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GLAA urges Council to oppose ill-advised Office of GLBT Affairs Act
|Sent:||Monday, October 31, 2005 11:52 PM|
|Subject:||Please oppose Bill 16-235, Office of GLBT Affairs Act|
We urge you to vote against Bill 16-235, the Office of GLBT Affairs Act of 2005, and to oppose its inclusion on the consent agenda when it comes before the Council on November 1. Our testimony on the bill, which was presented by my colleague Bob Summersgill on July 7, is copied in full below, but here are some key points:
WHY DOES GLAA OPPOSE LEGISLATION
CREATING A PERMANENT OFFICE OF GLBT AFFAIRS?
- The Office would owe its first & overriding loyalty not to the
GLBT community, but to the incumbent Mayor. Exhibit A: Gay
activist Peter Rosenstein was fired from the Mayor's GLBT
"advisory" committee earlier this year when he prematurely
switched his allegiance from Tony Williams to Adrian Fenty.
Only blind loyalists need apply!
- The Office would have no laws or regulations to enforce on
its own but instead would function purely as a taxpayer-funded
arm of the incumbent's political machine. Comparing this
office to the Office of Latino Affairs or similar agencies serving
disadvantaged minority communities is therefore grossly
- The GLBT community already is well-represented at all levels
of the District government. David Catania, Jim Graham, Robert
Spagnoletti, numerous ANC Commissioners -- we don't just have
a seat at the table, we have our own booth.
- Community interests are best defended by independent
advocates. GLAA, for example, has offered independent
advocacy on behalf of the GLBT community for decades.
We have testified on more than a dozen bills this year alone
and have long participated in the Council's annual oversight
and budget hearings. We were the first to call for the
re-establishment of an independent Office of Human Rights
and for the creation of a separate Council Committee on
Health. If it ain't broke....
- The Office would ignore if not blunt any criticism of the
incumbent Mayor's administration and his or her appointees.
HAA was a dysfunctional agency for years, yet the Office never
played any role in addressing its deeply-rooted problems.
Mayor Williams has only recently begun to heed the alarms
sounded by independent groups like GLAA and the Appleseed
Center, which were amplified by the refreshing and long-overdue
oversight efforts of the Committee on Health.
- Creating an Office of GLBT Affairs would set an unwise precedent for upgrading other parts of the Office of Community Affairs to Cabinet status. How could the Council reject calls for the creation of an Office of Religious Affairs, an Office of Labor Affairs, an Office of Business Affairs, etc. -- just to enhance the re-election prospects of the incumbent mayor and his or her political allies?
We understand that Councilmember Graham feels strongly about this bill, but so do we. Our opposition is to the bill, not to him personally. Jim is a longtime GLAA member who has received our Distinguished Service Award, and deservedly so. But even friends have their disagreements. As always, GLAA has offered detailed arguments. If our arguments are wrong, they deserve to be refuted with better arguments, not merely dismissed with rhetoric.
We have yet to see the need demonstrated for which this bill is the cure. Our community is long past needing a publicly subsidized political patronage office for our self-validation as gay people. Indeed, separatism and special rights are two things that our community has argued against for more than 40 years. Give us equality -- in both rights and responsibilities -- not pandering.
We are happy to note that other bills in this Council session, such as the Human Rights Clarification Amendment Act and the Domestic Partnership Equality Act, enjoy unanimous support in the Council. We were proud to lend our own efforts in support of them. Surely we can all afford to deal soberly with each bill on its own merits.
Thank you for your consideration, and for your collaboration with us during such a busy Council session.
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance