June 3, 2010 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Local news in brief

Whitman-Walker faces trans bias allegation

The D.C. Office of Human Rights has found probable cause that the Whitman-Walker Clinic engaged in employment discrimination based on gender identity when it chose not to hire transgender activist Earlene Budd for a job she sought in 2008.

Gustavo Velasquez, OHR’s director, confirmed May 28 that his office had made the probable cause finding. He said the finding is a preliminary action equivalent to a formal charge and is not a final determination that the Clinic engaged in discrimination.

He said Whitman-Walker has appealed the probable cause finding. Under procedures for processing discrimination complaints, the OHR must rule on the appeal.

If the office upholds its finding, the case goes to a mandatory conciliation process, where Clinic officials and Budd negotiate a possible settlement, Velasquez said. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case goes to the independent D.C. Commission on Human Rights, which makes a final decision on whether the Clinic violated the city’s Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other categories.

Budd declined to comment, saying she was advised by her attorney not to discuss the case.

Chip Lewis, a Whitman-Walker spokesperson, said the Clinic “remains committed to being the highest quality, affirming, and culturally competent health center for the metro D.C. LGBT community.”

“This principle extends to our employee recruitment and retention practices,” he said. “We look forward to favorably resolving this matter with the OHR.”

Velasquez said his office could not provide further details about Budd’s discrimination complaint against the Clinic, saying case files are not released unless or until they reach the commission for adjudication.

He noted that OHR, which investigates discrimination allegations, finds probable cause in just 5 percent of the complaints it receives from District residents.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Judge deals blow to defense in Wone trial

D.C. Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz is allowing prosecutors to submit for her review in the Robert Wone conspiracy trial all videotaped statements the defendants made to police.

The ruling, which was seen by observers as a strong blow to the defense, came during the third week of a trial in which gay defendants Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward are charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and evidence tampering in connection with Wone’s murder.

Wone, who was friends with the defendants, was found stabbed to death in 2006 in the guest bedroom of their house. His wife, Katherine Wone, testified that Wone had worked late and decided against driving to the couple’s home in Oakton, Va.

The defense attorneys argued that allowing the admission of the taped police interrogation of the three men on the night of the murder would be highly prejudicial to their case. They cited rules of evidence in trials preventing testimony by one defendant detrimental to another during a joint trial.

Lead prosecutor Glenn Kirschner argued that Leibovitz was highly qualified to distinguish between statements by the defendants that should or should not be admissible. He noted that at the request of the defendants, Leibovitz, rather than a jury, would render a verdict in the case and she would not be susceptible to prejudice.

The taped interrogations are considered important evidence for the government. Prosecutors said the men’s statements can be used in conjunction with physical evidence found at the crime scene to show their alleged propensity to conceal the truth about the Robert Wone murder. No one has been charged with the killing.

The trial is expected to continue for at least another two weeks.

LOU CHIBBARO JR.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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