I. Public Safety
II. AIDS and Public Health
III. Human Rights
IV. Defending Our Families
V. Public Education and Youth
VI. Other Issues
PART I. PUBLIC SAFETY
Relations between the gay and lesbian community and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) have markedly improved in recent years under the leadership of Chief Charles Ramsey. Most notably, he authorized establishment four years ago of MPD's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU), which has worked tirelessly to improve police-community relations as well as the department's handling of gay-related cases. The improved professional sensitivity brought to the force by the active presence of GLLU has been shown in situations ranging from the minimal disruption to other patrons during drug busts in gay bars, to police consultations with leaders of the transgender community. The seemingly ubiquitous head of the GLLU, Sergeant Brett Parson, has brought his energy and responsiveness to both outreach efforts and basic police work. Public officials should commit to replicating his fine example, and that of Chief Ramsey in support of the unit, in the event of either's departure. The Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is another story, as explained below.
B. Office of Citizen Complaint Review
The Metropolitan Police Department is more accountable to the community because of the establishment several years ago of the independent Citizen Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and Office of Citizen Complaint Review (OCCR). It is a sign of OCCR's professionalism and effectiveness that the Chief of Police has accepted all of its recommendations for discipline. Unfortunately, the Annual Report of OCCR for Fiscal Year 2003 reveals increasing case backlogs. OCCR must be fully funded to ensure that its staffing of investigators is commensurate with the caseload; and it must pay investigators at competitive rates in order to retain them.
OCCR Executive Director Philip Eure testified that Mayor Anthony Williams' proposed Fiscal Year 2005 budget for OCCR "is a constructive response to the agency's most pressing needs. The increase in the personal services will allow OCCR to hire more investigators, and the additional money for contractual services will allow OCCR to conduct more complaint examinations, which will allow the agency to more promptly investigate and resolve complaints." 1 We join Mr. Eure in thanking the Mayor for this budget proposal and in asking the D.C. Council to support the increases.
C. Police Community Diversity Training
To sustain and capitalize on the gains achieved, MPD must continue its community diversity and sensitivity training for new recruits and lateral transfers. The presence of qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) trainers, and their support by the leaders of the Police Academy, brings a dose of reality to the training and sends a message to all officers that homophobia will not be tolerated on the force.
It is also imperative that MPD reinstate sensitivity training of the veteran MPD officers, which was discontinued over four years ago. Veteran officers establish the everyday departmental climate for new officers. Allowing homophobia from veteran officers to go unchallenged helps perpetuate an atmosphere hostile to GLBT citizens and negating the effects of the sensitivity training received by new recruits. To be translated from rhetoric into reality, MPD's commitment to equal treatment for all citizens must be integrated at all levels of the Department.
D. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department
Although we applaud the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services' public statements committing to continue implementation of the Tyra Hunter Human Diversity Training Series, we remain skeptical. Serious accountability issues persist.
In documents and course manuals recently obtained by GLAA through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request after years of stonewalling by the Department, the agency states that it was "required" to contract training for all employees and states that all received the training. However, there is evidence to suggest that 100% training has not been accomplished and the agency has refused to show any proof to the contrary. In fact, EMS Union officials have recently indicated they have members who never received the training.
We believe the training courses have generally been positive, but again note some concerns: while agency instructors have been observed respectfully referencing the Tyra Hunter incident in their introductory remarks, no reference appears in either Instructor or Student Course Manuals. Also, old referral information is used for the Office of Human Rights and the "Pregnancy Policy" (the subject of a legal challenge) uses strange language referencing MPD. While a general approach is appropriate for introductory courses, there is a lack of significant information regarding GLBT issues and only one reference to "transgender" or "transsexual" in the entirety of Series I. This one mention in the "Lifeboat Exercise" has no definition or explanation. Fortunately, Series II makes several references to GLBT issues and contains good information. Even so, much more in-depth information is needed and should be a key focal point in future training.
The Instructor Manual for Series III, "Interpersonal Interactions," is presented only in draft form and omits the referenced overhead transparencies and scenarios. This is curious since a Summer 2002 article in the Siren, an official agency publication, states that the Series will "start in mid-2002." The article is attributed to EEO and Diversity Management Director, Fredreika Smith.
Finally, in the Instructor Manual for Series II, "Preventing Sexual Harassment," the National MultiCultural Institute observes, "The investment of participants in the training is often impacted by who promotes the training and whether upper management demonstrates a commitment to its success." We agree. Unfortunately, the agency has credibility problems with regard to this. Its grooming policy is being challenged by the ACLU, and members of the agency's upper management are under investigation by the Office of Human Rights for alleged violations of sexual harassment and hostile work environment statutes, with the EEO Director herself being named in the case.
It is long past time for Fire and EMS to step up and demonstrate their commitment to serving all of us. They must fully implement the Tyra Hunter Human Diversity Training series and they must adhere to the laws. As with the police, training is not enough. Without supervisory follow-through and consequences for violation of the Fire and EMS diversity policy, it will be little more than window dressing. Moreover, Fire and EMS must resolve pending litigation in a manner that dignifies those wronged and builds trust in our community.
By failing to change its illegal grooming policy, the Department continues to defend former Chief Ronnie Few's disregard for the First Amendment and the D.C. Human Rights Act and to demonstrate a poor appreciation for the District's diverse workforce. The ACLU's lawsuit over the grooming policy is still in court. Fire and EMS should stop defending the indefensible and revise its policy to reflect proven safety standards rather than using safety concerns as a cover for discrimination based on personal appearance.w
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PART II. AIDS AND PUBLIC HEALTH
A. HIV and AIDS
A recent study shows that the District of Columbia has the highest AIDS rate in the country and HIV infections are increasing.2 However, the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) operates without effective management, without accountability, and without oversight. The failure to supervise HAA's operations has resulted in spending without accountability; lack of a director for over a year and of a full-time director for several years; breakdown of services; plummeting employee morale; charges of sexual harassment; multiple investigations by federal and local authorities for financial irregularities; an epidemiological system designed to fail; a failure to take advantage of funding options that are available; and a failure to provide adequate or innovative prevention efforts.
2. HAA Management and Oversight Failures
HAA lacks basic managerial oversight. Mr. Ronald Lewis, the former Director of HAA, was promoted out of his position on May 15, 2003. He continued to run HAA from his position as Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Health (DOH). In that capacity he delayed the hiring of a new director. He was finally removed from the Department of Health because of his incompetence in handling lead in the drinking water. Mr. Lewis' former supervisor, James Buford, was also removed for incompetence. Buford provided no oversight of Mr. Lewis or his control of HAA. Mr. Lewis, even removed from the DOH, continues to maintain control over HAA, both directly and through functionaries including Ivan Torres, Interim Administrator; Jackie Bacchus, Deputy Administrator; Felicia Lynch, Director of Health Support Services; and Brenda Crowder-Gaines, Deputy Director of Health and Support Services.
Ron Lewis systematically directed contracts to his supporters and punished dissenters with loss of funding. Building Futures, an organization that provided housing for people with HIV/AIDS using HAA-directed federal HOPWA funding, was effectively put out of business by Mr. Lewis for publicly criticizing the contracting practices at HAA. Mr. Lewis testified under oath to the D.C. Council Committee on Human Services that Building Futures lost their funding for failure to perform and that Building Futures owed HAA thousands of dollars. In fact, Building Futures was owed $300,000 by HAA, and HAA's hostile and illegal actions resulted in more than 70 people getting eviction notices because their rent payments were disrupted by HAA.
Former HAA Chief of Operations Michael Martin and his criminal partner, Errol Alderman, were implicated in the Teacher's Union embezzlement scheme. Both were allowed to keep their positions until their decisions to leave when they were convicted. Martin was allowed continued use of the city credit card without restriction even after it was reported that he helped launder the stolen funds from the Teacher's Union.
Despite the Administration's knowledge of widespread financial irregularitiesto the point that the Mayor asked for an Inspector General's audit of HAAno action has been taken to correct the problems or bring in new leadership.
Sexual harassment has long been alleged at HAA, but without anyone willing to come forward. However, in the past year, one former employee has sued HAA and the District after becoming pregnant by her supervisor and being threatened with termination by him unless she got an abortion. She was subsequently fired for discussing the abortion and her relationship with the supervisor. That supervisor has been fired. Other employees have been threatened with termination for talking to GLAA, the press or the D.C. Council about managerial failures and criminal manipulation of contracts to benefit friends and supporters of Ron Lewis.
3. A director of HAA needs to be hired
HAA's leadership void needs to be addressed immediately. Ron Lewis must be locked out of HAA, and a new administrator hired. The new administrator should be from outside of HAA and not tainted with the years of HAA's mismanagement and criminal contracting practices. The new administrator should remove all of the existing management and hire competent replacements. The new administrator should also seek an independent, outside audit of HAA funding so as not to be tarred with the failures of the Lewis administration.
4. D.C. Council's Oversight Failure
The D.C. Council has failed to provide even rudimentary oversight of HAA. The last Council hearing on HAA was held on May 15, 2003. The previous oversight hearing was held on July 18, 1998. There are no scheduled oversight hearings, and little hope that Councilmember Sandy Allen will schedule another hearing in the near future.
At the May 15, 2003 hearing, extensive problems were detailed at HAA. Part-time Director Ron Lewis' promotion to Chief Operating Officer of DOH was announced. His testimony on the Building Futures grant was so unbelievable that Councilmember Carol Schwartz ordered him to stand up and swear in. The subsequent uncovering of his perjury by Councilmember David Catania could not be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney because of the immunity that government officials have when testifying before the Council.
HAA employee Michael Snoddy testified on the widespread problems at the agency. Mr. Snoddy, taking previous threats of retaliation by HAA officials, invoked the D.C. Whistle Blower Act and appeared with his attorney. Councilmembers Catania and Schwartz both sternly warned HAA officials about retaliation against Mr. Snoddy, but it started with Mr. Lewis' testimony deriding Mr. Snoddy, and started officially within the office in less than a week. Mr. Snoddy is now suing the District, HAA, Lewis, and the chain of command responsible for the retaliation.
The Council's oversight actions and follow-up to date have been wholly inadequate. The Council needs to exercise its responsibility and hold hearings on the performance of HAA and its contracting process on an annual basis at a minimum, and hold HAA and the Mayor accountable for the failures.
5. Budget Accountability
HAA's budget has received almost no scrutiny from the Council. The budget provided by the administration covers HAA in just two paragraphs. With a relatively small budget of $82.2 million, HAA is lost in the $1.7 billion budget of the Department of Health.3 And since approximately 85% of HAA's budget comes from the federal government, the Council has really only checked to see that federal dollars keep coming in, and local dollars are sufficient to meet federal maintenance levels. The result is that HAA has operated in almost complete budget secrecy since it was first created in 1986 as the Office of AIDS Administration.
HAA lacks a basic openness and transparency that we should have from any government agency. Four years ago, GLAA was told by numerous AIDS service organizations that not all of HAA's federal funds could be accounted for. HAA initially would not respond to GLAA's questions about how money was being spent. We made a FOIA request, and received partial information over a period of 19 months prompted by numerous press accounts, testimony and letters. HAA did everything possible to keep from divulging which organizations received funds and what those funds were for. GLAA even discussed suing HAA for violating FOIA, but eventually they grudgingly complied. However, whenever we testified before the Council using information provided by HAA, they denied the accuracy of the information. Consequently, we doubt that HAA has in fact complied with the law, and we are left to wonder why they would withhold or deliberately distort information about grants that otherwise should be something to brag about.
A subsequent FOIA request for basic information about HAA staff was also late, incomplete and inaccurate. Ivan Torres told GLAA on two occasions that he had personally reviewed the staff list and verified that he was on the list. Mr. Torres was unable to explain why he was not on the list once a copy was provided to him and other HAA staff.
The failure of HAA to provide basic accounting information is more serious than the commonplace incompetence that we have grown used to for years in the District government. In addition to the failures of the health care system and lives cut short, we are at considerable risk for losing federal funding as Health and Human Services investigators prepare to conduct performance audits.
An independent audit of HAA is needed. GLAA tried for four years to get an audit prior to a federal investigation. The evidence that HAA management is not stealing funds would be provided by a detailed and public audit of HAA and the contractors. Because of the administration's failure to audit HAA, we have been left in the position of having to call for the federal General Accounting Office to investigate the HAA accounting practices and financial management. This would be beneficial because it would either expose problems that need to be addressed or it would quiet rumors omnipresent in the community. Public respect for HAA must be restored, but it will not be without major changes and a transparent accounting of funds.
6. Council Committee Structure as an Obstacle to Oversight
The Committee on Human Services is overburdened with oversight, budget and legislative responsibilities. With responsibility for the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Human Services, the Committee is responsible for over 25% of the Council's budget. All three departments are in shambles and the oversight and legislative needs of this committee are more than any councilmember can handle. Meanwhile, Councilmembers Mendelson and Graham chair only subcommittees with limited duties and Councilmember Fenty doesn't chair any body. Council talent should be more evenly distributed. The Committee on Human Services needs to be divided into two or more committees so that adequate time and attention may be given to those departments. At a minimum, subcommittees could be formed from an expanded committee giving greater attention to their specific departments.
7. Funding for HIV/AIDS Programs through Better Use of Available Options
D.C. is failing to take advantage of numerous funding options that would expand services to People with HIV and AIDS. Federal funding for HIV and AIDS is not expected to keep pace with the rising caseload, therefore we must better utilize the funding options that we currently have. HAA needs to focus on treatment, testing and prevention. Current expenditure of local and federal funds on massages, pet care and other superfluous "holistic" expenses should be eliminated and the limited funds spent on medical treatment and critical needs such as food and housing.
HAA wastes funds on tchotchkes. ACT UP has collected tote bags, water bottles, coffee mugs, key chains, junk-food bag clips and beer bottle openers with the HIV/AIDS Administration name and logo. These trinkets are a complete waste of money. They don't provide information, stop HIV transmission, or promote health. This waste of funds needs to end.
Presumptive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on HIV infection is an underutilized, federally funded program run by the Social Security Administration. It provides eligible applicants with a time limited (6 months) cash benefit of $564 a month as well as access to full Medicaid benefits. The program is designed to provide income to people who are applying for SSI coverage and who exhibit clear signs of HIV related disability. This benefit is provided to help ease the financial burden created by the often lengthy SSI application and approval process. Currently, people with HIV who are in the process of applying for SSI are being directed to the city's Interim Disability Assistance program (IDA). IDA provides a much smaller benefit and, as opposed to Presumptive SSI, it has to be repaid. IDA is further limited in comparison to Presumptive SSI because it doesn't provide Medicaid coverage. Even worse, IDA is funded by 100% local dollars and is under constant financial pressure. The District has a vested interest in increased utilization of Presumptive SSI. More people using Presumptive SSI means fewer people on IDA. This could help to relieve the financial stressors that impact the IDA every year. The District's Income Maintenance Administration should negotiate with the Social Security Administration to increase the use of this program.
1115 Medicaid Waiver will allow people with HIV to access Medicaid without having to prove AIDS-related disability. 285 low-income people with HIV will be able to access full Medicaid benefits, instead of relying on other limited funds. The program was approved for D.C. by the federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on January 19, 2001 but has yet to be implemented. Implementation should be monitored even after enrollment begins to make sure that the new pharmacy network is working and acceptable to patients and to verify that people eligible for the program are encouraged to apply. Implementation has been promised in June or July, but we expect this time frame to be missed due to bureaucratic opposition.
The 1115 HIV Medicaid waiver should be expanded to include all FDA-approved HIV antiretroviral medications. Currently, it only includes 19 of the 24 on the market. Fuzeon, the latest drug available, is limited in availability to clients, but it is purchased using the Medicaid rebate system, which means that there are no DOD savings realized. These savings, if captured, could be used to fund additional participants in the 1115 waiver program and greater access to Fuzeon. Fuzeon is critical to people with HIV who have exhausted other treatments. This expansion would increase the savings realized by the program with minimal difficulty in implementation. The money saved could allow more HIV positive people to access Medicaid.
Medicaid Prescription drug pricing does not take advantage of D.C. unique non-state status. Currently the District's Medicaid program receives the typical Medicaid rebate for prescription drugs. The District, however, has an important and underutilized advantage over other jurisdictions. The District has the ability to purchase prescription medication through the Department of Defense (DOD) that is afforded the lowest drug prices in the U.S. This is a significant bargaining chip that should be leveraged by the Medical Assistance Administration to negotiate for much larger discounts and higher rebates. The District, for example, could tell manufacturers that if it doesn't receive a lower rebate then it will pick the 10 most expensive drugs most commonly distributed under the program and purchase them through the DOD. Savings from using the best-price practices of the District's Medicaid program should be redirected into better use of HIV primary care or in the development of new Medicaid waivers.
8. Access to HIV information on the HIV/AIDS Administration Website
There is a dearth of readily available policy and programmatic information on HIV/AIDS care in the District. HAA should act as a resource for detailed information on a variety of issues affecting HIV/AIDS in the District. The web site could provide information including from grant awards, epidemiological data, treatment options, services available in D.C., a listing of dates when all of the public HIV councils meetincluding the Title I council and the Community Planning Group meetingsand a host of resources for the community. Full disclosure on the web site would help bring HAA into compliance with the D.C. Freedom of Information Act.4
9. HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Surveillance
GLAA supports HIV surveillance for epidemiological purposes. Accurate information will support better HIV prevention, treatment and care programs. A surveillance system must accurately track the population demographics of the spread of HIV without causing distrust of the public health system or discourage people from getting tested.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 25% of all people with HIV have not been tested and do not know their status.5 A study by Kaiser Permanente found 40-42% of people who test positive for HIV wait until they get sick, and miss years of life-extending treatment.6 Therefore, any system must encourage people to get tested, or at least not discourage them from doing so.
The Unique Identifier System is being threatened by those responsible for implementing it. In 1999, The D.C. Council recommended to the Mayor that a unique identifier system be established to protect the confidentiality of people who test positive and to maintain public trust in the health care system. Unlike most other diseases, HIV disease carries great stigma, and extra protections for privacy are warranted. Mr. Lewis led the fight to oppose unique identifiers, supporting names reporting. Mayor Williams wisely chose unique identifiers, but unfortunately left Mr. Lewis in charge of implementation.
After an 18-month delay, HAA convened a working group to help design the unique identifier system. HAA staff insisted that the proposed identifier include the last four digits of the patient's Social Security Number (SSN). They ignored arguments noting the inherent problem of including the partial SSN in terms of immigrants without a number, people misreporting the number, and general mistrust of the government collecting the information.
Information provided to the working group from the CDC explained that the failures of the unique identifier systems in Maryland and Texas were directly related to the inclusion of partial Social Security Numbers that were only 50% complete. In two evaluations of unique identifier systems conducted by the CDC in Los Angeles and New Jersey, found the Social Security Numbers to be available in less than 20% of all cases reported. The CDC requires 85% reporting completeness for the system to meet minimum performance standards. First names, which HAA prohibited from being included, are 97.2 - 99.9% complete. Use of the first, or the first two letters of a person's first nameas is done with last namewould distinguish between two people born on the same day with similar last names.
Failure to implement a workable HIV tracking system will result in the loss of federal funds and in wasteful expenditures based on mistaken notions about which populations are currently in greatest need of resources.
Initial results of the HIV surveillance were due in January 2004. We are still waiting for the initial data. Unfortunately, like most HAA activities, there is no oversight of the program or accountability for the delay.
Bill 14-0326, "HIV Unique Identifier System Amendment Act of 2001," was introduced by Councilmembers Phil Mendelson, Sharon Ambrose, David Catania, Kevin Chavous, Jack Evans, and Jim Graham and co-sponsored by Adrian Fenty to correct the problems with the unique identifier system. Unfortunately, Councilmember Sandy Allen, Chair of the Human Services Committee, has effectively blocked the bill. GLAA asked Councilmember Mendelson not to reintroduce the bill until Allen is willing to give the bill a fair hearing, or is no longer chair of the committee. The Council should pass an equivalent bill as soon as possible.
Sero-positive surveys can improve the reliability of epidemiological data. GLAA supports the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report, which recommends "that the CDC create a national system to identify new HIV infections, enabling public health officials to track recent changes in the epidemic. Rather than trying to count every newly infected person, the proposed surveillance system would provide data that would allow the CDC to estimate the number of HIV infected persons by testing a statistically valid sample of those at the highest risk. These individuals would be drawn from randomly selected 'sentinel' sites, including health care facilitiessuch as clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, substance abuse treatment, and family planningwhere at-risk people are likely to seek care. Sentinel surveillance is already used on a limited basis, but not in a way that can produce accurate national estimates."7
The District of Columbia should adopt a parallel sero-positive survey as recommended by the IOM and discontinue the partial SSN collection in the Department of Health's unique identifier. The District should encourage the CDC to adopt the IOM recommendations to promote HIV prevention and surveillance.
10. HIV Prevention
Prevention of HIV has been demonstrated through education and condom use and clean needle exchange. However, HAA support of education and condoms seems to be on the decline. Congress continues to prevent funding of a clean needle exchange program despite the clear benefits of the Prevention Works program and similar programs across the country.
Testing for HIV is the first step to HIV care and treatment. Increase in the use of the rapid test for HIV would help limit the significant number of people who do not return after two weeks to get their results. It should be safe and easy to get tested all over the city. Right now it is very difficult to figure out when and where you can get tested. This should change immediately through clarification of testing sites, better notification through web sites and call centers.
Use of innovative HIV prevention programs including the MPower program will improve the current programs. The National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health provides funding for innovative HIV prevention programs that develop safer sex norms in young people through community building. Other innovative programs needs to tried because current prevention programs no longer seem to be working.
Condoms have all but disappeared from the bars and clubs. Recently, condoms have become available in machines at just 6 bars. Condoms are not expensive. Commercially, 1000 Lifestyles non-lubricated latex condoms cost $70. 1000 Wet LightFoil water-based lube packs cost $140. We should be able to purchase condoms in bulk for far less.
GLAA spearheaded the condom availability project that led to an executive order in 1992 to make condoms availability in schools. Yet 10 years later, with an apparent rise in HIV infections among youth, students are limited to just one condom per month, if they are available at all. The Department of Health is responsible for HIV prevention efforts and controls the distribution of condoms in public schools through the nurses.
There is not one HIV prevention poster or brochure, and not one free condom or lube packet at the Income Maintenance Center where thousands of D.C.'s most vulnerable residents visit every week for food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and other survival services. When asked at a press conference in November why condoms weren't being made available at the Income Maintenance Center, Mr. Lewis replied that there wasn't any prevention material to distribute with the condoms, and in any event they didn't want to offend any of the religious groups that oppose condom distribution. In short, the 18-year old HAA doesn't have HIV prevention literature, and takes direction from religious groups instead of complying with District law and policy.
Syringe exchange programs (SEPs) have been shown by overwhelming evidence to be effective in preventing blood borne disease without encouraging increased drug use.8
The District estimates that 9,856 residents inject drugs.9 From 1996 to 2000, 31.3% of AIDS cases were diagnosed in heterosexuals with a history of injecting drug use (IDU). An additional 6.5% were diagnosed as related to IDU through sex or childbirth.10
In 1988, the U.S. Congress prohibited the use of all federal funds for SEPs. In 1992, D.C. created a SEP through a series of laws, principally sponsored by Councilmember Jack Evans. In 1998 the Congress imposed a budget rider prohibiting any local funds to be used for SEP, and threatened any organization that receives federal funding with loss of funds if they operate a SEP. Since then, this more onerous restriction has been lifted, and organizations that receive federal monies may contribute their own funds to SEPs as long as they segregate the funds. The prohibition against District funds being used for SEPs remains in place.
Prevention Works has been operating for the past five years without any governmental funding. While they do an outstanding job, much more could be done with an appropriate level of funding. GLAA expects elected officials to oppose the annual budget rider and be prepared to fully fund the Prevention Works SEP once the rider is lifted.
B. Legalizing Medical Marijuana
GLAA supports legalizing the medical use of marijuana when a patient's doctor recommends it to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, or other diseases. Initiative 59 passed by the voters by 69% and won in every voting precinct. The Council should oppose all federal attempts to block implementation of I-59 or limit access to medical marijuana. The Council should oppose any proposal to increase penalties against people who use medical marijuana or acquire it for their loved ones. The 1999 report Marijuana and Medicine by the IOM found clear benefits of marijuana for the relief of pain and nausea and the increase in appetite. While not a cure, marijuana's medicinal effects can significantly improve and prolong life. There is no reason to believe that legalizing medical marijuana in tightly controlled situations will encourage youth to engage in drug abuse. Alleviating pain and suffering must not be sacrificed to political posturing and demagoguery.
C. Women's Health Needs
There are many other medical issues of concern to our community. Lesbians are at particular risk of not having breast and cervical cancers diagnosed early, based on lack of access to and sensitivity of medical providers to lesbian sexuality issues. The city needs to make sure that its health centers are staffed with people who are aware of and sensitive to such issues. The needs of women with HIV/AIDS must similarly be provided for. The Women's Health Program Initiative is a good step forward in promoting women's health care. In addition to focusing on cancer prevention, screening and treatment, the Initiative addresses issues relating to diet, substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
D. Transgender Health Needs
Transgender people in D.C. are disproportionately poor and outside of our health care system. Incidence of HIV infection is greater than 25%. Prostitution is a not uncommon profession as discrimination and sex-transitioning keeps many transgender people out of stable employment. This is a serious HIV transmission vector that has been largely over looked, and down played by HAA because of the relatively small number of transgender people. HAA must make medical care for transgender people a priority. This will bring transgender people into the mainstream of medical care and access and greatly reduce a major HIV transmission vector.
Transgender people also face discrimination at shelters, in housing and in employment. Police routinely treat all transgender people as prostitutes. The spate of murders of transgender people9 in 2003has created fear among transgender people that has not been much eased by the official response. All of these problems have contributed to the further marginalization of transgender people, and limited their access and willingness to seek medical care. A comprehensive approach by the city is needed.
E. Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and Alcoholism
Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and Hepatitis B and C have begun to spread in this area and need to be aggressively stamped out before they become more entrenched within the population of people with HIV/AIDS and their medical care providers.
1. Medicaid Tuberculosis Optional Coverage Group
People who are HIV positive are at high risk for contracting tuberculosis infection; people with HIV are 40 times more likely to develop active, infectious tuberculosis if exposed to the contagion than are people with healthy immune systems. In 1994 the federal government began offering matching funds to states and territories to help them develop a limited Medicaid benefit for people who are infected with TB. The District should use these funds because current treatment is now funded by limited Ryan White or Alliance dollars. Also, these funds would be beneficial for keeping open the city's cash strapped TB/STD clinic, which serves as a major point of entry for people newly diagnosed with HIV into the city's health care system.
2. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
Alcohol and substance abuse remains a serious problem in the District and contribute to the spread of HIV and other diseases. Funding for programs focusing on alcoholism and other substance abuse specifically targeting gay people was introduced by David Catania and passed by the Council. GLAA supports continued funding of targeted substance abuse treatment programs.
F. Domestic Partnership Insurance Availability for Small Businesses
Many small businesses in the District have been unable to offer health insurance to the domestic partners of their employees because of the lack of insurance companies offering coverage to employers with less than 50 employees. In addition to putting small businesses at a disadvantage in attracting and retaining employees, the lack of access means that people who could have private insurance go uninsured. While D.C. has a low rate of uninsured, anyone without insurance eventually becomes a burden for the District.
On May 12, 2003, District Insurance Commissioner Lawrence Mirel secured an agreement from CareFirst Blue Cross to offer insurance coverage of domestic partner to employers who request it. Unfortunately, other insurers have not kept pace, limiting options for small employers. If other insurers do not extend domestic partner health insurance coverage to small businesses on their own, the District, as a minimum, should use its clout as a major customer to demand this coverage of those insurers wishing to do business with the city.
Additionally, the Council should pass legislation requiring insurance companies to extend domestic partner health insurance to all size businesses that request it for their employees.w
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PART III. HUMAN RIGHTS
A. Office of Human Rights
Considerable progress has been made in reducing the complaint backlog at the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) in the years since OHR regained its independence, in large part because its budget has been enhanced despite generally tight fiscal restraints. Much of the credit for improving OHR's operations and efficiency belongs to the Williams Administration for choosing three energetic and dedicated OHR Directors: Charles Holman III, Nadine Wilburn, and the incumbent, Kenneth Saunders. The Council can also claim credit for exercising vigorous oversight and sustaining OHR's budget, led first by Councilmember Kathy Patterson when she chaired the Government Operations Committee, and more lately by Councilmember Jim Graham in his capacity as chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee.
We are somewhat disappointed that the proposed Fiscal Year 2005 budget for OHR does not include any additional funding to underwrite further inroads into OHR's backlog. Although OHR's budget will nominally rise by nearly one-third, that entire increase is earmarked for implementing the newly passed Language Access Act. Director Saunders is confident that his administrative reforms will facilitate continued declines in OHR's caseload, and his performance to date provides grounds for optimism.11 The Council will have to maintain due diligence to ensure OHR's progress is not impeded, whether by inadequate funding, operational inefficiencies, or by the distraction of implementing the Language Access Act.
In this context we note that Council Chairman Linda Cropp has indicated that there will be a substantial overhaul of the Council's standing committees in 2005. In any reshuffling, we will insist that OHR be placed within the domain of a Committee chair who is as dedicated to human rights law enforcement as Councilmembers Patterson and Graham have proven to be.
B. Mayor's Order on Uniform Language in Anti-Discrimination Policies
In August 2000, Mayor Williams issued Mayor's Order 2000-131,12 requiring the use of uniform language in all anti-discrimination policies issued by District government agencies under his authority. GLAA had requested such an Order because several such policy statements published early in the Williams Administration had failed to list all the categories protected under the District's landmark Human Rights Act of 1977, omitting "sexual orientation" on more than one occasion. Councilmember Graham convened a pair of hearings on implementation of this Order in 2002 when it became clear that many agencies and departments were still unaware of its existence. These hearings were remarkably productive in prodding many parts of the District government to go beyond the narrow letter of the Order to embrace its spirit of strength through diversity.
At the time of those hearings, roughly half of all District government agencies and departments were in full compliance with the Mayor's Order. The Administration then issued a revised Order in October 2002 to reflect the Human Rights Act Amendment Act of 2002.13 The Council and OHR will have to renew their vigilance to ensure that the entire District government remains in or comes into compliance with the revised Order.
C. Honors for the Honorable
The Mayor's Office and the D.C. Council have not been remiss in issuing official proclamations and otherwise honoring dates, events, or individual contributions of importance to lesbians and gay men. Such honors and proclamations should of course be continued.
Unfortunately, our elected officials have sometimes been only too eager to honor people and organizations that are openly hostile to the gay and lesbian community. Some recent examples include:
- Mayor Williams and Council Chairman Cropp agreed in 2002 to serve as Celebrity Bell-Ringers to help raise funds for the Salvation Army, even though it has been in the vanguard of religious charities trying to receive unrestricted taxpayer dollars while ignoring state and local laws protecting gay men and women from arbitrary discrimination.
- The Mayor renominated, and the Council reconfirmed, a member of the Human Rights Commission who has been an open defender of the Boy Scouts of America's notorious exclusionary anti-gay policies.
- The Mayor appeared in person to greet the recent national convention of the Assembly of God, one of the most viciously homophobic religious groups in the country.
- One of the Mayor's former aides who served as his Religious Affairs liaison has come out publicly in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, indicating that the Mayor's office has not been screening their nominees for homophobia.
The excuse commonly given for extending honors to bigoted people and organizations is that they have been doing good for the community. But doing good in some respects does not confer a license to inflict harm in other activities. No such excuse would ever be offered for honoring notorious racists, and the same principle should be applied against extending honors to bigots of any description.w
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PART IV. DEFENDING OUR FAMILIES
A. Securing Equal Rights to Civil Marriage
As Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."14
According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, there are 1,138 rights, benefits, and privileges related to marriage under federal law.15 The District has no direct ability to affect federal law. But under our own laws, according to GLAA's research report, Marriage Law in the District of Columbia, there are 212 rights and responsibilities associated with marriage in D.C.16 We seek the right to marry as part of the full integration into American society that is our birthright. A policy of exclusion against same-sex couples amounts to red-lining the American dream and saying that "liberty and justice for all" does not apply to you if you're a member of an unpopular minority.
Gay families live in D.C. in higher numbers than most of the country. According to the Human Rights Campaign's analysis of data from the 2000 census, there are 3,678 same-sex partner households in the District of Columbia, which is a 66% increase from 1990. The District ranks first among the states in the percentage of coupled households that are gay or lesbian (5.14 percent).17 These families pay taxes, they are contributing members of their communities, and they deserve the same protections as their neighbors. Commitment and stability benefit not only the individuals involved, but society as a whole.
GLAA's strong support for equal civil marriage rights for gay citizens does not blind us to strategic considerations. This fight is not a sprint but a marathon. We have achieved remarkable success in changing public attitudes on the subject in recent years, but it will likely take many more years before the political climate changes sufficiently to prevent congressional demagogues from blocking same-sex marriages in the District.
In the meantime, GLAA supports incremental steps towards full and equal civil marriage. This includes making all applicable rights and responsibilities of marriage available through our domestic partnership program and recognizing legal marriages from other jurisdictions, described below.
B. Domestic Partnership
GLAA was instrumental in the codification of D.C.'s domestic partners law, called the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, which Congress finally allowed us to implement in 2002. As enhanced by a few additional laws, this program grants registered domestic partners the rights of hospital visitation, medical decision making, taking leave to care for a partner or a partner's children, decisions over disposition of a deceased partner's remains, protection under our domestic violence law, and the right of District government employees to purchase health insurance for their partners at their own expense. These protections are a matter of basic fairness and decency, and harm no one. Indeed, the harm would come by denying these protections to registered partners who are not permitted to marry.
For the sake of equity and until we achieve civil marriage equality, D.C. needs to provide all of the applicable rights and responsibilities of marriage to domestic partners, including paying health insurance premiums for domestic partners in the same fashion as for other family members. At the same time, domestic partnerships are not equivalent to marriage and should not be considered an acceptable substitute. Separate is inherently unequal.
C. Federal Marriage Amendment
GLAA deplores right-wing congressional efforts, supported by President Bush, to write gay families out of the U.S. Constitution by means of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). In the name of defending families, advocates of FMA would harm many actual families by denying them legal protections taken for granted by other citizens. No families are helped by attacking gay families or by making them strangers under the law.
We are gratified that the amendment appears headed for defeat, but we are mortified that our own former congressman, Rev. Walter Fauntroy, has played a leading role in support of it.18 We are saddened by the spectacle of him and other African American ministers trying to scapegoat gay people for the problems in straight people's families. As Colbert I. King recently wrote in The Washington Post, "Even as their churches become older and populated with mostly unmarried women, and small children living apart from their fathers, these ministers of the cloth have the unmitigated gall to rail against two people in love who want to get married and stay married."19
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) put it well in October 2003: "We hurt our fellow citizens and our community when we deny gay people civil marriage and its protections and responsibilities. Rather than divide and discriminate, let us come together and create one nation. We are all one people. We all live in the American house. We are all the American family. Let us recognize that the gay people living in our house share the same hopes, troubles, and dreams. It's time we treated them as equals, as family."20
D. Recognition of Legal Relationships from Other Jurisdictions
The regulation established to implement the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 failed to recognize domestic partnerships and similar legal structures created in other jurisdictions. It is prudent to extend full recognition to all such legal relationships. Those legal rights should not disappear in the District. The rights of hospital visitation and medical decision-making are as important to our visitors as to our residents.
Recognition of existing legal relationships also makes the District more attractive to potential residents. It demonstrates a recognition that we find their relationships valuable and worth supporting as a matter of public policy. At least four jurisdictions already recognize other partnerships: Cambridge, Massachusetts; Key West, Florida; Oakland, California; and West Hollywood, California. D.C. should do no less.
As with the issuance of marriage licenses, however, we must keep an eye on Congress. We advise the District not to take any actions which, by provoking congressional homophobes during an election year, would be likely to leave D.C.'s gay citizens worse off than they were before.
E. Right to Name Children
Parents should be free to choose any name for their child. Current law only allows the mother's name, the father's name, some combination of both, or a family name to be chosen when it is accompanied by an affidavit. Unfortunately, this creates a discriminatory situation for same-sex couples that don't share the same name.
Only D.C. and seven other states have this restriction. D.C. Council member Kathleen Patterson introduced legislation in November 2002 to grant parents complete freedom in choosing names, but it was defeated in a close vote. Parents must be provided wide latitude in the naming of their children, one of the most intimate decisions parents can make.w
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PART V. PUBLIC EDUCATION AND YOUTH
A. Anti-Harassment Policy in D.C. Public Schools
Responding to efforts spearheaded by GLAA, the D.C. Council made harassment an explicit form of illegal discrimination in employment and educational institutions. In a complimentary fashion, the D.C. School Board has amended school policies to prohibit harassment and sexual harassment.
The school policy is now being implemented. Administrators, teachers and students must all be reacquainted with the policy several times a year. The harassment and the policies need to be explained to students in a variety of ways such as assemblies, skits, role-playing and other verbal and written means. The support and promotion of training programs is vital to the well-being of all students and staff in our public schools.
The recent Congressional imposition of a voucher system to subsidize parochial and other private schools in the District of Columbia at taxpayers' expense was an egregious assault upon home rule, the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state, and the District's gay and lesbian community.
We are especially aggrieved that the voucher legislation was championed by some of our own elected officialsMayor Williams, Education Committee Chair Chavous, and School Board President Cafritzwho thereby shattered their own previous public promises to oppose vouchers for private schools.
District voters overwhelmingly rejected vouchers (89% to 11%) in the only public referendum on the voucher issue, in 1981. The gay and lesbian community was heavily opposed to vouchers then, and subsequent events have only underscored the rationale for our position.
Most if not all of the federal funds that will be used under the new voucher system will wind up in the hands of Roman Catholic and other religiously-affiliated schools. As recent headlines amply demonstrate, the rigidly homophobic Catholic hierarchy is giving their anti-gay agenda an increasingly higher priority.
Although religious schools receiving vouchers are forbidden from practicing racial discrimination, gay and lesbian students, teachers, and employees of voucher-subsidized Catholic or other religious schools will enjoy none of the anti-discrimination protections of the District's Human Rights Act. At the same time, all students at such schools will be subjected to relentlessly homophobic teachings and practices, while being told they must follow the political dictates of religious authorities without question or dissent.
The Religious Right has long dreamt of the destruction of America's "value-free" public schools so that all children will be forced into the clutches of religious extremists. The D.C. voucher system is an "experiment," all rightan experiment upon our liberties, the kind that our nation's Founders warned we must all resist. The next Congress should abolish the voucher program promptly. Meanwhile, D.C. voters must hold our own elected officials responsible for improving our common public schools.
C. Gay-Straight Alliances
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) are student-initiated organizations in schools. Currently in D.C., only Wilson High School has a GSA. One formed at Eastern Senior High School in the Fall of 2002, but it was thwarted by Principal Louis Sheppard in violation of D.C. Public School policy, the D.C. Human Right Act, and the federal Equal Access Act.
GSAs enrich a school's learning environment, help provide a safe and supportive climate for students, and foster tolerance among students. Teachers, administrators and public officials should encourage students to form GSAs and take action against officials who illegally interfere with GSAs in the public schools.
D. Sexual Education in D.C. Public Schools
1. Comprehensive Sexuality Education
The D.C. Board of Education rules mandate a comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual education program for all students including abstinence, anatomy, contraception, homosexuality, and discussion of the process of making personal decisions in matters of parenting and sexuality.21 This policy is consistent with studies showing that comprehensive sexual education delays first sexual activity and greatly raises contraceptive use when people become sexual active.
Unfortunately, this policy is not being implemented. Instead, a federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage education program is in our schools. While these programs similarly delay first-sexual activity, they also decrease contraceptive use by teenagers as they discourage all contraception use, especially condoms.22 The D.C. Department of Health has rejected a similar program.23 Sexually transmitted diseases and especially HIV disease are on the rise in youth. Denying them the basic information that they need to protect themselves is unconscionable.
According to the CDC, "Comprehensive school-based HIV and sex education programs have been shown to delay the initiation of sexual intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, reduce the number of sex partners, or increase the use of condoms or other contraceptives."24
The abstinence-only-until-marriage program also excludes gay youth. Given the current state of most marriage laws, this program consigns gay students to permanent, lifelong celibacy, which is unacceptable. The abstinence-only-until-marriage program must be ended, and the comprehensive sexual education program mandated by the D.C. Board of Education needs to be implemented.
2. Presentations by Outside Organizations
Outside organizations, such as the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), conduct training for students, teachers and administrators designed to reduce harassment in the schools. These groups should be welcomed by the schools and encouraged to make presentations.
3. School Libraries
School libraries should carry a wide range of books, including those that deal with homosexuality in a positive manner. Donated books by groups such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) should be welcomed as they have been and encouraged as a low-cost means of expanding the library holdings.
E. Condom Availability
The District established a program in 1992 to make condoms available to students in the public schools. This was widely hailed as a sound public health measure to reduce the spread of HIV, other STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Rates of HIV infection in youth were then and still are on the rise. Condoms should be available from the Department of Health through school nurses. Unfortunately, this program has fallen by the wayside. Condoms are available sporadically and without uniform guidelines. Many D.C. public high schools don't provide condoms at all, and others impose restrictions that deter students from seeking or using condoms. This program needs to be revitalized.
F. Ending Discrimination by the Boy Scouts against Gays
The Boy Scouts of America promotes discrimination against gay people. The Boy Scouts have won the court challenge to require them to conform to the D.C. Human Rights Act. Having fought for the dubious status of a discriminatory private club not unlike the Ku Klux Klan, the Boy Scouts' leaders now must live with that status or repudiate it.
The D.C. Government may not run or support programs that discriminate on any basis enumerated in the D.C. Human Rights Act. However, the D.C. Public Schools continues to illegally sponsor Boy Scout troops and provide special access and privileges the Boy Scouts. The D.C. Public Schools must immediately end the sponsorship of Boy Scout troops and end any special treatment offered to the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts should be allowed to use D.C. school and other government buildings after hours in the same manner that any other private group may. The Boy Scouts must not be allowed to recruit in our publicly funded schools as long as they insist on their right to discriminate, nor should any D.C. Government agency provide them with special access or other privileges.
G. Ending the United Way's Support of the Boy Scouts
The United Way of the National Capital Area has a requirement that any organization that participates in its fundraising campaign must have "a policy and practice of non-discrimination." The Boy Scouts of America has both a policy and practice of discrimination. The United Way continues to violate its own policy in order to support the Boy Scouts. The United Way must end their violation of their own policy and either admit that they are unconcerned about discrimination or enforce their policy and end their support of the Boy Scouts. To do otherwise is a deceptive fundraising practice that is incompatible with a trustworthy organization.w
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Part VI. OTHER ISSUES
A. Modernizing the Criminal Code
Over long intervals of time, statutory codes tend to become barnacle-encrusted, burdened with un-amended, un-repealed legal relics of the cultural imperatives and political issues of past eras, combined with evolutionary vestiges of the legal history of the jurisdiction. Laws remain on the books which are either unenforceable under the situations of the present, or are uniformly disregarded by citizenry and government alike and are often viewed as laughable. Cleanup and modernization become increasingly imperative, and eventually the task is undertaken, often over the resistance of traditionalists.
That is very much the situation in the District of Columbia. Our basic legal code originated around 1800 with the British-based colonial Maryland Code, was extensively revised by Congress in 1901, and has been amended, piecemeal, in the century since, leaving behind an array of archaic laws still on the books.
The Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2003, introduced by Councilmember Kathy Patterson, removed a number of anachronistic laws, including laws criminalizing fornication and adultery. These were leftovers inconsistent with the spirit and substance of the major revision of the District's laws on sexual offenses enacted in 1995.
Additionally, the D.C. Code criminalizes a body of vague and unspecified "common law" offenses, arising from ancient English court decisions and Parliamentary enactments, going back ostensibly at least to the time of Henry VIII. This is objectionable in that inadequate notice is provided or obtainable as to which these offenses are, no specification is provided consistent with the precision demanded by modern law as to the elements comprising these offenses, and the penalties for violations are not set out.
GLAA urged an amendment to the Elimination of Outdated Crimes Amendment Act of 2003 that would repeal the two common law provisions now in the Code. We also urged repeal of other provisions or clauses such as those criminalizing verbal solicitations for sexual acts once illegal but now no longer so. These provisions did not make it into the bill, but we expect that they will be included in a future bill. We were successful in adding a section that will prohibit ancient common law offenses, such as sodomy, from becoming reactivated as long as the triggering common law provisions of the D.C. Code remain on the books.
B. Proposed Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs
GLAA opposes the creation of an Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs, as continues to be urged by Wanda Alston, the Mayor's special assistant for GLBT Affairs. This is a solution in search of a problem that reverses forty years of political successes by the gay community by ghettoizing our concerns into one political office, instead of having gay people represented at all levels of government and in every department, agency and commission. The proposed office will result in the co-opting of the community's voice, and put it under the control of the Mayor. Gay people need to maintain effective and independent advocacy that cannot be subject to control by the government. The proposal of a commission, selected by the Mayor, will further isolate political dissent by putting an official and partisan imprimatur on the community's goals and needs.
The proposed office will also serve as a lightning rod for congressional interference on D.C. limited self-government. The likely rider to our budget prohibiting spending on this office will more than overtake the questionable benefits of the bill.
The similar existing offices of Latino and Asian affairs can be justified by the political and social marginalization in those communities caused by language and other barriers, and the consequent need for special efforts to ensure access to government services. The longstanding political influence and visibility of the District's gay community, and 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 not in the same situation as those ethnic minorities. The gay community itself is highly diverse, of course, and our recognition of that is reflected in our long history of being the leading defenders of all the non-discrimination categories in the D.C. Human Rights Act. What is needed is not a ghettoized office, but the same independent watchdog efforts in which GLAA specializes. The head of an Office of GLBT issues who is appointed and paid by the Mayor will serve the Mayor's interests first, as has been amply demonstrated by the current liaison. We see no reason why more of the District's limited resources should be devoted to that inherently compromised position by raising it to the level of an office. The Council should reject this proposal and the Mayor should veto it should it pass.
Service agencies, as opposed to political offices, such as the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department, are another matter. Agencies and Departments of the government that can provide specialized services such as police investigations or health care would be welcomed. There are of course no gay ways to pave a road, collect trash, or any number of governmental services.
C. Defending Adult Entertainment
When Councilmember Sharon Ambrose's massive Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) reform bill became law on May 3, 2001 (Act 13-603), it included a victory for members of our community and others who enjoy adult entertainment. Existing clubs that offer nude dancing are once again able to sell or transfer their licenses, relocate within the same commercial zoning area or move to the downtown area. The moralistic demagoguery of Councilmember Harold Brazil, and the blatant misrepresentations by some elements of the press, had forced an unusual reconsideration of the already-passed bill in January 2001. While GLAA remains committed to an outright repeal of the moratorium on new ABC-licensed establishments that feature nude dancing, we agreed to a compromise because without it, the existing clubs would eventually have been eliminated through attrition, business failure, and redevelopment. We appreciate the fortitude of Sharon Ambrose and the majority of councilmembers who stood with us and saw the measure through to a successful result.
We are also pleased that the unconstitutional regulation that would make sex and simulated sex illegal in establishments with liquor licenses was rejected. Prohibited activities would include suggestive scenes in theaters and private consensual acts in hotel rooms. The regulation 905 was pushed on D.C. by the ABC Board despite a lack of legal authority to go beyond implementation of the 2001 ABC reform law, or legal authority to be a policing agency. Sharon Ambrose and the D.C. Council rejected this regulation at GLAA's urging.
We will continue to insist that our leaders defend the District's diverse nightlife against those who would impose their personal moral views on the rest of the citizens and visitors to this international and cosmopolitan city.
D. Freedom of Speech on Metro
In 1978, D.C.'s Gay Activists Alliance, as we were then known, launched a PSA campaign to place ads in Metro buses proclaiming "Someone in Your Life is Gay." The ads were rejected by Metro. In 1979, GAA filed a lawsuit that succeeded in forcing Metro to run the ads. In the decades since then, Whitman-Walker Clinic, PFLAG, and other groups have run PSAs on Metro that, while disturbing some people, have raised and discussed important issues, including safer sex practices, protecting gay youth, and medical marijuana. However, earlier this year, Metro adopted a new policy ending the provision of PSAs to nonprofit groups. GLAA believes that this is a misguided and antidemocratic approach to public policy.
Almost two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson put it well in a statement on academic freedom at the University of Virginia, in a letter he wrote to William Roscoe in 1820: "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is free to combat it." More recently, Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that no one may be forced to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance: "Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom."25
We recognize that so-called "ex-Gay" groups have taken advantage of Metro's former PSA policy as well. Freedom of speech means nothing if it does not mean the right of people to say things that offend us. GLAA believes that the wisest course, both politically and ethically, is to practice the tolerance we are preaching and respond to hateful speech with speech of our own. Attempts at suppression are reminiscent of Salt Lake City authorities abolishing all student groups in order to avoid a Gay-Straight Alliance. We call upon Metro to reverse its ill-advised policy and to allow nonprofit organizations once again to receive PSA advertising space upon Metro.w
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1 Philip K. Eure, Testimony on Fiscal Year 2005 Budget, D.C. Office of Citizen Complaint Review, March 30, 2004,
2 Guy Weston, Fern Johnson-Clark, Kompan Ngamsnga, "AIDS Incidence in 41 U.S. Cities," HIV/AIDS Administration, D.C. Department of Health, July 30, 2003
3 "FY 2005 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan," Government of the District of Columbia,
4 D.C. Code Section 2-536.10(b)
5 Patricia L. Fleming, Ph.D., M.S., et al., "Guidelines for National Human Immunodeficiency Virus Case Surveillance, Including Monitoring for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, December 10, 1999 / 48(RR13);1-28;
6 Daniel Klein, et al., "Review of Medical Encounters in the 5 Years Before a Diagnosis of HIV-1 Infection: Implications for Early Detection," Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 32(2):143-152, February 1, 2003,
7 Monica S. Ruiz, et. al., editors, "No Time to Lose: Getting More from HIV Prevention," National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001,
8 "Evidence-Based Findings on the Efficacy of Syringe Exchange Programs: An Analysis from the Assistant Secretary for Health and Surgeon General of the Scientific Research Completed Since April 1998," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 17, 2000,
9 "District of Columbia HIV Prevention Two Year Plan 2003 - 2004," HIV/AIDS Administration, D.C. Department of Health, and The HIV Prevention Community Planning Group, updated September 2003, p. 2.8
10 Ibid. p. 9.9
11 Kenneth Saunders, Testimony on Fiscal Year 2005 Budget, D.C. Office of Human Rights, April 5, 2004,
12 Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Mayor's Order 2000-131, August 21, 2000,
13 Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Mayor's Order 2002-175, October 23, 2002,
14 Loving v. Virginia, 388 US 1 (1967)
15 Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report, U.S. General Accounting Office, January 23, 2004,
16 Marriage Law in the District of Columbia, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, December 2003,
17 Gay and Lesbian Families in the United States: Same-Sex Unmarried Partner Households, Human Rights Campaign, August 22, 2001,
18 Alliance for Marriage, official website,
19 Colbert I. King, "'Fix It, Brother,'" The Washington Post, Saturday, May 22, 2004,
20 John Lewis, "At a crossroads on gay unions," The Boston Globe, October 25, 2003,
21 DCMR Title 5, Section 2305
22 Peter Bearman and Hannah Brückner, "After the Promise: The long-term consequences of adolescent virginity pledges," National STD Conference, March 9, 2004,
23 James A. Buford, letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, D.C. Department of Health, June 13, 2003,
24 "Combating Complacency in HIV Prevention," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, July 24, 1998,
25 West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 US 624 (1943),