GLAA urges Catania to demand reform on respect for diversity at Fire/EMS
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GLAA on Public Safety

GLAA urges Catania to demand reform on respect for diversity at Fire/EMS

GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
(202) 667-5139

February 10, 2006


The Honorable David Catania
Council of the District of Columbia
Room 110
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear David:

The Committee on the Judiciary will hold its annual oversight and performance hearing next Monday, February 13, for the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Since you are a member of the Judiciary Committee, we are asking you to question Fire/EMS officials closely about apparent shortcomings in the Department’s Tyra Hunter Diversity Training Program.

You wrote Fire/EMS Chief Adrian H. Thompson last November 9 seeking information on this program, and Chief Thompson replied with extensive documentation on November 30. You were kind enough to share Chief Thompson’s response with us.

We were frankly surprised and distressed to see how little attention is paid to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community in the documents provided by Chief Thompson. The Department uses language mandated by the Mayor’s Order 2002-175 in describing its non-discrimination policy, including a ban on discrimination on the basis of personal appearance and sexual orientation. But that is the last time our community’s existence is even mentioned in the entire Tyra Hunter Diversity Training Program.

The Department has racked up a notoriously poor record in dealing with members of the District’s GLBT community over the past decade, beginning with its grotesque mistreatment of the late Tyra Hunter in August 1995 and extending right up to the recent past with its thorough-going abuse of Kenda Kirby. Obviously much more attention needs to be given to training Fire/EMS staffers at every level in treating members of our community, whether employees or members of the public, with honor and respect.

When the Department renamed its diversity program in honor of Tyra Hunter a few years ago, we took it as a hopeful sign that the Department was finally beginning to deal with homophobia and transphobia within its own ranks. When Ms. Kirby was subsequently hired by the Department, we took it as further evidence that the Department was serious about expanding its efforts to improve relations with our community. But Ms. Kirby was instead hounded and harassed throughout her too-brief tenure and was then dismissed, prompting her to bring legal action against the Department, a dispute which remains to be resolved in the courts.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Ms. Kirby’s complaint, our GLBT community has certainly been victimized by the Department’s failure to exorcize its demons. Renaming a human diversity program after Tyra Hunter and then refusing to deal with issues contributing to the Department’s mistreatment of the GLBT community turns out to have been a cruel hoax perpetrated in her name.

We hope you and your colleagues on the Judiciary Committee will take advantage of next Monday’s hearings to press for some quick remedial action by Chief Thompson and his aides.


Sincerely,

Christopher L. Neff
President

Cc: Councilmember Phil Mendelson
Councilmember Sharon Ambrose
Councilmember Kathy Patterson
Councilmember Kwame Brown


[Note: Following an oversight hearing on February 13, Councilmember Catania reported to GLAA, "I asked the Chief about the subject. I asked for the curriculum and for his involvement. All the best, David"]


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