Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
of Washington, DC

AGENDA: 2002

an election-year guide
to local gay and lesbian issues
in Washington, DC

This document is subject to revision.
Last revised: September 8, 2002


I. Public Safety
II. AIDS and Public Health
III. Human Rights
IV. Defending Our Families
V. Public Education and Youth
VI. Other Issues


A. Introduction

Relations between the gay and lesbian community and the District's public safety agencies have markedly improved in recent years under the leadership of the Metropolitan Police Department's Chief Charles Ramsey. Most notably, he authorized establishment two years ago of MPD's Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), which has worked tirelessly to improve police-community relations as well as the department's handling of gay-related cases. A recent "surgical strike" drug bust in a gay bar, which caused minimal disruption to other patrons, is an example of this professional sensitivity.

B. Implementation of a New Citizen Complaint Review System

The confirmation of a new Citizen Complaint Review Board (CCRB) two years ago (including an openly gay board member), followed by the opening of the Office of Citizen Complaint Review (OCCR) last year, was a victory for the principle of independent review of citizen complaints of police abuse. OCCR Executive Director Phil Eure has made progress, but further promotional and educational efforts are needed to inform District citizens about this resource and how to file complaints. Continued support by the Mayor and the DC Council is needed to ensure that OCCR can hire the investigators and mediators necessary to ensure that complaints are handled in a timely manner.

C. Community Relations Training

To sustain and capitalize on the gains achieved, MPD must continue its community relations and sensitivity training for new recruits and lateral transfers, and resolve the procurement problem that delays the training each year while the training contract is negotiated. The presence of openly gay men and women as trainers, and their support by the leaders of the Police Academy, sends a strong message to all officers that homophobia will not be tolerated in this city. We commend Chief Ramsey for pledging to reinforce this training with in-service training including the showing of brief, specialized videos during roll call.

Additionally, it is imperative that MPD reinstate sensitivity training of the veteran MPD officers, which was discontinued over two years ago. Given their status and experience, veteran officers establish the everyday departmental climate for new officers. Allowing the often homophobic attitudes of veteran officers to go unchallenged has the potential of perpetuating an atmosphere hostile to GLBT citizens and negating the effects of the sensitivity training received by new recruits. To be successful, MPD's commitment to equal treatment for all citizens must be integrated at all levels of the Department.

D. Transgender Issues

Police Chief Ramsey has shown that he realizes that his officers need some specialized training in dealing with the District's transgendered residents. He has conceded that there is a tendency by officers on the streets to assume that every transgendered person they encounter is a prostitute. In addition to training, continued supervisory vigilance is needed to stop such illegal profiling. Like any minority group, transgendered persons are the best experts on themselves, and members of Transgenders Against Discrimination and Defamation (TADD) are an invaluable resource that MPD should regularly tap to improve its understanding of-and eliminate discrimination against-transgendered citizens.

E. Reforming "Megan's Law"

Despite warnings from GLAA and others about its dubious constitutionality, the Council two years ago passed a "Megan's Law" to establish a registry of convicted pedophiles and sex offenders, without allowing an exception for offenders who can demonstrate that they are no longer a danger to the community. As we predicted, the law has already been ruled unconstitutional. Due process concerns are even less popular now in the aftermath of the Church pedophilia scandal, but the Council should learn from its court experience that the problem cannot be solved with a blunt, indiscriminate "Zero Tolerance" approach that avoids the kind of difficult case-by-case examination that alone ensures justice. When it returns to this issue, the Council should resist emotional appeals that equate respect for due process rights with being soft on child abuse.

We also favor a measure to allow the awarding of attorney fees for those who successfully win suits against their being included in the sex offender registry. This provision was supposed to be included as part of the compromise deal on the Megan's Law bill that was reached between the ACLU and the U.S. Attorney's Office in December 1999, but the Council reneged, pleading that the D.C. government could not afford it. We believe that sacrificing justice for those wronged by government action in the name of fiscal rectitude represents a gross misplacement of priorities.

F. Fire & EMS Department Issues

Adrian Williams, the Fire & EMS Department who stopped treating the gravely injured transgendered resident Tyra Hunter in 1995 and hurled insults at her when he discovered she had male genitals, was promoted to sergeant in December 1999 rather than dismissed. By promoting Williams and covering up for him during the Department's original investigation of the Tyra Hunter incident, the Department sent a clear message that it tolerates homophobia. The Department must re-institute community diversity and sensitivity training for all its staffers, and reinforce it with supervision and performance evaluations, in order to prevent future incidents.

Outgoing Chief Ronnie Few's disregard for the First Amendment and the DC Human Rights Act (DCHRA) in imposing grooming standards for firefighters demonstrates a poor appreciation for the District's diverse workforce. Rather than require regular fit tests to ensure a proper seal on face masks, he merely talked about safety, while threatening Muslim and Rastafarian firefighters with termination unless they complied. Few was blocked in court on First Amendment grounds, but his action also tramples on DCHRA's prohibition against discrimination based on personal appearance, which protects transgendered persons.

The Council should question the Mayor's nominee for the next Fire & EMS Department chief closely to avoid repeating these problems and to restore the leadership that has long been absent from the department.

G. Condom Availability for District Prisoners

As an unanticipated consequence of the move toward federalization and privatization, D.C. prisoners are being housed in facilities where condoms are not made available. Such shortsighted policies raise the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission within prison walls and eventually in the general population. To the extent possible, D.C. officials should require private contractors to provide condom availability programs, and should lobby federal and state officials to lift any bans on such programs in their facilities where District prisoners are housed.

H. Reversing the "Moonlighting" Ban on MPD Officers

At the request of Chief Ramsey, the Council two years ago enacted Legislation that bans the off-duty employment of MPD officers at bars and at sexually oriented establishments. GLAA opposed this bill because the gay businesses on O Street SE used off-duty police officers to provide security for their patrons on the streets outside their establishments. The safety of gay customers should not be compromised by a moonlighting ban that merely reflects the Chief's personal distaste for sexually oriented businesses.

Go to Top of Document


A. Introduction

The government's best estimates show that DC has the highest AIDS rate in the country and HIV infections are increasing. However, the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) operates without effective management, without accountability, and without oversight. The failure to supervise HAA's operations has resulted in spending without accountability, an epidemiological system designed to fail, and a failure to provide even minimal levels of HIV prevention.

B. HAA Management and Oversight Failures

HAA lacks basic managerial oversight. Mr. Ronald Lewis is both the Director of HAA and the Deputy Director for Health Promotion. This means that Mr. Lewis is his own boss. The practical effect is that there is no managerial oversight of HAA. Mr. Lewis reports to the director of the Department of Health. The director has been enmeshed in the massive responsibilities and problems of the Department of Health and has not provided personal oversight of HAA. Now, without a director, there is no possibility of managerial oversight. A director of HAA needs to be hired.

Likewise, the DC Council has failed to provide even rudimentary oversight of HAA. The last Council hearing on HAA was held on July 18, 1998. The Council needs to exercise its responsibility and hold hearings on the performance of HAA and its contracting process.

C. Budget Accountability

HAA's budget has received almost no scrutiny from the Council. The budget provided by the administration covers HAA in just two paragraphs. With a relatively small budget of $58 million, HAA is lost in the $1.3 billion budget of the Department of Health. And since approximately 85% of HAA's budget comes from the federal government, the Council has really only checked to see that federal dollars keep coming in, and local dollars are sufficient to meet federal maintenance levels. The result is that HAA has operated in almost complete budget secrecy since it was first created in 1986 as the Office of AIDS Administration.

HAA has found the time and money to buy and give away numerous tchotchkes. ACT UP has collected tote bags, ceramic mugs, water bottles, key chains, junk-food bag clips, and beer bottle openers and coolers with the HIV/AIDS Administration name and logo. These trinkets are a complete waste of money. They don't provide information, stop HIV transmission, or promote health. This waste of funds needs to end.

HAA has refused to fully comply with a GLAA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request for the budget and contract information. The information that has been provided is incomplete, misleading and false. Either Mr. Lewis has no idea what is going on, or he is deliberately hiding misspending.

The failure of HAA to provide basic accounting information is more serious than the commonplace incompetence that we have grown used to for years in the District Government. In addition to the failures of the health care system and lives cut short, we are at considerable risk for losing federal funding as Health and Human Services investigators prepare to conduct performance audits.

The evidence that our funds are not being stolen would be provided by a detailed and public audit of HAA and the contractors. This must be done, and inappropriate expenditures must be found and corrected before the federal government does it for us.

D. HIV/AIDS Surveillance

GLAA supports HIV surveillance for epidemiological purposes. Accurate information will support better HIV prevention, treatment and care programs. A surveillance system must accurately track the population demographics of the spread of HIV without causing distrust of the public health system or discouraging people from getting tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 25% of all people with HIV have not been tested and do not know their status. A study by Kaiser Permanente found 40-42% of people who test positive for HIV wait until they get sick, and miss years of life-extending treatment. Therefore, any system must encourage people to get tested, or at least not discourage them from doing so.

In 1999, The DC Council recommended to the Mayor that a unique identifier system be established to protect the confidentiality of people who test positive and to maintain public trust in the health care system. Unlike most other diseases, HIV disease carries great stigma, and extra protections for privacy are warranted. Mr. Lewis led the fight to oppose unique identifiers, supporting names reporting. Mayor Williams wisely chose unique identifiers, but left Mr. Lewis in charge of implementation.

After an 18-month delay, HAA convened a working group to help design the unique identifier system. HAA staff insisted that the proposed identifier include the last four digits of the patient's social security number. Arguments noting the inherent problem of including the partial social security in terms of immigrants without a number, people misreporting the number, and general mistrust of the government collecting the information were ignored.

Information provided to the working group from the CDC explained that the failures of the unique identifier systems in Maryland and Texas were directly related to the inclusion of a partial social security number which was only 50% complete. In two evaluations of unique identifier systems conducted in Los Angeles and New Jersey, the CDC found the social security numbers to be available in less than 20% of all cases reported. The CDC requires 85% reporting completeness for the system to meet minimum performance standards. First names, which HAA prohibited from being included, are 97.2 - 99.9% complete. Use of the first, or the first two letters of a person's first name-as is done with last name-would distinguish between two people born on the same day with similar last names.

Failure to implement a workable HIV tracking system will result in the loss of federal funds and in wasteful expenditures based on mistaken notions about which populations are currently in greatest need of resources.

Bill 14-0326, "HIV Unique Identifier System Amendment Act of 2001," was introduced by Councilmembers Phil Mendelson, Sharon Ambrose, David Catania, Kevin Chavous, Jack Evans, and Jim Graham and co-sponsored by Adrian Fenty to correct the problems with the unique identifier system. Unfortunately, the Human Services Committee of the DC Council has so far failed to schedule a hearing on the bill. The Council should pass the bill, or incorporate it into the budget support act.

GLAA supports the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report, which recommends "that the CDC create a national system to identify new HIV infections, enabling public health officials to track recent changes in the epidemic. Rather than trying to count every newly infected person, the proposed surveillance system would provide data that would allow the CDC to estimate the number of HIV infected persons by testing a statistically valid sample of those at the highest risk. These individuals would be drawn from randomly selected "sentinel" sites, including health care facilities-such as clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, substance abuse treatment, and family planning-where at-risk people are likely to seek care. Sentinel surveillance is already used on a limited basis, but not in a way that can produce accurate national estimates."

The District of Columbia should adopt a parallel sero-positive survey as recommended by the IOM and discontinue the partial SSN collection in the Department of Health's unique identifier. The District should encourage the CDC to adopt the IOM recommendations to promote HIV prevention and surveillance.

E. HIV Prevention

Prevention of HIV has been demonstrated through education and condom use. However, HAA support of education and condoms seems to be on the decline.

Condoms have all but disappeared from the bars and clubs. Recently, condoms have become available in machines at just 6 bars. Condoms are not expensive. Commercially, 1000 Lifestyles non-lubricated latex condoms cost $70. 1000 Wet LightFoil water-based lube packs cost $140. We should be able to purchase condoms in bulk for far less.

GLAA spearheaded the condom availability project that led to an executive order in 1992 to make condoms available in schools. Yet 10 years later, with an apparent rise in HIV infections among youth, students are limited to just one condom per month, if they are available at all. The Department of Health is responsible for HIV prevention efforts and controls the distribution of condoms in public schools through the nurses.

There is not one HIV prevention poster or brochure, and not one free condom or lube packet at the Income Maintenance Center where thousands of DC's most vulnerable residents visit every week for food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and other survival services. When asked at a press conference in November why condoms weren't being made available at the Income Maintenance Center, Mr. Lewis replied that there wasn't any prevention material to distribute with the condoms, and in any event they didn't want to offend any of the religious groups that oppose condom distribution. In short, the 15 year old HAA doesn't have HIV prevention literature, and takes direction from religious groups instead of complying with District law and policy.

F. Legalizing Medical Marijuana

GLAA supports legalizing the medical use of marijuana when a patient's doctor recommends it to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, or other diseases. Initiative 59 passed by the voters by 69% and won in every voting precinct. The Council should oppose all federal attempts to block implementation of I-59 or limit access to medical marijuana. The Council should oppose any proposal to increase penalties against people who use medical marijuana or acquire it for their loved ones. The 1999 report Marijuana and Medicine by the Institute of Medicine found clear benefits of marijuana for the relief of pain and nausea and the increase in appetite. While not a cure, marijuana's medicinal effects can significantly improve and prolong life. There is no reason to believe that legalizing medical marijuana in tightly controlled situations will encourage youth to indulge in drug abuse. Alleviating pain and suffering must not be sacrificed to political posturing and demagoguery.

G. Addressing Women's Health Concerns

There are many other medical issues of concern to our community. Lesbians are at particular risk of not receiving early diagnoses of breast and cervical cancers, 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 must similarly be provided for. The Women's Health Program Initiative is a good step forward in promoting women's health care. In addition to focusing on cancer prevention, screening and treatment, the Initiative addresses issues relating to diet, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.

H. Transgender Health Needs

Transgender people in DC are disproportionately poor and outside of our health care system. Incidence of HIV infection is greater than 25%. Prostitution is a not uncommon profession as discrimination and sex-transitioning keeps many transgender people out of stable employment. This is a serious HIV transmission vector that has been largely overlooked.

Poverty and lack of medical access has created a black market in sex hormones used to manage secondary sex characteristics. According to the Washington Transgender Needs Assessment Survey, "52% have taken hormones at some point in their lives, and 36% are currently taking hormones. Only 34% report that a doctor monitored their blood levels while they were taking hormones, and 58% have acquired hormones from friends or on the street. Over 90% of those currently taking hormones state they plan to continue taking them for the rest of their lives."

The quality and purity of the black market hormones are often in doubt, creating additional health issues. Hormones are very inexpensive. A year of hormone treatment costs only $192 per person. The full cost of providing hormones and related tests is a mere $364.50 per person. Providing hormones would eliminate the illicit sale of hormones, and bring transgender people into the health care system.

I. Fighting TB, Hepatitis and Alcoholism

Drug-resistant TB and Hepatitis B & C have begun to spread in this area and need to be aggressively stamped out before they become more entrenched within the population of people with HIV/AIDS and their medical care providers. Councilmember David Catania proposed, and the Council recently approved, funding specifically targeting gay people with programs on alcoholism and other substance abuse. GLAA supports continued funding of substance abuse treatment programs.

Go to Top of Document


A. Introduction

Enormous strides have been made over the last four years in improving the enforcement of the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977. Both Mayor Williams and the Council may rightly share the credit for these improvements. Both have had the wisdom to heed the advice and recommendations that GLAA has been urging for many years.

But at the same time, the admirable sentiments expressed at the top levels of our government have failed to overcome the backward attitudes and policies entrenched at several D.C. government agencies. The Mayor has too readily deferred to his agency chiefs rather than enforce a consistent commitment to human rights throughout his administration.

B. Office of Human Rights

A massive backlog of discrimination complaints piled up at the Office of Human Rights (OHR) in the years after that office was merged into a new Department with the Minority Business Development Commission (MBDC) in 1989. Although OHR went into the merger as much the stronger and more vibrant of the two agencies, its operations were ruthlessly sacrificed in the ensuing years to beef up the political interests of the MBDC. With the new Department always headed by someone whose background was in minority business development rather than civil rights, OHR's staff was systematically cannibalized throughout the administration of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelley, leaving OHR with only a handful of investigators and other staff by the mid-90s.

This massive attrition slowed but did not halt under Marion Barry's fourth term as Mayor, as GLAA complained bitterly but to little avail about the grotesque delays of many years facing anyone filing a discrimination complaint with OHR. Passage of the Human Rights Amendment Act of 1995 did improve things in some ways by requiring attempts at mediation before an investigation into a complaint could commence. But neither the Mayor nor the Council did anything to implement GLAA's call for the renewed independence of OHR. GLAA made this matter a key issue during the 1998 elections.

Mayor Williams did endorse a breakup of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Business Development once in office. However, it was Councilmember Kathy Patterson, in her capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, who actually engineered OHR's renewed independence through the budget process in 1999.

But Mayor Williams gets the credit for selecting the right person to head up the newly-revitalized OHR by selecting Charles Holman III, who came to the District with an extensive background in enforcement of both local and federal civil rights laws. Mr. Holman aggressively addressed OHR's once-staggering backlog and other operational problems, resulting in substantial improvements and a re-energized staff. Not surprisingly in light of the situation Mr. Holman inherited, many problems remain and complainants still must face delays in seeing their cases resolved. But the Administration expressed its confidence in Mr. Holman and the OHR staff by granting the agency a sizable boost in its FY 2003 budget, despite an overall policy of fiscal constraint.

GLAA has enthusiastically endorsed the boost in OHR's proposed budget. We expect all candidates to pledge themselves to continue providing the funds OHR needs to end its backlog and otherwise enhance enforcement of our landmark Human Rights Act.

In light of the strong support previously provided to Mr. Holman by the Williams Administration, we are dumbfounded by his sudden dismissal in late June. The Administration offered no explanation for this abrupt decision, paving the way for every sort of speculation. The decision to fire Mr. Holman regardless of his outstanding record of public service stands in distressing contrast to the lengthy dithering within the Administration about whether to dismiss Ronnie Few, whose record as Fire/EMS Department Chief was clouded from beginning to end. Mr. Holman was replaced as OHR Director, at least on a temporary basis, with an Assistant Deputy Corporation Counsel. Considering the Corporation Counsel office's longstanding antagonism against enforcing our Human Rights Act, this was a disturbing development. We urge the Mayor to appoint a permanent OHR Director who is as dedicated to the cause of civil rights as Mr. Holman was.

The Mayor should also take care to ensure that his nominees to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights reflect a similar commitment to enforcing our anti-discrimination laws. We were distressed to learn that the Mayor has re-nominated someone on the Commission whose resume boasts about his service to the Boy Scouts. In light of the Boy Scouts' many years of notorious homophobia - not to mention the Commission's own recent ruling that the Boy Scouts' exclusionary anti-gay policies are flatly illegal - we find his re-nomination incomprehensible, and hope the Council will promptly reject it.

C. Executive Order 2000-131

When the Human Rights Act was first enacted back in the 1970s, few if any city agencies reflected the full coverage of this local law in their own anti-discrimination policy statements. Instead, nearly all agencies limited the "laundry list" included in these statements to those categories protected under federal civil rights laws-race, religion, sex, age, etc. GAA (as we were then called) complained about this to Mayor Walter Washington, who ignored us. But Mayor Marion Barry had pledged himself during the 1978 campaign to repair this policy, which he did through an Executive Order in February 1980.

This Executive Order enjoyed a long and fruitful life in the 1980s and much of the 1990s. But several cases of inadequate government anti-discrimination policy statements came to light in the first year of the Williams Administration, making it obvious to us that it was time for a new Executive Order. Mayor Williams responded to GLAA's efforts with Executive Order 2000-131 in August 2000, ordering all government agencies to include all categories protected under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 in their anti-discrimination policies, and to clear the language of their proposed anti-discrimination regulations with OHR.

Unfortunately, the problem continued to surface even after issuance of this Executive Order, making it clear that agencies were either unaware of or ignoring its existence. OHR Director Holman issued a statement reminding all agencies of the Executive Order and their need to clear their policy statements with his office. But still the problem persists, most recently with inadequate language in statements from the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Housing Authority. At least some blame must be attached to the Office of the Corporation Counsel (OCC), since all proposed regulations must be cleared by them before being published in the D.C. Register. Unfortunately, OCC's own record in respecting the Human Rights Act has been abysmal, as will be shown below.

Councilmember Jim Graham, Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, will hold oversight hearings on compliance with the Executive Order on July 12. In addition, the proposed FY 2003 budget would allow OHR to hire a compliance officer whose duties would include monitoring anti-discrimination policy statements throughout the D.C. government. If both the Mayor and Council keep after the notoriously recalcitrant D.C. government, perhaps this worthy Executive Order will finally be implemented both in letter and in spirit.

D. Office of the Corporation Counsel

As alluded to above, the Office of Corporation Counsel has had a notoriously bad record of outright contempt for the Human Rights Act since the Kelley Administration, when OCC twice filed viciously homophobic briefs in connection with a same-sex marriage court case.

OCC's contempt for the Act reached a nadir in its reaction to the Tyra Hunter case in the late 1990s. Although GLAA succeeded in persuading then-Corporation Counsel John Ferren to rescind some of OCC's most appalling arguments, they persisted with the argument that D.C. citizens could not legally sue the District government in court under the Human Rights Act unless they had gone through the OHR complaint process first. OCC refused to back down even though several court rulings had already struck down, in very strong and unambiguous language, the identical argument in other cases.

OCC's intransigence, and the Mayor's refusal to overrule them despite GLAA's pleadings, inspired a provision in the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2001 explicitly rejecting OCC's position. This legislation has been passed by the Council without controversy and should become law before the end of the year.

The OCC has an inherent conflict of interest between its role in defending the District government from complaints by its citizens and employees on the one hand and its responsibility to enforce the Human Rights Act of 1977 on the other. OCC has consistently acted as though its only role is the former. Until this conflict of interest can be resolved through administrative or legislative means, GLAA will continue to demand that OCC live up to its responsibility for enforcing the laws of our city regardless of who the defendant might be.

E. Department of Fire & Emergency Medical Services

An entirely new problem has popped up under the mismanagement of the outgoing Fire/EMS Chief, Ronnie Few. Chief Few's obsessive and rigorous enforcement of a grooming policy that was long ago rejected by the courts for its incompatibility with the Human Rights Act must be rescinded. The Act prohibits arbitrary discrimination on the basis of "personal appearance," an inconvenient point of law Chief Few chose to ignore. His comments have consistently stressed paramilitary and "morale" justifications for his grooming policy, with safety considerations an afterthought and an excuse.

Ironically, the Chief's supposed devotion to safety is questionable in light of the Department's refusal to conduct annual fit tests for its masks. Such tests would provide an objective standard for hairstyles that might be dangerous and not merely aesthetically unappealing. The Corporation Counsel is wasting the taxpayers' money in defending this doomed policy in court.

The selection process for a new Fire Chief should respect the principle of separation of powers. Councilmember Harold Brazil, then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, participated in the failed process that led to Chief Few's appointment, and therefore the Council had no incentive to check into Few's resume or qualifications during the confirmation process. The Council must not compromise its independence by joining in a selection process that properly belongs to the Executive Branch.

F. 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, including but not limited to the Nation of Islam and the Boy Scouts of America. Good works in some areas do not convey a license to inflict harm in others.

In addition, recognition of the history of the District's gay and lesbian community should be incorporated into the District's historic trails program and other commemorative and promotional campaigns.

G. Other Concerns

We have heard complaints that some District-funded homeless shelters refuse to admit transgendered residents. Unfortunately, no one in a position to know about such incidents has filed a complaint with OHR. We encourage anyone with knowledge of such discrimination to step forward, anonymously if necessary, so that a full investigation by OHR can commence.

GLAA has long argued for legislation that would give priority to discrimination complaints filed by persons with life-threatening diseases or conditions. Such a policy was in effect at OHR for many years, and a staff person was dedicated to handling such complaints, but that policy disappeared in the budget and staff cutbacks of the '90s. We know of at least one case cited by former Director Charles Holman of a complainant dying before OHR could act on their case. This is cruel and unnecessary. Further such travesties can and should be prevented through appropriate legislation. In the meantime, The Director should reinstitute that practice within the office.

Go to Top of Document


A. Securing Equal Marriage Rights

As Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

Various rights and responsibilities, especially those related to Federal law, can only be obtained through marriage. We continue to advocate the legalization of same-sex marriages and expect our elected officials to follow suit. However, given the current level of Congressional demagoguery, we are not pressing for such legislation in D.C. Eventually, as the debate matures, we expect that much of the country will recognize their own stake in extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, and Congress will lose interest in denying such rights in the District.

However, we oppose all legislation designed to restrict marriage on discriminatory and anti-gay grounds such as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the current efforts by Rev. Walter Fauntroy to create a Constitutional Amendment to deny equal marriage rights. We agree with U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the renowned civil rights leader, who stated during the Congressional debate on DOMA: "Marriage is a basic human right."

In light of the current political climate, GLAA supports incremental steps towards full and equal civil marriage. Vermont's passage of the Civil Union law is a good model for DC to emulate. Vermont's law recognizes nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage under state law. DC should likewise make all the provisions of marriage available without regard to the sex of the couple entering into civil marriage. DC should also recognize civil unions performed in other jurisdictions, consistent with the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution. Until such time as DC enacts its own civil union law, DC should recognize the equivalent sections of the DC marriage law as applicable to civil unions enacted elsewhere.

B. Domestic Partnership

GLAA was instrumental in the codification of DC's Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, which provides for the registration of domestic partners, along with certain benefits applicable to DC Government employees. After a nine-year funding ban imposed by the Congress, we are now able to implement the law. The Domestic Partnership law was a good step forward in 1992, but now it appears anemic in comparison to other jurisdictions and private employers. DC needs to begin paying the premiums for domestic partners in the same fashion that we pay for other family members. Partnerships in other jurisdictions need to be recognized to protect visitors in case of injury or illness while in DC.

On September 30, 1992, Mayor Kelly issued a Directive to establish a registration process. Unfortunately, in 1999, employees in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs criminally destroyed the previous registration records and erased the computer records of those registrations. The new regulations reward the criminal destruction of records by omitting any reference to them, effectively making long-term partners strangers before the law. This is an extremely dangerous precedent. Administrative nullification of contracts and partnerships over the objections of the partners is an attack on all of us. Based on this action, there is no reason to think that the government needs to recognize any future domestic partner if the government finds it inconvenient.

If the administration and the Council hold domestic partnerships in such low regard, it is unlikely that others will respect them. The Council needs to write new regulations to force the administration to recognize the more than 100 previously established domestic partnerships.

C. Upholding Adoption Rights

A DC court decision in 1995 upheld the right of unmarried couples to 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 parties. We are delighted that in 1999 the House of Representatives defeated the Largent Amendment that would have banned adoptions by unmarried couples in the District.

Go to Top of Document


A. Anti-Harassment Policy in DC Public Schools

Responding to efforts spearheaded by GLAA, the DC Council has recently made harassment an explicit form of illegal discrimination in employment and educational institutions. The Mayor has signed the legislation and we await the end of the Congressional review period. In a complementary fashion, the DC School Board has amended school policies to prohibit harassment and sexual harassment.

The school policy must now be implemented. Administrators, teachers and students must all be made aware of the policy, as their rights and responsibilities under the law and school policies. The harassment and the policies need to be explained to students in a variety of ways such as assemblies, skits, role playing and other verbal and written means.

The training for DCPS employees on the harassment directive from the Superintendent has been promised since the spring of 2000. It has not yet begun. The support and promotion of training programs is vital to the well-being of all students and staff in our public schools.

B. Ending Discrimination by the Boy Scouts against Gays

The Boy Scouts of America promotes discrimination against gay people. Despite the DC Commission on Human Rights finding against the Boy Scouts, they continue to argue that DC law does not apply to them and that they have a right to discriminate. Having fought for the dubious status of a discriminatory private club not unlike the Ku Klux Klan, BSA's leaders now must live with that status or repudiate it.

The DC Government may not run or support programs that discriminate on any basis enumerated in the DC Human Rights Act. However, the DC Public Schools continues to illegally sponsor Boy Scout troops and provide special access and privileges the Boy Scouts. The DC Public Schools must immediately end the sponsorship of Boy Scout troops and end any special treatment offered to the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts should be allowed to use DC school and other government buildings after hours in the same manner that any other private group may. The Boy Scouts must not be allowed to recruit in our publicly funded schools as long as they insist on their right to discriminate, nor should any D.C. Government agency provide them with special access or other privileges. The DC Council and the Mayor should also not honor the Boy Scouts while they continue to violate DC law and promote discrimination.

C. Ending the United Way's Support of the Boy Scouts

The United Way of the National Capital Area has a requirement that any organization that participates in its fundraising campaign must have "a policy and practice of non-discrimination." The Boy Scouts of America has both a policy and practice of discrimination. The United Way continues to violate its own policy in order to support the Boy Scouts. The United Way must end their violation of their own policy and either admit that they are unconcerned about discrimination or enforce their policy and end their support of the Boy Scouts. To do otherwise is a deceptive fundraising practice that is incompatible with a trustworthy organization.

D. Providing Social Services for Gay & Lesbian Youth

The District government should do all in its power to ensure that qualified groups train educators and social workers on issues affecting gay and lesbian youth. Mainstream youth service agencies in both the private and the public sector have frequently failed in their responsibilities to our young gay people, sometimes out of their own prejudices, or sometimes because of fears of losing public or foundation funding. District government agencies have the duty to put their professional commitment to the welfare of the young over any adverse fears or prejudices. Homophobia kills, and youngsters are often the most vulnerable. Nowhere is this fact more painfully clear than in the disproportionately high rate of attempted suicides among lesbian and gay teenagers. [Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Wissow, L. S., Woods, E. R., & Goodman, E. (1999). Sexual orientation and risk of suicide attempts among a representative sample of youth. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 153, 487-493.] The District's Department of Human Services must ensure that District agencies that provide social and medical services to teens are fully informed of and sensitive to the concerns of all at-risk youth including gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth.

An indispensable resource on social services for sexual minority youth is the 1998 book, Lesbian & Gay Youth: Care and Counseling, by Caitlin Ryan and Donna Futterman, which was named the 1998 Book of the Year in Psychiatric Nursing by the American Journal of Nursing. This book was written as a follow-up to the U.S. government's first conference on the primary care needs of lesbian and gay youth. First published as an entire issue of Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews (the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Adolescent Section), the book marks the first time that comprehensive clinical care protocols have been released for practitioners on the health and mental health care of lesbian and gay youth.

Go to Top of Document


A. Modernizing the Criminal Code

Over long intervals of time, statutory codes tend to become barnacle-encrusted, burdened with unamended, unrepealed legal relics of the cultural imperatives and political issues of past eras, combined with evolutionary vestiges of the legal history of the jurisdiction. Laws remain on the books which are either unenforceable under the situations of the present, or are uniformly disregarded by citizenry and government alike and are often viewed as laughable. Cleanup and modernization become increasingly imperative, and eventually the task is undertaken, often over the resistance of traditionalists.

That is very much the situation in the District of Columbia, whose basic legal code originated around 1800 with the British-based colonial Maryland Code, was extensively revised by Congress in 1901, and has been amended, piecemeal, in the century since, leaving behind and still with us an array of archaic laws.

Among those laws that remain on our books are ones criminalizing Fornication and Adultery, inconsistently with the spirit and substance of the major revision of the District's laws on sexual offenses enacted in 1995. Additionally, the D.C. Code criminalizes a body of vague and unspecified "common law" offenses, arising from ancient English court decisions and Parliamentary enactments, going back, ostensibly, at least to the time of Henry VIII. This is objectionable in that inadequate notice is provided or obtainable as to which these offenses are, no specification consistent with the precision demanded by modern law is provided as to the elements which comprise these offenses, and the penalties for violations are not set out. Further, concern has been expressed by some that upon repeal of a more recent criminal law addressing a matter included in the common law, such as an anti-Sodomy statute, the ancient common law offense becomes reactivated as long as the triggering common law provisions of the D.C. Code remain on the books.

Accordingly, GLAA supports the "Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2002-Bill 14-636," currently before the City Council, which, as currently drafted, would repeal the Fornication and Adultery laws, among many others. GLAA urges an amendment to this bill that would to repeal the two common law provisions now in the Code, as well as certain other provisions or clauses such as those criminalizing verbal solicitations for sexual acts once illegal but now no longer so.

B. Proposed Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs

GLAA opposes the "Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs Act of 2002," Bill 14-719. This is a solution in search of a problem that reverses forty years of political successes by the gay community by ghettoizing our concerns into one office, instead of having gay people represented at all levels of government and in every department, agency and commission.

The proposed legislation will result in the co-opting of the community's voice, and put it under the control of the Mayor. Gay people need to maintain effective and independent advocacy that cannot be subject to control by the government. The proposal of a commission, selected by the Mayor, will further isolate political dissent by putting an official and partisan imprimatur on the community's goals and needs.

The bill will also serve as a lightning rod for congressional interference on DC limited self-government. The questionable benefits of the bill will be more than overtaken by the likely rider to our budget prohibiting spending on this office.

The similar existing offices of Latino and Asian affairs can be justified by the political and social marginalization in those communities caused by language and other barriers, and the consequent need for special efforts to ensure access to government services. The longstanding political influence and visibility of the District's gay community, and the fact that we are represented in top-level positions in both the legislative and executive branches of our government, demonstrates that our community is not in the same situation as those ethnic minorities. The gay community itself is highly diverse, of course, and our recognition of that is reflected in our long history of being the leading defenders of all the non-discrimination categories in the DC Human Rights Act. What is needed is not a ghettoized office, but the same independent watchdog efforts in which GLAA specializes. The head of an Office of GLBT issues who is appointed and paid by the Mayor will serve the Mayor's interests first, as has been amply demonstrated by the current liaison. We see no reason why more of the District's limited resources should be devoted to that inherently compromised position by raising it to the level of an office. The Council should reject this proposal and the Mayor should veto it should it pass.

C. Defending Adult Entertainment

When Councilmember Sharon Ambrose's massive ABC reform bill became law on May 3, 2001 (Act 13-603), it included a victory for members of our community and others who enjoy adult entertainment. Existing clubs that offer nude dancing are once again able to sell or transfer their licenses, relocate within the same commercial zoning area or move to the downtown area. The moralistic demagoguery of Councilmember Harold Brazil, and the blatant misrepresentations by some elements of the press, had forced an unusual reconsideration of the already-passed bill in January 2001. While GLAA remains committed to an outright repeal of the moratorium on new ABC-licensed establishments that feature nude dancing, we agreed to a compromise because without it, the existing clubs would eventually have been eliminated through attrition, business failure, and redevelopment. We appreciate the fortitude of Sharon Ambrose and the majority of councilmembers who stood with us and saw the measure through to a successful result. We will continue to insist that our leaders defend the District's diverse nightlife against those who would impose their personal moral views on the rest of the citizens and visitors to this international and cosmopolitan city.

Go to Top of Document

Copyright © 2002 by Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
GLAA, Inc., P.O. Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013
Phone (202)667-5139