Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a New York Democrat, said Monday that he plans to reintroduce a bill aimed at improving sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in violent crimes and suicides.
The "LGBTQ Essential Data Act" would require law enforcement to include sexual orientation and gender identity information in the National Violent Death Reporting System — a database run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that documents violent deaths and suicides, and provides information about why they occurred.
“The epidemic of violence against transgender Americans — particularly transgender women of color — is only getting worse," Maloney said in a statement provided in advance to NBC News.
Maloney introduced the bill in 2019, but it didn't pass. Now, Democrats narrowly control Congress, making it more likely that it could.
If the bill is passed, President Joe Biden is expected to sign it, as inclusive data collection was listed as a priority in his plan to advance LGBTQ equality.
The reintroduction comes at a critical time: Fatal violence against transgender people is at a record high — but that's only according to data from advocacy organizations. The federal government allows law enforcement agencies to voluntarily submit hate crime data, but it doesn't require them to track anti-trans violence or anti-LGBTQ violence, generally.
Advocates say that's a serious problem, especially now.
This year is on track to become the deadliest on record for trans people, with at least 28 trans and gender-nonconforming individuals killed so far, according to the Human Rights Campaign. At this time last year, at least 18 trans people had been killed, according to the group. Advocates say these estimates are likely low, as law enforcement often use trans people's birth name, also known as their deadname, in reports of their deaths.
"HRC has been tracking the underreported data since 2013, and Congress still hasn’t acted to enable local law enforcement to do the same," Maloney said in his statement. "My bill will help us collect the data necessary to fully support the LGBTQ community. I am proud to be introducing this legislation, which was marked by President Biden as a legislative priority, with broad support. I trust our new Democratic Majority will work to get this bill passed into law. We must act now and help save lives.”
Without comprehensive data, advocates say, it's hard to know how pervasive anti-LGBTQ violence really is. It's also difficult to take steps to prevent it, as government data collection is often used to guide funding and resource allocation.
Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, said inclusive data collection "in life and in death" would help advocates "to better understand the scope of suicide and homicide among LGBTQ people and to respond more effectively with resources and policy solutions."
"The Trevor Project is the largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, yet we don’t know how many LGBTQ youth die by suicide each year because that data is simply not collected systematically," Brinton said in a statement. "The LGBTQ Essential Data Act would help deliver much-needed data that we can use to prevent violent deaths and save young LGBTQ lives."
A 2018 report from the Human Rights Campaign found that no state has a comprehensive law that requires all government-funded data collection efforts to include sexual orientation and gender identity data with other demographic data such as race, ethnicity and sex.
Four states — New York, California, Oregon and New Jersey — and Washington, D.C., have narrower laws that require LGBTQ-inclusive data collection in some areas other than hate crimes.
Twenty-one states and D.C. require law enforcement to collect and report data on hate crimes based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, the report found.
In 2019, Los Angeles County became the first jurisdiction in the nation to pass a motion to train medical examiners and coroners to investigate the violent deaths of LGBTQ people and to collect mortality data on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Though all 50 states now report data through the National Violent Death Reporting System, 10 states face a two-year backlog, according to the Trevor Project. Maloney's bill would authorize $25 million in funding to help the CDC expand data collection.