Michael Brown responds to GLAA 2006 questionnaire

Responses of Michael Brown to GLAA 2006 Questionnaire
for DC Mayoral Candidates

GLAA 2006 Rating for Michael Brown (Possible range: +/- 10 points total)
Yes/No Substance Record Championship Total
2 3 2 0 7

Public Safety

1. Will you support funding for mandatory gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) sensitivity and diversity training for all members of the Fire/EMS Department, starting with the first budget you submit to the Council?

Absolutely. I fully support mandatory GLBT sensitivity and diversity training for all members of the Fire/EMS Department and will include it in the very first budget I submit to the Council. I was saddened when Fire/EMS stopped the excellent work that the diversity committee was undertaking five years ago, with the assistance of Toni Collins, Kenda Kirba, and others. Fire/EMS needs to take these issues seriously and in a Brown administration, the department will have to. That is non-negotiable.

2. Will you appoint a new Fire/EMS Department Chief who is committed to rooting out the Department’s deeply entrenched homophobia and transphobia?

I have said publicly many times and will reiterate here that Adrian Thompson must be removed as Chief of Fire/EMS. The last straw for me was the department’s debacles that indirectly resulted in the death of New York Times reporter David E. Rosenbaum. In appointing a new Fire/EMS Department Chief, I will look for an individual committed to redressing internal failures of the department, which include the deeply entrenched transphobia and homophobia. These issues have been a major stain on the department since the death of Tyra Hunter and they need to be addressed by a new chief, who is up to the challenge.

3. Will you include representatives of the GLBT community in the search process when you appoint a new Police Chief and a new Fire/EMS Chief?

Yes, I pledge to include representatives from the GLBT community in the search process for a new Police Chief and a new Fire/EMS Chief. I want the search committee to reflect the diverse citizenry of the District and that includes having GLBT citizens take an active role.

4. Are you committed to continuing the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit within the Metropolitan Police Department?

I am absolutely committed to continuing the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) within the Metropolitan Police Department. Police departments in many cities model themselves after the GLLU because of the exceptional job the unit has done, under the leadership of Sgt. Brett Parson. Because of the unit’s existence, more crimes directed towards the GLBT community have been reported. This underscores the need for the unit. Before it existed, many GLBT residents did not trust the MPD enough to report hate crimes. The GLLU, by its mere existence, has helped the District to rid our streets of a lot of bigots.

5. Will you submit a budget request for the Office of Police Complaints that will be large enough to continue to avoid developing a backlog of cases?

In order for the MPD to better serve District citizens, the Office of Police Complaints needs to be fully funded. Without sufficient resources, the citizens will have no way of effectively policing their police force. I will submit a budget request for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to prevent a further backlog of cases. We need to get ineffective and troublesome officers off the force.

6. Will you ensure that the Department of Corrections enforces the District’s Human Rights Act against contractors who discriminate against transgender visitors to correctional facilities?

Absolutely. The Department of Corrections is not above the law - it must enforce the District’s Human Rights Act against contractors who discriminate against transgender visitors to correctional facilities. This includes allowing visiting transgender women to use the women’s restroom and allowing transgender men to use the men’s room.

7. Will you oppose legislation creating so-called “prostitution-free zones,” which would give the police, who routinely assume that every transgendered person is a prostitute until proven otherwise, virtually unlimited power to harass our transgendered residents?

I oppose legislation creating so-called “prostitution-free zones” because it is too easy to falsely accuse individuals of prostituting within them. This is especially true when it comes to transgender women, who are too often incorrectly labeled as prostitutes. This idea of prostitution-free zones really amounts to putting a band-aid on a huge problem. I want to give our young people options and want to make certain that our schools are safe places for all of our young people, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, disability, familial status, matriculation, source of income and place of residence. That way, we keep more of our young people in school and reduce the need for people (whether transgender or not) to resort to prostitution to make ends meet.

AIDS and Public Health

8. Will you ensure that the drive to make HIV testing routine among District residents includes funding for counseling and referrals to treatment facilities for those who test positive?

Absolutely. In pushing to make HIV testing more routine among District residents, I will ensure that enough money is available to provide counseling and referrals to treatment facilities for those who test positive. It is very important that we give all of our newly-diagnosed citizens every resource they need to fight this horrible disease and deal with the stigma that unfortunately still exists around it. Through education, medical resources, and counseling, we can help our HIV+ residents and lessen the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others. This is the whole basis of the Prevention for Positives program that Whitman-Walker Clinic and other community-based organizations have implemented.

9. Are you committed to continuing and strengthening the District’s condom distribution program?

I am very dedicated to continuing and strengthening the District’s condom distribution program. We have a crisis in this city when it comes to HIV and I believe that desperate measures call for desperate action and leadership. I would push to have condoms available in all the city’s public schools and recreation centers. I realize that some parents may oppose condoms being made available to their children; however, given the seriousness of this problem, I would insist that it happen. This may not be a popular stance, but it is a necessary one. Likewise, I support needle exchange as a means of curtailing the spread of HIV and other diseases. These stances are part of the reason that DC Fights Back!, an HIV/AIDS prevention and education group, gave me an A- for my proposed solutions to this pandemic. This was the highest grade of all the mayoral candidates.

10. The District is being forced by the federal government to switch from a unique identifier system to a names reporting system for people testing positive for HIV. Will you support legislation to strengthen our medical privacy laws, such as by creating a private right of action for those whose confidentiality is violated by District government employees or contractors?

It goes without saying that citizens whose confidentiality with regard to their HIV status is violated must have an avenue by which they can take action. I fully support legislation that would strengthen our medical privacy laws.

Human Rights

11. Will you submit a budget for the Office of Human Rights (OHR) large enough to allow it to reduce to 270 days the average gap between the time that a discrimination complaint is filed and the time OHR issues a finding of probable cause?

Yes, as Mayor, I would submit a budget with enough funds allocated to reduce the average gap between the time that a discrimination complaint is filed and the time OHR issues a finding of probable cause to 270 days. Moreover, I would ensure that this new time frame becomes an official policy at OHR and that the public is properly informed of it.

12. Will you refuse to issue proclamations and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry?

I will neither issue proclamations nor honor individuals or organizations that promote bigotry in any form. Hate mongering should not and will not be rewarded in a Brown administration.

13. Will you refuse to appoint to your Interfaith Council ministers such as Bishop Owens and Rev. Willie Wilson who have publicly hurled vile language against members of the District’s GLBT community?

In a Brown administration, there will be a zero tolerance towards repugnant, denigrating language being directed at the GLBT community, no matter what the source. I will not appoint any individual to my Interfaith Council who has used such derogatory language to describe the GLBT community. Moreover, I will immediately remove from the Interfaith Council any individuals who, after their appointment, make derogatory statements against members of the District’s GLBT community, or any other group.

14. Will you invite representatives of GLAA to participate in the search process when you appoint a new Director of the Office of Human Rights, as Mayor Williams did in 2003?

Of all offices, the Office of Human Rights must have a Director whose vision of human rights aligns closely with that of the GLAA. I will certainly invite representatives of GLAA to participate in the search process for the Director of the Office of Human Rights, as Mayor Williams did in 2003, when he selected Mario Acosta-Velez for that position. Likewise, I will invite representatives of the DC Coalition, Latin@s en Accion, and other stakeholders to participate in the search process.

15. Are you committed to enforcing the provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression?

Emphatically, yes. I believe that the D.C. Human Rights Act’s provisions need to be fully enforced.

Marriage and Family

16. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?

Personally, I support marriage equality. However, as Mayor, I will continue to support civil unions and domestic partnerships with as many rights and privileges of marriage as possible. The unfair and unfortunate fact that DC is NOT a state precludes the residents of DC from self determination on these issues. As leaders, we must have the courage to be honest. This particular Congress has shown its strong opposition to gay marriage and that prevents the District from achieving marriage equality. If we continue to push Congress for marriage equality, the District may lose some of the enormous strides it has made in expanding domestic partnership rights.

17. Will your Administration publicize and enforce the recently enacted laws that have significantly expanded the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners?

Yes, the Brown administration will publicize and enforce the laws that enhance the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners.

18. Will you support legislation in the District to continue expanding the existing domestic partnership program to include all relevant rights and responsibilities of marriage in D.C. law?

Yes, my administration will work to expand all existing domestic partnership rights and responsibilities to include all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in D.C. law. As state earlier, I am committed to giving civil unions and domestic partnerships all the teeth of marriage, just without using that terminology that Congress and, unfortunately, so many citizens object to.

19. Will you support the legislative and/or regulatory changes necessary to ensure that the District recognizes civil unions, domestic partnerships and similar legal relationships established in other jurisdictions?

Yes, it is important that the District of Columbia be a leader on this issue. The District should fully recognize and legally respect civil unions and domestic partnerships established in other jurisdictions.

Public Education and Youth

20. Do you oppose both federal and local voucher programs that fund students in religious schools that are beyond the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act?

The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution established the principles of separation of church and state and religious freedom to ensure that the state does not impose any religious doctrine on the citizens of the United States. To do so would be a violation of our civil liberties as Americans. Using federal and local vouchers to fund students in religious schools is a clever way to circumvent our constitution, especially since many of these parochial institutions discriminate against members of the GLBT community. Residents of the District of Columbia should not be forced to support through taxes any religious institutions (including schools) that do not abide by the non-discrimination tenets of the D.C. Human Rights Act.

21. Do you oppose the use of either federal or District taxpayer funds to promote “abstinence-only-until-marriage” sex education that undermines safer-sex programs by discouraging the use of condoms and that effectively tells gay and lesbian students that they must remain celibate forever because they may not legally marry?

Yes, I oppose the use of both federal and district funds that support “abstinence-only” programs. While abstinence should be discussed in any sex education program in our schools, “abstinence-only-until marriage” is an insufficient and ineffective method of combating the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Students who choose to become sexually active need to learn safer sex practices, such as condom use. Abstinence-only-until-marriage is unrealistic for the vast majority of unmarried people in this country and it frankly ignores the fact that laws forbid GLBT people from marrying. For these reasons, I oppose the use of federal and District taxpayer funds to promote “abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education.

Consumers and Businesses

22. Do you support the relocation of the many gay bars and businesses that were displaced by the new ballpark, even if local NIMBYs and homophobes oppose them?

I support the relocation (within the District) of the gay bars and business that were displaced by the new ballpark construction. Throughout the entire baseball negotiations, I was a proponent of renovating RFK Stadium for the Nationals. I still feel this way. In addition, I was shocked and saddened by the mistreatment of the O Street business owners during the “negotiations.” Those businesses were told by the city that they would have to relocate. No one sat down with the business owners ahead of time to seek their opinions and to discuss the plans for the new stadium. They were essentially told to deal with it. Consequently, the District is probably going to lose those businesses to Maryland and Virginia. The tone of the entire “negotiations” was deplorable. The District government needs to change how it does business by granting these displaced businesses one-time waivers of the applicable liquor control and zoning application restrictions.

23. Will you support legislation to curb the abuses of NIMBYs who are now allowed to file an endless series of baseless complaints to harass or extort bars and restaurants?

I support curbing the excesses of the not-in-my-backyard abusers who file baseless and never-ending complaints to harass and extort bars and restaurants. The situation with Be Bar is a good example. There were other bars situated near the church, which did not have their liquor licenses challenged. Unfortunately, that conflict was played up as a confrontation along racial lines, as well as gay versus straight. There are a lot of Black gay folks in the neighborhood who have told me they are looking forward to the opening of Be Bar. The city can not allow a few NIMBYs and bigots to disrupt development in our city.

24. Do you oppose the Youth Protection from Obscene Video Games Act (B16-0125), a clone of other laws that have consistently been struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds?

While I abhor excess violence in video games, I do not think legislation is the way to address it. The thinking is that playing violent video games will make our children more prone to commit crimes. My two sons play the video game Grand Theft Auto, which is one of the most violent games you are likely to see. However, they are not going to run out and start stealing cars and shooting people because of the game. My wife and I have taught our children the difference between real life and video games. So, it is the parents who must take more responsibility in socializing their children in such a way that violence is not an option. The video games are not the reason for high crime. Youth Protection from Obscene Video Games Act (B16-0125) is not the solution.

Record

Your record is part of your rating. Please list any actions that you have taken that may help illustrate your record on behalf of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders.

My past record is good when it comes to advocating on behalf of the GLBT community, even though I have not held an elected office before. From 2001-2005, I served on the board of Whitman-Walker Clinic (WWC), which has a majority GLBT clientele. When I was invited to join the board, I was only the second African-American heterosexual male to be on the clinic board. My principal role on the board was changing the stigma of who HIV and AIDS affects. There is still this misconception that this is a gay disease, when all recent trends point to how it is impacting the heterosexual community more than ever before. During my board tenure, I co-chaired WWC’s AIDS Walk in 2002 and chaired the 2002 and 2003 holiday toy drives, two of the most successful drives.

In addition, I worked closely with the DC Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Men and Women and the “We Are Family” coalition to press for inclusion of an openly gay speaker at the Millions More March in October 2005. I made calls to contacts in Chicago, speaking directly with leaders of the Millions More Movement (i.e. – Sister Claudette Mohammed) in an effort to make the march as inclusive as possible. I was deeply troubled by the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people coming into the District for a march that was supposed to be inclusive, yet excluding the sizable GLBT community from the march. Although the efforts to include an openly gay speaker were ultimately unsuccessful, I was proud to stand with my GLBT brothers and sisters in solidarity against bigotry.

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