GLAA Statement on "Chardonnay Lady Bill"

GLAA Statement on "Chardonnay Lady Bill"

June 1, 1998

The Honorable Harold Brazil
Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Council of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Mr. Brazil:

I am submitting this statement for the record on behalf of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA) to supplement my statements during your May 26 hearings on Bill 12-612, the “Opened Alcoholic Beverage Containers Amendment Act of 1998.”

GLAA is proud to support this legislation, which was originally drafted by our own redoubtable Frank Kameny as the “Front Porch Drinking Act of 1998.” Our interest in this subject is a result of the overly-aggressive “zero tolerance” campaign waged last year by the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, a campaign that we dubbed “zero intelligence” because of a number of bizarre raids, often involving gay businesses, conducted in the name of “zero tolerance.” The notorious “Chardonnay Lady” arrests, even though they did not directly target lesbians and gay men, seemed to fit into an overall pattern of official governmental folly.

When Dr. Kameny’s research revealed that the absurdity of arresting people for drinking on their own front porches could be readily remedied by a simple change in the law itself, GLAA was quick to jump on the bandwagon. This is a problem that can not be fixed just by telling the police to use more common sense. The police are acting — however foolishly — fully within the existing law in making these arrests. Hence, the proper remedy is legislative, not administrative.

The proposed bill amounts to a carefully tailored, surgical strike to repair a modest but real problem. You may consider it as a gift from the gay and lesbian community to enhance the overall quality of life in our fair city.

We are gratified to see that the Metropolitan Police Department itself testified on May 26 in support of this legislation.

We thank Councilmember Carol Schwartz for introducing this bill, and we thank you, Mr. Brazil, for holding hearings on it so promptly. As you indicated at the hearing, the bill does not seem to be very controversial, so we hope your committee will be able to act on it in the very near future.

Thank you again for your consideration. Best wishes.


Craig Howell

cc: The Honorable Carol Schwartz
The Honorable Sandy Allen
The Honorable Jack Evans
The Honorable Frank Smith, Jr.
The Honorable David Catania
The InTowner
The Washington Blade

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