Welcoming Remarks for GLAA 34th Anniversary Reception

Welcoming Remarks

Richard J. Rosendall
GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs

GLAA 34th Anniversary Reception
Radisson Barcelo Hotel
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Good evening, and welcome to another anniversary for what one local paper calls "a small, experienced group of local activists."

First, we like to dedicate our reception each year to a noteworthy member of our community. This year we do so in sorrow. Wanda Alston, acting director of the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs, was murdered on March 16. While her death does not appear to have been a hate crime, it reminds us of how uncertain life is, and how far we have to go to end the violence and drug abuse in our city. Wanda was a fighter. In fact; many of us here this evening fought with her. Our mutual respect was not based on pandering or pretense, but on the recognition that despite our differences, we were fighting for the same cause. That cause endures, even if our disagreements do as well. Five weeks are too short for her friends and colleagues to work through our grief. How much harder it must be for her birth family, and for Stacey Long, her chosen family. In tribute to the bond that Stacey and Wanda had, and in sadness for the wedding they will never see, let us renew our commitment to fight for the simple truth that love makes a family. Please join me in a moment of silence.

Once again, GLAA has had a busy year. We continued pushing for reforms in the HIV/AIDS Administration and the Department of Health generally, and we were happy to see some long-overdue housecleaning there. We worked with Kenneth Saunders in the Office of Human Rights to ensure its further progress. We continued supporting the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, as well as the Office of Police Complaint Review and the Biased Policing Task Force. We backed up the ACLU and Councilmember Kathy Patterson in their successful effort to defend the First Amendment rights of political demonstrators.

We continued our participation in the Equality Federation to bring state expertise to the national movement. We continued working with the Human Rights Campaign, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and others to fight anti-gay congressional riders on the D.C. Appropriations Bill. We updated our election-year agenda document and rated candidates. After the election, we successfully urged Council Chairman Linda Cropp to break up the unwieldy Committee on Human Services to create the new Committee on Health. We led the early organizing effort in response to a proposed anti-gay ballot initiative. Faced with the displacement of gay clubs by the proposed baseball stadium, we co-sponsored a community meeting last week with the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and the D.C. Coalition, and seven D.C. Councilmembers joined us.

Last year, the Council unanimously condemned the Federal Marriage Amendment, and unanimously supported the Deed Recordation Act. Just the other day at the 25th anniversary reception for Black and White Men Together, someone thanked me for our work on that bill. This illustrates the fact that our defense of gay families is not about an abstraction. We are talking about real protections for real families. To continue that progress, we worked with Councilmember Phil Mendelson on the Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2005, for which we once again have unanimous support from the Council. We have met with key Council staffers to discuss other legislation that we support.

We suspect that more people recognize the wisdom of our incremental approach in light of the intensified attacks by the radical right against gay families and our independent judiciary. Our job is going to be made harder by the recent naming of Sam Brownback of Kansas to chair a key Senate subcommittee. The denial of self-determination to the citizens of the District is nowhere more painfully felt than in our community.

GLAA does not 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 34-year record of accomplishment. We are in this for the long haul. We are always looking for a few good men and women to join our effort -- especially young people seeking an apprenticeship in effective activism.

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