By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com April 28 2014 10:09 AM ET
Two transgender individuals have filed lawsuits against local New Jersey police departments after officers allegedly discriminated against and harassed the plaintiffs as a result of their gender identity.
Amira Gray, 26, was pulled over by a North Bergen, N.J., police officer on September 7, 2013. According to Gray, officer Alberto Berovides told her he stopped her because her car's windows were tinted and her license plate was difficult to read, then claimed that her driver's license had been suspended. Gray, a transgender woman who lives in Maryland, called the Maryland Motor Vehicle Authority to confirm that her license was in good standing, putting the call on speaker to to allow Berovides to hear the MVA's confirmation.
Unsure of Berovides' motives, Gray called the North Bergen police department and asked that they send a second officer. When the second officer arrived, he repeated Berovides' charge, claiming that Gray's license was suspended. Gray refused to leave her car until a sergeant arrived.
Gray was eventually placed in the sergeant's car, and driven to her destination. Her car was towed, leaving her to take several alternate forms of transportation to ultimately return home to Maryland. Gray was acquitted of charges of driving with a suspended license, and a ticket resulting from her car having tinted windows was dismissed. She pleaded guilty to the license plate violation, and paid a $54 fine, according to the Star-Ledger.
A second charge of anti-trans discrimination by the New Jersey Police Department stems from Shakeem Malik Holmes' encounter with Jersey City police on August 15, 2012. Holmes, a transgender man, claims that while he was detained, his transgender status was made known to others in his holding cell. Holmes declined to disclose why he was detained, but contends that officers inquired about the status of his genitals within earshot of the men with whom he was initially placed, before eventually moving him to a women's cell. During that time, Holmes contends that nearby officers repeatedly harassed him about his gender identity.
"Next time you come in here and you want to be treated like a man, I'll put my fist down your throat like a fucking man," one officer allegedly said to Holmes.
Last year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed trans individuals to update identification documents without having to undergo surgery.
Both lawsuits were filed by New Jersey-based attorney Kevin Costello.