D.C. Groups Join Together To Organize Equality Begins At Home Events

Rally and Lobby Days to Urge Congress to Keep Out of Local Issues

Washington, D.C. - The D.C. Equality Begins at Home Committee, a local coalition consisting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations and activists, unveiled plans for a historic series of activities slated for March 21-27, 1999 to promote equality and urge Congress to keep out of District matters.

Planned actions during the week will include a major rally on Freedom Plaza to be held on Sunday, March 21 from 2-4 pm, and lobbying days targeting members of the congress who have jurisdiction over D.C. matters.

"While the District government has enacted laws and policies largely supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, along with compassionate and responsible HIV/AIDS programs, Congress has repeatedly disregarded the democratic rights of District citizens by overturning these favorable policies. We want to tell Congress in the strongest terms to keep out of these local matters," said Everett Jennings, a member of the D.C. Equality Begins at Home Executive Committee.

The most flagrant example of Congress' intrusion into local matters has been an annual rider to D.C.'s appropriations bill which prohibits implementation of D.C.'s domestic partnership program. Additionally, for the past four years, Congress has tried to overturn local court decisions which allow unmarried couples to adopt children together.

"Domestic partnership and adoption issues are purely local matters to be decided by our local officials," said Charlotte Young, Vice-President of the D.C. Coalition and also a member of the Executive Committee. "While other cities and states have had jurisdiction over similar issues, the District is one of the few areas in the country in which Congress has meddled into these matters. I am pleased that District citizens are joining together to protest these gross injustices," continued Young.

Adding insult to injury, in 1998 the Congress voted to prohibit the District from spending money to fund its local AIDS prevention needle exchange program. Also, Congress directly meddled with a voter initiative by prohibiting the District government from spending funds to tally votes for Initiative 59, the medical marijuana measure which appeared on the D.C. November 1998 ballot. The matter is now under litigation, and is awaiting court decision.

Invited speakers to the rally will include local and area elected officials, leaders of the gay and lesbian community, and many allies who support equality for District citizens. Those who have already accepted the group's invitation to speak at the rally include Council Chair Linda Cropp, Councilmember David Catania, AIDS Action Executive Director Daniel Zingale, Initiative 59 organizer Wayne Turner, and representatives of the National Capital ACLU and the local PFLAG chapter. Additional acceptances will be detailed in future press releases.

Members of the D.C. Equality At Home Executive Committee include representatives of a broad cross-section of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community including ACT UP DC, Black Pride, Capital Area Log Cabin, the D.C. Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The actions in the District will occur as tens of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people across the country participate in similar events in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District during Equality Begins at Home week. Equality Begins at Home is a national campaign to strengthen and unite the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and promote equality at the state level. The Federation of LGBT Statewide Political Groups is organizing the initiative, while the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is coordinating the effort.

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