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LGBT Community Wants Candidates to Address Criminal-Justice Issues

Advocates say the Obama Administration has done more for the LGBT community than all other administrations combined. (
Advocates say the Obama Administration has done more for the LGBT community than all other administrations combined. (
October 17, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- With just over three weeks to go before the November 8 election, advocates backing a variety of issues are urging people to get out and vote.

One issue that hasn't gotten much coverage in the presidential campaign, according to Isaiah Wilson external affairs manager with the National Black Justice Coalition, is the high number of people in the LGBT community - especially people of color - who are ending up in the country's jails and prisons. He said it’s important to support candidates who will back legislation to improve people’s lives.

"We need to vote and use the powers that democracy gives us in this nation to really hold those in authority accountable,” Wilson said. "So, that looks like electing folks who have committed to criminal justice reform, specifically addressing the issues that show up time and time again for our community.”

Wilson cited a report from early 2016 called, "Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color." It found that that population faced greater challenges in accessing legal counsel, obtaining pretrial release, and getting a fair sentence.

Some strides have been made to protect the LGBT community, Wilson said, but there’s still a long way to go. Whichever candidate wins the White House, he said, they need to make sure more protections are in place.

"The Obama Administration has done more for LGBT equality than all of the former administrations combined,” Wilson said. "So, it's important - whoever does get into office - that they are able to build on that when it comes to marriage equality, when it comes to even expounding upon the robust hate crime legislation that President Obama signed as soon as he got into office.”

LGBT young people who are black reported that they are frequently singled out by police, Wilson said. And transgender women of color complain that officers frequently assume they are engaged in prostitution.

Wilson said that it is important for LGBT people of color to be included in conversations about necessary changes in police culture and establishing trust between communities and law enforcement.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL