GLAA to Council: Oppose creation of an Office of GLBT Affairs
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Bill 14-719

GLAA's "Agenda: 2002"

GLAA to Council: Oppose creation of an Office of GLBT Affairs

From: Bob Summersgill
To: Sandy Allen; Sharon Ambrose; Harold Brazil; David Catania; Kevin Chavous; Linda Cropp; Jack Evans; Adrian Fenty; Jim Graham; Phil Mendelson; Vincent Orange; Kathy Patterson; Carol Schwartz
Cc: Anthony Williams
Sent: Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Subject: GLAA opposes Bill 14-719, to create an Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs

Dear Councilmember:

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. is writing in opposition to Bill 14-719, to create an Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs. While GLAA intends to testify in detail at the October 16 hearing, we believe it is important to outline our objections in advance and to correct any false impression that our community is solidly behind this bill.

While GLAA believes the legislation for an Office of GLBT Affairs is well intentioned, the proposal fails to address a compelling need or present any benefit to the community.

Councilmember Graham has stated that the Office of GLBT Affairs will promote GLBT advocacy. However, with this office, the Mayor would have the ability to promote issues of concern to him and solely him, regardless of the interests of the community. This is an office of the Mayor, not an office of the community and this must be recognized. The Office of GLBT Affairs gives authority to the Mayor to speak on behalf of the GLBT community without a mandate of any kind. Opposition to any administration policy would require an overwhelming outcry from the citizenry.

This office, by its very nature, will be essentially political. Rather than serving the best interests of the community, it is reasonable to see this office reflecting the partisan tones of the incumbent party and a tool in political patronage.

Our community is best served when the Council and the Mayor are responsive to our needs as citizens. GLAA does not believe it imperative to create a new government office to be responsive to these needs or to work on the community's behalf. The community is its own best advocate, and it is important that this remain the case.

For more than 40 years this community has served itself well by being independent, grassroots and vocal. The result is a community which is a leader nationally, a Council that is as diverse as our community and a Mayor who recognizes the contributions the GLBT community has to offer.

Of the many arguments which are made in favor of this office, the one made most often is that this office will formalize the position of Assistant to the Mayor for GLBT Issues. However, any Office of the Mayor, no matter the issue, if contrary to the interests and concerns of the Mayor, will be rendered useless at best and may be actively used against the community at worst.

The similar offices of Latino and Asian affairs are justified by the existence of linguistic and other barriers in those communities that require special efforts to ensure access to government services. These factors are not present in the GLBT community except to the extent that we are members of those communities. The fact that we are represented in top-level positions in both the legislative and executive branches of our government demonstrates that our community is already well-integrated into the wider community. To the extent that anti-gay animus still exists within the government, experience has shown that the most effective remedy is not another government office but independent watchdog efforts in concert with oversight by the Council.

In addressing this question to members of the Council in our GLAA questionnaire, two things became obvious as a result of their responses: that some on the Council believe the GLBT community of DC to be wholeheartedly behind this Act, and secondly, that some have honest disagreements with creating an office, which is not needed, at a time when funding is more badly needed in other areas.

The funding issue is perhaps the most striking. There are real problems in the communities of this city. This office is simply a solution in search of a problem. With tough fiscal choices to make in the coming years, this is not a priority. There have been no compelling arguments in favor of this office, and GLAA sees no outpouring from the community in demand of it.

GLAA asks the Council to oppose this bill.


Bob Summersgill
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.

cc: Mayor Anthony Williams

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