GLAA asks Mayor for Executive Order on commitment to Human Rights Law
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DC Human Rights Law

GLAA on Human Rights

GLAA asks Mayor for Executive Order on commitment to Human Rights Law


Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013-5265
(202)667-5139

March 17, 2000

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 to ask you to issue an executive order that would demonstrate the District government's commitment to the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the entire country.

Specifically, the executive order should mandate that all equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies and other kinds of anti-discrimination statements issued by District government departments and agencies must list all the classes that are protected by the D.C. Human Rights Act. Those protected classes are: Race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, place of residence or business, family responsibilities, physical handicap, matriculation, political affiliation, and source of income.

Such an executive order was issued by then-Mayor Marion Barry early in his first term. We asked for this order because until then, anti-discrimination statements published by D.C. agencies routinely listed only those classes protected by federal civil rights laws and ignored those categories (such as sexual orientation) that were additionally protected by D.C. laws.

This executive order has largely been followed in letter and spirit for the past 20 years. However, there have been three separate occasions in the last year when we discovered proposed agency regulations on anti-discrimination policies that failed to include sexual orientation and a variety of other classes protected under the 1977 Human Rights Act. One of these covered the insurance industry, one was on welfare-to-work rules, and the most recent one affected drug rehabilitation clinics and programs.

A private group like GLAA should not have to invest the time and energy required to alert D.C. government agencies to their failure to reflect the protections afforded by our own laws.

Of course, merely issuing an executive order may not be enough; it will have to be followed up and monitored closely to ensure continuing compliance. An example of what can happen is provided by the D.C. Public Schools system, which issued a very good memorandum from its EEO office in October 1997. It is worth quoting in detail, at least as a model of what a similar executive order from your office might look like:

"The District of Columbia Public Schools must prominently publicize its policy against discrimination. This includes, but is not limited to, school and administrative offices, vacancy announcements, EEO notices, bulletins, handbooks, catalogs, applications for employment, grant announcements, and any literature for public review. The following language must be utilized:

"'NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION

"'The District of Columbia Public Schools does [sic] not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, matriculation, disability or political affiliation in its programs and activities. Discrimination will not be tolerated and persons engaging in such will be subject to disciplinary action.'"

That well-worded order unfortunately has not been effectively enforced, because we are still finding DCPS publications that list only the federally protected classes. We would therefore urge that in your executive order you designate the Office of Human Rights to review existing anti-discrimination policy statements throughout the District government and to monitor proposed statements before they are released to the public.

Thank you for your consideration. We will be glad to provide any further assistance you may require.

Sincerely,

Bob Summersgill
President
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC

cc: The Honorable Kathy Patterson, Chairman, Committee on Government Operations
Charles Holman, Acting Director, Office of Human Rights
Carlene Cheatam, Office of the Mayor


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