Testimony on the New Columbia Admissions Act, S. 132
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
To the U.S. Senate
From the D.C. Statehood Green Party
c/o David Schwartzman
D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate for “Shadow” U.S. Senator
On behalf of the D.C. Statehood Party, we urge the Congress to enact the New Columbia Admissions Act, S. 132 (with counterpart bill H.R. 292 in the U.S. House), which if passed will admit the District of Columbia to the union as a new state.
By granting statehood to D.C., Congress will accomplish part of the unfinished of the Civil Rights Movement.
On June 30, 1998, the late attorney George LaRoche filed a lawsuit on behalf of “20 D.C. Citizens” (Adams et al. v. Clinton, later Adams et al. v. Bush, 2002) arguing that D.C. citizens are entitled to full citizenship rights and that Congress violates these rights in its control over District laws and policies, as well as lack of voting representation in the nation’s legislature.
The goal of the 20 D.C. Citizens lawsuit was statehood — the only reasonable and democratic remedy to the District’s continuing colonial status. For more than a century, residents have sought the same rights under the U.S. Constitution that all other Americans enjoy. A common rallying cry among local activists for democracy in D.C. is “The capital of the nation is the last plantation” — which has special force in a city with a black majority population. In the only public referendum on the issue, over 60% of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood in 1980.
The 20 D.C. Citizens suit shouldn’t be confused with the D.C. Corporation Counsel’s suit (Alexander vs. Daley, 2002) filed a few months later, which only sought voting rights for D.C. in Congress. Mr. LaRoche, the 20 D.C. Citizens plaintiffs, and statehood advocates understood very clearly that democratic self-determination, self-government, and full equality require more than voting seats in a legislature.
Mr. LaRoche argued the 20 D.C. Citizens case before a District Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Both courts dismissed the suit but declined to comment on its claims, which left open the possibility that a similar suit could be filed in the future.
Instead of a new lawsuit, the demand for D.C. statehood has been introduced as legislation in front of the Senate.
The Senate and House now have the chance to correct an injustice nearly as old as the U.S. itself. The Constitution establishes a federal enclave for the seat of government, but it doesn’t set the boundaries for the federal enclave or decree that citizens living within the enclave must relinquish their equal rights under the law.
In 1846, an Act of Congress removed Arlington from D.C. and ceded it to Virginia, proving that Congress may legally alter the District’s borders. Congress may therefore reduce the constitutionally mandated federal enclave to encompass only the federal properties (White House, Capitol, Mall, etc.). The remaining territory can then be admitted to the union as a state, as were all other states after the initial 13 colonies. That is what S. 132 and H.R. 292 will accomplish.
The D.C. Statehood Green Party was founded as the D.C. Statehood Party in 1970 by local activists in the Civil Rights Movement who sought equality for D.C. residents. Members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party were among the plaintiffs of the 20 D.C. Citizens lawsuit. The Green Party of the United States (with which the D.C. Statehood Green Party is affiliated) endorses D.C. statehood in its national platform. The Democratic and Republican parties do not.
Abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the 40-hour work week and eight-hour day, workers’ benefits, and other steps forward in the cause of equality and protection for Americans were all promoted by alternative parties long before the major parties embraced them and enacted them into law.
It’s time for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to catch up to the Green Party on the question of D.C. statehood, democracy, and equal rights for all Americans. We encourage all members of the U.S. Senate to co-sponsor and vote for the New Columbia Admissions Act.