Muriel Bowser responds to GLAA 2008 D.C. Council questionnaire

Responses of Muriel Bowser to GLAA 2008 Questionnaire
for DC Council Candidates

GLAA 2008 Rating for Muriel Bowser (Possible range: +/- 10 points total)
Yes/No Substance Record Championship Total
1.5 3 1 0 5.5


1. Will you support funding for mandatory gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) sensitivity and diversity training for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department?

Yes. It is vitally important that our first responders are equipped to address the needs of all residents in their most acute times of need. It is imperative that police and fire and emergency medical services personnel are specially trained to deal with the needs of the GLBT community who are disproportionately victimized by crime. All personnel must have this training. It is also important the MPD maintain its specialized unit. When Chief Cathy Lanier, in an effort to promote efficiency, suggested that the GLLU be disbanded I placed directly to the Chief to express my concern that gains made at MPD not be threatened by this move. The Chief’s ultimate decision to create a Special Liaison Unit was the right move which I wholeheartedly supported.

2. Will you support a budget for the Office of Police Complaints large enough to continue to avoid developing a backlog of cases?

Yes. I will advocate for sufficient funding for this important office. The Office of Police Complaints serves a vital function and helps restore, maintain and improve resident confidence in the operation and performance of the police department. While most will agree that the vast majority of sworn officers do their jobs with professionalism, any officer who is not casts a shadow over the entire force. Identifying the police who are abusing their power and otherwise not performing their jobs well, not only makes for a safer community but it also creates an environment where the well performing officers will be able to function better. Part of the problem that we hear related to solving the problem of escalating violence in our City, is that the public is unwilling to cooperate with police. Building trust between the community and police is essential. I am pleased to have recommended a Ward 4 resident to serve on the Police Complaints Board and look forward to working with GLAA on members of the GLBT community to fill important Board appointments like this one.

3. Given MPD's controversial Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative (which set up checkpoints and barricades in the Trinidad neighborhood) and Safe Homes initiative (to knock on doors and ask to conduct warrantless gun searches), will you support efforts to rein in police officials who respond to legitimate crime concerns with short-term fixes and public relations gestures that infringe upon Fourth Amendment and other constitutionally protected civil liberties?

There is no magic solution to crime and violence. There is no one maneuver or operation that will solve all of our problems. Clearly, failures in education, human services, family and community could lead to this year’s unfortunate situation in the Trinidad community--a proud community I might add--that deserves to be safe. Everyone will agree that meaningful long-term strategies are essential to address the human services side of crime and violence. I am a staunch supporter of civil liberties, including the right of the residents of the District of Columbia and Trinidad to be safe in their own homes. Twenty-four people died violently in Trinidad; one neighborhood in one ward of our City of slightly more than 500,000 people. Contrast this disturbing statistic with our neighboring jurisdiction--Montgomery County--500 square miles and almost one million people that experienced only 19 homicides all of last year. The situation is Trinidad was and remains extremely volatile. I fully support having emergency, constitutionally permitted tools in the public safety portfolio. Challenges may show that questioning one’s purpose to enter a safety zone may not meet that test. If so, I’d urge the Chief to alter the approach, but reserve MPD’s ability to protect a community under siege by urgent means. I can't think of any neighborhood in Ward 4 that would tolerate anything less.

4. 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?

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


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. The fact that the District has the highest rate of AIDS in America is a local and national disgrace. We can and must do better to educate, test and treat our residents. Our apathy and unwillingness to confront issues related to sexually-transmitted disease, especially AIDS, and intravenous drug use has brought us to this point. With improved drug treatments available, people are living better and longer with AIDS and transmission maternal transmission can be virtually eliminated. Knowing your status is the key. As an African-American woman, I know that we must do more to get the word out to all segments of our community, but especially to those who think that AIDS happens to someone else. Rates of new infection among heterosexuals is on the rise, AIDS is a leading killer of black women between the ages of 24 and 34, and black youth and significantly over represented among new reports of infection among youth. The District is finally moving in the right direction but putting significant resources into public education and marketing People must know that they can be tested with privacy and that there is help available, including counseling and treatment!

6. Are you committed to continuing and expanding the District’s condom distribution program to include water-based lubricant and improved tracking of their distribution to specified locations?

Yes. I support the most effective methods to prevent the spread of sexually- transmitted disease. HAA must be held accountable for meeting its condom distribution goals. These goals must reflect trends in HIV infection rates. Government frequently makes the mistake of expecting residents to come to them. We have to meet people where they are--in their churches, schools, hair salons, barber shops, bars, clubs, and even our most vulnerable residents who have been forced to live on the streets. A meaningful condom distribution plan will ensure that every constituency is being served and that the condoms are getting out the door and not held up in a agency or non-profit storage room.

7. The District has been 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, every effort must be made to give residents confidence that the District takes seriously their right to keep their medical records private. One of the biggest barriers to people getting tested is their concern for privacy. AIDS infection still carries a stigma in our communities. People will not get tested if they fear that this information will be made available to their employers, insurance companies, families or partners.


8. Will you support a budget for the Office of Human Rights large enough to allow it to keep the discrimination complaint backlog at or below 70 cases and keep at or below 210 days the average time it takes after the filing of a complaint to issue a finding of probable cause?

Yes, the Office of Human Rights performs critical work. I work with my colleagues on the Council to ensure adequate funding. I actually think that 210 days is too long to reach a finding of probably cause. We should seek funding levels that would help us do a better job than that. Quick and certain justice is oftentimes the best deterrent to illegal behavior. Our Office of Human Rights should not only seek to deal with the grievances brought to it, but be able to send a clear message that the District of Columbia is no place to violate human rights and deter any such activity.

9. Will you block ceremonial resolutions and otherwise decline to honor individuals or organizations that promote any sort of bigotry?

I would no more support a resolution or honor to a person or organization that promotes bigotry than I would allow someone to use bigoted remarks in my presence.

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. It is important that Human Rights protections based on gender identity and expression be recognized and publicized. Employment laws are complex. It is important that the District of Columbia as a large employer itself set the example. Regular training on employment and discrimination law is critical. Contracting and procurement officers should also ensure that District contractors are familiar with our Human Rights law.

11. 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?

The Director must have the expertise necessary to evaluate and enforce civil rights infringements via professional and/or educational experiences.


12. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?

Yes, I fully support marriage equality in the District of Columbia. In my short term on the Council, I have been supportive of measures to expand rights to domestic partners, including Domestic Partner Inheritance Tax Fairness Act, Domestic Partnership Police and Fire Amendment Act, Domestic Partnership Judicial Termination Parentage Act of 2008. Ensuring domestic partnership rights is a critical step in the fight for marriage equality.

13. Will you support the legislative and/or regulatory changes necessary to ensure that the District recognizes marriages legally established in other jurisdictions?

Yes, I would support such a measure. Given DC’s unique status as a District subject to congressional dismantling of our actions, it is important the GLAA and marriage equality advocates help shape a strategy and legislative action that best supports marriage equality being achieved in the District. Our experience with gun legislation is instructive. The Courts will have their say and the he congress can still impose its will on the people of the District of Columbia.

14. Do you agree that private contractors doing business with the District should be required to provide domestic partner benefits including health insurance?

Yes, we pay private contractors with public funds. We should expect contractors doing business with us to meet our standards. We know that health insurance for many families is more important than wages.


15. 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?

I support children of any and all income levels having access to quality school options. For this reason, I place school reform at the top of my legislative agenda and oversight responsibility. While DCPS school reform is on the right track, we still have many failing schools. Federal vouchers have given many poor children a means to a quality education; however, I do feel that the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act merit consideration when public money is alloted for vouchers.

16. 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. My views about sex education in our schools would be considered progressive. Our children are exposed to so many messages about sex from mass media and their friends, that it is criminal not to arm them with the facts. Strictly from a public health perspective, teaching children about safer sex in school is critical to curbing the disturbing trends of HIV infection, especially among black youth and women.


17. Do you support the right of adults in the District to choose adult-oriented entertainment for themselves, and the right of appropriately licensed and zoned businesses to provide it?

Yes. Ward 4 is home to two adult-entertainment establishments--an adult bookstore and a topless club. I have worked well with the owners and managers of both. The community has also worked well with them. We expect all of our businesses to work to enhance the neighborhoods around them. I encourage these business to be a part of the business community as a whole and to be engaged in the needed revitalization of our commercial corridors.

18. Will you support legislation to curb abuses by NIMBYs who are now allowed to file an endless series of baseless complaints to harass or extort bars and restaurants?

Yes, I would favorably consider proposals to make our zoning and ABC laws more efficient, while maintaining robust citizen participation elements. Any such proposals should mitigate undue delays in these processes. What is critical for any business owner is predictability. Many business owners have rightly criticized some of our processes for seemingly haphazard approaches or endless appeals. The business and the community are both best served by clearly delineated rules and expected timelines for each process.

19. What are your thoughts regarding GLAA’s proposal, as explained in Agenda: 2008, to mitigate the problems associated with prostitution by legalizing, regulating, zoning and taxing it?

I would challenge the premise that prostitution harms no one, but agree with the practical conclusions that our current and heavy-handed approach to dealing with prostitutes isn’t working. It is my personal view that the vast majority of people that are forced to have sex for money to survive pay a huge emotional and psychological price, I’m not sure that this burden is at all reduced by legalizing prostitution. Neighborhoods and government budgets may benefit by cleaning up known prostitution haunts and reducing the need for vice activity, but I remain concerned about the human toll paid by sex workers. Even with these concerns, I would consider a detailed proposal that outlined what legalized prostitution would be like in the District of Columbia and use it as an opportunity to hear from experts and stakeholders on the subject.

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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.

I am privileged to represent the 71,000 residents of Ward 4 on the Council of the District of Columbia. In a short 14 months on the Council, we have made a lot of progress on an aggressive agenda that Ward 4 residents help us shape. I am seeking re-election for a full four term to fully implement our vision for our Ward and the entire City--focused on great schools, livable neighborhoods, energetic commercial areas, and robust opportunities for all residents.

I am committed to challenge the societal constructs that treat our fellow brothers and sisters differently and unequally—then change them. We have made significant strides in a great many areas and there are still others where we must and can do better. We will address the issues, which most affect the GLBT Community. Last year we laid out a few objectives and we have some progress to report:

Strengthening the MPD’s GLLUmet face to face with Chief of Police to emphasize the importance of GLUU issues.

Expanding Rights to Domestic Partnersco-sponsored the following important pieces of legislation: Domestic Partner Inheritance Tax Fairness Act, Domestic Partnership Police and Fire Amendment Act, Domestic Partnership Judicial Termination Parentage Act of 2008, and Sense of the Council in Opposition to Acts of Hate Resolution of 2008;

Supporting adoption rights and marriage equalitycontinued to engage leaders of the GLBT community on issues affecting rights of all to grow their families in the District of Columbia.

Speaking up for GLBT Youthensured that new schools Chancellor would be proactive in creating safe havens for GLBT youth and oppose abstinence only sexual education programs that not only ignore reality, but have also contributed to the Districts disgraceful HIV/AIDS

I remain committed to making sure that our government reflects our community, including my own activities in the Ward. Our Mayor will and has heeded my support for GLBT residents for service on Boards and Commissions and other areas of our government.


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