By DENNIS BASS
Twenty-five years ago, elected officials weren’t talking about gay rights. But Jack Evans was. He led the fight for domestic partnerships, civil unions and gay marriage, and helped repeal laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians.
Long before it was popular, Jack championed equality regardless of sexual orientation. He didn’t do it because it was politically correct. He did it because it was right. He was there at the start of the gay rights movement in D.C. and he has been an ally of our community and its most skillful advocate over the last two decades.
When he first ran for Council in 1991, there were some who said Jack would not have the same commitment to gay issues as an LGBT candidate. Council member Evans has certainly proven those people wrong. Today, Jack has undisputedly the strongest record of any candidate on the issues that matter not only to our community, but also to the entire District.
When Jack was first elected, gay people were routinely harassed and arrested for committing sodomy. In his first year on the Council, Jack led the fight to abolish the repressive anti-sodomy law, after years of failed attempts.
In 1998, Jack became the first elected D.C. official to publicly support same-sex marriage, and year after year Jack has sponsored successful legislation to guarantee LGBT people the rights of straight married couples in areas such as adoption, health care, inheritance, and domestic partnership, until the Council finally adopted full marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
But Jack’s efforts didn’t stop with marriage equality. He has relentlessly waged battles to enact medical marijuana, condom availability, needle exchange programs, reporting of bias-related hate crimes, and LGBT sensitivity training for Metropolitan police, fire, and EMT personnel –overcoming the often-hostile objections of some fellow Council members and opposition in Congress.
In recognition of all he has done for the LGBT community, Jack Evans was awarded the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance Distinguished Service Award.
When you combine Jack’s record on LGBT issues with his other achievements in fiscal management by balancing the District’s budget; bringing to D.C. the convention center, baseball stadium and Verizon Center, along with other job-creating projects; and supporting education reform that is beginning to show benefits in D.C.’s schools, I can’t see how the choice could be any clearer.
Yes, “the District is doing pretty darn good,” as one of Mayor Gray’s supporters said, but much of the credit for what’s happening now goes to Jack Evans’ efforts, who, as the long-time chair of the Council’s Finance and Revenue committee, laid the groundwork for much of the prosperity and progress that we’re seeing today.
What kind of an LGBT advocate will he be as mayor? Jack says that, even in a city like Washington where much has been accomplished, the fight for LGBT rights is far from over. As mayor, Jack Evans will continue his advocacy on LGBT issues by increasing funding for health initiatives focused on LGBT people and youth, increasing workplace protections for transgender people, ensuring that same-sex married partners are treated equally under Medicaid, initiating LGBT sensitivity training for all District government employees, and including gender-orientation curriculum in the sex-education programs of the D.C. public schools.
For these reasons, Jack Evans is the right choice for mayor.
Dennis Bass was deputy executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest from 1981 until he retired in 2012. He served on the Dupont Circle ANC from 1986 until 1995 and volunteered on every Jack Evans campaign since he first ran for Council in 1991.