Published November, 2020

Baughman v. Commonwealth, Amicus Brief, VA Sup Ct, The Center for HIV Law and Policy (2020)


CHLP filed this amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Virginia in support of Galen Baughman, a young gay man at risk of indefinite civil confinement due to an unjust designation as a “sexually violent predator” (SVP). Earlier this year, on the basis of a technical parole violation—sending non-sexual text messages to a sixteen-year-old acquaintance in another state—and despite having no record of violence, Galen was convicted of having a mental abnormality that predisposes him to commit violent sex crimes in the future. CHLP’s brief, which supports Galen’s petition for appeal, describes the deep homophobic bias embedded in an already-Orwellian civil commitment assessment process, and in the drive to confine him as a dangerous predator in the absence of credible evidence.

Currently, 20 states have laws allowing civil commitment of individuals designated as sexual offenders. In addition to bias against gay men, evidence also suggests that these laws are used disproportionately against black men. Investigative reports on even more restrictive systems, such as in New York State, have uncovered hugely arbitrary evaluation processes, a complete absence of real mental health services, chronic lack of essential medical care, and other conditions that reflect those of high-security prisons.
Legal organizations and professionals across the country joined CHLP’s brief, including GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality (GLMA), the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Brad Sears, J.D., the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ), and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). 
Galen is represented by attorneys from the law firm KaiserDillon PLLC. The National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDL) also filed an amicus brief in support of Galen’s appeal. A third amicus brief was filed by a group of law professors and issue-area experts.