Responses of Steve Donkin to GLAA 2002 Questionnaire
for DC Mayoral Candidates
1. Will you direct the Chiefs of the Police and Fire/EMS Departments to include openly gay and transgender community representatives in mandatory sensitivity and diversity training programs for all members of their departments?
Yes. Sensitivity and diversity training are an essential need for all agencies, particularly for public servants such as police and fire/EMS workers who have such a high level of interaction with widely diverse communities, and whose interaction with these communities may involve life-and-death situations. The wrongful death case involving Tyra Hunter a few years ago elevated this issue to the prominence it deserves, but unfortunately the situation is still far from remedied. Much more emphasis on sensitivity and diversity training needs to take place, and our government officials should take more of a lead on this. Such training is best done by actual members of those communities. Thus gay and transgender trainers will be an important part of improving our public safety departments under my administration.
2. Will you order the incoming Fire Chief to issue a new grooming policy which is in compliance with both the First Amendment and the DC Human Rights Act?
Yes. Former Chief Few's insistence on enforcing a grooming policy which violates basic civil liberties while doing little to address important worker safety issues within the fire department was a backward approach and one that will cease immediately under my administration. One might interpret such an arbitrary and unjustified policy as a blatant attack on the rights of Muslims, Rastafarians, and various LGBT firefighters whose personal appearance, while differing from what some at the administrative level might consider appropriate, is nonetheless no hindrance to effective service and is in fact a protected right.
3. Will you order the Corporation Counsel to cease appealing the judgment against the city related to the Fire Department's grooming policy and settle the suits by rehiring firefighters and paying back wages?
Yes. Again, the wrongheaded policies of the past must be stopped and the civil liberties violations which they incurred will be remedied under my administration.
4. 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. It makes no sense to publicly humiliate an ex-offender who has already paid his debt to society and proved that he is no longer a threat to the community. Many ex-offenders have successfully reformed themselves and become productive members of society. A broad-brush approach to law enforcement which does not allow exceptions for such individual cases of redemption not only violates the rights of the ex-offender, but it does nothing to improve public safety. Instead, it is yet another illogical attempt of the "tough-on-crime" crowd to lull the public into thinking that their legitimate concerns about public safety are being addressed when in fact they are not.
Public Health and AIDS
5. The Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration, Ron Lewis, is his own boss, also serving as a deputy Health Director. Will you hire a full-time Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration?
Yes. The current situation is clearly inappropriate from a management perspective. More importantly, with the level at which the HIV/AIDS crisis exists in D.C., the government should be demonstrating a far more serious commitment to dealing with the situation. A minimal first step toward doing this is to have a full-time Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration. Under Mr. Lewis's tenure, the HIV/AIDS Administration has performed inadequately, from resisting FOIA requests for a breakdown of the Administration's budget expenses, to squandering precious resources on trinkets and expensive dog-and-pony shows (such as the exquisitely catered conference at the Marriott Hotel last year) which do nothing to promote public education and outreach to curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS.
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. As Mayor, will you order the Department of Health to issue new regulations to eliminate the partial social security number for the unique identifier code?
Yes. As the question clearly states, the current system is a disincentive for many immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, to get tested. This does not serve to improve the situation regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS in our community, but rather it makes it worse. What HIV/AIDS Administration Director Lewis advocates is a confidential surveillance system; what we need is an anonymous surveillance system which uses a unique identifier unassociated with the person's name or social security number. The fact that Mayor Williams came out in support of a unique identifier system is an accomplishment. However, the fact that Mr. Lewis has worked to undermine that solution is an unfortunate setback. In addition to safeguarding the rights of immigrants, an anonymous system is particularly necessary in D.C. because of our unique status under the thumb of Congress. At any time Congress can step in and impound our HIV/AIDS surveillance records, potentially compromising the privacy of thousands of residents under the system of confidential reporting. Thus, I will modify and improve the current surveillance system and replace it with a system that maintains a person's privacy while encouraging accurate reporting and increased testing.
7. Will you further increase funding to the Office of Human Rights to increase the numbers of investigators and support staff and reduce the time required to process claims of discrimination?
Yes. The OHR has been under-funded for years. This has led to a backlog of claims to be addressed. The money is clearly available for improved funding, and my plan to reorder budget priorities toward human needs rather than private special interests, to restructure our regressive tax system to make the rich pay their fair share, and to end taxpayer subsidies to developers will create a steady and reliable revenue stream to adequately fund the OHR so that it may perform its duties.
8. 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 refuse to nominate anyone to the Human Rights Commission who similarly lacks a commitment to enforcing the D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977?
Yes. There will be no room in my administration for persons who will not comply with the law. Particularly in the case of Mr. Mobley, it is outrageous that someone who has publicly stated his resistance to enforcing the spirit of the Human Rights Law should have been appointed to the Human Rights Commission. I will personally see to it that such unjustifiable appointments are not made.
9. Will you refrain from issuing proclamations 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. Bigotry needs to be challenged whenever it appears in either the actions or words of individuals and organizations. Toward this end, the Mayor's office under my administration will not only refrain from saluting promoters of bigotry with public proclamations, but we will use the Office of the Mayor as a "bully pulpit" to speak out tirelessly against all forms of bigotry. As an example of my commitment to taking on bigotry in all forms, I joined many others in the Green Party several years ago in condemning our own party's presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, when he made his statement against engaging in "gonadal politics" (referring to gay and lesbian issues in relation to his campaign). Nader's statement betrayed an insensitivity to gay and lesbian issues that we felt was unacceptable for any public figure, especially a person representing the Green Party. Chastened by the criticism from within his own ranks, Nader acknowledged that he was wrong in his views and later became a proactive champion of gay and lesbian issues in his 2000 campaign.
Defending Our Families
10. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Yes. Same-sex partners who desire the benefits of marriage deserve the right to those benefits. When I worked as a signature gatherer, Ward 2 coordinator and database manager for the Initiative 59 (medical marijuana) campaign, I had the privilege of becoming close friends with the initiative's sponsors, Steve Michael and Wayne Turner. When Steve died of complications due to AIDS, I served as a pallbearer in his funeral. It outraged me that these two committed partners of many years were unable to enjoy the same legal recognition of their union that heterosexual partners enjoy. As my relationship with Steve and Wayne solidified my commitment to the cause of gay marriage, it also made me appreciate that their case was only one example of many such injustices existing across the city. My administration would fully support legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
11. Will you support legislation similar to Vermont's creating Civil Unions -- for same-sex and opposite-sex couples -- having all of the rights and responsibilities of Marriage that are offered by the District?
Yes. The rights and responsibilities of marriage should be available to all couples if they choose them. Vermont's Civil Unions legislation strengthens and expands the rights inherent in domestic partnership legislation seen in many other states, and is an excellent model for D.C.
12. 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. A major victory for D.C. residents occurred last year when Congress finally removed the annual rider to our budget which prohibited implementation of our domestic partnership law. As a member of the Stand Up for Democracy in D.C. Coalition, which in turn collaborated with other organizations, including GLAA, I participated in efforts aimed at lobbying Congress to remove this anti-democratic restriction on our rights. That we were successful speaks to the power of strong coalitions and grassroots organizing. Unfortunately, a span of nine years passed between the local approval of this legislation and the congressional allowance for us to implement it. When DCRA oversaw the management of the domestic partnership regulations, the files for the over 100 couples who registered in 1992 were destroyed by DCRA employees illegally, and it is unfair to demand that these couples now re-file and incur the fees associated with re-filing. The same holds true for those couples who have since registered with the Department of Health, now overseeing the process of registration. Those couples who registered once must receive the same benefit of recognition as those who will register in the future, without having to pay the filing fees twice.
13. Will you support amending the domestic partnership regulations to recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions established in other jurisdictions?
Yes. This would be a logical extension of our current domestic partnership law, and will help bring the District up to par with other jurisdictions which, because of our delay in implementation, are further along in bestowing proper recognition on same-sex marriages. In addition, a couple visiting from Vermont where they are recognized as a Civil Union should be able to expect the same rights and privileges here as they receive in Vermont.
14. Will you support the "Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2002," Bill 14-636, which eliminates archaic criminal laws including fornication, adultery, and others?
Yes. Such outdated laws from an earlier era of intolerance have no place on today's law books. I would support rapid elimination of these laws. At the same time, it is worth noting that the statute on adultery, which calls for a maximum penalty of $500 and/or 1 year in imprisonment, is never enforced now for heterosexual offenders. If it was, most of the Congress would have served time by now. The lack of gender and sexual orientation parity for enforcement of these laws is another reason to get rid of them.
15. Will you veto 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. Attacking constitutionally protected adult entertainment is not something the government should be busying itself with.
16. If it is passed by the Council, will you veto "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. I agree with GLAA and other prominent LGBT activists who say that such an office would inappropriately place issues of LGBT advocacy under the control of the Mayor's office and effectively remove citizens from the decision-making process. Advocacy for and protection of LGBT rights and addressing issues of concern to LGBT residents should be the business of all government offices and agencies across the board. Creating specialized government offices has been an age-old strategy used by officials to marginalize and disempower citizen movements rather than strengthen and empower them. My administration will keep the control of community activism in the community, not consign it to an administrative limbo.
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.