December 18, 2014 at 4:37 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gray highlights LGBT issues in farewell address
Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I’m particularly proud of the great strides we have made in ensuring full equality of the District’s LGBT community,’ said Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray mentioned his administration’s initiatives in support of LGBT equality in a prominent way in a farewell address at Dunbar High School Wednesday night that drew more than 400 people, including many of the city’s prominent LGBT activists.

In his two-hour speech Gray said he was proud of the progress the city has made under his administration in a wide range of areas, including a booming economy, lower unemployment rates, improved test scores for public school students and dozens of real estate development projects that he said have or soon would improve neighborhoods in all parts of the city.

“But for a city to rise together, simply meeting the basic needs of jobs, housing and education is not enough,” Gray said. “We must strive to treat each other as equals, with dignity and respect. That is why I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken advocate of full equality for all District residents – particularly for immigrants and those in the LGBT community,” he said.

“And I’m particularly proud of the great strides we have made in ensuring full equality of the District’s LGBT community,” Gray said. “For example, we launched the first-ever District government-sponsored transgender employment initiative under the Department of Employment Services Project Empowerment Program.”

Added Gray, “In 2012, we launched a groundbreaking, first-in-the-nation Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign. It was designed to increase understanding for transgender and gender-non-conforming people, curtail discrimination and violence and increase reporting of discrimination to the Office of Human Rights.”

He said later that year he was proud to have signed the city’s Youth Bullying Prevention Act and appoint a Bullying Prevention Task Force, “which created a Model Bully Prevention Policy for the entire city.”

With several of the LGBT activists in the audience, including transgender activist Jeri Hughes, rising to their feet to cheer, Gray mentioned these additional LGBT-related initiatives he said were among his administration’s accomplishments:

• “I was proud to sign into law the ‘JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Act,’ which allows people undergoing gender transition to receive a new birth certificate more accurately reflecting their gender identity.”

• “I signed the ‘Marriage Officiant Amendment Act,’ which allows couples to be married by officiants other than just a religious celebrant, judge, or designated clerk.” He noted this new law gave him and other city officials authority to perform marriages and the first such marriage he performed was for a same-sex couple.

• “Earlier this year my administration guaranteed health care equality to residents who are transgender by requiring health insurers to follow the science and recognize gender dysphoria as a medical condition. This means all individual and group policies must cover medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria — a monumental and nation-leading step forward in protecting the health of the District’s transgender residents.”

Gray lost his re-election bid to D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary. Bowser, who won the general election in November, is scheduled to be sworn in as Gray’s successor on Jan. 2.

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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