WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced the District of Columbia Local Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2019, which would clarify that D.C. residents may not be excluded or disqualified from jury service in the D.C. Superior Court based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Specifically, the bill would clarify that “sex,” which is a protected class under the non-discrimination law that currently applies to local D.C. jurors, includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
The District has one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country, including protecting individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the District cannot make its anti-discrimination law applicable to local D.C. jurors. Under the Home Rule Act, only Congress has the authority to regulate local jury service.
“District of Columbia jurors should not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and D.C. juries should not be deprived of the service of LGBTQ residents,” Norton said. “Soon, we will introduce our home-rule bill to give D.C. control over the jurisdiction and organization of its local courts, which requires only completion and perfection of the Home Rule Act, not statehood. Until the District is given control over its local courts, it is up to Congress to pass this important LGBTQ equality bill.”
Norton’s bill is based on H.R. 874, the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2019, which would make the same changes to federal jury law. Norton is an original cosponsor of H.R. 874.
Norton had been talking with the D.C. courts and advocacy groups about this bill before reading that D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh had also been looking into this issue. Norton appreciates Councilmember Cheh’s interest in the issue. Under the Home Rule Act, however, this change in law requires congressional action.