Contact: Benjamin Fritsch – o: 202-225-8050, c: 202-225-8143
January 12, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said she plans to mount a vigorous defense of the District of Columbia’s medical aid-in-dying bill, the Death with Dignity Act, from congressional attacks after Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) today introduced resolutions of disapproval to block the District’s local legislation from taking effect.
“Senator Lankford and Representative Wenstrup claim to carry the mantle for a small, limited federal government, yet they have introduced bills that abuse the federal government’s power over the District in order to interfere with our purely local affairs,” Norton said. “It is particularly disappointing that Senator Lankford has chosen to abuse congressional authority over D.C., as I have worked successfully with him on federal matters affecting the District, including reforms and improvement to the D.C. courts. The District held hearings and heard vigorous and thoughtful debate from both sides of this controversial issue. Ultimately, the local officials who represent the 680,000 American citizens living in the District of Columbia deliberated and passed the Death with Dignity Act. Unaccountable Members of Congress have no business legislating on the local affairs of our jurisdiction. Since they believe medical aid-in dying is bad policy, Senator Lankford and Representative Wenstrup should advocate their positions on the national stage, where Congress has clear jurisdiction, and introduce bills to prohibit physicians nationwide from prescribing lethal doses of medication, instead of singling the District out for different treatment. The House and Senate have more than enough on their plates trying to solve the many issues facing our country. While Congress tackles the country’s issues, we ask that Congress let the District handle its own local issues, a right enjoyed by every other jurisdiction. I am ready to fight these naked attacks on the District’s local democracy until the day D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act becomes law.”
Under the Home Rule Act of 1973, all D.C. legislation must be transmitted to Congress for a review period before they can take effect. A bill takes effect at the expiration of the review period unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law during that period. Norton has prevented a disapproval resolution from being enacted into law since 1991.
A strong, wise, eloquent and moving speech. A friend today said she had never so wanted a speech to continue.
Two bills passed their second and final readings Tuesday afternoon on the consent calendar at the D.C. Council's legislative meeting:
Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2016, Bill 21-16
Death Certificate Gender Identity Recognition Amendment Act of 2016, Bill 21-444
The first of these legalizes and regulates surrogate parenting agreements in the District. GLAA and our coalition partners have pushed this for four years. Special thanks and congrats to Alison Gill who coordinated our coalition effort.
The second clarifies the process for designating a decedent's gender identity or expression on their death certificate. Lack of respect for people's gender identities after their deaths has been a recurring problem.
The Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2016 passed its first reading as part of the consent agenda at the D.C. Council Legislative Meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6. That means it was supported unanimously.
The bill will have its second and final reading at an additional legislative meeting (probably December 20), then it will go to Mayor Bowser for her signature.
This carefully written bill legalizes and regulates both traditional and gestational (in vitro fertilization based) surrogacies. It will give District couples, both gay and straight, a parenting option commonly practiced elsewhere. No longer will they have to travel outside the District for this purpose. Many couples' dreams of having families will be made easier and less stressful.
This comes after a four-year effort by a coalition of groups including GLAA that worked with the Council's Judiciary Committee staff, medical experts, and family advocates. Thanks to all the activists, families, experts, and affirming clergy who helped. It was opposed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, but they've pretty much opposed everything we've done for the past three-plus decades.
After it is signed, the bill will be transmitted to Congress for the congressional review period that all D.C. legislation must undergo. There may be challenges there; stay tuned.
On Wednesday, November 30, the surrogacy parenting bill (currently known as the Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2016), which has been knocking around the Council since January 2013, passed the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary by voice vote.
The Committee of the Whole will consider the bill on Tuesday, December 6. The bill will then get its first reading and vote by the full Council at the Legislative Meeting that follows the COW meeting. Second reading will occur later in December, then the bill goes to Mayor Bowser for signature.
This bill was the work of a broad coalition of advocates coordinated by past GLAA honoree Alison Gill, including extensive work by Judiciary staff under previous Judiciary Chair Tommy Wells and current chair Kenyan McDuffie. Particular thanks to current committee director Kate Mitchell.
Legalizing and regulating surrogacy is the last major piece of family-related law on GLAA's policy agenda. We testified in support of it in June 2013. I will conclude my term as GLAA president at the end of this month. I will be very glad to leave office on this note. We and our allies may have to battle to defend it during its congressional review period on Capitol Hill; but first things first.
On Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 1) the Death with Dignity Act passed first reading at the DC Council by a vote of 11-2. (Dissenting were CMs Alexander and Nadeau.) Most advocates on both sides (I have testified and lobbied in favor on behalf of GLAA) have been civil toward one another during the process leading up to today's vote. Health Committee Chair Yvette Alexander, for example, held a committee markup on the bill despite her personal opposition.
But one opponent was quite exercised as today's meeting was about to begin, threatening to defeat every Councilmember who supported the bill. (Good luck with that, lady, since most Washingtonians disagree with you.) She even gave a dressing down to bill supporter Romaine Thomas, a beloved local figure who is widow and mother of past council members and a longtime public servant in her own right. The angry woman refused even to shake Romaine's hand; I, as usual, had embraced Mrs. Thomas, asked after her family (her grandson is in college), and said I was glad we were on the same side.
The video taken by Keith Scott's wife Rakeyia of his fatal encounter with police is hard to watch and to listen to. MSNBC was just analyzing the video. I do not begrudge their doing that, but I had to mute the TV. I've had too much. One thing that shines through in the painful recording is this woman's fearlessness in confronting her husband's killers. She is not the first. If there is one ray of hope in all this, it may be that.
Congrats to freshly minted D.C. Councilmember Robert White (D-At-Large), who was sworn in today after being chosen by the D.C. Democratic State Committee to fill the unexpired term of recently resigned Councilmember Vincent Orange. In the picture below, CM White is joined by infant daughter Madison. Robert earned the highest GLAA rating in the At-Large primary race, which he won in June. He stands for a full term on November 8.
I appreciate Sen. Kaine's sentiments, but I think if you read what Pope Francis has written, you would be less optimistic. His Holiness has a great pastoral gift, the value of which I do not minimize. But he remains a conservative, and he has made quite clear that, his personal kindness and graciousness notwithstanding, he has no intention of changing Church doctrine regarding women or gay people. Indeed, he is appallingly uninformed on the science of gender identity. The Catholic Church is not about to budge any time soon.
The heartless and inhumane policy of the British Home Office toward LGBT asylum seekers continues unabated. If you pray, pray for this man's safety. We've much more work to do on the international front, even with purported allies.
The world's leading brand includes a gay couple in its iPhone 7 rollout. But of course.
This is a good thing. The disgraceful hate-mongering over it by Donald Trump shames our nation. America has done much to worsen the situation in the Middle East. Taking in families fleeing the devastation and chaos is the very least we can do. When people so vehemently object to this humanitarian action, it is clear that American exceptionalism means never facing the consequences of America's projection of power around the world. If that is what greatness is all about, we should have no part of it.
It became official yesterday, August 15: Vincent Orange is gone from the D.C. Council. This City Paper article from 2010 shows some of the reasons why I consider this good news. In addition to having called his rival mayoral candidates in 2006 morally unfit for supporting marriage equality (he lost badly in that race), he falsely took credit for reforms at Pepco (and wrongly invoked my name while doing so).
Orange did some good things, though one bill he moved for us he only did after another Councilmember (I believe it was Jack Evans) held up one of his bills until Orange marked up the bill we wanted. Orange finally decided to support marriage equality after we had won. But he was the least trustworthy member of the Council, and his self-promotion was endless and exhausting. Democratic At-Large nominee Robert White, who is expected to be appointed to the vacant seat on an interim basis, will be a breath of fresh air on the Council.
My new Blade column gapes at Trump's fascist rally in Cleveland, as well as the growing scandal over Russian interference in the American election. And I examine the sharp contrast between the two parties' vice presidential candidates. Have a gander while you watch self-defeating leftists trying to sabotage the proceedings in Philadelphia.