Responses of Vincent Gray 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, I support funding for mandatory GLBT sensitivity and diversity training as part of the basic operation of the Fire/EMS Department. Similar to my experience as the former Director of the Department of Human Services, I understand the importance of making our fire and EMS department workers both sensitive and competent in delivering services to all of our citizens without exception. The protection and basic safety of its citizens is a government first responsibility. Additionally, I am firmly committed to the implementation and full funding of the Tyra Hunter Diversity Training Series.
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?
Homophobia and transphobia have no place in our city. No government official who espouses or supports such views should be employed by the District of Columbia. As Chair, I will work with the Mayor to ensure that all appointments, including the Fire/EMS Chief, respect the human rights of all our citizens.
3. Will you support a budget for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to continue to avoid developing a backlog of cases?
Yes. Justice should always be swift and efficient. It is not acceptable for any citizen to have to wait for a prolonged period of time to have their case heard and decided. As a member of the Council, I have voted for increases to the Office of Police Complaints and will continue to lead such efforts as Chair.
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 oppose any legislation that stereotypes or denies basic civil rights to any of our citizens. Equally important, I will work with the transgender community to ensure that there are also greater economic opportunities created in our city so that its members are not forced into prostitution due to continued discrimination in our society. I support the recent effort of the Office of LGBT Affairs to meet that goal.
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. Counseling and referral to treatment, where it is necessary, are the basic hallmarks of a good public strategy to stem the tide of HIV. As a member of the Health Committee and former executive director of Covenant House, I have been a strong supporter of HIV testing programs. These programs, however, work best when an individual is given the appropriate counseling. If the person is HIV-negative then s/he should be linked to prevention services that will support their behavior to remain so. If the person is HIV-positive, then s/he should be directly linked to health care and prevention services to preserve health and reduce risky behavior.
6. Are you committed to continuing and expanding the District’s condom distribution program?
Yes. HIV is one of our city's leading health crises. Condoms are an effective and scientifically proven method of reducing the risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. I support all efforts to make them more widely available and will continue to do so. HIV is particularly devastating to our young men and women and is one of the District's leading causes of early death. I believe that we must support not only condom distribution, but also sexual health education that especially will help our young people make decisions that will keep them healthy.
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 support strong enforcement of federal HIPAA laws and other health privacy laws. I will work with the community to strengthen these laws where warranted. District Government employees who violate confidentiality or privacy regulations should be terminated. Contractors should adhere to these same standards. Additionally, I will work to strengthen our contractors' obligations and procedures to protect the privacy of our citizens seeking care while also protecting our social service and health care agencies from increases in medical liability which could drive these much needed agencies out of business.
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. As a member of the Council, I have supported budget increases to OHR greater than the mayor's request so that we can meet this goal. Nine months is more than a sufficient standard by which to issue a finding of probable cause. As Chairman, I will continue to work with my colleagues to establish this as a priority.
9. Will you block ceremonial resolutions and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry?
Yes. I do not believe that we should issue ceremonial resolutions that do not have the full consent of the Council nor should we honor bigotry in any way.
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 was an original co-sponsor of the D.C. Human Rights Expansion Act which added protection of gender identity and expression to our city code. As Chairman, I will work with GLAA to ensure the proper enforcement of this Act, especially at the MPD, Fire/EMS, Health and Corrections Departments and in our public schools.
Marriage and Family
11. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Yes. Unfortunately, the District of Columbia Government and its Citizens do not have the final say on the legal recognition of marriage between partners of the same sex in the District of Columbia. As Chairman, I will work with my colleagues, GLAA and other GLBT advocates to determine the best course of action to achieve equality for GLBT relationships.
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. I was a cosponsor of the Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2006 which extended such rights as spousal immunity, inheritance, spousal support and survival benefits to gay and lesbian couples. I will continue to work towards fairness and equality.
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 on the issue of marriage itself 1 will work with my colleagues, GLAA and other GLBT advocates to determine the best course of action. While it is important to recognize the legal rights of those from other jurisdictions who may move here, my first priority is to protect the rights and the legislative actions of the citizens of the District of Columbia.
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 do not believe that District of Columbia dollars should benefit any institution that does not accept the D.C. Human Rights Act or any of our laws. I am particularly committed to the D.C. Public Schools and their improvement. I am a K-12 graduate of DCPS and my wife, Loretta, served as a public school educator until her death in 1998. As to the Federal Government, as Chair 1 will continue to urge that dollars be invested in our local public schools and youth opportunity 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. HIV is especially prevalent among black, gay youth and young adult men in the District. Abstinence-only-until-marriage education sends a confusing message to GLBT youth who are not able to get married under current law. As a member of the Council, I have introduced and supported measures to improve our health care services and prevention programs in the District. As Chair, this will be one of my priorities, along with giving students the tools they need to succeed in our public school - teaching young people to be both sexually healthy and intellectually healthy are both essential if our City is reach its full potential.
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. As Chair, I will continue to support and work for a fair solution to this situation.
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. While protecting the rights of our citizens to maintain their neighborhoods, we also need to push for a more business friendly environment in our city where the rules are well understood and the processes for licensing are efficient.
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?
As a cosponsor of the Bill along with 12 of my 13 colleagues, I understand the concerns of parents and other citizens towards the dissemination of obscene and violent video games to young people in our society. As the founding Executive Director of Covenant House Washington and Chair of the Council Special Committee to Prevent Youth Violence, I have been especially focused on these issues and have listened to the concerns expressed across our city. However, I do understand the constitutional concerns that have been raised by GLAA and other advocates and as Chair, will work toward a viable legislative solution.
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.