Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
of Washington, DC

AGENDA: 1997

a guide to gay and lesbian issues
in the Nation's Capital

Last revised: October 20, 1997

Contents

Introduction
I. Families
II. Human Rights
III. AIDS and Public Health
IV. Public Safety
V. Regulatory Abuses
VI. Public Education and Youth
VII. Assaults on Self-Government

Introduction

Home Rule: Self-Inflicted Wounds
by Rick Rosendall and Craig Howell

On the one hand, the recent coup by Congress and President Clinton suspending many of the powers of our elected mayor and D.C. Council for the next four years has quite rightly been condemned in some quarters as an affront to the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded.

Gay men and Lesbians, who have long been a favorite target of congressional bigots, have as great a stake in home rule as anyone. The disenfranchisement of District voters puts at risk all of the civil rights and other gains that the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and others have worked for a quarter-century to secure.

On the other hand, our gains have been substantially undermined by the notoriously bloated bureaucracy built by Mayor Barry and by the council's lack of follow-through and oversight. District voters have largely disenfranchised themselves by repeatedly rewarding incompetence and irresponsibility.

Our delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, acutely pinpointed the underlying problem when she snapped: "If you want home rule, then rule!" This is precisely what Mayor Barry and our councilmembers have too often refused to do:

Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) was recently quoted in The Washington Times: "If somebody would point out to me steps the city council was taking to curb the runaway authority of the mayor. ... I'm not aware of any." Criticize the senator as we may, we cannot argue with this statement. After all, even the devil sometimes speaks the truth.

So what shall we do now? Recent reactions by some District activists to the National Capital Revitalization Act - anger at Congress and the Financial Control Board, and comprehensive lists of demands - serve little purpose unless they are accompanied by demands that our own officials be an active part of the solution. Who, after all, but residents of the District would be hurt the most by a strategy of non-cooperation with management reform efforts?

We are similarly unimpressed by the racially polarizing rhetoric being used by some in the name of home rule. As Del. Norton has said, "Race has not been (and must not become) an issue in the current home rule controversy." Blaming our self-inflicted wounds on "The Plan" not only ignores the District's history and constitutional status, it denies that our citizens have any power or bear any responsibility. If we are truly powerless, then our elections are a sham and should be repudiated. We cannot have it both ways.

Three decades ago, Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights organizer and strategist (and an openly Gay man long before Stonewall) said that it was time to move from protest to politics. There comes a time when one must step up to the plate and demonstrate one's capacity and will to govern. The best way for the District to demonstrate these qualities, and to restore meaningful home rule, is for our city's elected leaders to cooperate as fully as possible in overhauling the government to make it serve the interests of the city as a whole - rather than the parochial interests of those elected officials who regard a bloated bureaucracy as the foundation of their personal political machines.

As we have in the past, GLAA will be there to educate candidates, work with District officials and hold their feet to the fire on the same issues detailed in GLAA's "Agenda: 1997" -- ending regulatory abuses, restoring civilian oversight of the police, defending medical marijuana, improving AIDS and other health services, securing equal rights for Gay families, and ending the backlog at the Office of Human Rights. The special election for at-large councilmember on Dec. 2 is one opportunity for demanding better leadership.

Freedom is not just a right, it is a responsibility - just as diversity is a challenge as well as a strength. We are not powerless, and we are not victims. If we want a government that works and works for us, then it is up to us as voters and citizens to put it there and hold it accountable. The task of governing is a difficult one; let us at least light candles instead of cursing the darkness.

Note: This introduction was originally published as a viewpoint column in The Washington Blade on September 12, 1997.

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Part I. Families

A. Legalization of Same-Sex Marriages

GLAA first testified in favor of legal recognition of same-sex marriages in 1975; we are gratified that the issue is now reaching maturity before the general public, as it is likely that within the next few years Hawaii will legalize such marriages. An increasing number of both political and religious leaders have come to realize that, in the words of Georgetown University Law School Professor William Eskridge, Jr., "The civilizing influence of family values, with or without children, may ultimately be the best argument for same-sex marriages." Recognizing such unions may be, as Professor Eskridge puts it, "in the interest of civilizing gays and civilizing America." GLAA will oppose efforts by Congress or anyone else to stop the District of Columbia from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Domestic partnership laws are well and good, but they provide at best only limited practical benefits; domestic partnership laws cannot, for example, grant spousal pension rights for survivors, or allow spousal immunity protection in court actions, or allow couples to file income taxes jointly. Accordingly, we hope that eventually the District will itself grant recognition to same-sex marriages.

B. Adoption

Thanks to a recent court decision, unmarried couples may now adopt children jointly in the District. GLAA opposes efforts in Congress to outlaw or restrict such adoptions. The true victims of such posturing would be the children who would otherwise enjoy the benefit of having not one but two legally and financially responsible parents. We believe that the overriding criterion in adoption and custody cases should continue to be the best interests of the child not the best interests of the politicians and other outside, alien parties.

C. Domestic Partnership

GLAA was instrumental in the codification of the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, which provides for the registration of domestic partners, along with certain benefits, in the District of Columbia. However, the Act has never been funded since its inception because of Congressional decree. GLAA will continue to support the implementation of the domestic partnership law. If Congressional efforts to repeal the 1992 Act ever succeed, GLAA will lobby the DC Council to reenact it.w

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Part II. Human Rights

A. Administration of the Human Rights Act

GLAA has been critical of cutbacks in enforcement of the Human Rights Act of 1977, the District's landmark anti-discrimination law. Since 1990 the number of investigators assigned to anti-discrimination complaints has plunged from 14 to just 2; as a direct result, anyone filing a complaint of illegal discrimination today with the District government can expect to wait for 3 to 4 years before a finding of probable cause can be issued. Gerald Draper head of the Department of Human Rights & Minority Business Development, has acknowledged that OHR does not have nearly enough resources to do its job properly. GLAA salutes the initiative displayed last year by Councilmember Chavous in leading the Council to enact legislation authorizing implementation of mandatory mediation at OHR before an investigation is launched into a complaint; this helps make the most of OHR's limited investigative resources. We are glad that the Council enacted legislation earlier this year to make mandatory mediation a permanent part of the law. Among other steps GLAA recommends to address this problem are:

We are gratified that the goal of an independent, Cabinet-level status for OHR now enjoys the public support of Councilmembers Allen, Brazil, Chavous, Evans, and Schwartz; Councilmember Ambrose has expressed support for separating OHR from DHRMBD, but has not addressed the question of cabinet-level status.

B. Ending Discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America

The local chapter of the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) is being sued [Pool v. Boy Scouts of America, Geller v. Boy Scouts of America] because of the national group's rigid policies barring gays from joining either as scouts or as leaders. BSA leaders have claimed an exemption from the District's Human Rights Act on the grounds that BSA is a private club. In fact, since its inception BSA has been heavily supported by government agencies at the municipal, state, and federal levels throughout the country, and has always advertised that membership is open to "all boys" — hardly the earmarks of a "private club." The national leadership of BSA is cynically exploiting homophobia to advance its own exclusionary agenda; such bigotry cannot be tolerated under our laws. After a long delay (including agreeing to reconsider its original 1995 decision), OHR in March 1997 finally issued a decision in the case, finding that BSA is a "place of public accommodation" and finding probable cause to believe that ithad discriminated against Pool and Geller. However, OHR also ruled that BSA was not covered by the employment provisions of the Human Rights Act because they do not "maintain staffed offices with paid employees within the District." We consider this a clear misinterpretation of the law, and support the ACLU in its request for reconsideration of that determination.

C. Ending District Government Attacks on the Human Rights Act

The District Government itself has launched several attacks in recent years on the integrity of the Human Rights Act by advancing extremely narrow interpretations of its meaning and scope. In the Boy Scouts case cited above, for example, the Department of Human Rights and Minority Business Development originally accepted BSA's claim that it is a private club — completely overturning earlier rulings on the definition of private clubs handed down in the Big Brothers anti-gay discrimination case. Fortunately, a storm of protests by GLAA and others prompted the intervention of the Corporation Counsel, who has reversed the Department's original interpretation. But the Corporation Counsel's office has argued elsewhere that the District government is exempt from having to comply with the Human Rights Act in the delivery of public services. Equally ominous is the recent argument that the Human Rights Act does not bar harassment of public school students but only bans discrimination in admission policies; if upheld by the courts, this interpretation would open the door for all kinds of legalized harassment. The Human Rights Act of 1977 explicitly carries the admonition that it is to be interpreted broadly and liberally; the recent pattern of legal arguments advanced in the name of the D.C. government is incompatible with this guideline.

D. Repeal the Armstrong Amendment

This antiquated and embarrassing relic of the 1980's — imposed by Congress even though nobody in the District wanted it then or now — exempts religiously-affiliated educational institutions from compliance with the District's civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against lesbians and gay men. The District's elected officials should move to repeal this pointless and obnoxious law without further delay.

E. Official Proclamations

Official proclamations marking dates, events, or individual contributions of importance to lesbians and gay men should be continued. At the same time, elected public officials should refrain from issuing proclamations or resolutions saluting individuals or organizations that preach any sort of bigotry, such as the Nation of Islam or the Boy Scouts of America. Good works in some areas do not convey a license to inflict harm in others.

F. Abortion Rights

GLAA reaffirms its long-standing defense of abortion rights, including District government funding of abortions for needy women. Congressional bans on such funding violate both fundamental home rule principles and the Constitutional rights of the poor.

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Part III. AIDS and Public Health

A. DC Appropriated Money

In FY 1996, the District government failed to spend $1 million of its own funds appropriated for the fight against AIDS; in FY 1997 just ended, the same problem reappeared in about the same magnitude. The underspending reflected the District's failure to implement innovative programs for AIDS prevention; in FY 1996, for example, the District failed to get its needle exchange program off the ground, and in FY 1997 the city government did not award contracts for new AIDS prevention programs targetting underserved at-risk populations. At the very end of FY 1997, some funds that otherwise would have been lost were reprogrammed to DC General Hospital to let them stock up on AIDS-fighting drugs for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), but this is not a good way of doing business — especially since activists warned District officials several months earlier that the underspending problem would recur, a warning that went unheeded.

Appropriated District funds that are not spent do not carry over into the next fiscal year but are effectively lost. What is potentially even worse, the District government's underspending has jeopardized the federal funds the city receives each year under the Ryan White Care Act. Other cities that have similarly failed the "maintenance of effort" test mandated by the Ryan White Care Act have indeed endured a cutback in federal funding. We must use every dollar available, both local and federal. GLAA believes that funding for the care and treatment of people with AIDS must continue to rise in proportion to the caseload, which shows no signs of abating. The District's current financial predicament should not be used as an excuse to force cutbacks in AIDS programs locally.

B. Financial Management

GLAA supported the designation of a third party to act as a fiscal agent for federal AIDS money (including Ryan White and HOPWA), which was adopted last year by the Financial Control Board. Under the new system, an independent third party, which has no financial ties to the District government, will draw down federal money from accounts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pay AIDS service providers directly. The District's Agency for HIV/AIDS will continue to certify that vouchers are submitted accurately and are eligible for payment, and will also continue to set other programmatic objectives and standards. We feel that this system will result in swifter payment to AIDS service providers who are due federal reimbursement. GLAA also remains committed to pursuing such a system for locally appropriated dollars should the District renege on current commitments to bring payments of local money up to date.

C. Drug Assistance — Food and Nutritional Support

Now that new life-prolonging drugs are available, we must continue our commitment to spending Ryan White Title II money on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which helps pay for drugs for people with no or inadequate insurance coverage. Likewise, we all must remain committed to funding (with both federal and District money) home delivered meals, other nutritional support such as food banks, and also clean drinking water for people with HIV/AIDS. GLAA deplores Mayor Barry's dismissal of former Public Health Commissioner Harvey Sloane, whose chief offense was to warn people with AIDS and other vulnerable persons when the District's water was not safe to drink. The Mayor's insistence that public officials should place their personal loyalty to him above their duties to the public is contemptible beyond words.

D. Medical Marijuana

GLAA endorses Initiative 57, which would legalize the medical use of marijuana when a patient's doctor recommends it to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, or other diseases. We oppose threats by the Clinton Administration to revoke the federal prescription authority for doctors who recommend the use of marijuana for their patients who are not responding properly to other medications.

E. Prevention

Prevention saves lives and saves money. For this reason GLAA took the lead in supporting condom availability programs in the schools and in prison facilities. Condoms, when properly used, have been proven to help prevent the transmission of HIV from one person to another. If we are all truly serious about stopping the spread of AIDS, support for condom availability programs is important.

We are opposed to proposals to federalize and/or privatize the District's corrections facilities unless District prisoners are moved into facilities with adequate condom availability programs. It took a prolonged, concerted effort by many organizations to establish such programs at Lorton and elsewhere in the face of much bureaucratic indifference and incompetence; such progress should not be abandoned.

GLAA also worked for the enactment of legislation permitting the operation of clean needle exchange programs by AIDS services providers to help stop the transmission of HIV among intravenous drug users. Contrary to ill-informed opinion, these programs have not in any way led to increased IV drug use in communities around the country where these programs exist.

F. Other Health Issues of Concern to Lesbians and Gay Men

There are many other medical issues of concern to our community. Lesbians are at particular risk of not having breast and cervical cancers diagnosed early — based on lack of access to and sensitivity of medical providers to lesbian sexuality issues. The city needs to make sure that its health centers are staffed with people who are aware of and sensitive to such issues. The needs of women with HIV/AIDS are also often ignored. City agencies which dispense birth control or barriers for disease prevention also need to provide dental dams and/or other barriers for safe lesbian sexuality.

The number of attempted and completed suicides in this country is disproportionately high among lesbian and gay teens. We demand that the Department of Human Services implement the recommendations of the Sullivan report on teen suicide and ensure that city agencies which provide social and medical services to teens are aware of and practice sensitivity to lesbian and gay youth issues.

Drug-resistant TB has begun to spread in this area and needs to be aggressively stamped out before it becomes more entrenched within the population of people with HIV/AIDS and their medical care providers. Programs focusing on alcoholism which are run by or paid for by the city also need to incorporate gay and lesbian concerns in this area.

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Part IV. Public Safety

A. Establish an Effective Civilian Complaint Review System

The Council acted very rashly in early 1995 when it abolished the Civilian Complaint Review Board without providing for any successor mechanism for effectively handling complaints of police abuse. GLAA reaffirms its strong support for civilian review of complaints of excessive force or abusive language against members of the Metropolitan Police Department. The original system broke down in large part because of inadequate staffing and budgetary resources, combined with stout resistance from police unions and management alike to the entire principle of civilian oversight.

The consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton has devised a civilian complaint review system that has won the support of Police Chief Larry Soulsby and the tolerance of the FOP (the police union); this system is reflected in Bill 12-358 introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Evans. Under this plan, civilian complaints of police misconduct would be investigated by contract or part-time examiners in an Office of Citizen Complaint Review under the supervision of the Chief Judge of the Superior Court. Retired or senior judges of the Superior Court would review these investigations to ensure their fairness.

We fear that such a system could not guarantee the fairness of the Office's investigations because of the built-in bias of the judges, who are thoroughly and personally familiar with the leadership and the rank-and-file of the Metropolitan Police Department. In any civil or criminal case where juries are depended upon to determine the facts of the case, potential jurors who know any of the parties involved are routinely excused from duty; we believe the same principle should be applied to rule out the system envisioned in Bill 12-358.

There are other plans that would avoid the pitfalls of the Booz-Allen system and that build upon the lessons learned from civilian complaint review systems in use elsewhere in the country. Councilmember Sandy Allen has introduced legislation, Bill 12-360, based upon the recommendations of the ACLU, and the NAACP has put forward another plan. We believe these plans present a better starting point for constructing and implementing a truly workable system that District residents can have confidence in.

B. Improving Relations between the Police and the Lesbian/Gay Community

GLAA commends the excellent work done in recent years by Gay Men & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) to improve relations between the MPD and the District's gay and lesbian community. To continue this trend, the MPD must continue to conduct sensitivity training led by gay men and lesbians for both new and veteran police, with payments to these trainers comparable to rates paid other trainers. Such training helps police to respond effectively when gay people are crime victims or witnesses or when same-sex couples are involved in cases of domestic violence. In addition to training, police officers must be given clear guidelines and careful supervision to ensure that their law enforcement activities are not discredited by trampling on civil liberties.

C. Learning the Lessons of the Tyra Hunter Case

In 1995 a transgendered citizen, Tyra Hunter, died following a traffic accident when certain rescue workers from the D.C. Fire Department allegedly withheld proper and timely emergency treatment from her because of their own prejudices. The Fire Department's mishandling of this case undermined the entire community's confidence in the Department's fairness and competence.

The Fire Department again failed to give proper medical service in 1996 when two gay men were assaulted by a homophobe in Dupont Circle. Because the Department's personnel refused to render proper assistance on the scene, the victims were forced to walk a mile to George Washington University Hospital for treatment. We have heard of other complaints of similar misconduct by emergency medical personnel when confronted with persons with AIDS in need of immediate aid. Fire Chief Donald Edwards needs to be more outspoken and visible in leading efforts to eradicate this kind of improper activity by members of his department.

GLAA was gratified by the commitment stated by Mayor Barry and former Fire Chief Otis Latin to develop and implement an enhanced community relations and sensitivity training program for all Department personnel, including strong recognition of gay and lesbian community concerns. The Council should conduct careful oversight of this program to ensure that the chances for a repeat demonstration of insensitivity are minimized in future cases involving lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered persons.

D. Legislative Oversight on Bias-Related Crimes Act

Passage of the Bias-Related Crimes Act of 1990 was one of the great legislative achievements affecting the gay and lesbian community in recent years. GLAA believes that the Council needs to be vigilant in exercising its oversight responsibilities to ensure that the MPD is training all its members to recognize, respond to, and document bias-related crimes.

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Part V. Regulatory Abuses

A. Raids Against Gay Businesses

The last year has witnessed a rash of incidents where District government regulatory agencies chiefly the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the ABC Board, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the Fire Department have deliberately targeted gay businesses for unfair and unwarranted harassment. Problems escalated when Police Chief Soulsby kicked off his self-styled "zero tolerance" campaign by singling out several gay or gay-oriented bars that he bluntly promised he would close because of an alleged excess of complaints coming from around those places regardless of whether those problems were at all the responsibility of those bars. "Zero tolerance" has too often degenerated into examples of "zero intelligence" by overzealous police officers, especially when they are sucked into dubious schemes hatched by inspectors from DCRA. In light of DCRA's inability to handle its normal responsibilities to the public health and safety because of budgetary restrictions, the diversion of scarce resources into raids against innocent businesses such as Cusano's Meet Market on 17th Street NW is truly intolerable.

GLAA ran an advertising campaign in April and May of 1997 in The Washington Blade, City Paper, Metro Weekly, and InTowner, protesting against the city's discriminatory enforcement policies and asking readers which was their priority — fighting crime or harassing gay businesses. Readers were then urged to clip and mail a letter to Mayor Barry protesting the harassment. Palm cards with a similar message were also distributed in gay bars and restaurants, with a tear-off post card for the reader to fill out and send to the Mayor. Since this ad and mail campaign was launched — and in the face of a threatened lawsuit by the Gay and Lesbian Business Guild of Washington, DC — the city's harassment against the gay businesses appears to have subsided. While GLAA is pleased that our campaign was successful, future incidents can only be prevented by establishing clear guidelines and priorities for regulatory and enforcement personnel, and through careful oversight by the Council. The new leadership of DCRA has yet to respond to our community's concerns.

B. Nude Dancing Establishments

The District's ABC Board has been wasting its highly limited resources on investigations into victimless actions at bars offering nude dancing as entertainment. Grossly disproportionate penalties have been arbitrarily imposed against several such bars catering to gay men, endangering the employment of hundreds of people and needlessly restricting the flow of taxes into the District's severely strained coffers. GLAA demands an end to these pointless moralistic crusades. For the longer term, GLAA calls for enactment of legislation that would authorize the issuance of new liquor licenses to establishments that want to offer nude dancing as entertainment. Such licenses are no longer authorized under current law. We agree that such licenses should only be issued in designated commercial nonresidential districts.

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Part VI. Public Education & Youth

A. No Government-Endorsed Prayers at Public Schools

GLAA joined the local ACLU, People for the American Way, and other plaintiffs in a suit earlier this year challenging the acceptability of a proposed initiative to authorize government-endorsed, "student-initiated" prayers in public schools. Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Alprin threw out the initiative because it was patently unconstitutional. GLAA strongly supports the principle of church/state separation; those who want to tear down the wall of separation usually intend to deny equal rights under the law to lesbians and gay men as well. GLAA also recognizes that the proposed school prayer initiative, if enacted, would subject religious minorities to government-backed harassment if they declined to participate in public prayers, violating a 1979 law barring initiatives that would erode protections for minorities safeguarded by the Human Rights Act.

B. Involvement in Selection of Future School Superintendents

Gay men and lesbians have been allowed to participate in the past on the periphery of the process leading to the School Board's choice of a new Schools Superintendent; however, the Board reneged on promises to allow a representative of our community to sit in during the Board's interviews with finalists. Other community groups have been accorded this privilege, and GLAA believes that our community should be afforded the same opportunity the next time a new Superintendent must be selected — assuming, of course, that local control of our public schools is restored as it ought to be (see Part VII below).

C. Equal Access Act

Homophobes in Utah attracted national attention when the State Legislature passed a law banning all non-curriculum-related clubs in public high schools, thereby abolishing a slew of clubs ranging from chess clubs to Bible study groups. This absurd law was passed because students in Utah had established a number of gay/straight alliances; under the federal Equal Access Act enacted nearly a decade ago, schools must either allow any non-curriculum related clubs or else ban all of them. Other strategies are also being advanced to circumvent the Equal Access Act, all of them designed to suppress free speech in our public schools. GLAA is gratified to know that there have been a number of gay-supportive clubs formed over the years in District public schools and expects our elected officials to uphold their right to exist.

D. Censorship

Fairfax County has received much unwelcome attention in the past few years because of efforts by Religious Right activists to bar gay and lesbian publications such as The Washington Blade from public libraries. Efforts to bar gay and lesbian books from public and school libraries are also widespread across the country. The Religious Right has also targeted a host of school textbooks and curriculum materials that fail to reflect their own hostility against lesbians and gay men. Such assaults on the First Amendment must be resisted by all government officials.

E. Funding for Social Services for Gay & Lesbian Youth

The District government should do all in its power to assist the activities of SMYAL and similar groups in training educators and social workers on issues affecting gay and lesbian youth. Teen suicide issues and services for gay and lesbian street kids are among the topics where mainstream service agencies are often found wanting. Homophobia kills, and young people are often the most vulnerable.

F. No Vouchers for Private Sectarian Schools

D.C. voters rejected the concept of taxpayer-financed vouchers for private schools in a 1981 referendum by a decisive margin of 9-to-1. Nevertheless, under the spurious banner of "populism," several Congressional leaders have tried to ram a voucher program aiding sectarian and other private schools down the throats of District citizens. GLAA opposes public subsidies for private schools, in part because most private schools are run by religious denominations violently hostile to lesbians and gay men. Private school vouchers imposed by Congress would be another wanton violation of home rule principles and would ultimately be struck down by the courts as patently unconstitutional.

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Part VII. Assaults on Self-Government

The virtual coup against home rule imposed by Congress and approved by President Clinton during the summer made a bad situation even worse. Stripping our elected officials of their duties and responsibilities does not, as we often hear, remove politics as a motivating force in the conduct of the District government. Rather, the District government has now been made beholden to national political interests, which are often distinctly hostile to District residents in general and to gay and lesbian residents in particular.

Dumping democracy in favor of consultocracy will solve few if any problems and is already leading to new abuses. Defying a long-established trend across the nation towards greater openness in political decision-making, the District's new masters seem addicted to a reign of secrecy for secrecy's sake, a prejudice that merely protects the guilty from the public wrath they deserve. We, the people of the District of Columbia have to be the saviors of our city, once we learn to demand that our elected officials do their jobs properly.

A. Board of Education

We deplore the Control Board's de facto suspension of the District's elected Board of Education until June 2000. The 3-week delay in opening our public schools this year because of mistakes made under the direction of General Becton — as well as systemic problems with the District's procurement process — merely demonstrates that bumbling and inefficiency did not end with the gutting of the powers of our school board. We do not deny that the School Board acted very foolishly and irresponsibly and brought itself down by its own incompetence; but we believe that the proper solution belongs in the hands of the District's voters, not an outside party subservient to Congress. Neither, for that matter, do we believe that our intractable national problems, badly bungled by a Democratic President and a Republican Congress, should be handed over to the British Parliament to resolve, on the theory that American independence and democracy was a noble experiment that just didn't work out.

B. No Return to City Commissioners

We oppose the proposal by Senator Faircloth and others, which has recently been floated by Control Board Chairman Andrew Brimmer (and rightly denounced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton) to strip the Mayor of most effective powers and to turn over most executive powers to a City Manager appointed by and responsible to a permanent Control Board. This plan would effectively reinstate the colonial Board of Commissioners system that was both an utter failure and an insult to fundamental democratic values. Any major changes in the District government should be subjected to the approval of DC voters in a referendum rather than unilaterally imposed by Congress.

C. No Federal Takeover of Metropolitan Police Department

Along with our allies in the ACLU, NAACP, and others, we firmly oppose a federal takeover of the Metropolitan Police Department. Home rule has had a distinct positive effect on improving relations between the police and the gay and lesbian community; by contrast, a police force directly under the thumb of Congress would quickly lose the confidence of the gay and lesbian community, not to mention that of the general community. Far from increasing long-term prospects for public safety, federalization of our police department would damage community-police relations, undermine the public trust that is crucial to successful law enforcement, and create a dangerous situation in which the police are seen as a hostile occupying force rather than as public servants who are part of the local community and answerable to the citizens and their elected representatives.

D. Expanded Home Rule

Amidst the discussion of various plans for reordering the District's relations with the federal government, we endorse those aspects that would grant the District effective budget autonomy over those agencies remaining under DC government control, without the need for the current system of total Congressional control of the District's entire budget. Congressional demagogues have grossly abused their powers over the DC budget to pander to the radical religious right and their allies by (for example) denying the District the right to fund the domestic partners law or to assist poor women seeking abortions.

All public officials should fight for the integrity of District laws when they fall under attack from Capitol Hill, the White House, or the federal judiciary. Gay men and lesbians face tremendous animosity from a variety of powerful forces, whose passion for inflicting harm on us routinely involves trampling on home rule principles. We expect our elected officials to stand up loudly and firmly in defense of laws and policies that protect the District's gay community.


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