Saturday, March 25, 2006


A new report by Amnesty International accuses United States law enforcement agencies of widespread homophobia and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The report, titled "Stonewalled—Still Demanding Respect," was published on Thursday and is based on interviews conducted between 2003 and 2005.

The following is a press release from Amnesty International.

Police target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA

“Nothing is more unfair than singling out a group and making them criminal when they are not.”
R. Boevingloh, a 60-year-old gay man, February 2004.

R. Boevingloh was walking in a park in St Louis, Missouri, in June 2001 when he made the mistake of greeting an undercover policeman who walked past him. He was arrested, charged with lewd conduct and placed on two years’ probation. “I did nothing wrong,” he told AI, “I did not ‘cruise’ anyone, did not expose myself, did not hurt anyone and was targeted simply for being a gay male in a city park.”

In a new report AI reveals a range of human rights violations perpetrated by law enforcement officials against LGBT people in the USA. Whilst some of these abuses are so violent that they amount to torture, by far the more pervasive are those abuses committed day in and day out, making life intolerable for many members of the LGBT community.

All too often US law enforcement officials share the prejudices prevalent in society, such as homophobia, racism or sexism. When vague laws give police officers the power to decide what is “offensive”, the enforcement of these laws can become a means of punishing LGBT people for perceived transgression of social norms. LGBT people are frequently targeted for selective enforcement of minor public order or morals offences such as “loitering with intent to solicit”, “public lewdness” or “disorderly conduct”. The California Supreme Court, for instance, noted that the State’s prohibition of “lewd conduct” had been selectively enforced against gay men.

Transgender women are particularly at risk of such prejudicial treatment as many police officers assume that they are sex workers. AI has received numerous reports of transgender women being stopped and questioned by police when going about everyday tasks such as shopping. LGBT rights activists in Chicago told AI that police officers see transgender women as easy targets when they need to meet their allotted arrest quota.

It is hardly surprising that when LGBT people are victims of crime, they often prefer not to report the crime than face a dismissive, hostile or abusive response from the police. AI has found a pattern of police failing to respond appropriately to crimes against LGBT individuals. Police lack of understanding, or in more extreme cases hostility, has resulted in some cases in officers arresting the victims of the crime rather than the perpetrators.

In July 2000 a lesbian in St Paul, Minnesota, reported to a police officer than she had been attacked and abused in a supermarket. The officer refused to take action and even threatened to arrest her and her partner. When she told him that her attacker had called them “dykes”, the police officer replied that if they chose that lifestyle they must “expect some people to have a problem with it”.

Discriminatory policing can affect individuals in virtually every sphere of their daily lives. The effect of police targeting of LGBT people can be profound. Transgender woman Rachel Thompson told AI how a violent attack by a police officer changed her life: “That is when I decided to become an activist – abuse can be very inspiring… I will never forget to fear the police. I will always mistrust the system…”

To view the full report go to

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