The D.C. City Council's Committee on Aging and Community Affairs today approved the nominations of two well-known transgender women, Alexandra Beninda and Earline Budd, to the 15-member D.C. Commission on Human Rights. It will be up to the full council to decide whether to appoint the two women to the commission.
The committee, which oversees the commission and its parent agency, the Office of Human Rights, approved a total of 13 nominations today, including Beninda and Budd, to the commission, membership for which had dwindled to three, with 12 of the 15 seats vacant since January. In his role as chief executive, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) nominated 13 candidates to Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D), who then forwarded their nominations to the committee.
All 13 nominations were passed unanimously, 3-0, by Chairman Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Councilmembers Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). Councilmembers Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who also sit on the committee, were not present.
If confirmed by the full council, Beninda and Budd would become the first transgender members of the commission, which is primarily tasked with adjudicating private sector discrimination complaints brought under the D.C. Human Rights Act.
Barry praised Gray's decision to name the two women to the commission, and recalled aloud how he, when on the council in 1977, had helped pass the Human Rights Act. He said the diversity of the commissioners was particularly important because of the insight they would have into issues affecting certain communities, especially in the areas of employment and housing discrimination.
''All the nominees have indicated their great honor to serve on this committee and have pledged to do all they can, not only to get people to abide by the law, but the letter of the law, because there's still discrimination in Washington and America against certain categories.''
Alexander also praised Gray's choice of nominees, contrasting his administration with his predecessor's, former Mayor Adrian Fenty (D).
''I am pleased to see a full complement of the Human Rights Commission,'' Alexander said. ''As you know, I formerly chaired the committee, and with the prior administration, it was so difficult, especially for the transgender community. We tried really hard to get the full complement of the protected classes to [be] reflect[ed] [by] the commission.''
Graham called the slate of nominees ''very highly qualified'' and particularly singled out Budd, calling her ''a pioneer on transgender issues.''
The nominations will be voted upon by the full council at the next meeting of the Committee of the Whole, scheduled for June 19.