Victory in Tyra Hunter case 12/11/98
Daniels protests to Mayor Dixon on Corporation Counsel brief
Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Mayor Dixon:
We in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance would like to express our gratitude for the recent intervention by your Corporation Counsel on behalf of the Lesbian couple who sought to adopt each other's children. This is the sort of initiative and leadership that can really make a difference. Paradoxically, however, we must unhappily call to your attention a recent action by the same Corporation Counsel that resembles the work of Jerry Falwell rather than that of someone serving a progressive mayor. We hope that you will intervene in the matter to demonstrate the consistency of your administration's commitment to uphold the rights of all citizens, including Gay men and Lesbians.
We are deeply offended by the misleading and bigoted Supplemental Memorandum of Points and Authorities filed by the Corporation Counsel on August 11 in the case of Craig Robert Dean et al. v. District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 90-13892). Our objection is not simply that the Corporation Counsel has taken a position against the marital rights of Gay men and Lesbians, but that this brief goes far beyond a narrow technical position to make a sweeping, gratuitous attack on the rights of Gay citizens to equal protection under the law.
Specifically, the brief makes numerous appeals to canon law and religious traditions, displaying a flagrant disregard for the separation of church and state required by the First Amendment's establishment clause. This echoes the homophobic rhetoric in the notorious Hardwick decision, which is as offensive to Gays as appeals to Plessy v. Ferguson would be to Blacks.
The brief frequently cites outdated court rulings and statutes, and misrepresents the D.C. marriage and human rights laws. It repeatedly cites the 1901 D.C. Code instead of currently applicable statutes. It cites the original decision in Adams v. Howerton despite the fact that the decision was later upheld on narrower grounds which superseded the earlier opinion.
The brief misconstrues the issuance of a marriage license as official government endorsement of Gay and Lesbian relationships. To support this distorted position, the brief turns the decision in Gay Rights Coalition v. Georgetown on its head by falsely claiming that the court equated the granting of tangible benefits with endorsement. In the Georgetown case, as with marriage licenses, Gays were only asking for equal tangible benefits not official endorsement.
The brief treats as a ceiling the current Federal definition of suspect class status, which is a floor that local jurisdictions have the right to go above, and which D.C. in fact goes far above. Indeed, Gays have had some success in persuading Federal judges that we deserve to be treated as a suspect class, and there is every reason for the District government to concur with, rather than oppose, this welcome trend.
Frankly, we are not sure whether the brief's extraordinary compilation of falsehoods, distortions, and illogic is the result of malice or sheer incompetence on the part of the attorneys who prepared and reviewed it. We feel it is up to you to investigate the matter and take appropriate remedial action. As Mayor, you have not only the authority, but the responsibility to direct and supervise the Office of the Corporation Counsel to ensure that it properly serves the cause of justice for all District citizens. With this appalling and offensive brief, the Corporation Counsel has done anything but serve you or the city well.
We ask that you take the following steps:
- direct the Corporation Counsel to withdraw or drastically amend the August 11 supplemental brief;
- further direct the Corporation Counsel to abandon its opposition to the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples;
- publicly and unequivocally state your support for the right of same-sex couples to marry;
- take a hands-on approach with the Corporation Counsel in the future to ensure that such offenses to the Gay and Lesbian community and to sound jurisprudence are not repeated.
Please keep us informed of how you are addressing this matter. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.
Mindy A. Daniels
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC