Gay alliance set to make voice heard in elections

Legalizing prostitution among platform issues

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It’s a mayoral election year in Washington, and special-interest groups are laying out their agendas. The gay community is no exception.

Members of the D.C. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are speaking again with a united voice and an agenda that runs the policy gamut - from mental health and public safety to youth and human rights issues.

Decriminalization of prostitution is on the list, too.

Titled “Agenda 2010: An Election-Year Guide to Local LGBT Issues in Washington, D.C.,” the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance’s platform touts the legislative victory that made the nation’s capital “the first majority black jurisdiction in the United States to enact civil marriage equality,” urges teachers and others to push in-school gay-straight allegiances and says prostitution should be legalized.

The draft plan also says LGBT groups should be permitted to train students, teachers and administrators on such things as harassment.

GLAA, as the alliance is commonly called, and gays say they won’t go unnoticed this election season.

Clark Ray, who is gay, is trying to unseat popular liberal Democrat Phil Mendelson, who won his first four-year term in 1998.

Mr. Ray’s supporters include Washingtonians with high name recognition, including former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, two former first ladies of Washington, D.C. - retired college professor Cora Masters Barry and Ray campaign treasurer Diane Williams, wife of former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams - and the Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of the 2,000-member-strong Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast. Mr. Wilson, whose church community is very politically active and is entrenched in social work, ran for mayor in 2002 but dropped out before the primary.

Gays also are trying to bolster their ranks on the D.C. Council, where two openly gay members, David Catania and Jim Graham, have been serving for more than a decade. Two gay Republicans are running for ward seats, Tim Day of Ward 5 and Marc Morgan of Ward 1.

Although gays are happy that the District finally passed medical-marijuana and same-sex marriage laws and has implemented several human rights and domestic policies that protect LGBT members, GLAA says its supporters shouldn’t rest on those laurels.

GLAA issues questionnaires to candidates in each major election cycle and grades respondents according to their answers on gay issues. For instance, in the crowded 2006 Democratic mayor’s field, Adrian M. Fenty won the gay community’s support because he supported same-sex marriage.

Decriminalization of prostitution is another GLAA policy.

GLAA lays out its argument, “Prostitution: Legalize It, Regulate It, Zone It, Tax It,” in Section 6 of the agenda, which discusses adult entertainment.

“Sex workers,” including transgender and gay teens, shouldn’t be criminally punished because sometimes they have no other option than to prostitute themselves, GLAA says.

“As advocates of the legalization of prostitution, we think it needs neither sanitizing nor glorifying,” the draft agenda says. “It is not a profession filled exclusively with people who freely chose it from a host of other options. No doubt there are some in that category, like the college student turning tricks for extra cash. But too many turn to it by necessity.”

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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