- July 29 - The House of Representatives defeated an anti-gay amendment today
that aimed to limit gay and lesbian couples from adopting children in the District
of Columbia. The 215-213 vote was a victory for the more than 3,100 children in
Washington without homes, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., would
have prohibited unmarried couples from jointly adopting children. Largent attempted
to attach the measure to the District of Columbia appropriations bill.
"The welfare of children triumphed over anti-gay politics,"
said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "Having two legal guardians is
in the best interest of a child because it often gives greater financial security
and ensures that an adopted child can receive health and other benefits from both
Another amendment, which would prohibit federal and local funds
from being used for needle exchange programs in Washington, passed 241-187. That
amendment, offered by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., further prohibits funds from being
paid to any organization that carries out such programs.
"This amendment unfairly singles out district residents and
sets a dangerous precedent for states and localities where needle exchange programs
operate," said Stachelberg. "This measure flies in the face of sound science and
will result in more people suffering and becoming infected with HIV."
Earlier this week, District Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and
former Reagan administration Surgeon General C. Everett Koop wrote separate letters
to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asking him not to forbid the District
from using money on needle exchange programs.
"I am now writing to express my strong belief that local programs
of clean needle exchange can be an effective means of preventing the spread of
the disease without increasing the use of illicit drugs," Koop wrote.
The same language included in the Tiahrt amendment was passed
last summer and has had deleterious effects on the districtıs needle exchange
programs. For instance, a needle exchange program had to be dropped by Whitman-Walker
Clinic and run by a stand-alone entity, Prevention Works. Forcing the program
to operate as a stand-alone entity has removed the benefits of access to primary
care and other supportive services.
Additionally, the House passed an amendment by Rep. Bob Barr,
R-Ga., aimed at undermining a referendum in which District of Columbia residents
approved the medicinal use of marijuana to help relieve suffering patients. Barrıs
amendment, which passed on a voice vote, would prohibit funds from being used
to legalize or reduce penalties for the possession, use or distribution of any
Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. That would include marijuana.
"We will work tirelessly during the months ahead to defeat the
remaining problematic amendments in conference," said Stachelberg.