When Is a Subway System Like a State? It's Not a Silly Question (The Washington Post) 06/09/02
GLAA demands that Metro abide by D.C. Human Rights ActGay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
PO Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013
June 17, 2002
The Honorable Jim Graham
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
United Planning Organization
301 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Dear Councilmember Graham and Ms. Mack:
The Outlook section of the June 9 Washington Post included a column entitled "When Is a Subway System Like a State? It's Not a Silly Question," by Douglas Huron, a partner with the law firm of Heller, Huron, Chertkof, Lerner, Simon & Salzman.
We were shocked to learn from this article that Metro "has successfully argued for immunity [from a host of civil rights laws], relying on ambiguous language in the agreement creating the transit authority to persuade several federal trial judges that it is not even subject to the D.C. human rights law, even for wrongs committed in the District."
Although Mr. Huron's focus is on the impact of Metro's anti-civil rights stance upon litigation based on age and disability discrimination, we are too painfully aware of this contemptible policy's effect upon the rights and interests of gay men and lesbians in our area, whether as customers or as Metro employees. In effect, what we are seeing is: "Metro to Gays and Lesbians: Drop Dead."
Mr. Huron suggests, as one possible remedy: "Metro could seize the initiative and say that it will not assert immunity in any lawsuit brought under a civil rights statute....[I]t may be enough if Metro's board declares forcefully -- and officially -- that immunity will not be asserted." We think this is an excellent idea. Accordingly, we ask both of you, as D.C.'s official representatives on the Metro board, to promptly place an appropriate binding resolution before the full board and see that it is passed and enforced.
We realize that the Metro board not long ago passed a resolution affirming a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (among other grounds). While this policy is obviously good to have in place, its usefulness is sabotaged if Metro's lawyers are allowed to assert in court that it is under no legal obligation to respect the D.C. Human Rights Act. For years, we have fought a similar bias against our own Human Rights Act within the D.C. Corporation Counsel's office, and we are not about to tolerate the same kind of runaway lawyering from Metro's attorneys.
The Metro board directs its lawyers -- not the other way around. It is time to reassert that fundamental fact.
We hope for a speedy remedy.
cc: The Honorable David Catania