Welcoming Remarks for GLAA 33rd Anniversary Reception

Welcoming Remarks

Richard J. Rosendall
GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs

GLAA 33rd Anniversary Reception
Radisson Barcelo Hotel
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Good evening, and welcome. Once again, GLAA has had a busy year. We pushed for greater accountability and responsiveness in the HIV/AIDS Administration. We fought an abstinence-only education grant. We continued pressing for community diversity training at the Fire/EMS Department. Recently we obtained release of the department's diversity training manuals, when several D.C. Council members and Corporation Counsel Bob Spagnoletti backed our FOIA request. We worked to ensure that new alcoholic beverage control regulations respect gay community interests. In particular, we fought against efforts by the ABC Board to go beyond their legal mission into morals policing. We worked with the Office of Human Rights to ensure that its progress continues. We took part in interviews of finalist candidates for OHR Director, and we have had several productive meetings with new director Kenneth Saunders. We joined all too many vigils for the victims of violence and hatred. We continued supporting the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, which we honored last year, as well as the Office of Citizen Complaint Review. We continued working with HRC, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and others to fight anti-gay congressional riders on the D.C. Appropriations Bill. Now we're gearing up for another election year, which means updating our agenda document and rating candidates.

Earlier this year, GLAA released our report identifying 212 rights and responsibilities of marriage in the District of Columbia. This was a major effort, with Mindy Daniels doing the research and Bob Summersgill preparing the introduction and subject index. We thank the Human Rights Campaign for their grant that helped underwrite the project. This report will guide our efforts toward winning equal civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in the District. We thank the D.C. Council for their unanimous resolution condemning the Federal Marriage Amendment. We also thank them for their unanimous support for the Deed Recordation Act. Last year we joined them in celebrating passage of the Health Care Decisions Act, which added domestic partners and close friends to those authorized to make health-care decisions for incapacitated persons.

We know that incremental gains are frustrating when you see gay couples getting married in cities around the country. But we see the fight for marriage as a marathon, not a sprint, and we want to be around long enough to win it. You see, here in D.C. we have a special relationship to contend with. It's not a traditional relationship nor an equal one. It involves us and 535 partners on Capitol Hill, many of whom think they know our business better than we do. Unlike activist groups in other jurisdictions, we have to deal with that. We don't go in for emotionally satisfying gestures that will leave us worse off than we were before.

GLAA doesn't try to be all things to all people. We offer experienced, informed, focused activism that continues to challenge our public officials while building constructive relationships and giving credit where it is due. We have a 33-year record of accomplishment. We are in this for the long haul. Have we made mistakes? (Pause.) I'm sure something will pop into my head while I'm standing up here, but it hasn't yet.

Now I have an announcement to make as GLAA's webmaster. GLAA is now a proud affiliate of Lambda Rising Bookstore, which just launched its long-awaited website. If you visit our website at GLAA dot org and follow one of our links to Lambda Rising dot org, we will receive a commission on any purchase you make online. We have assembled a recommended reading list, which you will find near the top of our main web page. But it doesn't have to be a gay-related book; almost any book can be ordered via Lambda Rising. When you buy online, you can specify that you want to pick up your order in the store. So make Lambda Rising your new online book source, and help GLAA by getting there via our website. Just click on Recommended Reading or the Lambda Rising logo.

Finally, we like to dedicate our reception each year to a noteworthy member of our community. Our own focus is on local matters, but we want to dedicate this evening to a Washingtonian who made a key contribution to last year's landmark Supreme Court sodomy decision. On March 26, 2003, the high Court heard oral arguments in Lawrence & Garner v Texas. Those in attendance that day, including our own Barrett Brick, brought back glowing reports of the brilliant performance by the attorney representing the Petitioners. The subsequent landmark victory is due to many persons and organizations, including Lambda Legal Defense. But today we honor the attorney who so ably carried the argument that day, especially the graceful way he parried every thrust from Justice Scalia. He is Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block, and he's here with his partner Michael Dennis. Paul, raise your hand. Bravo, sir. Thank you.

Let me read a brief excerpt from the transcript.

"MR. SMITH: (I)t was conceded by the State of Georgia 17 years ago, that married couples can't be regulated as a matter of substantive due process in their personal sexual expression in the home....

"JUSTICE SCALIA: They conceded it. I haven't conceded it.

"MR. SMITH: Your Honor. That may well be true...."

And here's a question from Justice Ginsburg.

"JUSTICE GINSBURG: (Y)ou are asking the Court to overrule Bowers against Hardwick....

"MR. SMITH: Yes, Your Honor."

And they did. Congratulations, Paul.

It is now my honor to introduce members of the D.C. Council for a ceremonial resolution.