Responses of David A. Catania to GLAA 2006 Questionnaire
for DC Council Candidates
1. Will you support funding for mandatory gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) sensitivity and diversity training for all members of the Fire/EMS Department?
Yes. Currently, sensitivity training is only given to new Fire/EMS employees. Moreover, GLBT issues constitute only a segment of the training. This is clearly inadequate. I support requiring mandatory GLBT sensitivity training for all Fire/EMS employees. All residents deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by our first responders, especially when they are in difficult and stressful situations.
2. Will you call on the new Mayor to appoint a new Fire/EMS Department Chief who is committed to rooting out the Department’s deeply entrenched homophobia and transphobia?
Yes. The incidents involving Tyra Hunter and Kenda Kirby illustrate the importance of this training. As part of the “Budget Support Act for Fiscal Year 2001,” I authored the "District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department Tyra Hunter Investigation and Report Act of 2000." The legislation required the Fire and EMS Department to produce a report which included the following: 1) the names of all the employees who withheld care at the scene of the incident; 2) the reasons why disciplinary action was not taken against the employees who withheld care; 3) the individual(s) responsible for failing to initiate disciplinary action; 4) the steps being taken to avoid similar incidents in the future; and 5) the actions that would be taken were such an incident to occur in the future. This report was presented to the Council on February 14, 2001. Following the issuance of the report, Chief Few made a commitment to me that he would institute mandatory sensitivity and diversity training.
I am disappointed that 5 years after the 2001 report, we still don’t have what I consider to be a true sensitivity and diversity training program for DC FEMS employees. As already mentioned, diversity training is currently only provided to new employees. And, although a section of the two-day diversity training addresses the question “What is homophobia?” DC Fire/EMS does not require sensitivity training aimed strictly for the GLBT community.
3. Will you support a budget for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to continue to avoid developing a backlog of cases?
Yes. I support funding for the Office of Police Complaints in a manner sufficient enough for it to accomplish its mission. I have enthusiastically supported the previous budget increases for the Office. I believe that if our human rights' laws are to have real meaning, there must be timely processing and follow-up of complaints.
4. Will you oppose legislation creating so-called “prostitution-free zones,” which would give the police, who routinely assume that every transgendered person is a prostitute until proven otherwise, virtually unlimited power to harass our transgendered residents?
Empowering and protecting transgendered individuals are very important policy goals of mine. In the first two budgets after I became Chair of the Council’s Committee on Health, I proposed (and the Council approved) appropriations of $150,000 and $100,000 respectively to Transgendered Health Empowerment. These dollars were used to expand the organization’s client support services. These appropriations were historic in so much as they represented the first budget line-item to the transgendered community in the District. In addition, I recently helped sponsor the District’s first-ever transgendered job fair in order to develop awareness and employment opportunities for this population. At my direction, the job fair was focused on employment opportunities in the District’s Department of Health. I believe that in order to adequately address the health needs of transgendered individuals our department must employ members of this population.
My support or opposition to legislation creating prostitution-free zones will ultimately depend on what protections are included for transgendered individuals. I will oppose prostitution-free zones which allow for arrests to be made based solely on appearance. However, I can and have supported legislation to create “prostitution-free zones” that permit arrests based on probable cause.
AIDS and Public Health
5. Do you agree that the drive to make HIV testing routine among District residents should include funding for counseling and referrals to treatment facilities for those testing positive?
Yes. Reversing the District’s HIV/AIDS epidemic must be among the top priorities of any elected city official. When I became the Chair of the Committee on Health, the District's HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) was dysfunctional on nearly every level. HAA was unable to pay its providers, failed to monitor grants and lacked the infrastructure to track and prevent this disease. I undertook an unprecedented series of oversight hearings on all aspects of HAA. My attention led to new leadership and the development of a rapid payment plan for service providers. Moreover, I have worked tirelessly to support community organizations that provide counseling, treatment, and transitional housing to HIV/AIDS patients. While there is much work to be done, HAA, now called the Administration for HIV Policy and Programs (AHPP), has noticeably improved in its mission to stop the spread of the disease in the District. According to D.C. Appleseed Center, my efforts “played a large and important role in improving the District's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
6. Are you committed to continuing and expanding the District’s condom distribution program?
Yes. Condoms are cheap and effective and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. As the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Health, I support expanding condom distribution programs. In fact, as part of the FY 2007 budget, I included $50,000 for the purchase of condoms in the D.C. Jail – a long overdue and much needed public health service.
7. The District is being forced by the federal government to switch from a unique identifier system to a names reporting system for people testing positive for HIV. Will you support legislation to strengthen our medical privacy laws, such as by creating a private right of action for those whose confidentiality is violated by District government employees or contractors?
Yes. Since I joined the Council, I have been on the public record in vocal opposition to a names based reporting system. I believed then, as I do now, that this type of reporting discourages individuals from being tested. Moreover, I am extremely concerned about the possibility of the Bush Administration obtaining names and personal information of gays and lesbians living with HIV/AIDS. However, recently the federal government threatened to revoke the District’s Ryan White funding if we do not implement a names based reporting system. Therefore, I support all measures to ensure that patient information is kept strictly confidential and that the accidental and deliberate release of such information is met with stiff penalties. To this end, I have participated in meetings with community stakeholders on how we should go forward. I stand ready to introduce legislation pursuant to their recommendations.
8. Will you support a budget for the Office of Human Rights (OHR) large enough to allow it to reduce to 270 days the average gap between the time that a discrimination complaint is filed and the time OHR issues a finding of probable cause?
Yes. I support funding for the Office of Human Rights in a manner sufficient for it to accomplish its mission. In the past, I have enthusiastically supported budget increases for OHR because discrimination complaints must be processed in a timely manner if our human rights laws are to have real meaning.
9. Will you block ceremonial resolutions and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry?
Yes. I will not co-sponsor or participate in any ceremony honoring individuals or organizations that publicly support discrimination of any kind.
10. Are you committed to publicizing and enforcing the provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression?
Yes. I co-sponsored and joined my colleagues in passing the “Human Rights Clarification Amendment Act of 2005,” which amended the “Human Rights Act of 1977” to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression. I am committed to working with the Office of Human Rights and the community in publicizing and enforcing the provisions of this law. My work on behalf of our transgendered population demonstrates my intent to combat discrimination.
Marriage and Family
11. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
12. Will you support legislation in the District to continue expanding the existing domestic partnership program to include all relevant rights and responsibilities of marriage in D.C. law?
Yes. While I strongly support legalizing marriage between partners of the same sex, the District’s unique status means that we must be mindful of the potential for Congressional meddling on this issue. A single, comprehensive bill would likely invite such interference. With that said, I have worked hard to expand the legal rights of domestic partners. My record in this area includes the following:
- I co-sponsored the “Domestic Partnership Equality Act of 2006,” which granted domestic partners similar rights and responsibilities currently held by spousal couples in the areas of spousal immunity, inheritance, surviving spouses and children, spousal support, and public assistance.
- I co-sponsored and voted for the “Health Care Benefits Expansion Amendment Act of 2006,” which allowed District domestic partner and his or her family member(s) to match the amount paid by employees in spousal relationships.
- I supported the “Domestic Partner Health Care Benefits Tax Exemption Act of 2005,” which allows the domestic partners of District Government employees to exempt the city’s contribution to their health insurance from their taxable income.
- As part of the "Fiscal Year 2002 Budget Support Act", I authored a change to the "Funeral Services Regulatory Amendment Act of 2001," which placed domestic partners the right to control the disposition of the remains of a deceased person, the ability to determine the location and conditions of interment, and the authority to make arrangements for funeral goods and services.
13. Will you support the legislative and/or regulatory changes necessary to ensure that the District recognizes civil unions, domestic partnerships and similar legal relationships established in other jurisdictions?
Public Education and Youth
14. Do you oppose both federal and local voucher programs that fund students in religious schools that are beyond the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act?
15. Do you oppose the use of either federal or District taxpayer funds to promote “abstinence only until marriage” sex education that undermines safer-sex programs by discouraging the use of condoms and that effectively tells gay and lesbian students that they must remain celibate forever because they may not legally marry?
“Abstinence only until marriage” education is not sex education. Such programs are a recipe for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. As the Chair of the Committee on Health, I have worked hard on the issue of school-based health. As part of this year’s budget process, I was able to obtain over $7 million additional federal dollars to provide healthcare services in our schools. Beginning this year, we will double the number of schools with full nursing coverage from 63 to 128 schools. Similarly, we will increase the number of schools with mental health professionals from 25 to 46. And, due to my insistence, we are developing an age appropriate and culturally sensitive school health curriculum including HIV/AIDS education. We have to equip our children with the resources and knowledge to protect their health. To this end, I included $400,000 in the FY 2007 budget for HIV/AIDS services targeted for youth of color.
Consumers and Businesses
16. Do you support the relocation of the many gay bars and businesses that were displaced by the new ballpark, even if local NIMBYs and homophobes oppose them?
Yes. I have met with past and present members of the GLAA leadership as well as affected business owners to discuss the relocation of these businesses. At the time of these meetings, I offered to be of assistance where possible.
17. Will you support legislation to curb the abuses of NIMBYs who are now allowed to file an endless series of baseless complaints to harass or extort bars and restaurants?
Yes. As a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, I strongly support community involvement in decisions that affect their neighborhoods. However, I do not support the abuse of our regulatory processes (such as zoning and alcohol and beverage regulations).
18. Do you oppose the Youth Protection from Obscene Video Games Act (B16-0125), a clone of other laws that have consistently been struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds?
The bill, as proposed, is a work-in-progress and is currently being revised. When it was brought before the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, I asked that it be withdrawn based on my concerns about its constitutionality. My staff is currently working to address these concerns. My ultimate support will depend on whether or not the constitutionality issues have been addressed.
Your record is part of your rating. Please list any actions that you have taken that may help illustrate your record on behalf of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders.
Since becoming member of the Council in 1997, I have worked hard on behalf of issues important to the GLBT community. I have consistently fought for equal rights and benefits for this community. Similarly, I have vociferously opposed efforts to deny or rollback these rights and benefits. In fact, in an act of great personal significance, I left the Republican Party in September 2004 because of its support for a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In August of that year, I endorsed John Kerry and campaigned on his behalf in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee. Beyond this very public rebuke of an anti-gay agenda, I have worked on many issues which are lower in profile, but which are very important for the advancement of a tolerant city. In addition to the accomplishments already mentioned in this survey, my record includes:
- I fought for the removal of Congressional riders regarding domestic partnership, medical marijuana, needle exchange, Boy Scouts, adoption, and voting representation.
- In October 2000, as a Member of the WMATA Board of Directors, I authored the proposal for a domestic partnership program, which was approved in 2001. This proposal extends domestic partnership benefits, including family leave, to WMATA's 10,000-plus employees.
- In both 2005 and 2006, I helped secure millions for the Whitman Walker Clinic at a time when a financial crisis was threatening its survivals. In doing so, I helped preserve HIV/AIDS services, substance abuse services and transitional housing for the GLBT community.
- In the first budget since assuming the Chair of the Health Committee, I earmarked $500,000 for Food & Friends to provide nutritional services to people living with HIV/AIDS. I also specifically directed substantial resources for HIV/AIDS services for people of color and East of the River initiatives.
- I was instrumental in changing the HIV/AIDS testing policy at the D.C. Jail from “Opt in” to automatic testing and providing counseling and treatment to positive individuals. In the first month alone, we learned that more than 1 in 20 inmates were infected with the virus.
- To address certain inequalities in health care access and treatment, I worked to establish the Women’s Health Program Initiative (WHPI) within the Department of Health. The purpose of the WHPI is to serve as an advocate for women's health issues, such as: diet, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and cervical, breast and ovarian cancer prevention, screening and treatment. In addition to its creation, I helped make certain that its advisory committee contained open lesbians in order to help ensure that lesbian health issues were addressed as well.
- In addition to helping secure important federal resources for the Citizen Complaint Review Board, I have been vigilant in supporting its subsequent budgets.
- I established a partnership between AHPP and George Washington University to bolster the agency’s epidemiological data and research division.
- I played a major role in the ouster of the previous healthcare provider at the D.C. Jail and the selection of Unity Healthcare to be the new provider. This will provide greater connectivity between the health services inmates receive while in jail and those available to them when they return to their community.