Responses of Carol Schwartz to GLAA 2000 Questionnaire
for DC Council Candidates
1. Will you vote for a budget for the new Citizen Complaint Review Board and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review large enough to prevent the development of a case backlog?
Yes. On the Council, I was an original co-sponsor of legislation in 1998 that revived the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), and I have actively supported it since. During the recent budget cycle, I recommended that revenue I found in the Mayor's budget be allocated to several important programs, including $100,000 to aid the CCRB and to staff the Office of Citizen Complaint Review. A case backlog would not only be unfair to those who file complaints, it would also severely diminish the effectiveness of the CCRB and, ultimately, imperil its existence. I will continue to support funding for the Citizen Complaint Review Board and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review at levels that should prevent the development of a case backlog, and in my oversight role as a member of the Council I will keep tabs on the caseload.
2. Will you support legislation that will reverse the Council's recent enactment of a ban on moonlighting by members of the Metropolitan Police Department at bars and sexually oriented establishments?
I am inclined to agree with Police Chief Charles Ramsey's opinion that members of the Metropolitan Police Department who moonlight at such establishments put themselves at risk of violating their duties and subject themselves to potential legal problems, which could derail their careers. My feelings on this issue are general in nature and not specific to the Gay and Lesbian community.
3. Will you support amending recently enacted Sexual Offenders Registration Act, "Megan's Law," so that those who can prove to the court that they no longer constitute a danger to the community will not be required to register as a sex offender?
During the debate on this legislation, I did my best to ensure that the concerns expressed to me by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance were addressed. The District should have a Sexual Offenders Registry, and I made my feelings about this known to the GLAA during our meetings. In amending the law to allow offenders to petition the court for removal from the list, I would need to be assured that the process by which individuals are deemed rehabilitated leaves no margin for error.
4. Will you support the full funding and full staffing of the Metropolitan Police Department's newly created Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) as currently proposed?
Yes. I applaud the creation of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLUU) and will support full funding and full staffing. I believe that the creation of such a unit within MPD helps to further enfranchise the Gay and Lesbian community in the fabric of our city, and I hope that the existence of the GLUU will work to reduce complaints of police harassment or lack of responsiveness in the community.
5. Will you demand mandatory gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and diversity training including gay and transgender community representative as a continuing part of the training for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department?
Yes. I have demanded that sensitivity and diversity training be mandatory for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department. I was sickened by the appalling treatment of Tyra Hunter by EMS personnel. In a letter I wrote to then-acting Fire Chief Thomas Tippett (see attachment #1) and during a subsequent meeting with him in my office earlier this year, I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted all personnel under his command to receive the necessary sensitivity training, and that the training should include representatives from our diverse communities. I also expressed to him my strong objection to the promotion of an emergency worker who refused to treat Hunter after the worker discovered that she was transgendered. I will make these same feelings known to our newly appointed fire chief, Ronnie Few, during the Council's consideration of his nomination.
PUBLIC HEALTH & HIV
6. Last year, a unique identifier system for tracking the spread of HIV was approved by the Council and Mayor, rather than a names reporting system that would deter some people from being tested in the first place. Will you insist that unique identifier system be implemented without delay and fairly evaluated?
Yes. We need an HIV reporting system that will give us accurate information on the course of the epidemic. Advances in detection techniques, such as detuned assays, when combined with other strategies, such as population-based studies, will give us a much better portrait of the epidemic. In implementing an HIV reporting system, the ability to better direct resources should not compromise the trust of our citizens in our HIV testing and counseling programs. Therefore, I support a unique identifier system which will protect people's confidentiality. This system should be implemented without further delay and should be fairly evaluated by and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for HIV/AIDS for its effectiveness over time.
7. Will you oppose Bill 13-240 which would make possession and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes a felony?
I voted in favor of Initiative 59 to legalize medical marijuana. I have spoken out in support of allowing the medicinal use of marijuana, and I will continue to do so. I believe that for medical purposes, marijuana should be treated as other forms of tightly controlled medications. It should be administered to patients only through prescription, and the same measures that are applied to prevent the abuse of prescription medications should be applied in the dispensing of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
During the debate on Bill 13-240, I raised a number of concerns about how this legislation would affect the current use of marijuana by those who feel that it helps ease symptoms of medical conditions. In response to my questions, the U.S. attorney said that her office has never - and would never - prosecute someone for using marijuana in their homes to treat illnesses. I am satisfied that this bill has no intention of targeting such individuals. This legislation is designed to stem the violence that is prevalent in the illicit drug trade, which must be a focus even after we are able to put in place a system for the controlled distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.
It is also important to know that, contrary to some news reports at the time, the first offense for the possession or distribution of up to a half -pound of marijuana remains a misdemeanor. Only after a second possession or distribution conviction does it become a felony.
8. Will you support the use of District taxpayer funds to implement a needle exchange program?
Yes. I always have supported, and I will continue to support, the use of District taxpayer funds to support a needle exchange program. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that needle exchange programs not only save lives, but also provide a vital link to drug treatment programs for intravenous drug users who want to end their addictions.
On this issue in particular, my frustration with the interference from Congress is immense. I have made repeated efforts to prevent a congressional ban on spending locally raised tax dollars for a needle exchange program. When my efforts - and those of many other like-minded officials and activists - were not successful, I worked in my role as a member of the Board of Directors of the Whitman-Walker Clinic to create an entity separate from the Clinic to continue our needle exchange program. I was among the first to make a personal financial contribution to fund the efforts of PreventionWorks!, the group that took over the operations of the Clinic's needle exchange program. I am pleased that last year, we were able to get Congress to allow the Clinic to operate a privately funded needle exchange program without losing its federal dollars. In order to accomplish this, I personally met with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rep. Ernest Istook on several occasions. As the debate on the city's budget for the 2001 fiscal year proceeds, I intend to do all that I can as a locally elected official, as I have done in the past, to persuade members of Congress to end the ban on using our locally raised tax dollars to address this critical public health issue in the most effective way we can.
9. The Administration for HIV/AIDS (AHA) is still unable to account for its spending. Will you ask the Inspector General to audit AHA contracting.
Of course I want the Administration for HIV/AIDS to be accountable for its spending, and I would support an audit by the Inspector General to determine how AHA's funds are being spent. Also, I will make it a priority for the Council's Committee on Human Services, on which I serve, to schedule an oversight hearing of AHA operations.
10. Will you support earmarking funds to combat mental health problems and homelessness among sexual minority youth?
Yes. I have contributed regularly over the years to the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League and I keep up-to-date, both through my involvement with SMYAL and through the media, with the problems faced by sexual minority youths. The burdens of being a Gay, Lesbian or Transgendered teenager or young adult - particularly when there is no family support, or when there is even outright hostility from one's family - can be too difficult to bear. Too often, these young people make choices out of necessity that can lead to dreadful consequences. Evidence showing a link between sexual identity troubles and teen suicide is terribly alarming. I support the use of public funds to address mental health needs of sexual minority youth and to provide shelter to homeless sexual minority youth, and to pay for a broad, honest and inclusive AIDS prevention effort aimed at young people, whose infection rates have been showing disturbing increases.
11. Will you support a temporary increase in the annual budget for the Office of Human Rights (OHR) over the next several years until its persistent 700-case backlog has been eliminated?
Yes. I have voted for budget increases for the Office of Human Rights in the past only to find that the backlog does not go down. Each case that remains in a backlog represents a problem not rectified, and therefore is more likely to be repeated. I have raised this issue many, many times in my role as a member of the Council's Committee on Government Operations. I will support a temporary budget increase for OHR if it would be used specifically to clear its backlog of cases.
12. Will you support legislation that will codify OHR's former practice of giving top priority to discrimination complaints filed by people with AIDS or other major life- threatening diseases?
Yes. People who are facing terminal illness cannot wait - nor should they wait - for cases that they have brought to the OHR's attention to be investigated and concluded.
13. DC's rate of HIV infections among teenagers is significantly higher than the national average. Will you support legislation to increase HIV prevention efforts targeted towards sexual minority youth?
Yes. As I stated in my response to question 10, I strongly support broad, honest and inclusive AIDS prevention efforts aimed at young people. This effort should include involvement from the Agency for HIV/AIDS, the Department of Health, the District of Columbia Public Schools, Public Charter Schools, as well as organizations that serve young people. If legislation is necessary to develop strong and well-coordinated prevention efforts in this regard, I will support it without hesitation.
DEFENDING OUR FAMILIES
14. Will you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Stable relationships characterized by love and mutual support should be legally recognized. In the District, with the many unfair obstacles we must overcome as a result of Congress's veto power over our laws, I feel fairly certain that any attempt we make to legally recognize marriages between partners of the same sex would be swiftly shot down, and that the issue would be used - gleefully and contemptuously - by unsupportive members of Congress to bash the District and curry political favor at home. I worry that congressional interference in this area would create a hurdle that would significantly limit the District's ability to consider this issue in the future. My record of support for domestic partnership rights has been consistent and longstanding, and I think that the best strategy at this time would be to secure - unimpeded by Congress - legal recognition of domestic partnership rights for our citizens.
Earlier this year, I wrote to every member of the House and Senate, urging them to oppose inclusion of language in the 2001 District of Columbia Appropriations Bill that would continue to prohibit the District from enforcing its domestic partnership law (see attachment #2). I pointed out to them that since the District enacted the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act in 1992, at least 35 U.S. cities, ten counties and five states, as well as at least 80 Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of smaller businesses, have devised and implemented some form of domestic partnership benefits. I will continue to promote stable relationships by advocating for meaningful domestic partnership laws with all inherent rights and responsibilities.
15. Will you agree that the District should recognize the same-sex civil unions established in Vermont or other jurisdictions?
Yes. To the extent our laws will allow, we should recognize same-sex civil unions established in Vermont and elsewhere.
16. Will you support legislation in the District similar to Vermont's civil unions law?
Yes. Legislation in Vermont came about as a result of action from its Supreme Court, which guided the state legislature in its actions. Having the benefit of a judicial ruling would better ensure passage of such legislation in the District. Under such a scenario, I would endorse legislation similar to Vermont's civil unions law.
17. Will you support the well-established decision by D.C. Courts, which recognize the right of unmarried couples to adopt children jointly?
Yes. I support the District's policy on adoptions and have actively lobbied Congress on this matter. Two years ago, in fact, I - along with others - successfully got a congressional rider deleted in Committee that would have prohibited Gay and Lesbian couples from adopting children. It is my long-standing conviction that sexual orientation should not be a factor in determining whether someone should be awarded custody of a child, or whether someone should be allowed to adopt a child. On a personal level, I have been fortunate to know many Gay and Lesbian couples who are loving and wonderful parents. To deny a child such an opportunity would be a tragedy.
YOUTH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
18. Will you support legislation prohibiting harassment of students in the District schools (both public and charter) on the basis of any of the protected categories enumerated in the D.C. Human Rights Law?
Yes. Nearly 25 years ago, while on the Board of Education in the 1970s, I voted for a successful policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the hiring of teachers. I thoroughly support the May 2000 directive prohibiting harassment in the public schools, including harassment based on sexual orientation, or based on perceived sexual orientation. A similar policy should be employed in the city's charter schools, and I will support legislation to ensure that students in all schools receiving public funds are protected from harassment.