Rosendall: Don't Give In to Puritanical Hysteria
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Rosendall: Don't Give In to Puritanical Hysteria

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Don't Give In to Puritanical Hysteria

The Washington Post
Saturday, January 13, 2001; Page A19

We take strong exception to your paper's call for a mayoral veto of the D.C. Council's comprehensive and much-needed ABC bill [editorial, Jan. 9]. We also object to Colbert I. King's outrageous characterization of council members as "libertines" [op-ed, Jan. 6].

The call for a veto is largely based on unsubstantiated claims by puritanical clergy, arrogant business owners and overreaching police officials concerning the alleged dangers of nude dancing establishments, and an overreaction to reported plans for a mob-connected club to open in the District.

The ABC bill is the result of two years of effort by council member Sharon Ambrose and her staff in cooperation with her colleagues and with a wide variety of advocates from the residential and business communities. The bill, including the nude-dancing provision as a small part of it, was the subject of public hearings, as well as a lengthy committee markup and two readings of the bill before the full council.

The bill contains numerous protections for residents, including these:

The government should not be in the business of acting as a nanny to its adult citizens, deciding what forms of entertainment they should and should not be permitted to choose for themselves. This is 21st century Washington, after all, not 17th century Plymouth. Yes, all licensees have an obligation to be good neighbors and to obey the laws and should be held duly accountable. That is what the ABC Board is for.

Terrance Lynch of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations has made numerous unfounded claims about adverse secondary effects of nude dancing establishments. Our city's experience with such clubs does not support Lynch's claims. The Royal Palace on Connecticut Avenue above Dupont Circle, for example, and the gentlemen's clubs on M Street NW, do not have rowdy crowds or rampant prostitution, nor have they blighted their neighborhoods.

We in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance did not get everything we wanted in this bill, but we worked with the D.C. Council from the beginning and compromised in good faith. All that we ask is that applications for such licenses be possible. The bar is very high, and no applicant will have an easy time. Continuing the moratorium would amount to the same thing as a ban as existing establishments are squeezed out by redevelopment.

The council should rise above the hysteria of the puritans and leave the bill as enacted in December.

-- Richard J. Rosendall

The writer is political vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington.

2001 The Washington Post Company


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