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Dear Residents and Visitors to the District of Columbia –
When the leaders of the District were drafting the most progressive non-discrimination law in the nation, the DC Human Rights Act, they dreamt of a local government that would allow the average citizen to seek justice when faced with almost any form of discrimination. In 1977, the nation - and indeed the District - was just a decade removed from the March on Washington, the end of Jim Crow laws, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. No woman had yet sat on the Supreme Court, no openly gay person elected to state or national office, and people with disabilities were still 13 long years away from receiving robust federal protections. But at home, here in the District, our leaders passed a civil rights law protecting a broad array of personal characteristics because they believed in the principle that the Office of Human Rights still lives by today: all people deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential free of discrimination.
Through the years, the Office of Human Rights has expanded its reach and impact. Mandated to enforce the DC Human Rights Act, the office provides mechanisms through which all people who believe they are discriminated against in the District can file a complaint. Our team investigates those complaints, determines whether the evidence supports a finding of discrimination, and orders financial and other remedies to compensate injured parties. In addition, we have moved beyond investigations, toward more proactive efforts to prevent discrimination before it happens. Through community outreach and awareness initiatives, the work of our Citywide Youth Bullying Prevention Program, and our program to ensure all non-English or limited English speakers are guaranteed access to District government services, our agency has become a force for change in our community.
As leader of the Office of Human Rights I plan to embrace and expand this proactive role, while recognizing our most important duty continues to be administering justice when discrimination occurs. We will work to foster respect and collaboration across all groups by identifying commonalities, while celebrating the differences that make our District a vibrant and exciting place to be. The struggle to become a more open and just society has been a lengthy one, and there is still much work to do. We encourage you to join us in furthering human rights in the District by advocating for those frequently targeted for discrimination, and by alerting me when you believe a human rights violation has occurred within our borders. The staff of the Office of Human Rights is proud of its role in making the District a better place to live, work and visit, and we thank you for your support.
Yours in service,