Choosing a Candidate

LGBT residents are hoping the next Ward 5 councilmember will be an ally and advocate

Corado, who favors holding MPD’s feet to the fire when it comes to pursuing and closing possible bias crimes, might be favorably disposed to candidate Shelly Gardner, who vows to use her position as councilmember to call out and publicly reprimand District employees who fail to comply with the District’s Human Rights Code. Gardner says she is aware of instances, particularly some involving domestic violence, where police have not responded appropriately in helping victims of violence.

Hassan Naveed, a spokesman for Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) and a Ward 5 resident, issued a statement calling on the future councilmember to be a proactive and vocal advocate for the LGBT community.

“It’s important for the next council members to address the concerns of hate crimes against the LGBT community by attending the hearing on hate crimes, engaging with all LGBT organizations on the matter, and holding the city government accountable for their responsibility to protect everyone in our city,” Naveed said in a prepared statement.

Candidate Ron Magnus, a former assistant attorney general for the District of Columbia, says that sensitivity training for MPD officers should be mandatory, as opposed to voluntary.

”I’d like to go a step further,” Magnus says. ”I think they should not just be a one-time training. I think it should be a regular, ongoing training.”

Wilds says that while he does not believe in special treatment for any sub-groups of people, he does think MPD officers should be subject to mandatory sensitivity training on a yearly basis. Day, the sole Republican running for the seat in a field of Democrats and one Independent, says such training should be part of an officer’s review, occurring either on a quarterly or six-month basis. McDuffie expresses similar sentiments.

Other candidates say that bias not only needs to be addressed within the context of law enforcement, but in the District’s schools, with anti-bullying initiatives that promote tolerance, including for LGBT teens.

”I think when we look at schools, we have to look at it comprehensively,” says Delano Hunter. ”Bullying is a root cause of truancy. Kids don’t go to school because they feel pressured at school, because of bullying.” Hunter says he would try to move comprehensive anti-bullying legislation through the council to address those issues.

Gardner also makes the connection between the lack of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation and a higher rate of truancy among LGBT teens due to fear of discrimination.

Ward 5 resident Vincent Villano says he is still deciding which candidate to support, but is going to place particular weight on a candidate’s stances on prostitution-free zones (PFZs); programs like Project Empowerment, designed to combat anti-transgender bias in hiring for employment; and pushing MPD to pursue and resolve cases in which the victim is a member of the LGBT community.

Under a bill introduced by Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), police would be allowed to declare certain areas permanent prostitution-free zones. Current law allows the MPD chief to declare an area a prostitution-free zone for 20 days.

While several candidates support the idea of PFZs, almost all believe that the permanent PFZ legislation is problematic or potentially unconstitutional, and several expressed concerns of profiling, particularly against members of the transgender community.

”I do support PFzs,” says Kathy Henderson. ”However, I am very reluctant to say we should make them permanent if the attorney general of the city has said that there may be an issue of constitutionality. I do have a problem with any person or group of persons who are unfairly targeted.”

LGBT Ward 5 residents questioned agree the election will likely be decided on factors unrelated to LGBT issues, such as homelessness and economic development. But, they caution, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have high expectations for candidates on LGBT-related issues.

”Anyone who comes into that position should be looking out for the policies that affect all of the people in the ward, including gay men, lesbians and trans women,” says Corado. ”We want to see an elected official that actively addresses those issues.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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