Lawsuit takes aim at law that allows transgender inmates to choose housing location based on gender identity

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A California bill granting transgender, non-binary and intersex inmates the right to live in men’s or women’s facilities in state prisons is under fire in a lawsuit filed last week.

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The Women’s Liberation Front, which also opposes the participation of transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports, filed suit in federal court alleging that SB 132 is unconstitutional and creates an unsafe environment for women in women’s facilities.

One plaintiff alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a prisoner transferred from a men’s facility under SB 132 and another plaintiff alleged that she was “caught”.


The complaint does not refer to those who substitute female features by female or non-binary pronouns, such as he or they, instead referring to them as men.


“The basic premise of our trial is that these are male offenders who are being held in women’s prisons,” said Lauren Adams, legal director of the Women’s Liberation Front. “Pretending that they are women, in language or what we say about them or how we talk about them, is against the whole basis of the lawsuit.”

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Transgender and LGBTQ+ advocates called the lawsuit baseless and harmful.

“The way they wrote (the complaint) saying that trans women are men and that they are putting men in women’s prisons is completely false,” said Bambi Salcedo, president and CEO of [email protected], which Sponsors SB 132. They are making a claim that is not accurate and is not particularly respectful of trans women.”

Salcedo, a transgender woman who spent nearly 14 years in men’s prison facilities more than two decades ago, says her experience inspired her to fight for the dignity and safety of transgender inmates.

“My experience was similar to what trans women are experiencing today,” she said. “I’m a survivor of sexual assault and physical assault in prison and some of the things that transcend people, including being punished for who we are and being blamed for things that happen to us.”

“That’s why I have dedicated myself to making sure that the rights of trans people are respected and recognized within our society,” she said.

Under a bill introduced earlier this year, 291 inmates held in male facilities have requested to be transferred to female facilities, according to data provided Wednesday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The department has accepted 41 requests and rejected six. Ten applicants “changed their mind” according to the department. The remaining requests are under review.

Seven inmates have requested transfer to male facilities and those requests are also being reviewed.

Terry Thornton, deputy press secretary for the Department of Corrections, said in an email that the department had not been handed the lawsuit as of Wednesday afternoon and declined to comment on the pending trial.

“The Department is committed to providing a safe, humane, rehabilitative and secure environment for all people in its custody,” Thornton wrote. “Federal and state laws enforce legal obligations related to the treatment of people in custody with specific provisions for people of non-conforming gender.”

A 2007 UC Irvine study found that sexual assault rates were 13% higher for transgender inmates.

Samuel Garrett-Pate, a spokesman for LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality California, said he expected Etty. General Rob Bonta to defend SB 132.

“Bonta has been a champion for the trans community during his time in the Legislature and now as Attorney General,” he said.

In recent months, Bonta has supported the participation of transgender athletes in school sports and banned government travel to states such as Florida, Montana and West Virginia, which enforce laws deemed harmful to the LGBTQ+ community. Huh.

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