GLAA joins ACLU/NCA in opposing criminalization of underage drinking
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GLAA joins ACLU/NCA in opposing criminalization of underage drinking

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
(202) 667-5139

April 26, 2007

The Honorable Jim Graham
Committee on Public Works and the Environment
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20001

Dear Jim:

I am writing on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) to urge you and your committee colleagues to delete the provision of Bill 17-88 that would criminalize the possession of alcoholic beverages by adults between the ages of 18 and 21.

  We are impressed by the arguments against this provision presented by Steven Block, Legislative Counsel of the ACLU of the National Capital Area, during your committee’s April 18 hearing on this bill, and endorse the ACLU’s analysis and conclusions.

For a number of reasons, GLAA has long opposed the 21-year-old drinking age imposed by Congress in 1993 on the District and the rest of the country, even though we recognize that a return to the District’s traditional 18-year-old drinking age is not politically feasible as long as such a step would entail a substantial cut in federal highway funding. 

We believe the current drinking age law carves out an arbitrary loophole in the D.C. Human Rights Act’s prohibition  of discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age.  Little Prohibition, as it is sometimes termed, has been just as flat a failure for young adults as the original Prohibition was for all adults, as was so well documented in the April 19 column “Drinking Age Paradox” by George F. Will.  This column, published the day after your hearing, may be found at: .

Criminalizing alcohol possession by 18- to 21-year-olds would compound the current situation drastically by subjecting young adults to a year’s imprisonment.  Arrest and conviction, even without imprisonment, would still create an arrest and criminal record that would have to be reported in job and educational applications and in other situations, a record that could not be expunged before they reach 21. Creating a criminal record for so common and trivial an offense could also create grounds for deportation for foreign nationals.  These draconian punishments do not fit the supposed crime.

By criminalizing alcohol possession by young adults, the Council would expose too many normal and innocent people to the universal Law of Unintended Consequences.  We therefore urge you and your colleagues to delete that provision when you mark up Bill 17-88.

Thank you for your consideration.


Barrett L. Brick

Cc: The Honorable Kwame Brown
       The Honorable Mary Cheh
       Steve Block, ACLU

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