Responses of Mary Cheh 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. There has been and remains a serious level of insensitivity within the Fire/EMS Department. Mandatory GLBT sensitivity training is needed not only to counter the ignorance and hostility in the Department but to be a clear expression that the Department itself will not tolerate it.
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. I have called for the replacement of the current Chief because I believe he is not an effective leader overall, and he has not been a leader on this issue either. I will only approve of a new Chief who commits to running a Department energetically, effectively, and free of all bias and discrimination, including ridding the Department of homophobia and transphobia.
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 think that, over the past two years, the Office has made significant progress and has produced quality work, and it should have a budget to continue its timely good work.
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?
Yes. I am not familiar with the rationale for creating such zones, but, if prostitution is unlawful, then it is unlawful. At the same time, I don’t know that the absence of such legislation will protect transgendered persons from improper harassment. Therefore, and again, the objective is to have police trained and acting properly.
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. We need a multi-prong and aggressive strategy to deal with our HIV/AIDS rate of infection. While testing is a major piece, there must be follow-up in the form of counseling and treatment. Another piece, of course, is education and we need to be vigilant in educating sexually active youth and adults, with continual reminders lest a fatigue factor lessens vigilance.
6. Are you committed to continuing and expanding the District’s condom distribution program?
Yes. We have clear evidence of the effectiveness of condoms and the urgency is to make them available.
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. I understand the need to protect privacy and will look for suggestions for strengthening protection of personal medical data. Whether this includes a private cause of action will depend on the precise terms of the legislation. For example, it may be too harsh to permit damages against an individual employee in his or her personal capacity regardless of the circumstances.
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. Action on discrimination complaints should be professional, reliable, and performed within a reasonable time. The 270 day benchmark between complaint and a finding of probable cause should be the budgeted-for goal.
9. Will you block ceremonial resolutions and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry?
Absolutely…..the Council should have no business lauding those who promote bigotry.
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. We should be a welcoming and inclusive community and not only publicize that fact, but celebrate it.
Marriage and Family
11. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Yes. I think that securing equal rights for GLBT members of the community is the great civil rights issue of our time. There must be equal rights across the board. And that is not only my political position, but it is my judgment as a constitutional law teacher as well. And the fact that members of the U.S. Supreme Court may disagree does not diminish the force of the legal arguments in favor of that position, which I believe will prevail one day.
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. See my position above.
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?
Yes, as above.
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?
Yes. I oppose voucher programs.
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?
Yes. The abstinence only programs are simply ideology masquerading as education. I believe that young people need a comprehensive understanding of safe sex practices.
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. D.C. law requires that the City help displaced businesses forced to relocate because of the exercise of eminent domain. That was the case with the businesses affected by the plans for the new stadium. These adult businesses have proven to be economically viable and helping them relocate should include adjusting zoning laws so that they have a place to operate.
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. Precisely what needs to be done is not clear to me at this time, but abuse of process is a serious problem in many areas and, if that is what is going on here, there should be some models available to curb it.
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?
Yes. I am a vigorous defender of first amendment values and stand with you and the ACLU (as a member and a citizen) on this.
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.
As mentioned in my questionnaire, I am a professor of constitutional law. At GW Law, where I teach, I led the effort over 15 years ago to change the anti-discrimination policy at the university to include sexual orientation. The effort met considerable resistance and the fight took about two years. I was also a forceful supporter of GW Law’s joining the FAIR litigation to challenge the federal government’s policy of cutting off funds to universities that prohibited groups that discriminated (the military) from interviewing on campus. (As you know, we lost). I have tried to support the GLBT community at GW by attending events and offering advice and assistance to those who needed it. I have been a member of PFLAG for years.
Professionally I am known as a strong defender of civil rights and civil liberties, both in my writings, participation in conferences and symposia, and in community activities. For example, I serve on the Board of the National Institute of Military Justice and was a Commissioner on the Cox Commission examining the Uniform Code of Military Justice at 50 years. I have been a voice to change military policy on sexual offenses and discrimination. I’m also a card carrying member of the ACLU, have served on the local board, and am currently vice chair of the Litigation Screening Committee.