GLAA to Current: Housing discrimination against students is illegal[Note: The following letter was published in the June 11, 2003
issue of DC's Current family of community newspapers.]
Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013
June 2, 2003
Letters to the Editor
P. O. Box 40400
Washington, D.C. 20016-0400
To the Editor:
Somebody needs to inform ANC Commissioner James Lewis, as well as the boards of the Watergate East, Watergate West, and Watergate South co-ops, that it is blatantly illegal to prevent George Washington University students and parents from buying or renting units, either in those three existing co-ops or in any new condo or co-op that may evolve from the present Watergate Hotel. ("GWU fears yield resistance to Watergate condo project," Dupont Current, May 28.)
The D.C. Human Rights Law of 1977 is widely known as one of the broadest and most powerful civil rights laws in the country. Among other things, it explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of matriculation -- defined in the law as "the condition of being enrolled in a college, or university..." -- in housing. The District's gay and lesbian community was instrumental in getting that law passed in the first place, and we have remained vigilant against any moves to undermine or restrict its comprehensive protections. We realize that an attack on one unpopular group is an attack on all of us.
Commissioner Lewis is quoted in the article as pointing out that current purchase policies at the three co-ops already bar purchases by GWU students or their parents, claiming: "That is the prerogative of a cooperative." Speaking of his reasons for opposing the proposed conversion of the Hotel to a condo, Mr. Lewis added: "To be candid, we do not want condos occupied by GW students or by GW parents." Sorry, Mr. Lewis, but nothing in the Human Rights Law allows co-ops to discriminate against students, just as the law does not allo! w them to discriminate against blacks, Jews, women, gays, singles, Arabs, or members of any other group out of favor with co-op boards.
If appropriate remedial action is not taken quickly by the co-op boards, we hope the representatives of GW students will pursue their legal options. Meanwhile, the DC Zoning Board should resist any efforts to compound the infractions that have already been committed.
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003
From: Wilburn, Nadine (OHR)
To: Kevin Davis, email@example.com
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jim Graham, Jack Evans
Subject: Letter to Editor
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. The quotes below are very disturbing. As you may know, the Office of Human Rights is authorized by the Human Rights Act to initiate its own investigation and we will initiate one here.
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003
From: GW Student Association
To: kevin davis
Subject: Letter to Editor
I cannot thank you enough for your sincerity and clarity on this issue. You are right, it is a blatant attack on our rights as students and it is not legal. We are currently fighting some members of the neighborhood who do not realize our contributions as well as rights, in DC.
I called your office to request a copy of the letter on official letterhead for our files. Of course, I would never use it without expressed consent.
Again, on behalf of the 22,000 students at GW, I thank you for your assistance to protect our rights.