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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Equality Texas & Texas Council on Family Violence Fighting on the Front Lines with the Austin Police Department to Protect LBGT Victims of Hate Crimes and Domestic Violence During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
Posted on April 14, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Austin, TX (April 14, 2016) – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBT Texans, honored National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Austin with the Austin Police Department, Texas Council on Family Violence, various crime victims’ organizations and recent victims of hate crimes to launch a new campaign in Texas to fight lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) discrimination.

“The vitriol, sexism, racism, anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric in Texas and in America is fueling an atmosphere of hate in Texas and across the country that is causing innocent Texans to be beaten and almost killed,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “This rhetoric is unacceptable and has real consequences for real Texans who are victims of hate crimes.”

Working together, the agencies are bringing attention to the series of murders and hate crimes targeting LGBT Texans in Austin, Dallas, Houston and across the state, including the 20 people who have been attacked in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas this year.

The Austin Police Department is launching innovative new policies to better train their police officers on handling domestic violence calls involving LGBT partners and are creating a series of new policies to protect LGBT Austin citizens including new transgender search procedures and new training on domestic violence.  The Austin Police Department also has its first openly transgender officer on the force, Senior Officer Greg Abbink.

APD is part of the Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Task Force, a coalition of community organizations including representatives of criminal justice entities, policy makers, local school districts as well as colleges and universities, advocacy organizations and other partners that has been working on strategies to help work toward being a community that is free of hate. In addition, APD also has an internal hate crime review team, participates in the local Hate Crime Review Team and trains officers in the field to flag any cases which may contain a hate crime element so that the teams can review them.

“The Austin Police Department will not tolerate acts of violence against any member of our community, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.  It is imperative that we not only appreciate one another’s differences, but make it a priority to protect any group whose differences make them a target for violence.  We are creating new policies to educate and bring awareness to the sensitivity of how criminal cases involving the LGBT community are handled.  We are extremely proud to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters to make Austin safer for us all,” said Chief Art Acevedo, Austin Police Department.

Austin native Michael Dominguez was attacked after leaving a bar in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas last October. He was beaten and stabbed and woke up following surgery in an emergency room, not knowing where he was when he regained consciousness.

“I’m somebody’s son, I’m somebody’s brother, I’m somebody’s cousin, somebody’s nephew, and grandchild. Everybody has somebody and just imagine if you got a phone call saying that they’re dead.  They were left to bleed out on the street,” said Dominguez.

A new report confirms that the vast majority of Texans do not support discrimination of any kind against the LGBT community.  The Public Religion Research Institute shows there is widespread support for laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations.

Sixty-seven percent of Texans favor a law protecting LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.  And 53 percent oppose letting a small business owner refuse to serve someone who is LGBT based on their personal religious beliefs.  But in Texas, it is completely legal to terminate an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Overwhelmingly, Texans believe that everyone throughout the state should be able to live without fear of discrimination or fear of being a victim of crime.

“We support efforts to bring attention to LGBT victims of crime.  Often, members of the LGBT community are uncomfortable reporting incidents of domestic violence to police.  We want all Texans to know domestic violence services are available to all couples and we commend APD for their cutting-edge policies,” said Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a time to bring attention to crime victims across Texas and the country to raise awareness.  The new Equality Texas campaign released its first video today about LGBT victims of hate crimes.  Victims who turned hate into love by forming a non-profit, Survivors Offering Support (SOS), to help other victims of violent crime are featured in the videos.  This is the first in a series of stories Equality Texas will be telling about the lives of LGBT Texans and our allies.  The campaign theme is simple.  Discrimination is not a Texas Value.  Embrace Dignity and Respect for Every Texan.  We urge all Texans to join our campaign and speak out against discrimination.

Resources

HD broadcast-quality video with and without the Equality Texas branding & b-roll from an SOS meeting with other hate crime victims who agreed to let us videotape the counseling session and b-roll of citizen patrols in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas.  Media may use any of the videos below:

https://vimeo.com/160154007

https://vimeo.com/160025242

https://vimeo.com/160150091

https://vimeo.com/160146086

https://vimeo.com/159998133 (Instagram video)

Link to the American Values Atlas study on public opinion about LGBT nondiscrimination laws and religious exemptions:

http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AVA-LGBT-Report-FINAL.pdf

Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Crimes Report documenting victims of hate crime nationwide at: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/ir160-spring2016-splc.pdf

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization dedicated solely to securing full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.

Texas Council on Family Violence is the only 501(c) 3 nonprofit coalition in Texas dedicated solely to creating safer communities and freedom from family violence. With a state-wide reach and direct local impact, TCFV, with the collective strength of more than 1000 members, shapes public policy, equips service providers, and initiates strategic prevention efforts. Visit us online at http://www.tcfv.org/