Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
of Washington, DC

AGENDA: 2000

an election-year guide
to local gay and lesbian issues
in Washington, DC

This document is subject to revision.
Last revised: July 10, 2000


I. Public Safety
II. AIDS and Public Health
III. Human Rights
IV. Defending Our Families
V. Public Education and Youth

Part I. Public Safety

Relations between the gay and lesbian community and the District's public safety agencies have markedly improved over the last two years. Much of the credit belongs to the Metropolitan Police Department's new Chief, Charles Ramsey, and several of the MPD's top commanders. Chief Ramsey has repeatedly demonstrated his deep commitment to the principles of community policing by striving to keep his department both sensitive and accountable to all segments of the District's population, including our community. GLAA has hailed Chief Ramsey's April 2000 address at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, condemning the rampant abuses practiced elsewhere in the name of "zero tolerance," as an outstanding expression of the application of proper public safety principles in an urban environment. [see Chief Ramsey's speech]

At this writing, the Chief is considering a proposal from Third District Commander Mark Beach for the establishment of a citywide Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU). We believe this proposal has considerable merit, and we hope it will be approved and implemented soon.

Another reform which points up the recent improvement in the public safety field is the reëstablishment of a citizen complaint review system, which had been absent since 1995. GLAA has made this a top priority, and we will do all we can to help ensure the success of the new Citizen Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review.

Not all public safety issues have been resolved by any means. Within the MPD, there are still too many unfortunate incidents involving encounters between individual police officers and members of our community. Chief Ramsey's continuing public opposition to Initiative 59, a proposal to legalize the use of marijuana in a medical context that was overwhelmingly adopted by District voters in November 1998, remains an insult to the principles of both home rule and civilian control of the police. The Fire & EMS Department, despite instituting a sensitivity training program for its entire staff, has negated that commitment by actually promoting the man whose grotesque transphobia in the August 1995 Tyra Hunter case may cost the District half a million dollars. Public health issues connected with the transfer of D.C. prisoners to federal correctional facilities have not been resolved.

A. Implementation of a New Citizen Complaint Review System

The D.C. Council summarily abolished the original Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1995 without providing for any replacement, leaving the MPD to investigate all complaints against its own officers. This practice, with its inherent conflict of interest, engendered confidence in no one, including Chief Ramsey. A new system was authorized by legislation in 1998, but getting it off the ground has proven cumbersome. The Williams Administration did not name its appointees to the new Citizen Complaint Review Board (CCRB) until September 1999, and the Council did not confirm them until January of this year. The Administration has been slow in providing proper budget and staff support to the Board. Nevertheless, the Board hopes to select an Executive Director for the Office of Citizen Complaint Review shortly, who will in turn hire the investigators and other staff needed to start handling cases.

GLAA and other community organizations have called for a FY 2001 budget higher than that proposed by the Mayor, chiefly because the Mayor's proposal fails to provide any funds for using mediators or other kinds of contract service providers. Since the new citizen complaint review system was premised on the ability to settle most cases through voluntary mediation, failure to provide funds for this purpose seemed indicative of a lack of attention within the Administration. The problem may be alleviated and perhaps resolved through the use of unspent federal funds carried over from the current fiscal year, as proposed by Councilmember David Catania. The Council has voted to raise the amount of D.C. funds for the CCRB in FY 2001 by $100,000; however, the federal funds not spent in FY 2000 will be used in FY 2001 as a substitute for, rather than as an addition to, the District's own funds. The Board should accordingly attempt to spend as much as possible of its current fiscal year budget of $700,000 in District funds before September 30. Unlike federal funds, unspent District funds cannot be carried over to the next fiscal year.

Even under the new system, citizens retain the option to pursue complaints about abusive police behavior directly with the MPD. Chief Ramsey has personally assured us that the PD99 forms specifically established for this purpose are supposed to be routinely available on request from every police station, and that no one asking for a PD99 needs to speak with an officer first. But a recent series of test visits by GLAA Administrative Vice President Lukas Malek to police stations throughout the city showed this is not the case. On the contrary, many police stations were actively hostile to Mr. Malek's attempts to secure copies of these forms. Supervisors responsible for failing to implement the Chief's policy should be identified and corrected, and every station should leave a stack of PD99s in a clearly marked public space where citizens may take one without having to speak to any officials.

B. Community Relations Training

For many years the MPD included presentations by openly gay men and women, volunteers recruited through Gay Men And Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), as part of its community relations training programs for both new and veteran officers. However, such training for veterans was ended with virtually no notice at the start of the current fiscal year. Chief Ramsey and his staff told us that, for this year only, a comprehensive retraining program for all officers would have only one day out of five set aside for community relations training by an outside contractor and that gay men and women would not be part of this program. The traditional training would continue for new officers and would resume for all officers in FY 2001.

However, we are now getting the impression that the MPD intends to use only its own officers to conduct community relations training in the future, and that GLOV volunteers will no longer be used. If true, this change would be a major step backwards. Many officers, both new and veteran, have had little if any contact with openly gay citizens, and non-gay trainers, whether uniformed or civilian, could not be as effective as GLOV volunteers. The very presence of openly gay men and women as trainers sends a strong message to all officers that homophobia will not be tolerated in this city. There have been reports that in the past, gay and lesbian speakers have been verbally abused by attending officers. Such abuse should be immediately punished by MPD supervisors in charge of such training. Otherwise, the Department's intended message of sensitivity to our community will be drastically compromised and undermined..

C. Transgendered Issues

Police Chief Ramsey has shown that he realizes that his officers need some specialized training in dealing with the District's transgendered residents. He has conceded that there is a tendency by officers on the streets to assume that every transgendered person they encounter is a prostitute. Such profiling must cease. Chief Ramsey recently invited transgendered lawyer Dana Priesing to prepare a memorandum for him on current issues of concern within the transgendered community about the MPD. Ms. Priesing's analysis and recommendations (available on GLAA's web site) should be promptly heeded and implemented, particularly her suggestions for areas of police training:

Like any minority group, transgendered persons are the best experts on themselves, and activists like Ms. Priesing are an invaluable resource that MPD should regularly tap to improve its understanding of — and eliminate discrimination against — transgendered citizens.

D. Reforming "Megan's Law"

Much of GLAA's time and energy in the latter half of 1999 were devoted to fighting off the multiple threats to our community strewn throughout a proposed bill (commonly known as "Megan's Law") to establish a registry of convicted pedophiles and sex offenders. Thanks to intensive pressure from GLAA, the ACLU of the National Capital Area, and the Public Defender Service, combined with the leadership of Councilmembers Jim Graham and Jack Evans, the bill's most obnoxious anti-gay provisions were deleted. But the bill as enacted still contains grave flaws that could potentially endanger gay men in the District, especially if the next U.S. Attorney General is openly homophobic.

The constitutionality of some provisions of the law will certainly be tested at an early date. In particular, the law is vulnerable because it does not allow sex offenders to be excused from registration requirements if they can demonstrate that they no longer constitute a danger to the community. Similar provisions have been struck down as unconstitutional by courts in several jurisdictions. We urge the Council to enact a reform measure to remove this objectionable feature, thereby saving the District the substantial costs of a court battle it will not be likely to win.

We also favor a measure to allow the awarding of attorney fees for those who successfully win suits against their being included in the sex offender registry. This provision was supposed to be included as part of the compromise deal on the Megan's Law bill that was reached between the ACLU and the U.S. Attorney's Office last December, but the Council reneged, pleading that the D.C. government could not afford it. We believe that sacrificing justice for those wronged by government action in the name of fiscal rectitude represents a gross misplacement of priorities.

E. Fire & EMS Department Issues

Last December, Acting Fire & EMS Department Chief Tom Tippett approved the promotion of the notorious Adrian Williams to sergeant. Mr. Williams was the Department staffer who stopped treating transgendered resident Tyra Hunter when he discovered she had male genitals, and added a series of ugly slurs to his infractions. When Tyra's mother sued the D.C. government because of her child's wrongful death, the Superior Court jury awarded her $500,000 specifically because of Adrian Williams' flagrant violation of the D.C. Human Rights Law. He should have been dismissed but instead was promoted in December 1999.

Under intensive questioning by Councilmember David Catania at a Council hearing earlier this year, Chief Tippett hid behind legal technicalities in defending his decision to promote Adrian Williams. Perhaps more importantly, he indicated that his department just wanted to "move on" and forget about the past. But by promoting Mr. Williams, the Department has sent a clear message that homophobia will be tolerated as long as you can get away with it We believe the Department must not only dismiss Mr. Williams for cause, it should also undergo a thorough investigation to determine who covered up for him during the Department's original investigation of the Tyra Hunter incident under then-Chief Otis Latin when he claimed they could not find out who was the guilty employee. It was this official cover-up that triggered the lawsuit from Tyra Hunter's mother in the first place, and the perpetrators of the cover-up must themselves be disciplined if not dismissed. We are pleased that the Council, at the urging of Mr. Catania, has used the FY 2001 budget request to order the Department to reopen its internal investigation of this case.

We are gratified that after the Hunter fiasco, the Department instituted community relations training focusing on our issues for all its staffers. This training needs to be repeated regularly, and reinforced by supervisors and in performance evaluations, in order to prevent future incidents. Furthermore, our review of the most recent training materials for the Fire & EMS Department reveals that they focus primarily on protections under federal civil rights laws. These materials need to be overhauled to discuss more thoroughly the protections under the broader DC Human Rights Law, which includes a number of additional categories such as sexual orientation and personal appearance.

The Council should question the Mayor's nominee for the next Fire & EMS Department Chief closely both on cleaning up the Adrian Williams mess and on improving relations with members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communities.

F. Condom Availability for District Prisoners

This is one area of public safety where little if any progress has been made in the last two years. As an unanticipated consequence of the move toward federalization and privatization, D.C. prisoners are increasingly being housed in facilities where condoms are not made available. Such shortsighted policies raise the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS within prison walls and eventually into the general population. To the extent possible, D.C. officials should require private contractors to provide condom availability programs, and should lobby federal and state officials to lift any bans on such programs in their facilities where District prisoners are housed.

G. Ending the Surrender of Home Rule Powers to Federal Authorities

The District's inability to continue condom availability programs for prisoners once they are housed outside of Department of Corrections facilities illustrates the often-tragic consequences of the loss of home rule powers to federal authorities. While the federalization of our prisoners was largely imposed on us, the D.C. government has too often voluntarily surrendered its responsibilities in the public safety field. Other recent examples include:

District officials quite properly criticized the U.S. Attorney's Office for its decision to seek the death penalty in the Starbucks murders case because D.C. Voters have strongly voted against the death penalty. They need to show similar backbone in standing up to that same office in these other matters as well.

H. Reversing the "Moonlighting" Ban on MPD Officers

At the request of Chief Ramsey, the Council earlier this year enacted Legislation that will ban the off-duty employment of MPD officers at bars and at sexually oriented establishments. GLAA opposed this bill because the gay businesses on O Street SE have been using off-duty police officers to provide security for their patrons on the streets outside their establishments. The safety of gay customers should not be compromised by a moonlighting ban that merely reflects the Chief's personal distaste for sexually oriented businesses.

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Part II. AIDS and Public Health

A. Financial Oversight and Accountability of Health Providers

The Administration for HIV/AIDS has finally corrected the problem of not spending allocated funds. However, AHA is still unable to answer where AIDS dollars are being spent and who the recipients are. AHA has been unable to provide accounting of the contracts and provides no oversight to the appropriate use of contracts or grants. This must be corrected and an independent audit of AHA contracting needs to be conducted.

B. HIV and AIDS Prevention

Prevention saves lives and saves money. For this reason GLAA took the lead in supporting condom availability programs in schools and prisons. Condoms, when properly used, have been proven to help prevent the transmission of HIV from one person to another. If we are truly serious about stopping the spread of AIDS, condom availability programs are essential. GLAA opposes limiting AIDS education and prevention strategies in our public schools to an "abstinence-only" approach, as demanded by some in the religious right.

The availability of life sustaining anti-viral drugs has radically altered the nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the DC area. People are living longer, healthier lives. However there is little evidence suggesting that new infections are being curtailed. Further shifting demographics of people infected with HIV is difficult to gauge and appropriately targeted prevention programs cannot be created without accurate data. In 1999 the Williams administration, at the behest of GLAA, announced plans for a unique identifier program to track HIV prevalence in DC. This program seems to have been stalled. Names reporting for HIV surveillance is strongly opposed by GLAA as counter productive and discouraging of HIV testing.

Other legislation — proposed in other states but not in DC — encourages health workers to pressure people with HIV to identify their sexual or drug-use partners for purposes of contact tracing, criminalizes the "knowing" transmission of the AIDS virus, or abolishes anonymous testing. Such measures are ineffective and dangerous. They actively discourage those most at risk from being tested or treated for HIV, by heightening well-justified fears of exposure to discrimination and retaliation.

GLAA supports the enactment and funding of legislation permitting the operation of clean needle exchange programs by AIDS services providers to help stop the transmission of HIV among intravenous drug users. Studies have also shown that these programs have reduced IV drug use in communities around the country where these programs exist by putting users in contact with public health officials. Congress continues to restrict our ability to use either DC or Federal funds for this purpose, though private funds may be used (even by organizations who received District or Federal funds for other purposes). The DC Council and Mayor should oppose any Federal interference with our programs and institute needle exchange programs as priority HIV prevention programs.

C. Funding ADAP and Food and Nutritional Support

Now that new life-prolonging drugs are available, we must continue our commitment to spending Ryan White Title II money on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which helps pay for drugs for people with no or inadequate insurance coverage. Likewise, we all must remain committed to funding (with both federal and District money) home delivered meals, other nutritional support such as food banks, and also clean drinking water for people with HIV/AIDS.

D. Legalizing Medical Marijuana

GLAA supports Initiative 59, passed by District voters in November 1998, legalizing the medical use of marijuana when a patient's doctor recommends it to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, or other diseases. Initiative 59 passed by 69% and won in every voting precinct. The Council should oppose all federal attempts to block implementation of I-59 or to limit access to medical marijuana. The Council should oppose any proposal to increase penalties against people who use medical marijuana or acquire it for their loved ones. GLAA specifically opposes Bill 13-240, which would make felons out of the critically ill and those who obtain medical marijuana for them.

The 1999 report Marijuana and Medicine by the Institute of Medicine found clear benefits of marijuana for the relief of pain and nausea and the increase in appetite. While not a cure, marijuana's medicinal effects can significantly improve and prolong life. There is no reason to believe that legalizing medical marijuana in tightly controlled situations will encourage youth to indulge in drug abuse. Alleviating pain and suffering must not be sacrificed to political posturing and demagoguery.

One small step in providing medical marijuana is the reclassification of dronabinol from Schedule 2 to Schedule 3 as GLAA has proposed in Bill 13-639. Dronabinol is a synthetic form of THC currently only available as a pill and sold under the name Marinol. Rescheduling of a drug from Schedule II to Schedule III relieves patients, physicians and pharmacists from several imposed restrictions making it easier for patients to receive this medication. It can mean less paperwork for physicians to prescribe Marinol, more convenience for patients to have their prescription phoned-in, and one prescription can be refilled for up to five months. Currently, no refills are allowed, requiring a new doctor visit, each month, for a new prescription. After rescheduling, the storage requirements for Marinol will allow pharmacies to store the product with their general pharmaceutical inventory. A separate vaulted storage location will no longer be required. The Council needs to pass Bill 13-639 without delay.

Pills, however, are a poor delivery system for an anti-nausea drug. Suppository and inhaler systems are being developed, and should be made available to patients without further bureaucratic delay by the DC government.

E. Addressing Women's Health Concerns

There are many other medical issues of concern to our community. Lesbians are at particular risk of not having breast and cervical cancers diagnosed early, based on lack of access to and sensitivity of medical providers to lesbian sexuality issues. The city needs to make sure that its health centers are staffed with people who are aware of and sensitive to such issues. The needs of women with HIV/AIDS must similarly be provided for.

F. Youth Health Issues

Today's youth face a growing array of problems that affect them disproportionately. Youth in the District are more than three times as likely to become infected with HIV as in other major metropolitan areas1. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth in major cities identify as gay or lesbian2, and a significant number of these youth turn to prostitution as a means of survival3. Furthermore, sexual orientation has been shown to be a factor in about one-third of suicide attempts4. All of these factors combine to show one thing: that our youth are in jeopardy.

We call on the DC Council to identify and appropriate Department of Health funds for HIV prevention, suicide prevention, and mental health services targeting sexual minority youth. Contracts for these programs should require prospective vendors to have a proven track record of working with and for this at-risk population. Programs offered by the Whitman Walker Clinic, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), the Latin American Youth Center, and other groups offer good models for what is possible, but they lack adequate funds to address the multiple needs of the District's gay youth.

The DC Public Schools need to address youth mental health needs through advanced training of counselors, teachers and other staff to deal with youth in crisis or with problems. The additional problems of gay youth faced with homophobia and harassment in school must be dealt with as a priority in reducing youth suicide. The schools must be safe for all of our children.

G. Fighting TB, Hepatitis and Alcoholism

Drug-resistant TB and Hepatitis B & C have begun to spread in this area and need to be aggressively stamped out before they become more entrenched within the population of people with HIV/AIDS and their medical care providers.

Funding for programs focusing on alcoholism and other substance abuse specifically targeting gay people, introduced by David Catania, have recently been passed by the Council. GLAA supports continued funding of substance abuse treatment programs.

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Part III. Human Rights

After years of not-so-benign neglect by the District's elected and bureaucratic leaders, enforcement of the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977, one of the strongest, most comprehensive civil rights laws in the country, has finally begun to win the high priority it deserves.

One of GLAA's longstanding recommendations for more effective enforcement of our anti-discrimination law was implemented on October 1, 1999, when the Office of Human Rights (OHR) was reestablished as an independent, Cabinet-level agency. Since 1989 OHR had been submerged into the Department of Human Rights and Local Business Development, where anti-discrimination efforts were consistently compromised by Department chiefs who never came from a civil rights background. As a result of drastic staff reductions during the 1990's caused first by cannibalization and then by attrition, OHR saw its backlog soar to a level of about 700 cases. Typically, anyone filing a discrimination complaint could expect to wait several years before OHR would issue a finding of probable cause.

OHR's renewed independence can be credited to the Committee on Government Operations and its chairperson, Councilmember Kathy Patterson. When Mayor Williams publicly expressed support for the same goal without advancing a specific reorganization plan, Mrs. Patterson acted decisively by using the FY 2000 budget process to break up the old Department as of the start of this fiscal year.

Mayor Williams has built on the Council's initiative by selecting Charles Holman, who can boast of a long and rich record on civil rights enforcement, as the first permanent head of the revitalized Office of Human Rights. GLAA Secretary and immediate Past President Craig Howell expressed our strong support for his nomination during the Council's May 22 confirmation hearings.

The Mayor can further demonstrate his commitment by reissuing an Executive Order (originally handed down by Mayor Barry in 1980) ordering that every anti-discrimination policy statement published by District government agencies include the full list of those classes protected under the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977. GLAA urged this action because we found three separate occasions in 1999 when such anti-discrimination statements failed to list sexual orientation and other categories that are protected by District, but not federal, civil rights laws.

GLAA's remaining human rights priorities for 2000 include the following.

A. Ending the Case Backlog at OHR

Mrs. Patterson's Committee on Government Operations took another vital step on behalf of effective human rights law enforcement earlier this year by increasing OHR's FY 2001 budget by $200,000, targeted specifically to start rolling back the 700-case backlog at OHR. GLAA has been calling for such budget increases for years. We realized that the backlog will not be eliminated in just one year, but a beginning must be made and then sustained until the backlog is gone. The Committee took essentially the same approach and expressed hope that the backlog might be cut back by as much as one-third in FY 2001. The Committee also observed that OHR is statutorily required to issue a finding of probable cause within 120 days of the filing of a complaint. Achieving this goal will require several more years of temporary budget bulges, and we need a Council committed to see this effort through.

B. Enhancing Respect for Our Human Rights Law Within the Government

Our community's relations with the Office of the Corporation Counsel (OCC) had been very strained since the days of the Kelly Administration because of a series of extremely homophobic OCC actions in civil lawsuits, particularly in connection with the same-sex marriage and Tyra Hunter cases. But OCC began to turn around under Judge Ferren and has improved even more under the current Corporation Counsel, Robert Rigsby, who is to be commended for his sensitivity and spirit of cooperation.

One thorn remains, however. In the ongoing civil action filed by Tyra Hunter's mother, Margie Hunter, and in other cases, the OCC continues to argue that citizens cannot sue the D.C. government for violations of the Human Rights Law of 1977 without going through OHR first. Our courts have repeatedly struck down this argument as a figment of OCC's imagination. The argument is offensive not only because it has no basis in the language of the law, but because it would also further aggravate OHR's nightmarish backlog. Justice delayed is justice denied.

C. Ending Discrimination by the Boy Scouts Against Gays

Complaints against the Boy Scouts for their rigid policy of excluding gays from participating either as Scouts or as troop leaders were first filed with OHR in 1992. After a long and inexcusable series of delays, OHR finally issued a ruling against the Boy Scouts in 1997. The Boy Scouts appealed to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, which heard the case in exhaustive detail in the Spring of 1998. Two years have passed, and the Commission has failed to issue its ruling. It is clear now that all along the Commission has deliberately been delaying any decision until the Supreme Court made a ruling. This delay is intolerable. The District is supposed to be a leader in human rights law enforcement, and the Commission has defaulted on its public obligation.

The Boy Scouts of America based its presentation to the Supreme Court on the claim that discriminating is essential to their ability to convey what they want to convey to their members. Having fought for and won the dubious label of discriminator, BSA's leaders now must live with that label. The DC Government may not run or support programs that discriminate on any basis enumerated in the DC Human Rights Act. Although about one-fourth of all Boy Scout troops around the nation are sponsored by government agencies, fortunately no BSA activities are sponsored by the District government. The Boy Scouts should not be allowed to recruit in our publicly-funded schools as long as they insist on their right to discriminate, nor should any D.C. Government agency provide them with special access or other privileges.

D. Ending Discrimination Against Transgendered at Homeless Shelters

GLAA has received complaints that transgendered homeless are routinely turned away by the District's overnight shelters. This practice is a flagrant violation of the D.C. Human Rights Law. Shelters should immediately be notified by those agencies with oversight responsibilities that they must make their facilities available to all homeless residents, including the transgendered.

E. Legislating Priority for Complaints from PWAs

Several years ago, OHR established a commendable policy of giving administrative priority to handling complaints filed by People with AIDS or others afflicted with life-threatening conditions. Now we learn that this policy has lapsed. New OHR Director Charles Holman, looking into the policy at GLAA's request, learned about a case from a few years ago where a man with AIDS died and OHR had let his complaint linger unattended. This reinforces our continuing plea that the Council grant firm legal grounding to this humanitarian administrative policy by enacting it into law.

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Part IV. Defending Our Families

A. Securing Equal Marriage Rights

As Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

Various rights and responsibilities, especially those related to Federal law can only be obtained through marriage. We continue to advocate the legalization of same-sex marriages and expect our elected officials to follow suit. However, given the current level of Congressional demagoguery, we are not pressing for such legislation in D.C. Eventually, as the debate matures, we expect that much of the country will recognize their own stake in extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, and Congress will lose interest in denying such rights in the District.

However, we oppose all legislation designed to restrict marriage on discriminatory and anti-gay grounds such as the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. We agree with U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the renowned civil rights leader, who stated during the Congressional debate on DOMA: "Marriage is a basic human right."

In light of the current political climate, GLAA supports incremental steps towards full and equal civil marriage. Vermont's recent passage of the Civil Union law is a good model for DC to emulate. Vermont's law recognizes nearly all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage under state law. DC should likewise make all the provisions of marriage available without regard to the sex of the couple entering into civil marriage. DC should also recognize civil unions performed in other jurisdictions, consistent with the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution. Until such time as DC enacts its own civil union law, DC should recognize the equivalent sections of the DC marriage law as applicable to civil unions enacted elsewhere.

B. Domestic Partnership

GLAA was instrumental in the codification of DC's Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, which provides for the registration of domestic partners, along with certain benefits applicable to DC Government employees. However, the Act has never been funded since its inception because of Congressional decree. We believe that the District should fight for its right to use local tax revenues to implement the domestic partnership law. Further, we believe that the specific benefits of hospital visitation and medical determination should be made as widely available as possible. Specifically, couples who have registered their partnerships with their employers or other jurisdictions to provide health insurance and other benefits should be considered qualified for hospital visitation and medical determination under the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act.

In 1999 it became known that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs lost or destroyed the Domestic Partnership forms to which it is entrusted with maintaining as public documents. The Inspector General's overdue report on the whereabouts and disposition of the forms must lead to appropriate disciplinary action against the DCRA employees responsible for losing these records.

C. Upholding Adoption Rights

A DC court decision a few years ago upheld the right of unmarried couples to adopt children jointly in the District. GLAA opposes efforts in Congress to outlaw or restrict such adoptions. The true victims of such posturing would be the children who would otherwise enjoy the benefit of having not one but two legally and financially responsible parents. We believe that the overriding criterion in adoption and custody cases should continue to be the best interests of the child — not the best interests of the politicians and other outside parties. We are delighted that last year the House of Representatives defeated the Largent Amendment that would have banned adoptions by unmarried couples in the District.

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Part V. Public Education & Youth

Related Links

Lesbian & Gay Youth: Care & Counseling 1998

Doctor Says Anti-Gay Ads Distorted Truth 08/05/98

Study: Gay, Bisexual Teens More Likely to Take Risks 05/04/98

InfoSource: Gay/Bisexual Male Suicide Problems: Part 3 - Bibliography

American Academy of Pediatrics: Homosexual and Bisexual Teens More Likely to Take Health Risks 05/04/98

Abstract: The Association Between Health Risk Behaviors and Sexual Orientation Among a School-based Sample of Adolescents 05/05/98

Abstract: Sexual Orientation and Risk of Suicide Attempts Among a Representative Sample of Youth 05/99

Suicidal behaviour in gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth (editorial, British Medical Journal) 06/17/00

A. Anti-Harassment Policy in DC Public Schools

Responding to efforts spearheaded by GLAA, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman issued a directive in May 2000 prohibiting student-on-student and teacher-on-student harassment. The new policy not only covers sexual harassment, but also other kinds of harassment that create a hostile and unsafe learning environment. Federal courts have held public schools financially liable if they ignore complaints from gay students about being harassed by their peers or by their teachers. This directive specifically banned harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, and also extended its protection to all other classes protected by the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977.

The training for DCPS employees on this policy has been promised to begin in the summer of 2000. The continued support of programs like this is vital to the well-being of all students in public schools.

After this directive was issued, it was determined by the Corporation Counsel's office and the DCPS General Counsel that DCPS, and thereby the DCPS Superintendent, have no authority over the DC Public Charter Schools. This means that students who attend a Charter School are not protected from anti-gay or other kinds of harassment. The D.C. government must enact legislation banning harassment against students in any school that receives public funding.

B. Providing Social Services for Gay & Lesbian Youth

The District government should do all in its power to ensure that qualified groups train educators and social workers on issues affecting gay and lesbian youth. Mainstream youth service agencies in both the private and the public sector have frequently failed in their responsibilities to our young gay people, sometimes out of their own prejudices, or sometimes because of fears of losing public or foundation funding. District government agencies have the duty to put their professional commitment to the welfare of the young over any adverse fears or prejudices. Homophobia kills, and youngsters are often the most vulnerable5. Nowhere is this fact more painfully clear than in the disproportionately high rate of attempted suicides among lesbian and gay teenagers6. The District's Department of Human Services must ensure that District agencies that provide social and medical services to teens are fully informed of and sensitive to the concerns of all at-risk youth including gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth.

An indispensable resource on social services for sexual minority youth is the 1998 book, Lesbian & Gay Youth: Care and Counseling, by Caitlin Ryan and Donna Futterman, which was named the 1998 Book of the Year in Psychiatric Nursing by the American Journal of Nursing. This book was written as a follow-up to the U.S. government's first conference on the primary care needs of lesbian and gay youth. First published as an entire issue of Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews (the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Adolescent Section), the book marks the first time that comprehensive clinical care protocols have been released for practitioners on the health and mental health care of lesbian and gay youth.

C. Respecting the Equal Access Act

Homophobes in Utah attracted national attention when the State Legislature passed a law banning all non-curriculum-related clubs in public high schools, thereby abolishing a slew of clubs ranging from chess clubs to Bible study groups. This absurd law was passed because students in Utah had established a number of gay/straight alliances; under the federal Equal Access Act enacted nearly a decade ago, schools must either allow any non-curriculum-related clubs or else ban all of them. Other strategies are also being advanced to circumvent the Equal Access Act, all of them designed to suppress free speech in our public schools. GLAA is gratified to know that there have been a number of gay-supportive clubs formed over the years in District public schools and expects our elected officials to uphold their right to exist.

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1 Agency for HIV/AIDS, "Youth HIV Facts," 1999.

2 Advocates for Youth, "At-Risk Youth: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer Teens," 1999.

3 National Center for Missing and Exploited Youth, "What Happens to Homeless Youth," 1998.

4 Advocates for Youth, "At-Risk Youth: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer Teens," 1999.

5 Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Kessel, S., Palfrey, J., & DuRant, R. H. (1998). The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents. Pediatrics, 101, 895–902. [Note: This study led by Boston pediatrician Robert Garofalo is one of several peer-reviewed scientific studies published on this subject in recent years. Garofalo has denounced the misrepresentation of this study by anti-gay Christian groups.]

6 Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Wissow, L. S., Woods, E. R., & Goodman, E. (1999). Sexual orientation and risk of suicide attempts among a representative sample of youth. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 153, 487–493.

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