Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) reintroduced legislation yesterday to make the District of Columbia a state, and the D.C. Statehood Constitutional Convention held a Statehood Day reception on Capitol Hill for several hundred local community leaders.

The constitutional convention in 1982 drafted a proposed constitution for a new state, to be called New Columbia, and District voters approved the draft constitution in November of that year. Congress has to approve any new admissions of states to the Union.

"The issue before us is one of simple justice for the 623,000 citizens of the nation's capital," Kennedy said in a statement. "The time has come at long last to end the unacceptable status of the District of Columbia as America's Last Colony."

The District since 1971 has been able to elect a delegate to the House of Representatives, and he can vote in committee but not on the House floor. The city has no voting representation in the Senate.

Statehood is unlikely to be approved during this Congress, supporters and opponents alike agree, particularly with a Republican majority in the Senate and the city having an overwhelmingly Democratic bent.

D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy has said he would like to see changes made this year in the controversial draft constitution and get a test vote on the issue in 1986.

But Charles I. Cassell, president of the statehood convention, saw signs of hope in the recent statement by 35 conservative Republican members of the House condemning apartheid in South Africa.

If they can do this, "there is a great hope they also will see the justice, the equity and the democratic appeal of also supporting democracy in local government in the nation's capital," Cassell said at last night's reception.