Congressional riders on D.C. appropriations bills are nothing new. For years we weren’t allowed to implement Domestic Partnerships or needle exchange and had education vouchers foisted on us. Two years ago when Barack Obama became president and Democrats controlled the House and Senate, riders were removed from the bill. Now Republicans control the House of Representatives and they are back.
Last week, the House appropriations committee once again foisted education vouchers on the District and prohibited spending our own money on legal abortions for poor women or using federal funds for legal medical marijuana and needle exchange programs. Marriage equality is safe so far but we continue to be vigilant on that score as the House now has an open amendment process and when the bill comes to the floor in early July there could be efforts to add more riders.
These actions are an assault on democracy in the District of Columbia. What so many across the nation don’t realize is that all legislation passed by our duly elected Council and signed by the mayor must go to Congress for a 30-day review before it becomes law. Our budget requires review and approval of Congress before it goes into effect.
This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue; it is about democracy and “taxation without representation.” During Bill Clinton’s presidency, that slogan was put on D.C. license plates, which he placed on the White House fleet of cars. The plates were removed by George W. Bush when he took office and President Obama has refused to put them back. In fact, President Obama joined Republicans to throw District residents under the bus in the last budget negotiation. So we can’t blame only one party. Congressional Democrats have been better to the District in the past and we can hope that any additional riders placed on the appropriations bill in the House will be removed in the Senate version of the bill and left off after conference.
The Campaign for All DC Families, Log Cabin Republicans and other supporters are working to see that we don’t have an amendment that would impact negatively on marriage equality in the District.
On Saturday, June 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be a rally and demonstration to put pressure on President Obama to fight any bill that negatively impacts the people of the District. It is important for the LGBT community to join other supporters of Democracy for D.C. at the rally, which will get under way on the corner of 16th and H streets, N.W., at Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House. Making a statement that those who voted so overwhelmingly for the president in 2008 expect him to stand up for us is important.
Mark Plotkin, a journalist and avid statehood supporter, has called for someone to run in D.C. as a favorite son/daughter to make a point to the president that he can’t take us for granted. While not supportive of that idea, I am convinced that we need to have a show of strength on June 25 and urge all those who are in town to join with DC Vote, our mayor, other dignitaries and numerous organizations that are sponsoring this demonstration to make it clear that we expect the president to speak out for the democratic rights of the people of D.C. We send our sons and daughters off to fight wars in far-off lands to win rights for individuals around the globe to have their freedom and democracy. They then return home to find their own rights abridged in our nation’s capital.
The time is now to end the subjugation of the rights of the people of the District. While most of us support President Obama we do have a right to demand that he speak out on our behalf.