Howell writes Mayor on Thorpe slur
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Howell writes Mayor on Thorpe slur

April 5, 1999

The Honorable Anthony A. Williams
Mayor of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Mayor Williams:

I am writing with respect to the District government’s response to the latest name-calling incident involving Mr. Leroy Thorpe. At the Council Judiciary Committee’s hearings on March 29, Mr. Thorpe began his testimony by referring to “a bunch of faggots” allegedly running loose on the streets of his neighborhood and causing problems every night.

I very much appreciate your telephone call to my predecessor as GLAA President, Mr. Rick Rosendall, to emphasize your abhorrence of Mr. Thorpe’s slur. I also appreciate your public repudiation of Mr. Thorpe during your testimony to the Council’s Committee on Human Services on April 1.

We have called on ANC 2-C to apologize to the entire community, since Mr. Thorpe was appearing as the representative of that ANC, and to forbid him from representing ANC 2-C in any public context until he shows genuine signs of remorse and reform. As I’m sure you are aware, Mr. Thorpe has a long history of uttering ugly slurs not only against gay men and lesbians but against members of other groups as well.

However, I believe you would be going too far if you attempted to use this latest incident as the basis for firing Mr. Thorpe as a District government employee. We understand that Mr. Thorpe was on leave from his government position when he testified, and he identified himself to the Judiciary Committee as an ANC Commissioner. The courts have long and consistently ruled that government employees may not be dismissed on the basis of their off-duty conduct or speech, unless there is a clear connection, or “nexus,” between such conduct and their ability to perform their government functions.

We feel very strongly about upholding this so-called “nexus principle” because it was largely established as a result of litigation filed by gay federal employees back in the days when the federal civil service routinely excluded all homosexuals from federal government jobs. The nexus principle was finally recognized by the U.S. government in July 1975 when the former Civil Service Commission officially renounced its previous exclusionary policy against gay employees. We are vigilant to ensure that this principle is respected at all levels of government.

We hope you can savor the delicious irony that Mr. Thorpe will be able to keep his District government job thanks to the bravery of lesbians and gay men who stood up to bigotry and hate and thereby contributed to a triumph for the rule of law. Perhaps this irony might even help him to reflect upon the interconnections among all of us and to abandon his own foolish homophobia.

Best wishes.

Sincerely,

Craig Howell
President
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC

cc: Leroy Thorpe
ACLU/National Capital Area


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