

Given the sobering statistics concerning violence against transgender women, the Bishops' opposition to protection for them must be particularly galling. To oppose an LGBT-inclusive VAWA, the Bishops need to actively ignore the following:

  • According to a study from the Anti-Violence Project (AVP), 40% of anti-LGBT murder victims in 2011 were transgender women. Transgender women made up only 10% of anti-LGBT violence survivors. 
  • In the same study, AVP found that transgender people of color were 28% more likely to experience physical violence compared to the rest of the sample of LGBT and HIV-affected people.
  • In early March, a transgender woman was sexually assaulted at gunpoint in a New York City hotel room.
  • Sage Smith, a 19-year-old African-American transgender woman, has been missing since November 2012, with hardly any media attention or support.
  • Deoni Jones, a transgender woman, was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Washington, DC in February 2011

The bishops also complained that they needed so-called "conscious protections" that would allow Catholic social service agencies to continue to receive government contracts while discriminating against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. In 2011, the White House shifted funding away from a Catholic program to help victims of human trafficking that wished to discriminate to more inclusive programs that were committed to helping all women.

It is time for the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church to learn that protecting citizens means protecting all citizens. To leave out LGBT people targets them for further discrimination, harassment, and violence. Rank and file Catholics understand this, and have been supportive of legal protections for LGBT people for several years now.

When violence occurs against LGBT people, it is just as real as when it happens to anyone else. GLAAD calls on the Roman Catholic Bishops to support laws that protect LGBT people from violence.