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Councilmember Grosso supports rainbow crosswalks to celebrate LGBTQ community

Councilmember Grosso in April sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation supporting the idea of painting crosswalks on 17th Street, NW rainbow to commemorate the important place of the LGBTQ community in the District of Columbia and to further celebrate D.C.'s welcoming and inclusive values. The idea originated with ANC Commissioner Randy Downs (2B05).

Yesterday, Councilmember Grosso received a response from DDOT.  Although the painting cannot be made permanent, he is excited to hear that temporary rainbow crosswalks will be painted in time for the Capital Pride Parade.  Councilmember Grosso plans to volunteer to get them painted this Saturday morning. He appreciates the work of DDOT, Commissioner Downs, and Ms. Sheila Alexander-Reid, the Director of the Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs, to come up with this compromise solution.

Additionally, DDOT has informed Councilmember Grosso that DDOT has coordinated with the Department of Energy and the Environment on their Storm Drain Mural Project, operated in partnership with the Anacostia Watershed Society.  They are currently seeking artists to create designs for storm drain murals along 17th Street, NW.  The goal of these murals is to raise awareness of storm drains as a connection to our local waterways, as well as to promote the neighborhood's LGBTQ identity. Learn more about the program here.

You can read Councilmember Grosso's letter below, followed by DDOT's response.



Secure A Fair & Equitable Trial Act of 2017

Secure A Fair & Equitable (SAFE) Trial Act of 2017

Introduced: February 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Jack Evans, Robert White Brianne Nadeau, and Mary Cheh

Summary: To amend Chapter 1 of Title 23 to curtail the availability and effectiveness of defenses that seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or other inherent identity, is to blame for the defendant’s violent action and to require an anti-bias jury instruction in criminal trials if requested by the prosecutor or the defendant.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. Today, along with my colleagues Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, and Robert White, I am introducing the “Secure A Fair & Equitable Trial Act of 2017”, which we are calling the SAFE Trial Act.

This legislation would curtail the use of defenses that seek to excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent action.

You may remember in 2008 when Tony Hunter died after being attacked in Shaw while on his way to a gay bar.

According to court records, the man arrested for the attack told police that he punched Hunter in self-defense after Hunter touched his crotch and buttocks in a sexually suggestive way.

There were many other factors in the case that made it complex, and could have resulted in a similar outcome, but the fact that the assailant blamed the victim’s sexual orientation for his violence was disturbing and inappropriate.

This argument is known as the “gay panic” defense and it seeks to blame a victim of a violent attack for provoking the violence by making a sexual comment, action, or simply by expressing their identity.

It is used around the country and throughout D.C.’s history.

The same argument has been used by individuals accused of attacking or murdering transgender women, arguing that the victim’s transgender identity amounted to deception and therefor justified a violent response.

That is essentially the argument that the killer of Bella Evangelista made after he killed her in 2003, also in D.C..

The SAFE Trial Act would end the use of such arguments in the District of Columbia.

The American Bar Association has carefully considered this topic and has voted in support of this type of legislation—in fact the SAFE Trial Act is based on the model language put forward by the ABA.

Anyone who knows me knows that I argue passionately for the human rights of criminal defendants, a fair and swift trial, and for alternatives to incarceration.

All of that is possible without resorting to a defense that is premised on bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals

A defense that exploits bias simply should not be acceptable.

The SAFE Trial Act is not limited to LGBT victims, but also covers any situation where an individual might seek to excuse their violent actions on the basis of another person’s identity.

The bill also requires that a jury be instructed to not let bias play a role in their deliberations during a criminal trial if requested by the prosecutor or the defendant.

In this time of heightened rhetoric of hate and violence, it is incredibly important that we act to eliminate bias whenever we can.

I welcome any co-sponsors.

Thank you.



D.C. recommits to human rights as new president takes office

On Tuesday I stood with Councilmember Robert White to announce to our residents and the new administration that the District of Columbia will continue to be a bastion of human rights and work to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Like many residents, I have been anxious since November. Throughout last year’s presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised policies that many brushed off as simple campaign rhetoric. In just the first few days of his presidency, he has confirmed that the bigotry, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia he espoused will guide his policymaking. 

We as elected leaders must stand up on behalf of our residents.  That’s why Councilmember White and I introduced the Sense of the Council Resolution in Reaffirmation of the Human Rights of District of Columbia Residents and in Opposition to Bigotry and Violence.  This document sets forth the entire Council’s opposition to many of the policies that were promised by Donald Trump.  And more importantly, that the Council of the District of Columbia will resist them.

As a Council, we resolved to:

  • reject xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, disparagement of people with disabilities, misogyny, and bigotry in any form.
  • not cooperate with any effort to force individuals to register with the government based on their national origin or religious identity.
  • remain committed to our status as a sanctuary city and not participate in any federal immigration enforcement strategies that endanger those within our city.
  • welcome refugees and those fleeing violence and persecution.

The Council spoke with a unified voice.  Every member of the Council signed on as a co-introducer of these principles, which will now be sent to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

I also applaud Mayor Muriel Bowser’s efforts to reaffirm our sanctuary city status and set up the Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant Program.  Increasing access to attorneys for our immigrant neighbors will dramatically increase positive outcomes for them in immigration court.

More needs to be done. That same day I introduced two bills to make D.C. an even more welcoming city by providing immigrants greater access to our educational and electoral institutions.

I doubt that these recent announcements from the White House will be the last to threaten the well-being of residents of the District of Columbia. I commit to looking at every single way we can continue to protect our residents from the aggressions of the new administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. Engaging with your local officials, including myself, and our staff will be integral to this effort.  I welcome and encourage your feedback.

We must stand together as a city.  Protecting our human rights cannot be done alone.  It must be the charge of all of our elected leaders and all of our residents. We must fight for each other. We must work for the most vulnerable among us. We must lift each other up. And we must love one another.

Read the full resolution adopted by the Council below:



DOH updates Grosso on opioid overdoses, LGBTQ policies, and other health issues

In August, Councilmember Grosso sent a lengthy letter outlining a number of concerns to Department of Health Director Nesbitt. The letter covered the agency’s response to the increase in opioid overdoses, changes to home visiting programs, updates on LGBTQ health policies, health impact assessments, and the agency’s medical marijuana program.

On September 13, Grosso received a response from Nesbitt, which you can view below along with Grosso’s original letter. This past week brought further progress on some issues, as the Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services passed the Substance Abuse and Opioid Overdoes Prevention Amendment Act of 2016 and the mayor announced the doubling of the amount of cannabis medical marijuana program participants may request in a month. Grosso, a member of the Committee on Health and Human Services, will continue to monitor these topics and push DOH to improve its policies and programs, and make them known to the public.

Councilmember Grosso's original inquiry letter: