DC Human Rights Law does protect transgendered residents

DC Human Rights Law does protect transgendered residents

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971

P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013-5265
(202) 667-5139
e-mail: equal@glaa.org

January 4, 1999

Ms. Liz Seaton
Executive Director
Free State Justice Campaign
909 Larch Avenue
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912

Dear Ms. Seaton:

The January 1 edition of The Washington Blade includes a report in the “For the Record” column about your December 10 appearance before the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO. According to reporter Bill Roundy, you stated, in his paraphrase, that “the state of Maryland provides no workplace protection for Gays while the District of Columbia protections do not cover transgender workers.”

You are very much mistaken regarding the District’s anti-discrimination law, which most emphatically does protect transgender residents from discrimination not only in employment but in other areas such as housing, education, and public accommodations.

This has been true since Title 34 — the immediate predecessor of the current D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977 — was passed in 1973. One of the protected categories enumerated in both laws was, and is, “personal appearance” — a term which was specifically intended from the start to include protections for transgendered people. Some of the early struggles of our own organization (founded in 1971) were with gay bars that tried to keep out drag queens; the explicit language of the District law was vital in helping us to overturn those exclusionary policies.

More recently, of course, there has been the Tyra Hunter case and all of its ramifications. In all of our often-excruciating dealings with the District government over the last several years in connection with this case, the fact that the D.C. Human Rights Law protects transgendered people has never been called into question.

Since there is a danger that the Blade report might cause some unnecessary confusion, I strongly urge you to send a letter for publication to the Blade affirming the protections afforded transgendered residents by District law. If you have any doubts on my interpretation of the District’s anti-discrimination laws, please call Frank Kameny, who was instrumental in getting Title 34 both written and enacted more than a quarter-century ago. Or you can call the D.C. Office of Human Rights on (202)724-1385. Of course, please feel free to call me.

Thank you for your leadership in Maryland. I personally was raised in Takoma Park (I attended Our Lady of Sorrows Church, also located on Larch Avenue) and have been a member of the Free State Justice Campaign for many years. The political obstacles confronting you are truly formidable in the so-called Free State, but I trust your perseverance will pay off.


Craig Howell

cc: Jessica Xavier

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