OHR Head Speaks to Stein Democrats

New DC director of Human Rights office encourages gay applicants for Commission vacancies

Gustavo F. Velasquez, recently confirmed director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, spoke at the regular monthly meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday evening, Feb. 12, offering some of his plans for the office and for GLBT involvement.

”To me, this job represents an opportunity to work in a broader, more citywide scale … to eradicate unlawful discrimination in the District of Columbia,” Velasquez told the crowd of about 45 members of the city’s largest GLBT political club, gathered in the city’s John A. Wilson Building downtown.

After telling the audience that his office will be working to ensure that new anti-discrimination protections based on gender identity or expression are widely understood, Bob Summersgill of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., questioned the value of Velasquez’s plan for Web-based dissemination.

”The passive putting it on a Web site really doesn’t do much,” said Summersgill. Velasquez countered that his resources were limited, but said that Summersgill’s suggestion that he employ other D.C. agencies to help advise D.C. businesses of the new protections is a priority.

As for how the GLBT community may contribute to improved human rights in the district, Velasquez invited members of the community to apply for open positions on the city’s Human Rights Commission. The commission has seven vacancies.

”We would definitely like more GLBT representation,” insisted Velasquez. ”We’ve been facing a lack of quorum. If one person misses a meeting, we’re in trouble.”

Also at the meeting, recently named interim director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, Christopher Dyer, successfully lobbied the club, of which he is a member, to sign-on as an official sponsor of an upcoming GLBT community forum regarding crystal-methamphetamine abuse. The forum will be held Monday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m., in the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Forum, 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW.

The next meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democrats will be Monday, March 12. D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier is scheduled to speak.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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