On Heels of Marriage Win, LGBT Groups Call on New York City Lawmakers to Protect Rights in Police Encounters



Andrea Ritchie: andrea@streetwiseandsafe.org | (646) 831-1243

Shelby Chestnut: schestnut@avp.org | (612) 386-8876

Local and National LGBT Organizations Call on New York City Council to Pass Right to Know Act


JUNE 29, 2015 (NEW YORK) – Following Pride celebrations hailing Friday’s Supreme Court decision recognizing an equal right to marry across the country, LGBT organizations are calling on the New York City Council to pass the Right to Know Act to protect LGBT New Yorkers rights in police encounters.

As the Council holds a public hearing the day after the city’s biggest Pride parade, over two dozen local, state and national LGBT and HIV prevention groups sent a letter to New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council LGBT Caucus Facilitator Corey Johnson, New York City Council members and Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for passage of the Right to Know Act. The legislation – consistent with the recent recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing – would require police officers to tell New Yorkers who is stopping them and why, and to advise them of their right to refuse or withdraw consent to searches for which there is no other legal basis.

“As we celebrate our tremendous victory in securing equal rights to marriage for all, we are mindful that much more remains to be done to secure the rights of LGBT people interacting with police,” said Demoya Gordon of Lambda Legal. “We urge New York City Council to take the important step of protecting the rights of LGBT New Yorkers during police encounters by passing the Right to Know Act.”

“Our struggle for LGBTQ rights is being waged on many fronts – not least of which is in the criminal legal system,” said Meghan Maury, Criminal and Economic Justice Project Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. “As we celebrate, we are continuing to push to advance the rights of those in our community targeted by profiling, policing, and criminalization. We urge legislators to take decisive action to protect the rights of LGBTQ people in police encounters by passing the Right to Know Act.”

The statement highlights the importance of the legislation to all New Yorkers, and particularly to members of the LGBT community, who experience both similar and unique forms of discriminatory policing practices, including unlawful stops, frisks, and searches.

“As is the case with a single Supreme Court decision, a single encounter with a police officer can change the entire course of a person’s life,” said Andrea Ritchie, Senior Policy Counsel at Streetwise and Safe (SAS). “For LGBTQ youth of color living at the intersections of multiple forms of discriminatory policing, lifelong consequences of unconstitutional stops and searches can be devastating – whether the result is a charge for possession of a small amount of marijuana, use of a condom as evidence of intent to engage in a prostitution-related offense, confiscation of clean syringes, or an unlawful “gender search” they feel unable to refuse.”

“The New York City Anti-Violence Project urges the New York City Council to pass the Right to Know Act as it will ensure greater trust and accountability between police and LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers, especially transgender and gender non-conforming people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by physical violence and verbal bias at the hands of the very people who should be protecting them,” said Shelby Chestnut, Co-Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Signatories to the letter include national and international organizations such as Lambda Legal, which led in the fight for marriage equality while consistently advocating for the rights of of LGBT people in the criminal legal system, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, as well as local grassroots groups, advocacy organizations, political clubs and HIV service providers.

“In advocating for human rights around the globe, we have seen time and time again that ensuring rights for LGBTIQ people in the criminal legal system is as important as securing the right to marry and form families,” said Jessica Stern, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. “It often starts at the local level, by passing common sense bills like the Right to Know Act.”

The Right to Know Act will be the subject of a New York City Council Committee on Public Safety hearing on Monday, June 29 at 9:30 am in the City Council Chambers.

For more information, please visit: http://changethenypd.org/right-know-act