Mindy Daniels

Mindy Daniels Pioneers Portrait

Mindy Daniels arrived in Washington in 1976. 
Photo © Patsy Lynch

“The recent [1991] appeals court victory in Minnesota by Karen Thompson in having her relationship to her partner Sharon Kowalski finally accorded the respect it deserves, reminds us of how hard Gay Men and Lesbians must fight to win equal protection under the law.”

"The government is finally catching up with the diversity of the city it represents. We don't just simply have traditional nuclear families anymore."

Mindy Daniels relocated from New York to the DC area in 1976.  Already a unionist and campaigner for social justice issues, her early focus was on equal access to the courts, the homeless and alternatives to incarceration for women convicted of non-violent crimes.  In 1983 she obtained her law degree from the George Washington University National Law Center.  In 1986, she decided to turn her attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) legal issues and embarked on a new career involving her in ensuring equal protection under the law for her community.  In 1993, the Washington Lawyer Magazine featured Mindy as an “out” attorney.   

A member of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), she served as GLAA’s Vice-President for Political Affairs for a total of seven years both before and after her leadership of the group.  In 1991 she became the second woman to lead GLAA.  It was a critical time in the development of family law and personal security issues for the LGBT community.  While President, Mindy was heavily engaged in the campaigns that created domestic partnership legislation and the long awaited reform of the District’s sodomy laws. 

At the same time, a surge in violent homophobic incidents in the city and issues of police policy, particularly in the police raid on a gay club in southeast and a near riot during the 1992 High Heel Drag Race, created a need for dialogue and policy making with the Metropolitan Police Department. For several years, Mindy served as a liaison between the LGBT community and local prosecutors and law enforcement.  To help protect the large numbers of men being arrested for indecent exposure or engaging in same-sex public displays of their attractions, Mindy convinced prosecutors to extend a lesser penalty of diversion and community service to first-time offenders. 

Mindy was also heavily involved with Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) in pressuring police and prosecutors to implement the city’s Bias-Related Crimes Act of 1989.  After apparent foot-dragging and only partial implementation of the law, she complained, "This is the law. You can't just implement the law in three districts and see how it goes."  To highlight the issues she initiated Walk Without Fear.  On November 15th, 1991, Mindy rallied more than 600 people at Dupont Circle to remember local victims of bias-related crimes and create a public demand for police and prosecutors to put teeth into the law by including the words “bias-related crime” in their charging documents. Walk Without Fear became an annual event with which she continued to be involved through the 1990s.

In 1992, GLAA and the Gay and Lesbian Education Fund launched a campaign of public service announcements on local radio stations to raise sensitivity to LGBT issues and underscore the inequities in everyday life suffered by a community denied equal protection under the law.  Mindy drafted and recorded the PSA and successfully pressed WMZQ (the radio station enjoyed by President George Bush at the time) and WPGC (the most listened to station) to broadcast them.  A gay liaison to the community under former D.C. Mayor Kelly fondly compared Mindy’s determination to “a junk yard dog”.  He advised, “she will get hold of your pant leg and won’t let go, so you may as well work with her.” 

The tragic death of Tyra Hunter, a transgender woman who was denied treatment by the city’s EMS department in 1995, and the blatant discrimination within the Fire/EMS Department against diversity trainer Kenda Kirby based on Kirby’s sexual orientation and personal appearance, drew Mindy Daniels’ passionate involvement.  Kirby was hired in 2003 and was harassed and blatantly discriminated against during her one-year tenure, prompting a five- year-long suit against the Department that was handled by Mindy and ultimately won.  
Mindy served as a two-time mayoral appointee to the Metropolitan Washington Regional HIV Health Services Planning Council and was elected to its Executive Committee.  She was actively involved in the Condom Availability Coalition and worked closely with the DC Department of Corrections to implement a condom and dental dam availability program for inmates to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.  In the mid 1990s, Mindy created an organization to enhance lesbian political influence and visibility on the national level.  In January 1996, the National Lesbian Political Action Committee was created to work for those goals and endured through 1998.