Leaders celebrate D.C. Human Rights Act’s 40-year anniversary

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Muriel Bowser is the D.C. mayor. (Brian Kapur/The Current/February 2016)

City leaders celebrated the 40th anniversary of the District’s Human Rights Act on Dec. 6 at the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, according to a release.

Adopted unanimously by the first elected D.C. Council, the initial statute banned discrimination in employment, housing, education and places of public accommodation based on 15 protected traits. Five more traits have since been added.

“We are proud to celebrate the fact that Washington, DC has long been, and continues to be, a leader in civil rights,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in the release. “The DC Human Rights Act was ahead of its time and remains the most comprehensive law of its kind in the nation.”

The event included a brief film screening featuring former Council member Arrington Dixon and Virginia Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl, with their accounts of the act’s 1977 passage. A panel discussion followed, with local leaders exploring the future of civil and human rights, according to the release.

Katherine Huffman of the Raben Group also received the Cornelius “Neil” Alexander Humanitarian Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in civil rights and is named after a former chief judge. Huffman was honored for her contributions to advancing civil rights and her commitment to criminal justice reform.