D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told an LGBT town hall meeting at City Hall on Thursday that he remains strongly committed to defending LGBT issues, including the city’s same-sex marriage law, and he plans to appoint a transgender person to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.
Gray also made news by saying he has invited those who were arrested with him outside a Senate office building on Capitol Hill in April in a protest against congressional intrusion into D.C. affairs to join his contingent in the LGBT Capital Pride Parade on June 11.
“I’ve asked the five or six Council members who were arrested with me as well as the other members of the D.C. 41 — let’s have a contingent called the D.C. 41 in the Pride Parade this year,” the mayor said.
“[It] makes a statement about equality in the District of Columbia and frankly continues to make a statement about our resolve to be free in our ways in the city,” he said.
The LGBT town hall event, in which Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff interviewed Gray in the press room at the John A. Wilson Building, where the mayor’s office is located, drew an audience of about 125 people. The event was broadcast live on the city’s cable Channel 16 and was video streamed live on the Blade’s website.
In response to a question from Naff about whether he planned to appoint a transgender person to his administration, Gray asked his openly gay director of the city’s Office of Boards and Commissions, Ron Collins, where things stood on such an appointment.
Collins, who was present in the audience, said he was about to submit to the mayor the name of a transgender person as a candidate for a position on the D.C. Human Rights Commission, an adjudicatory body that rules on discrimination complaints filed by citizens. Collins didn’t reveal the identity of the transgender person.
“I will be happy to do that,” Gray said. “I will look forward to the next step, which will be appointing someone [from the transgender community] to the commission.”
The commission is charged with determining whether discrimination prohibited under the D.C. Human Rights Act occurs in employment, housing, public accommodations and other areas based on a wide range of categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, which covers transgender persons.
When asked by Naff how he would respond to an attempt by Congress to overturn the D.C. same-sex marriage equality law or to force the city to hold a voter initiative on the law, Gray said he would strongly defend the law.
“I haven’t heard of any efforts that are about to be launched or even discussed, but I think we all know that we have to remain ever vigilant, that there are people out there that don’t support this,” Gray said.
“Frankly one of my proudest moments was in December of 2009 when, after being one of the introducers of the legislation, being the Chair of the Council, I could raise my voice and raise my hand and say, yes, a resounding yes to being able to approve marriage equality here in the District of Columbia and to make us a leader to further level the playing field in this nation for the LGBT community,” he said.
“I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve had things said to me, things done to me in the wake of my vote — and I won’t discuss those tonight — that are pretty untoward,” he told Naff and the audience. “I stand strong in my commitment. I stand strong in my conviction because I know that we did absolutely the right thing.”
Asked what he thought about a recent decision by D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to name a civilian manager as head of the police division that oversees the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit and other community liaison units, Gray said he was not aware of the development but would make an inquiry about it with Lanier.
He said he is strongly committed to ensuring that the GLLU remains strong and works with other police units to investigate hate crimes.