Responses of Michael A. Brown to GLAA 2007 Questionnaire
for DC Council Candidates
1. As a member of the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, will you support funding for mandatory gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) sensitivity and diversity training for all members of the Fire/EMS Department?
Absolutely. I fully support mandatory GLBT sensitivity and diversity training for all members of the Fire/EMS Department and will include it in the very first budget I submit as a member of the Council. I was saddened when Fire/EMS stopped the excellent work that the diversity committee was undertaking five years ago, with the assistance of Toni Collins, Kenda Kirba, and others. Fire/EMS needs to take these issues seriously and as a Councilmember,I would ensure the department does. That is non-negotiable.
2. Will you press the Metropolitan Police Department to combat the transphobia entrenched within our police force, expressed in the widespread assumption among police officers that every transgendered person is a prostitute until proven otherwise?
Yes. I said publicly many times that former Chief of Fire/EMS, Adrian Thompson, needed to be removed. I hope that Fire/EMS Department Chief nominee Dennis Rubin will be committed to redressing internal failures of the department, which include the deeply entrenched transphobia and homophobia. These issues have been a major stain on the department since before the death of Tyra Hunter and they need to be addressed by the new chief.
3. Will you support a budget for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to continue to avoid developing a backlog of cases?
In order for the MPD to better serve District citizens, the Office of Police Complaints needs to be fully funded. Without sufficient resources, the citizens will have no way of effectively policing their police force. I will submit a budget request for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to prevent a further backlog of cases. We need to get ineffective and troublesome officers off the force.
AIDS AND PUBLIC HEALTH
4. 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?
Absolutely. In pushing to make HIV testing more routine among District residents, I will ensure that enough money is available to provide counseling and referrals to treatment facilities for those who test positive. It is very important that we give all of our newly-diagnosed citizens every resource they need to fight this horrible disease and deal with the stigma that unfortunately still exists around it. Through education, medical resources, and counseling, we can help our HIV+ residents and lessen the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others. This is the whole basis of the Prevention for Positives program that Whitman-Walker Clinic and other community-based organizations have implemented.
5. Are you committed to continuing and expanding the District’s condom distribution program?
I am very dedicated to continuing and strengthening the District’s condom distribution program. We have a crisis in this city when it comes to HIV and I believe that desperate measures call for desperate action and leadership. I would push to have condoms available in all the city’s public schools and recreation centers. I realize that some parents may oppose condoms being made available to their children; however, given the seriousness of this problem, I would insist that it happen. This may not be a popular stance, but it is a necessary one. Likewise, I support needle exchange as a means of curtailing the spread of HIV and other diseases. These stances are part of the reason that DC Fights Back!, an HIV/AIDS prevention and education group, gave me an A- for my proposed solutions to this pandemic when I was running for Mayor. This was the highest grade of all the mayoral candidates. Of course, due to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power to block the District’s needle exchange efforts. In fact, it has and continues to. I will use my ties on Capitol Hill, established during my years as a lobbyist, to try and negotiate Congressional approval of the expanded condom distribution program and a needle exchange program.
6. 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?
It goes without saying that citizens whose confidentiality with regard to their HIV status is violated must have an avenue by which they can take action. I fully support legislation that would strengthen our medical privacy laws.
7. 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 would support a budget with enough funds allocated to reduce the average gap between the time that a discrimination complaint is filed and the time OHR issues a finding of probable cause to 270 days. Moreover, I would ensure that this new time frame becomes an official policy at OHR and that the public is properly informed of it.
8. Will you block ceremonial resolutions and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry?
I will block ceremonial resolutions and decline to honor both individuals and organizations that promote bigotry in any form. Hate mongering should not and will not be rewarded while I sit on the DC Council.
9. 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?
Emphatically, yes. I believe that the D.C. Human Rights Act’s provisions forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression need to be fully enforced.
10. Do you agree that the Director of the Office of Human Rights should be required to have professional training and experience in civil rights law enforcement?
Clearly, training and experience in civil rights law enforcement would be a helpful component in the requirements to be the Director of the Office of Human Rights. I think that this would be a preferred requirement, but I wouldn’t want to see us turn away an otherwise excellent candidate for lack of this experience. I would favor requiring that any incoming Director without this experience submit to an appropriate number of civil rights law enforcement training and education hours.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
11. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Personally, I support marriage equality. However, as Councilmember for Ward 4, I will continue to support civil unions and domestic partnerships with as many rights and privileges of marriage as possible. The unfair and unfortunate fact that DC is NOT a state precludes the residents of DC from self-determination on these issues. As leaders, we must have the courage to be honest. Our federal overseers have shown their strong opposition to gay marriage and that prevents the District from achieving marriage equality. If we continue to push Congress for marriage equality, the District may lose some of the enormous strides it has made in expanding domestic partnership rights. Most recently, President George W. Bush has expressed his opposition to DC voting rights legislation by threatening a veto. This is precisely the kind of hurdle we face when it comes to various issues of self-determination in DC.
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 will work to expand all existing domestic partnership rights and responsibilities to include all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in D.C. law. I am committed to giving civil unions and domestic partnerships all the teeth of marriage, just without using that terminology that Congress objects to.
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, it is important that the District of Columbia be a leader on this issue. The District should fully recognize and legally respect civil unions and domestic partnerships established in other jurisdictions.
14. Will you oppose legislation giving special benefits to PEPCO until it implements an equitable domestic partner benefit program?
Absolutely. It is important that a company with the public profile of PEPCO implement an equitable domestic partner benefit program. I am very pleased that, on March 14th, PEPCO announced it would provide domestic partnership benefits to its employees as of July 1, 2007. These new domestic partnership benefits will include: medical, vision, dental, prescription, and mental health. This move is long overdue and I applaud PEPCO for taking this step in the right direction
15. Do you agree that private contractors doing business with the District should be required to provide domestic partner programs?
I believe that contractors doing business with the District, and thus receiving DC public funds, should be required to provide domestic partner programs. We should consider, however, whether this requirement should only apply to companies above a certain size.
PUBLIC EDUCATION AND YOUTH
16. 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?
The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution established the principles of separation of church and state and religious freedom to ensure that the state does not impose any religious doctrine on the citizens of the United States. To do so would be a violation of our civil liberties as Americans. Using federal and local vouchers to fund students in religious schools is a clever way to circumvent our constitution, especially since many of these parochial institutions discriminate against members of the GLBT community. Residents of the District of Columbia should not be forced to support through taxes any religious institutions (including schools) that do not abide by the non-discrimination tenets of the D.C. Human Rights Act.
17. As a member of the Committee of the Whole which now has jurisdiction over the public school system, will 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, I oppose the use of both federal and district funds that support “abstinence-only” programs. While abstinence should be discussed in any sex education program in our schools, “abstinence-only-until marriage” is an insufficient and ineffective method of combating the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Students who choose to become sexually active need to learn safer sex practices, such as condom use. Abstinence-only-until-marriage is unrealistic for the vast majority of unmarried people in this country and it frankly ignores the fact that laws forbid GLBT people from marrying. For these reasons, I oppose the use of federal and District taxpayer funds to promote “abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education.
CONSUMERS AND BUSINESSES
18. As a member of the Public Works and Environment Committee which has jurisdiction over ABC licenses, will 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?
I support the relocation (within the District) of the gay bars and business that were displaced by the new ballpark construction. Throughout the entire baseball negotiations, I was a proponent of renovating RFK Stadium for the Nationals. I still feel this way. In addition, I was shocked and saddened by the mistreatment of the O Street business owners during the “negotiations.” Those businesses were told by the city that they would have to relocate. No one sat down with the business owners ahead of time to seek their opinions and to discuss the plans for the new stadium. They were essentially told to deal with it. Consequently, the District has already lost a couple of those businesses to Maryland and Virginia. The tone of the entire “negotiations” was deplorable. The District government needs to change how it does business by granting these displaced businesses one-time waivers of the applicable liquor control and zoning application restrictions.
19. 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?
I support curbing the excesses of the not-in-my-backyard abusers who file baseless and never-ending complaints to harass and extort bars and restaurants. The situation with Be Bar is a good example. There were other bars situated near Scripture Cathdral, which did not have their liquor licenses challenged. Unfortunately, that conflict was played up as a confrontation along racial lines, as well as gay versus straight. There are a lot of Black gay folks in the neighborhood who, at the time of the dispute, told me they were looking forward to the opening of Be Bar. The city can not allow a few NIMBYs and bigots to disrupt development in our city.
Please provide the URL for your campaign website, if you have one. We will include it on our candidate links page.
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.
My past record is good when it comes to advocating on behalf of the GLBT community, even though I have not held an elected office before. From 2001-2005, I served on the board of Whitman-Walker Clinic (WWC), which has a majority GLBT clientele. When I was invited to join the board, I was only the second African-American heterosexual male to be on the clinic board. My principal role on the board was changing the stigma of who HIV and AIDS affects. There is still this misconception that this is a gay disease, when all recent trends point to how it is impacting the heterosexual community more than ever before. During my board tenure, I co-chaired WWC’s AIDS Walk in 2002 and chaired the 2002 and 2003 holiday toy drives, two of the most successful drives.
In addition, I worked closely with the DC Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Men and Women and the “We Are Family” coalition to press for inclusion of an openly gay speaker at the Millions More March in October 2005. I made calls to contacts in Chicago, speaking directly with leaders of the Millions More Movement (i.e. – Sister Claudette Mohammed) in an effort to make the march as inclusive as possible. I was deeply troubled by the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people coming into the District for a march that was supposed to be inclusive, yet excluding the sizable GLBT community from the march. Although the efforts to include an openly gay speaker were ultimately unsuccessful, I was proud to stand with my GLBT brothers and sisters in solidarity against bigotry.