GLAA endorses Acosta for Human Rights Commission, opposes Mobley
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GLAA on Human Rights

GLAA endorses Acosta for Human Rights Commission, opposes Mobley

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

TESTIMONY FOR CONFIRMATION HEARINGS
FOR NOMINEES TO D.C. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Before the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs, and Property Management

June 26, 2002


Chairman Graham, Members of the Council, and Fellow Citizens:

My name is Bob Summersgill. I am President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA), the oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights group in the country.

GLAA has always focused heavily on enforcement of the landmark D.C. Human Rights Act, first enacted in 1973 and then re-enacted in 1977, which remains to this day one of the strongest and most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the nation. One of GLAA's earliest major victories was the appointment of gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny to the Commission on Human Rights in 1975, the first time an openly gay person had been named to any position with the District government. Since then, there has always been at least one openly gay man or woman serving on the Commission.

The gay and lesbian community will be well represented on the Commission if the Council confirms the Mayor's nomination of Mario Acosta-Velez, who would fill the seat being vacated by another gay man, Peter Schott.

We are pleased to endorse the appointment of Mario Acosta-Velez to the Commission on Human Rights. Reviewing his résumé, it becomes clear that for someone so young to have such an impressive list of accomplishments, he must be a person of unusual energy and gifts.

Mr. Acosta has extensive experience in public speaking, organizing conferences and forums, and developing strategic plans in the area of Hispanic public policy. As a consultant, he has worked with such organizations as the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. Office of Minority Health, and the District of Columbia Public Schools. As a citizen, he has served on Chief Charles Ramsey's Citizen Advisory Council, on Mayor Williams' transition team, on the Citizen Advisory Committee on the Selection of the Chief of Police, and on the Citizen Advisory Committee for the creation of the Office of Citizen Complaint Review.

As Executive Director of the District's Latino Civil Rights Center from 1996 to 1999, he worked with local and federal agencies to ensure equal access for Hispanics. He developed relationships with the corporate sector and national Hispanic organizations. He increased both the organization's fundraising and its public visibility. He took the initiative in building bridges to other portions of the Washington community. He worked extensively in the vital area of police/community relations. He established a police task force of Latino organizations concerned with public safety, and also worked with the NAACP-DC Police Task Force to re-establish independent citizen review and to improve the Metropolitan Police Department's accountability and responsiveness to its diverse public. He wrote "Addressing the Barriers to Full Latino Representation," a report on the under-representation of Latinos in the D.C. government. He organized a mayoral and council candidates' debate. He coordinated a D.C. Council hearing in 1999 on public safety in the Latino community, a hearing in which GLAA was invited to participate.

Mr. Acosta has faced the challenge of being a member of both the gay and Latino communities by working to build bridges and foster greater understanding and cooperation. As Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of the District of Columbia, Mr. Acosta has included a GLAA representative in panel discussions in his classes on justice in a multicultural society. Two years ago he led a four-day strategic planning session for the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Organization (LLEGO) to create regional plans for LLEGO's Proyecto Horizontes, a program for fostering community development and leadership. Just last week he participated with us in Chief Ramsey's quarterly meeting with members of the gay community.

Educationally, Mr. Acosta has earned Master's degrees in both public administration and political science. In short, he is a capable and dynamic organizer and advocate who is at ease working with everyone from government officials and corporate leaders to grassroots communities. In several years of working with him, we in GLAA have known him to be not only a gracious and charming man, but an honest and decent citizen firmly committed to the defense of human rights for all. We think the District is lucky to have him, and we give him our strong endorsement as a D.C. Commissioner on Human Rights.

Unfortunately, it is also our duty to oppose the reappointment of another Human Rights Commissioner, Pierpont Mobley, because of his continued involvement with one of the most notoriously homophobic organizations in the country — one which has been found guilty of unlawful discrimination by this very Commission — the Boy Scouts of America.

Mr. Mobley's resume boasts of his involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. We understand he has told this subcommittee that this means he has been raising funds for a local Scout troop.

Mr. Mobley must be aware from a mammoth amount of both local and national publicity in recent years that the Boy Scouts organization has long been vehemently defending its policy of excluding any participation by gays either as Scouts or as leaders. Mr. Mobley evidently does not mind this grotesque bigotry enough to deny the Boy Scouts his financial support, thereby revealing a cavalier and insensitive attitude which renders him unqualified to oversee enforcement of the District's Human Rights Act.

Mr. Mobley's culpability is aggravated by the fact that this Commission has ruled very firmly that the Boy Scouts' rigid exclusionary policy is flatly illegal. If Mr. Mobley has such contempt for the Commission's rulings, he should take his services someplace else.

It is inconceivable that anyone who was a member of, say, a country club that excludes blacks or Jews would be allowed to serve on the D.C. Commission on Human Rights. By the same token, Mr. Mobley's active involvement with the Boy Scouts disqualifies him.

Thank you. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.

[Councilmember Jim Graham had no questions for GLAA, but invited Pierpont M. Mobley to return to answer questions about his involvement with the Boy Scouts.

Mr. Mobley defended the Boy Scouts as a good public service group and said that he had been a Scout. Graham asked many good questions and had to pump Mobley to respond coherently. Mobley eventually responded that his only involvement with the Boy Scouts, was to make donations at a friend's prompting to two events. One last year for $100 and one this year for $150. Mobley was a DC Human Rights Commissioner during that period.

Graham asked Mobley if he agreed with the Commission's decision on the Boy Scout case. Although Mobley was not one of the three Commissioners on that case, and had not read it, he did say that he was "not certain on all the aspects with it." He did not indicate what problems he might have had with the decision which GLAA has hailed as excellent.

Graham asked if he felt the GLAA analogy to a discriminatory country club was comparable to the Boy Scouts. Mobley said it was not, because he was not active with the Boy Scouts. At no time did he indicate a problem with the Boy Scout's discriminatory policy.

All of this raised a question of why such a minimal association would prompt Mobley to list the Boy Scouts on his resume as a community involvement. Graham didn't ask the question directly, but showed his surprise that a donation to a group would result in a listing on a resume.

Councilmember Graham said that he would take Mobley's nomination under advisement.]


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