New Report Assesses Human Rights Protections in DC Metro Area

WASHINGTON, D.C. In an effort to raise awareness about the civil rights protections available in the DC metro area, to empower people to assert the rights they have, and to call on public officials to strengthen the rights available in their jurisdictions, a report titled Protecting Civil Rights in the DC Region: A Comparative Assessment of State and Local Human Rights Laws was released today by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (WLC), with assistance from BuckleySandler LLP and a number of other area law firms.

For each of the area’s human rights laws, the report examines what protections exist, the remedies available to people who have been discriminated against, the ways that rights can be enforced (whether in court or through a local human rights agency), and the local human rights agency’s public reporting. The report examines and compares the human rights laws in eight jurisdictions – Washington, D.C., the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Fairfax County, Arlington County, and Alexandria City in Virginia – and makes recommendations for strengthening the human rights laws in each.

The report highlights that too few of these laws provide protections on the basis of source of income, gender identity, or status as a victim of domestic violence; some of the area’s jurisdictions still do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation despite the progress of marriage equality in the region. The report calls on public officials to expand the protections and remedies available under their human rights laws, to provide a private right of action so that people whose rights have been violated can file a lawsuit in court, to remove any technical barriers that prevent individuals from pursuing claims in administrative agencies without needing the assistance of attorneys, and to improve their reporting of data to the public.

“The DC metro area’s extremely diverse population makes robust civil rights protections a necessity,” said Megan K. Whyte de Vasquez, the Director of the Fair Housing Project at the WLC. “All of the area’s many jurisdictions have enacted human rights laws, but the rights and remedies available vary widely across jurisdictions. This report provides recommendations for each of the region’s jurisdictions to strengthen their laws to combat discrimination and ensure equal opportunity.”   “This report is the result of a significant amount of work from a group of very talented attorneys,” said Jay Williams, an associate at BuckleySandler LLP who assisted in coordinating the project. “We all hope that this research will assist the WLC in its mission to address issues of discrimination in the D.C. metropolitan area, both as an advocacy piece and an educational tool for navigating the wide variety of human rights laws in the area.”

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization, was established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address racial discrimination and poverty in the D.C. metropolitan area.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee was assisted in preparing this report by a number of law firms, including BuckleySandler LLP; Goodwin Procter LLP; Hunton & Williams LLP; and other area law firms. The recommendations in the Report are those of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, and not those of the law firms.

To view the report, click here                 

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