Fresno Assemblymember hopes to save LGBTQ lives with new legislation

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The killing of KC Haggard in Fresno drew widespread attention. The 66-year-old transgender woman was stabbed to death in 2015 by a man who later took a plea deal and was sentenced to prison for manslaughter.

Advocates say the case is a tragic example of the dangers that fall disproportionately on LGBTQ people.

"There is an epidemic of violence against specifically trans women of color," says The Trevor Project Advocacy and Government Affairs Vice President Sam Brinton. "We really need to understand that these individuals are being murdered, and yet we don't know where they're dying unless the news reports it."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight and cisgender peers.

But we don't how many LGBTQ individuals actually die by suicide or homicide each year because this data isn't collected nationwide.

"That is leading us to not know where to put the resources, where to put the help, who to send and how to send it fast enough," Brinton said.

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula of Fresno is hoping to change that. This week he introduced legislation he hopes will play a critical role in prevention.

"It's a pilot with the California Department of Public Health over three years," he said. "The counties have to choose to participate, we have written in, it should be one north, one south, and one central county."

Coroners and medical examiners in six counties would be trained on identifying and collecting data on sexual orientation or gender identity in cases of violent death. It is endorsed by the Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.

"They're trying to build a picture of a person's life, even after their death, so we can save future lives," Brinton said.

Assemblymember Arambula says he would like the Central Valley to participate in the pilot program and is optimistic that this bill will pass.

In fact, a recent poll done by The Trevor Project shows nearly 85 percent of adults feel it's important to include sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to death investigations.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.