Last edited: February 14, 2005

Letter to Hilda Mason: Time to Retire

            1414 17th Street, NW, Apt. 711
            Washington, DC 20036
Wednesday, December 2, 1992

Hon. Hilda Mason
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Councilmember Mason:

I am angered and saddened by the dishonesty and viciousness of your remarks at the Council session on December 1 regarding the Sodomy Law repeal effort led by Jack Evans. For you to wrap yourself in the civil rights mantle in one breath and vote against the civil rights of Gay men and Lesbians in the next, was astonishingly self-serving and hypocritical. Surely Joe Rauh, whose memory and legacy you so rightfully honored earlier in the day, would have been ashamed to witness such a spectacle. He understood that when one group’s human rights are infringed, all are diminished.

Your repeated statement, "We all know that Congress will overturn it," was wrong on a number of counts. First of all, we do not know any such thing. As long as the present colonial mockery of "home rule" remains in effect, Congressional interference is always a possibility — especially with a controversial measure like Gay rights. But you have never allowed Congressional opposition to deter you from doing the right thing in seeking Statehood, and neither should you in this case. As your colleague Frank Smith so eloquently stated, "There is never a good time for defending people’s rights." Instead of second-guessing the reaction of those in Congress, you should be attending to your own responsibilities as someone elected to serve the citizens of the District of Columbia.

Do you really believe that the Congressional veto of the Sexual Assault Reform Act eleven years ago should deter the D.C. Council from taking action now? If so, what happened to your convictions and your courage? Are you aware that the Supreme Court ruled that the one-house legislative veto (which was used in 1981) was unconstitutional? A legislative veto is now much more difficult, because it requires a vote by both houses of Congress and a presidential signature (or Congressional override). Speaking of which, are you aware that we have just elected a pro-Gay, Democratic President? The times have changed, and you are woefully out of step with them.

Your statement that you couldn’t understand why the timing would be so propitious, observing that "Congress isn’t even in session," was incredibly disingenuous. Everyone in the Council chambers was well aware of that fact. Evans made it clear in straightforward English that his aim was to have the legislation reach Capitol Hill to begin its Congressional review period on the first day of the new session. Now, because you have capriciously violated your own commitment to human rights, it will be March at the earliest before a re-introduced sodomy law repeal bill can reach the Hill.

You, like Councilmembers Ray, Crawford, and the others who betrayed the cause of decency in this case, have stated by your action that procedure is an end in itself, and that relations and protocol among members of the Council matter more to you than our basic civil rights.

For you to suggest that the Gay community is selfish and has not supported you on Statehood was the most outrageous and insulting lie of all. How dare you dismiss all of our mutual efforts for Statehood over so many years with a wave of your hand merely to score a cheap debating point? That was dishonorable, Hilda, and a disservice to the cause you claim to serve.

For some time now I have witnessed your deteriorating performance as a councilmember. Since the advent of cable television, people all over the District have watched your cranky behavior, your sniping comments to witnesses, and your frequent confusion about what is going on and what others have said. Your latest performance was merely the crowning blow. It is past time for you to retire, Hilda, and your despicable behavior at Tuesday’s session will motivate many of your former friends and allies to work to hasten that day.

If I am mistaken in anything that I say, I am eager to learn the reasons. If I have wronged you, then I beg your forgiveness. The evidence, however, indicates that it is you who have wronged every Gay man and Lesbian in the District. If you are still capable of placing principle above personal interest, then you can prove it by strongly supporting the sodomy law repeal bill when it is re-introduced in January. It is better late than never. At the moment, however, I am deeply offended as a Gay man and a native Washingtonian by your dereliction as my elected representative in this case.


            Richard J. Rosendall

cc: J. Coudriet
The Washington Blade

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