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Schwartz urges Fenty to withdraw transgender rulemaking
Council of the District of Columbia
The John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 404
Washington, D.C. 20004
Voice: (202) 724-8105 Fax: (202) 724-8071
July 23, 2008
The Honorable Adrian Fenty
Mayor, District of Columbia
Dear Mayor Fenty:
I write in 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 D.C. Human Rights Act. Of particular concern to me are proposed new Subsections 801.3 and 801.4, which would exempt the D.C. Department of Corrections from the Human Rights Act as it applies to transgender detainees and prisoners.
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.
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. I contend that the Department of Corrections has the ability to make the reasonable accommodations needed to ensure that our Human Rights Act applies to transgender prisoners and detainees inasmuch as it does to all other protected classes who are serving time in our corrections facilities. 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 am also concerned about the impact that proposed new Subsection 806.5 would have on transgender people employed by the government of the District of Columbia. This would require that identification badges for D.C. government employees “state the employee’s legal name, as documented by the Department of Human Resources. The name affixed on the badge shall be changed after the employee provides proof of a formal name change through a court of competent jurisdiction.” As you know, transgender people often informally adopt a first name that is consistent with their gender identity, and quite often this occurs long before they are ready to go to court to formally change their names. I do not see how this proposal would do anything to protect anyone from anything, and further, I believe that it may violate the intent of our Human Rights Act.
It is my hope that you will not proceed with this proposed rulemaking, and thank you for your attention to this matter.
Cc: Gustavo F. Velasquez
Director, Office of Human Rights