The Washington BladeFriday, February 20, 1998
Where Credit Is Due
D.C. Corporation Counsel John Ferren's two recent actions in withdrawing offensive arguments from the government's brief in the Tyra Hunter case did not come out of the blue. Members of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance laid the groundwork with Ferren at a meeting on December 1, 1997. During that meeting, we told Ferren about past assaults by the Office of the Corporation Counsel against the DC Human Rights Act. Ferren urged us to call him directly whenever such a concern arose.
After reviewing the goverment's brief in the Hunter case which was filed at the end of December I telephoned Ferren in mid-January on behalf of GLAA to discuss our objections. Ferren (who has a staff of approximately 200) told me that he had not seen the brief before it was filed, and promised to review it personally. We had a follow-up discussion a week later. Ferren ultimately agreed with GLAA that the arguments involving the First Amendment and the D.C. Human Rights Act should not have been made, and should be withdrawn. His crucial intervention occurred only after GLAA brought the matter to his attention. Without my phone call there would have been no intervention by Ferren, and the arguments would only have been resolved in civil court.
While we still maintain that the District should settle the case and stop wasting taxpayer money defending the indefensible, Judge Ferren deserves credit for his responsiveness and integrity in reviewing the government's brief and taking the rare step to withdraw the arguments. And GLAA whose ongoing vigilance is an important safeguard for the civil liberties of gay folk in the District deserves credit for our timely efforts that bore fruit in this case.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington