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Sentencing, alcoholism, female gay defendants

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2019 | Firm News

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) often face social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual.  As Matthew Todd explains in his book Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society’s Legacy of Gay Shame, “It is a shame with which we were saddled as children, to which we continue to be culturally subjected. The problem gay people have isn’t their sexuality, but rather society’s attitude to it. It is our experience of growing up in a society that still does not fully accept that people can be anything other than heterosexual and cisgendered [born into the physical gender you feel you are]”.

Possibly as a coping mechanism in the face of homophobia, figures indicate that gay people are seven times more likely to take illegal drugs than the general population, with one in five of those surveyed showing signs of dependency on drugs or alcohol.  Interestingly, a study found that nonadherence to traditional gender roles for women may influence drinking among lesbians—especially in lower- and middle-income societies where the value placed on traditional gender roles remains strong.  These findings are consistent with those from minority stress.”  Underlying this perspective are the assumptions that minority stressors are unique (not experienced by nonstigmatized populations), chronic (related to social and cultural structures), and socially based (stemming from social processes, institutions, and structures).  As a result of such social pressures, several co-occurring disorders, or mental illnesses that are present alongside alcoholism, are more common among members of the LGBTQ community.

It is incumbent upon a sentencing court in passing a fair and just sentence to understand the excess mental distress and disorders due to social stress imposed on a gay defendant.  A sentencing court has the weight of centuries of hatred and bigotry, which can only be dismantled by a meaningful sentence that protects society while rehabilitating the defendant.  In fact, research has found that by accepting a defendant as being gay a sentencing court will enhance her sobriety.

This is especially true since women repeatedly have stated that the types of services available to them for OWI treatment were often limited and failed to meet their needs; especially the case in rural jurisdictions.  Female Drunk Drivers: A Qualitative Study (Traffic Injury Research Foundation 2013) p.35.  Additionally, women often have a harder time than male alcoholics re-integrating themselves into the community after they have been punished, said Sandy DeYoung, a social worker who counsels female alcoholics at Taycheedah.  David Doege, For many women drunken drivers, jail not a cure, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (April 15, 2004).  “The issues for women are different than men. That’s been a problem we didn’t understand for a long time.”  Id.