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The Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, a volunteer LGBT political organization, announced this week that it endorses a referendum that seeks to change how D.C.’s attorney general comes to office.
Former Mayor Anthony Williams created the position in May 2004, when he renamed the city’s Office of the Corporation Counsel to the Office of the Attorney General. Robert Spagnoletti, a gay man, was the first to hold the position, which is appointed by the mayor and then confirmed by the City Council.
Members of GLAA, including Rick Rosendall, GLAA’s vice president for public affairs, are hoping to change that by supporting a charter amendment that would allow voters to elect the city’s attorney general for a four year term.
Voters will be asked about the referendum on Election Day, Nov. 2.
”When David Catania (I-At Large) proposed years ago electing the attorney general, we liked the idea because we thought there would be a better chance of being able to hold an elected attorney general accountable,” Rosendall says. ”That’s why we support it.”
Rosendall points out that GLAA testified against the appointment of current Attorney General Peter Nickles by Mayor Adrian Fenty in October 2008. During that testimony, Rosendall, speaking on behalf of GLAA, said the Office of the Attorney General has had a long history of abusing D.C.’s LGBT community.
”Instead of confronting what appears to be an entrenched culture of homophobia and transphobia within
OAG, Peter Nickles has further exacerbated the problem during his tenure as acting AG,” Rosendall said during his testimony two years ago. That testimony led to Nickles working with GLAA to improve things. But there is still work to be done.
”There are still some serious problems in terms of discrimination against transgender inmates by [the Department of Corrections],” Rosendall says. ”But Nickles was very supportive of us by us defending the marriage bill and marriage equality law, because Adrian Fenty supported marriage equality.”
While Rosendall says that was one example of a positive outcome, he adds, the current attorney general arrangement leaves the position beholden to the mayor, rather than to the residents of the District.
”That’s just not appropriate,” says Rosendall, adding he’s confident the referendum will succeed.
Should D.C. voters approve the referendum – and Congress does not reject it – residents will begin voting for attorneys general in 2014.
For more information about the GLAA, visit glaa.org.