Responses of Sharon Ambrose to GLAA 2002 Questionnaire
for DC Council Candidates
1. Will you support funding for mandatory gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and diversity training including gay and transgender community representatives as a continuing part of the training for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department?
Yes, I believe that diversity and sensitivity training is a critical part of the professional training of our police, fire, and emergency medical forces. In light of such incidences as the Tyra Hunter case, and the more recent incident involving members of the Third District police force, it is especially important that this training include veteran officers of these agencies as well.
2. Metropolitan Police Officers are barred from moonlighting only at bars and sexually oriented establishments. Officers are not barred from working at any other establishments. Will you support legislation that will reverse the Council's ban on moonlighting at bars and sexually oriented establishments?
No, I cannot commit at this time to overturning this policy, however, I am willing to continue discussing its ramifications with GLAA and others. Police officers working second jobs at ABC licensed establishments can create potential conflicts of interest as officers are often called as witnesses at ABC adjudicatory proceedings. As an alternative, in the club zone in the Southeast part of my ward, I have worked to bring together the various stakeholders -- the establishments, neighbors, and the MPD -- to address problems as they arise and to ensure that this is a safe area for patrons and neighbors alike. I have found this to be a successful approach. Notably, there is an advisory neighborhood commissioner in this neighborhood, who is an establishment owner, who has been especially helpful in working through these issues. I have also asked the new Executive Director of our Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to do a report to me of the best practices in other jurisdictions in respect to this issue.
3. A few years ago the District enacted a version of Megan's Law that refuses to allow sex offenders to keep themselves off the public registry of sex offenders by demonstrating that they are no longer a danger to the community. A federal judge struck down this provision of the D.C. law as unconstitutional last September. Similar provisions have been struck down by many other federal courts. Will you support a change in Megan's Law to ensure that the registry of sex offenders only includes those who are still dangerous?
Yes. In light of the recent court decision, and others like it around the country, we should revise our law to remove its unconstitutional provisions. I serve on the Committee on Judiciary, and expressed concerns at the time of the passage of that law on a variety of issues raised by GLAA and the ACLU. I would be happy to continue working with the community to make these changes.
Public Health & AIDS
4. The rate of HIV infections in DC is the highest in the United States, rivaling levels in sub-Saharan Africa. The last time that The DC Council held an oversight hearing on the HIV/AIDS Administration was June 18, 1998. If elected or re-elected to the Council, will you ensure that the Council holds an annual performance oversight hearing on the HIV/AIDS Administration?
Yes. I not only support annual oversight hearings over the Office of HIV/AIDS, but I would also welcome GLAA's suggestions of possible areas for the D.C. Auditor or the Office of the Inspector General to examine as well. Millions of dollars of our federal tax dollars, as well as local dollars, have gone into HIV/AIDS prevention and care. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that those dollars are being used wisely. Also, given the over $1 billion in funds which are devoted annually to the areas of health and human services, I believe it is incumbent upon the Council to reexamine its own processes in order to insure that these critical areas have the type of budgetary and policy oversight that they deserve. I would very much welcome GLAA's additional ideas for potential oversight issues.
5. The Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration, Ron Lewis, is his own boss, also serving as a deputy Health Director. Will you demand that the HIV/AIDS Administration have a full-time Director?
Yes. I believe the HIV/AIDS Administration requires a full time Director. This is a situation that has already persisted too long, and I will write the Mayor to express my concerns and impart a sense of urgency that this needs to be a full time position.
6. The current HIV epidemiological surveillance system discourages people-especially immigrants-from getting tested by requiring both their partial social security number and their country of origin. This potentially threatens their ability to stay in this country. The HIV Unique Identifier System Amendment Act of 2001, B14-0326, would eliminate the partial social security system. Will you vote for the bill and seek a speedy passage?
Yes. Confidential, anonymous HIV testing is extremely important in our ability to encourage people to get tested for HIV. I am a cosponsor of this legislation, and I will contact Councilmember Sandy Allen, who chairs the Committee on Human Services to urge her to hold a hearing on this measure this fall so we can pass the legislation this year. I would also support taking a comprehensive look at this and other medical privacy issues facing the District.
7. Recognizing the significant improvements made in the operations of the Office of Human Rights under then-Director Charles Holman, the Williams Administration granted OHR a significant addition to its FY 2003 budget to increase the number of investigators and other staff so that the case backlog will continue to drop. Will you support such increases in funding for future years as well until complaints are routinely processed within 120 days?
Yes. I am glad to hear from GLAA that progress has been made in reducing the case backlog, and supported the increase in the FY 2003 funding for OHR. I would be happy to continue to work in future years to ensure that they have the resources they need to do their job with the goal of processing complaints in 120 days. This may be an area in which federal money is available as well. This issue area is especially important because of the old maxim: justice delayed is justice denied. It is incumbent upon all of us to see that complaints are resolved in a swift manner befitting the seriousness of such complaints.
8. Will you support legislation that will codify the Office of Human Rights' former practice of giving top priority to discrimination complaints filed by people with AIDS or other major life-threatening diseases?
Yes, and I would be very glad to introduce such legislation with GLAA's input and assistance. I am glad that OHR has continued this policy in practice, and would be perfectly comfortable codifying it into law.
9. The Council recently confirmed the reappointment of Pierpont Mobley to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, despite Mr. Mobley's statements during his confirmation hearing indicating a lack of support or understanding of the Commission's ruling against the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding gay men from participating either as Scouts or as leaders. Will you vote against the confirmation of any other nominee to the Human Rights Commission who displays a similar lack of commitment to enforcement of the D.C. Human Rights Law?
Yes. The scrutiny of nominees for the Human Rights Commission, and indeed, for cabinet-level positions and other boards and commissions, is something the Council needs to do a better job on, and I will recommend this as a topic for one of the Council's upcoming administrative meetings. Inappropriate bills and resolutions should be allowed to die in Committee, and this is an approach I have always been comfortable with as a Committee Chair myself.
10. Will you block ceremonial resolutions saluting individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry, including but not limited to the Nation of Islam and the Boy Scouts of America?
Yes, although I do believe we should continue to salute individual boy scouts, where appropriate, as the children participating in this program generally are not responsible for the discriminatory policies of the organization. I believe the Boy Scouts should adopt the inclusionary policies of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations and recognize that good role models for kids come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and sexual orientations.
Defending Our Families
11. Will you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Yes. While I believe this is something which would be very difficult to achieve in the current political climate of this country, I am encouraged by the developments in Vermont, as well as the favorable developments in Quebec, and the recent court ruling in Ontario province. I believe marriage is a fundamental human right which should be extended to same-sex couples.
12. Will you support legislation in the District similar to Vermont's civil unions law?
Yes, and I would be happy to work with GLAA and the community to introduce such legislation. Again, under the current political climate, this could be very difficult to pass through Congressional review, and I would, of course, work with the community on deciding our best strategy for achieving this goal.
13. Will you support amending the domestic partnership regulations to recognize the more than 100 couples who registered under Mayor Kelly's September 30, 1992 Directive?
Yes. While I was very glad to see the rapid implementation of this program following the lifting of the Congressional ban on the use of District funds, I believe several aspects of the implementation were not well thought out, and I will urge the Mayor to continue thoughtful work on this issue. I found some of the commentary provided by the Department of Health in its June 14, 2002 Notice of Final Rulemaking on this issue to be distinctly inadequate.
14. Will you support amending the domestic partnership regulations to recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions established in other jurisdictions?
Yes. It is easy to understand how our law could be beneficial to partners registered in other jurisdictions. A partner could be injured while visiting or working in the District, and such benefits as hospital visitation could be of critical importance. I believe the District should extend its full faith and credit to other partnerships.
15. Will you vote for the "Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2002," Bill 14-636, which eliminates archaic criminal laws including fornication, adultery and others?
Yes. I am a cosponsor of this legislation, and believe this is a long-overdue effort. I salute the work of my colleague, Kathy Patterson, in championing this effort.
16. Will you oppose legislation designed to end nude dancing at any establishment holding a D.C. liquor license or prohibiting such establishments from transferring their nude dancing licenses to different establishments or otherwise further limiting nude dancing in ABC-licensed establishments?
Yes. As you know, this was an issue I championed when we recently reformed the ABC statute. I was very glad to have GLAA and others at the table as stakeholders as we considered this legislation, and I was glad we were able to craft a workable compromise on this issue. While there are some who will never be satisfied until all nude-dancing establishments are closed down, I believe a fair and well-functioning ABC regulatory apparatus can adequately address problems with ABC licensed establishments as they arise, regardless of whether they offer nude dancing or not, rather than taking the less thoughtful approach of simply banning things some people don't like. I do not support the legislation proposed by some on the Council which would ban these licenses.
17. Will you vote against "The Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs Act of 2002," Bill 14-719, which would undermine citizen advocacy by creating official gay advocates under the direction of the Mayor?
Yes. While I greatly appreciate the spirit in which this legislation was introduced, I have not observed that the District's lesbian and gay community faces the barriers to access to government services and political clout that are faced by language-minority and immigrant communities. In fact, the lesbian and gay community of Washington is one of the models of success for community self-empowerment. At this time of renewed concerns over the District's budget, I would much rather dedicate scarce additional resources to the important functions of the Office of Human Rights, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and to sensitivity training in our police, fire, and EMS forces before dedicating resources to such a new office.
Your record is part of your rating. Please list any actions that you have taken that may help illustrate your record on behalf of lesbians and gay men.