When asked which city in the United States has the highest percentage of LGBTQ + citizens, most will likely guess San Francisco, the headquarters of the Castro District, or perhaps West Hollywood in Los Angeles.
But the nation’s capital actually wins the title – about 10 percent of Washington, DC’s 700,000 residents are part of the LGBTQ community. For those of us who call DC home, it’s infuriating that Congress has full control over our local laws, because we have no real representation in Congress.
Related: Which LGBTQ Person Would You Ask To Write Our Declaration of Independence?
Our city’s lack of control over finances and laws has had real consequences for the LGBTQ community. In 1981, the DC Council attempted to repeal the District’s Sodomy Act, a law that criminalized private and consensual oral sex between same-sex couples. But an Illinois Republican congressman who sought to score political points at home and blocked the repeal. The sodomy law stayed on the books for another decade.
Ten years later, the DC Council adopted a needle exchange program to limit the spread of HIV, which was at an all-time high across the country. For nearly ten years after that, Congress prevented the district from using our own public funds for access to syringes. Congress finally lifted the ban in 2008. Within a year, the rate of new HIV infections fell by about 70%.
Things are not much better these days, 40 years after the attempt to repeal the sodomy law. Just a few months ago, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) decided to intervene in our local regulations on vaccine deployment and child care. Prior to that, the inability of district leaders to react as a group of far-right protesters stormed the United States Capitol in an insurgency, invariably demonstrated how helpless DC residents were. and vulnerable.
Put simply, DC’s lack of state translates directly into the removal of the voters of 700,000 residents, who are subject to the political whims of members of Congress from states in the country they don’t choose, which they can’t. push back leadership.
It is simply not fair that Washingtonians are denied equal representation in the very city that claims the strength of American democracy. Washington is full of monuments dedicated to the founders of our republic and monuments honoring the generations who died defending it.
For the large non-white population, this suppression most effectively translates into racial injustice. Over 63% of DC residents identify as people of color, including 46% of black residents. The state of DC has long been seen as a problem deeply rooted in civil rights and the struggle for racial fairness and justice.
DC’s state emergency grows daily as members of Congress actively exploit their disproportionate authority over district law – conferred on them by the Home Rule Act, which allows Congress to review all laws passed. by the DC Council. Republicans abuse this authority to advance their own political agendas, to the detriment of the will and to the detriment of DC residents, especially their LGBTQ residents.
The LGBTQ community has a large tent, so there are a lot of issues that demand our attention, especially during Pride Month. At the end of pride season, however, DC’s statehood remains a critical issue of voting rights, racial justice and LGBTQ equality that must continue to be at the center of the Democratic Party’s agenda. .
President Biden, Vice President Harris and 46 out of 100 Senators have declared their clear support for the state of DC – now is the time to end this stain on our democracy and finally grant full autonomy to the residents of DC.
Valerie Ploumpis is National Policy Director for Equality California. She leads the fight for the protection of LGBTQ + rights at the federal level and helps provide strategic policy expertise for the group’s legislative and regulatory work.