Response to LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Report Launch

By Mark S. King

"What struck me most as I browsed the report and heard the speakers was how widespread criminalization is, and how it is all based on 'crimes of identity,' that is, by virtue of the fact that someone is gay, or an LGBT immigrant, or a transgendered person who dares to carry a condom, or a person with HIV."

Yesterday I attended an event hosted by the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC. It served to commemorate the release of the report, "A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People Living with HIV."

The report can be read here, and is really comprehensive: http://www.hivlawandpolicy.org/sites/www.hivlawandpolicy.org/files/Roadm...

All of the authors of the report were present and participated in a panel discussion, including Catherine Hanssens of the Center for HIV Law and Policy.

What struck me most as I browsed the report and heard the speakers was how widespread criminalization is, and how it is all based on "crimes of identity," that is, by virtue of the fact that someone is gay, or an LGBT immigrant, or a transgendered person who dares to carry a condom, or a person with HIV. I suppose I knew intellectually that criminalization takes many forms in and outside the LGBT community, but hearing the presentations and reports from the panelists really made an impression on me. It reminded me that our efforts in the HIV community are not entirely unique, and that we can draw upon and teach others involved in similar efforts. I know this seems elementary, but I was inspired by the efforts of the experts working in other areas of criminalization, whereas I tend to stay in my HIV lane.

I must also say that Catherine Hanssens was extremely articulate in her framing of HIV criminalization in the larger context of LGBT civil rights, and her remarks may have had the most impact on the audience (largely legal professionals and some community advocates) than any other panelist. She was also asked directly about the recent legislation in Iowa and provided supportive and thoughtful analysis on the strengths of the bill and areas in which other efforts might find lessons learned.

As we prepare for our Grinnell Gathering on HIV criminalization, I think the work of others in the document above might be very informative, even inspiring.

Mark S. King