In January, four strong champions of LGBT equality will no longer be serving as elected leaders in the District of Columbia. Council members David Catania, Jim Graham and Tommy Wells as well as Mayor Vincent Gray all deserve our thanks for their steadfast support of our community and efforts to advance equality.
Council member Wells began his support of our community through service on the school board. As a Council member representing Ward 6, Wells voted for marriage equality. As chair of the Judiciary committee he introduced and helped pass legislation that made it easier for residents to officiate weddings. He also introduced and helped pass the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which makes it easier for transgender residents to change names on their birth certificate. He is currently working on legislation that would repeal a congressionally imposed amendment to our Human Rights Act that allows religiously affiliated educational institutions to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Council member Jim Graham was the first openly gay Democrat elected to the City Council. Prior to serving on the Council, Graham provided critical leadership in the response to HIV/AIDS as the executive director of Whitman-Walker Health. As a member of Council he championed marriage equality and set aside the first-ever funding for LGBT homeless youth. In 2013, he helped get the LGBTQ Homeless Reform Amendment Act of 2013 through the Council, which will help combat LGBT youth homelessness for years to come.
Council member David Catania was the first openly gay member of the Council. As chair of the health committee, he provided aggressive oversight over the Department of Health with special attention paid to the HIV/AIDS Administration. This oversight was one of the contributing factors to an improved response to the disease that has saved the lives of many. He also earmarked tobacco settlement dollars to help fund the first LGBT-specific smoking cessation program in the city. Finally, he helped lead the effort in the Council to get the marriage equality bill passed into law.
Mayor Vincent Gray has been a strong champion of LGBT equality. Prior to joining the Council, he served as executive director of Covenant House and ensured that there was culturally competent care provided for LGBT homeless youth in his programs. As a member of the Council, he strongly supported LGBT issues. As chair he was responsible for shepherding the marriage bill through and passed into law. As mayor, he has been one of the strongest champions of the transgender community. As a result of his leadership, access to job training programs significantly increased and the city expanded health insurance coverage to include all gender transition related procedures.
We are fortunate to live in a city that values LGBT equality. We are one of few jurisdictions in the country that have total equality. Community groups like GLAA, Gertrude Stein and the D.C. Coalition, as well as committed activists across the city, have all played critical roles in advocating for our rights. The actions of these four elected officials were crucial in improving the lives of LGBT equality. As an LGBT organizer who has had the honor of working with these great leaders, it is my pleasure to thank them for their service.