Councilmembers’ Answers on Corrections Discrimination Against Transgenders
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Councilmembers’ Answers on Corrections Discrimination Against Transgenders

Compiled by Karl Lahring
September 30, 2008

These are the written responses of the incumbent Councilmembers to the following question in the 2008 Council candidate questionnaire prepared by the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance: Given that the Department of Corrections continues to violate the D.C. Human Rights Act by using genitalia as a basis for gender identification rather than an individual's gender identity or expression, will you support the Council directly adopting a rulemaking to make it unmistakably clear that DOC must stop discriminating against transgender inmates and detainees?

Carol Schwartz: Yes. In fact, on July 23rd, after being made aware of this by the GLAA, I immediately wrote a letter to Mayor Fenty to voice my opposition to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to amend Chapter 8 of Title 4 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, which pertains to the "gender expression provision" of the DC Human Rights Act. Of particular concern to me are proposed new Subsections 801.3 and 801.4, which would exempt the DC Department of Corrections from the Human Rights Act as it applies to transgender detainees and prisoners.

In my letter (a copy of which is attached) I wrote, "It has been reported that the Executive's reasoning for proposing to exempt the Department of Corrections is that it will help the Department protect transgender inmates from possibly being harmed based on who they are. But, the purpose of the law you seek to circumvent with this exemption is precisely that: to protect a certain class of citizens from all kinds of harm, based on who they are."

I added, "Regulations are supposed to mirror the law, not change the intent of the law. This change would, in effect, turn the intent of the law upside-down…..Further, I believe the Department can and should work to ensure that the safety of transgender inmates is as assured as it is for every other inmate, and that it can do so without altering the provisions of the Human Rights Act."

I have always tried to do what I can as a Councilmember to ensure that such issues are satisfactorily addressed, and will continue to do so if re-elected.

Kwame Brown: I will support legislation that clarifies the procedures for gender identification for the DOC.

Jack Evans: Yes. As you know, I have written to the Office of Human Rights on this very issue (attached), and it is disturbing the very agency empowered to breathe life into our Human Rights Act, which is among the best in the nation, has instead actively sought to weaken protections for transgendered persons. The Council has taken multiple actions to make it absolutely clear the Human Rights Act covers gender expression and identity. It is not the job of OHR to essentially give a free pass to a dysfunctional agency. I surely think we can do better.

Muriel Bowser: Yes. As a member of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, I will make it abundantly clear that DOC must abide by the Human Rights Act.

Yvette Alexander: I will support a council rulemaking to end gender discrimination at DOC. Any human rights violation must be must not be tolerated. Transgender inmates and detainees should have accommodations and attention which address their special needs.

Marion Barry: Yes.

NOTE: Councilmembers Jim Graham and Mary Cheh are also on record in opposition to the proposed regulations. We have also been told that Councilmember Tommy Wells has expressed his opposition.

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