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Democratic National Committee
Release: Wednesday, June 11, 1986
Contact: Terry Michael, DNC Press Secretary, 202/863-8020
CHAIRMAN PAUL KIRK
Democratic National Chairman
Paul G. Kirk, Jr. issued the attached statement today in
support of statehood for the District of Columbia.
STATEMENT OF PAUL G. KIRK, JR.
As Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I enthusiastically support passage of H.R. 325, a bill to admit the District of Columbia as the fifty-first state of the Union. I urge members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to swiftly enact this important piece of legislation to insure that every citizen of this nation enjoys full voting representation in the Congress of the United States.
The issue of Statehood for the District of Columbia transcends party lines and many Democrats and Republicans alike support this effort to grant to the citizens of the District of Columbia voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Currently, the citizens of the District of Columbia do not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress as do other citizens in the fifty states.
The citizens of the District of Columbia have clearly and unequivocally spoken on this issue and, through the initiative process, have expressed their strong desire for Statehood. The Council of the District of Columbia has passed a resolution expressing its support for Statehood. The Democratic Party stands firm with the citizens of the District of Columbia and supports their efforts to become the fifty-first state of the United States.
Mr. BARNES. I think the Congressman, Mr. Greenberg, would want to ask you the same question that he asked of Mr. Hechinger, that some have suggested that the economics of statehood for the District render it unfeasible. Do you have a response to that?
Mr. GREENBERG. Well, I think I would echo Mr. Hechinger's words on that particularly point. We believe the economic base is there. I think beyond that our own feeling is that there is a compelling moral issue involved, and that statehood is timely; it is appropriate; it is fully a part of the American tradition, and we are going to continue to press forward until we achieve statehood.
Mr. BARNES. As you may know, Mr. Greenberg, in the Home Rule Act-and I don't know, you may have to give this question some thought, but let me throw it out anyway. In the Home Rule Act there is provision for the at-large members, and the council, that no more than two persons may come from any one political party. Some persons have urged that a similar provision in the statehood bill might result in enhancing the prospects for its passage.
Would you care to comment on that? Mr. GREENBERG. I think I am going to defer on that. We have not addressed that question very squarely. Of course, if there are concerns by the Members of the Congress to that kind of situation, we are always open to consider them. The actual form of the self-determination statehood government is open for debate at this point. Clearly the constitution of the State of New Columbia has a procedure in it. The Congress of the United States is reviewing that constitution. We anticipate modifications before we finally achieve an approved constitution which will be submitted to the residents of the District of Columbia for ratification.
We will take a look at that if need be, but, again, the overriding concern that we have is statehood.
Mr. BARNES. We want to thank you for your responses and for your testimony. I appreciate your taking the time.
Mr. GREENBERG. Thank you very much.
Mr. BARNES. I would like to call now Mr. Arthur Spitzer. Mr. Spitzer, we have your written submission which will be made a part of the record in its entirety, and you are welcome to proceed as you wish. STATEMENT OF ARTHUR B. SPITZER, LEGAL DIRECTOR, AMERI
CAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL AREA
Mr. SPITZER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will not attempt to read through my prepared testimony which has been submitted, but let me touch on some of the highlights and add some additional comments.
The ACLU is here this morning to express our strong support for the cause of District of Columbia statehood. I think Mr. Hechinger—perhaps I should call him Commissioner Hechinger-has made an unanswerable statement in support of statehood, and I might only add to what he said. In addition to the answers he gave, we have been involved with some other issues, for example, the question of the construction of a new prison for the District of Co
lumbia. That is an interesting issue on which there are many diverse and defensible positions. We have a strong position ourselves against it, but we think that fight should be conducted in front of the D.C. Council, or in the future we hope the New Columbia State Legislature, rather than over in front of Senator Specter's committee in the other House.
Similarly, if the chairman were here in person, I could say to him the last time he and I were in a committee room together we were both at the witness table testifying about the 500-foot rule under which he had recently been arrested in front of the South African Embassy, there again a local rule which Congressmen and the ACLU agree should be repealed and agreed is unconstitutional, but we are forced to deal with that issue here in the United States Congress, instead of in the local legislature where it should be dealt with.
Parenthetically, I might just bring to the committee's attention, if the committee is not already aware of the fact that Senator Grassley, last week introduced a bill to repeal that law, which we are supporting that bill, and we hope that Delegate Fauntroy and members of this committee will support it in this House.
The ACLU's interest in D.C. statehood is not one that is limited to the ACLU of the National Capital area. It is a position supported by the national ACLU, and it grows out of our long-standing support and advocacy of the principle of one person, one vote. The major Supreme Court decisions that established that constitutional principle in the early 1960's were ACLU cases, several of them, and the continued absence of any voting weight, any weight to a District of Columbia citizen's vote for Members of Congress remains the single, outstanding and egregious exception to the one person, one vote principle in the United States today.
In congressional districts around the country, if districting is done in such a way that votes in one district have 1 percent more weight than the votes in the adjoining district, the apportionment will be struck down, but the District of Columbia is essentially, apportionally, completely out of existence as far as voting membership in the U.S. Congress is concerned, and we think that is a wholly undefensible and unacceptable situation.
We also today want to note our strong support for the process that this committee has been engaged in, in attempting to perfect the draft constitution that the D.C. Statehood Constitutional Convention produced and submitted to the voters of the District of Columbia. A necessary step on the road to statehood is approval of a bill by the Congress of the United States, and we wholeheartedly support the necessity of some adjustments and perfections in the draft constitution toward the goal of obtaining congressional approval. In that respect we think that a large majority of the suggestions made by the informal task force, on which I know you were involved, were excellent amendments, and to answer in advance, perhaps, the question that you might ask at the end of my testimo ny, if the sort of provision that you just referred to in a question to the previous speaker appears to be an important one on the march toward congressional approval, I don't think, although I must say I haven't consulted anyone else in the organization, but I don't think the ACLU would find that there was a big problem with that.
As you noted, the current D.C. Council operates under such a provision, and we have not found that to be an unconstitutional provision to our thinking in the past. I might say in sort of a footnote, of course once the District become's a State, then presumably it is able to amend its constitution if the people of the District find in the future that some provision of that constitution is no longer acceptable to them.
I did want to touch briefly though, on a couple of specific substantive matters in the draft constitution, because we hope that this committee will move promptly toward a markup of H.R. 325 and toward making any further adjustments in the text of the constitution that the committee feels must be made. Really, there are just two that I would like to mention.
The first, I think, is just a matter of drafting clarity. The provision in article 1, section 20, of the current draft entitled, “Equal Pay,”, encompasses the concept of comparable worth which the ACLU supports. But the provision is drafted in a way that we think needs a little fixing. It says all employees shall be guaranteed equal pay for equal work and equal pay for comparable work.
The problem is that as written literally, that would appear to apply not just to all the employees of a single employer, but to all employees period. So if the provision became effective, presumably I could go into court and sue my employer, the ACLU, because they are not paying me as much as Covington & Burlington is paying an equally competent and equally productive lawyer down the street. I know that they are not paying me as much, and for that matter the employees of the D.C. government corporation counsel's office could presumably sue their employer on the same theory that they are not making as much as a comparably skilled and productive lawyer in private practice.
I'm sure that is not what the members of the constitutional convention had in mind. We have been informed by some of those members that it wasn't what they had in mind. The concept is that all employees of a single employer be paid equitably, and we think that needs to be made clear, either by just adding those words to.. the draft or in explicit legislative history which would probably serve the purpose equally well.
The other problem I want to touch on is in section 3 of article 1 entitled, "Freedom from Discrimination," which provides that every person shall be free from discrimination public or private based on race, color, religion, creed, citizenship, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, poverty, parentage, disability or age. Of course, the ACLU in general supports the eradication of exactly those kinds of discrimination. We have been strong supporters of the D.C. Human Rights Act over the years, and I should say that I am focusing on the provisions of the bill of rights article because that, of course, is the ACLU's area of primary concern and expertise, and in general we think the draft constitution contains a very excellent bill of rights.
In a number of important features it guarantees and nails down specifically some of the provisions of the Bill of Rights in the Federal Constitution, which are now increasingly subject to question in the U.S. Supreme Court. We are in an era, as you know, when a Supreme Court that sometimes seems to care more for the rights of