PRESS RELEASE: McDuffie Sends Housing and LGBT Rights Legislation to Full Council

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McDuffie Sends Housing and LGBT Rights Legislation to Full Council

Trio of Bills Will “Ban the Box” in Housing; Legalize Surrogacy Agreements; and Recognize Gender Identity on Death Certificates

Washington, DC – Today, the Committee on the Judiciary of the D.C. Council voted unanimously to send three bills to the full Council.

Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016 [B21-0706]

This bill – often called “Ban the Box for Housing” – prohibits housing providers from considering prior arrests that did not result in convictions when evaluating an applicant for tenancy. The bill also prohibits a housing provider from making an applicant disclose a pending criminal accusation or criminal conviction prior to making a conditional offer for housing. And after extending a conditional offer for housing, a housing provider must provide an applicant with the eligibility criteria used in deciding whether to rent or lease and may only consider certain pending criminal accusations and criminal convictions that have occurred in the past seven years. After a conditional offer is made, it may only be withdrawn if the housing provider determines that the withdrawal or adverse action achieves a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest. Finally, the bill provides that complaints alleging violations of the law can be filed with the Office of Human Rights.

Upon passage of the bill out of Committee, Councilmember McDuffie remarked: “The use of criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing results in the same racial and ethnic disparities in housing that we see in our criminal justice system. We know criminal and arrest records are rarely looked at on a case-by-case basis and instead used in blanket denials of anyone who may have a blemish on their record. This legislation means that the tens of thousands of District residents who have some kind of criminal record will not be discriminated against on that basis.”

Collaborative Reproduction Amendment Act of 2016 [B21-0016]

This bill represents a recognition that the District’s current law criminalizing surrogacy agreements is out of step with the diverse ways that District residents have and will continue to form families. The bill adopts best practices and model provisions from other states to anticipate many of the issues that could arise during a surrogacy, including strong legal protections for both surrogates and parents. Only four states in the country ban the practice of surrogacy, and the District is the only jurisdiction with criminal penalties.

After the vote, Councilmember McDuffie said: “It is long past time that the District join the vast majority of states in allowing surrogacy agreements. This law protects all parties and ensures that District residents won’t have to travel to another jurisdiction to enter into a surrogacy agreement. I have heard from many District residents who have used surrogates in other states and the surrogates themselves, and they all would have wanted the protections that this bill provides.”

Death Certificate Gender Identity Recognition Amendment Act of 2016 [B21-0444]

This bill allows an individual’s gender identity to be properly reflected on their death certificate. The current process records an individual’s “sex” as it is reported to the Vital Records Division of the Department of Health, but there is no procedure to alert officials that the individual’s gender identity differs from what was reported. Currently, only one state – California – has passed a law explicitly requiring that death certificates reflect an individual’s gender identity. The bill will provide dignity to all District residents in the event of their death.

Following the vote, Councilmember McDuffie remarked: “This bill means that District residents who pass away will be able to have their identities appropriately reflected on their death certificates. First and foremost, we are honoring their wishes.”