Connect with us

homepage news

Bowser or Catania?

Mayor’s race poses dilemma for LGBT Democrats

Published

on

David Catania, Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade
David Catania, Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

The race between David Catania and Muriel Bowser for mayor is dividing the LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

D.C.’s overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning LGBT community will likely be navigating unchartered waters this summer and fall as an LGBT-supportive Democrat, Council member Muriel Bowser, runs against a prominent openly gay Council colleague, independent David Catania, in a hotly contested race for mayor.

“I have no idea how it will come out,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“Many people are talking about supporting Catania,” Rosendall said. “At the same time, some people are circling the wagons as Democrats.”

Rosendall is among many activists who see a potential dilemma for LGBT voters in a city in which virtually all elected officials and nearly all credible candidates for public office are supportive on LGBT rights. Many have longstanding records of support on issues that were once considered highly controversial, such as the city’s same-sex marriage law.

Bowser’s decisive victory over D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary appears to have come with the support of large numbers of LGBT voters, even though the city’s most prominent LGBT leaders backed Gray.

A Washington Blade analysis of 18 voter precincts believed to have large concentrations of LGBT residents shows that Bowser won 14 of them, with Gray and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, a Council member from Ward 6, each winning two of the “LGBT” precincts.

Several of the precincts won by Bowser are located in areas long known as “gay” neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan and Shaw. Other precincts she won are in areas considered up and coming neighborhoods into which many LGBT people are moving, such as the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor, Bloomingdale, and Ledroit Park.

Everett Hamilton, owner of a local public relations firm and longtime gay Democratic activist, is serving as a volunteer communications strategist for the Bowser campaign. He said he believes Bowser captured the majority of LGBT votes for the same reason that she won the overall citywide vote.

“At the end of the day, LGBT people, like all city residents, are going to vote for the person who can best run the city and who they believe is best for the city,” he said.

With a gay brother and a gay campaign manager, Hamilton said no one can dispute the fact that Bowser and her campaign have strong ties to the LGBT community, Hamilton said.

Other political observers, however, point out that Gray was ahead of Bowser and the other mayoral candidates until U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen took the extraordinary step of implicating Gray in an illegal scheme to raise more than $600,000 for Gray’s 2010 mayoral election campaign less than a month before the primary.

Gray has long denied having any knowledge in the scheme that led to the indictment of businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme in exchange for being promised a more lenient jail sentence. It was Thompson who has told prosecutors Gray knew about the illegal activity and approved it.

The revelations by Machen resulted in an immediate rise in support for Bowser that many observers believe led to her victory at the polls.

Catania’s LGBT supporters, meanwhile, have said that Catania’s reputation as a reform politician with a strong legislative record on issues such as healthcare, education, and LGBT rights will have none of the negative baggage that Gray had as the general election campaign for mayor moves forward.

Longtime gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler, one of the founders of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, surprised many in the LGBT community last week when he announced his support for Catania over Bowser. Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, said “many more” prominent LGBT Democrats would soon announce their support for Catania.

Veteran gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, a Blade columnist, has emerged as one of Catania’s leading critics, saying Catania’s status as a former Republican whose philosophy isn’t as progressive as people think will work against Catania in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

Angela Peoples, president of the Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing a non-Democratic candidate when a Democrat is running in a particular race.

Even if the club could endorse a non-Democrat, Peoples said she expects the club to back Bowser, although its members have yet to set a date to vote on an endorsement.

“As always, I will certainly yield to the will of the membership,” she said. “This election poses an interesting situation for many folks and for LGBT folks in the District as there is an LGBT candidate on the ballot,” Peoples said.

“However, I think what I’ve seen thus far coming out of the primary is Democrats are uniting around Councilwoman Bowser. And I think that’s great to see,” she told the Blade.

Peoples said the club would likely adopt a plan for an endorsement vote at its April meeting scheduled for next Monday night.

The city’s most prominent transgender activists, who were solidly behind Gray in the primary, also have yet to say whether they will back Bowser now that she defeated a mayor that many in the trans community considered a champion for their rights.

Although Bowser has voted for all transgender equality measures that have come before the Council, Catania has been the author of several of those measures, including a landmark bill removing longstanding obstacles to the ability of trans people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their transition to a new gender.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. brian

    April 10, 2014 at 11:20 am

    “With a gay brother and a gay campaign manager, Hamilton said no one can dispute the fact that Bowser and her campaign have strong ties to the LGBT community, Hamilton said. ”
    =====================================================================

    Oh, puh-leeze! Does the Bowser campaign really think they can hoodwink us with implied “we support you” and “close tie” lines out of the last century?

    The Beatles’ manager was gay. Did that make the Beatles the most gay-supportive rock band in history? I don’t think so. And how many LGBTs know close relatives who really aren’t/ weren’t all that LGBT supportive?

    That kind of patronizing thinking is exactly what most LGBT Democrats fear Bowser’s approach to LGBT civil rights and LGBT public safety would actually be. Bowser’s mentor/ sponsor, Adrian Fenty, did not bother to consult with his own Director of OGLBT Affairs. Not even once in four years.

    So far, Bowser’s is a STEALTH CAMPAIGN for LGBT voters– offering little or nothing of substance. Why should LGBT Democrats fall for that again?

  2. Eric J Blitz

    April 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    How can you honestly do such a story and not mention Bruce Majors, the Libertarian Party candidate (who also happens to be gay)? Yowza. Check out:

    http://reason.com/blog/2014/02/21/libertarian-party-dc-mayoral-candidate-b

  3. Ben Young

    April 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    There’s a big difference between being supportive of LGBT issues and actually doing something about them. That’s the difference between Councilmembers Muriel Bowser and David Catania.

    Since he was first elected, David has taken on some of the toughest issues facing the city and our LGBT community in particular.

    He authored and championed the city’s successful Marriage Equality law in 2009.

    David expanded publicly supported healthcare programs leading to a 50% reduction in the number of uninsured city residents, many of them part of our LGBT community.

    When David became Chairman of the Council’s Health Committee, the city’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic was broken on every level. Through his commitment of resources and aggressive oversight, he oversaw a dramatic transformation, including:

    1. Cutting the number of AIDS-related deaths by 72% from 238 to 66;
    2. Cutting the number of new AIDS cases by a third;
    3. Increasing the number of publicly funding HIV/AIDS tests from 8,300 per year to 122,000 per year;
    4. Tripling the number of individuals participating the city’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (known as “ADAP”), amounting to 46,000 prescriptions each year;
    5. Establishing an AIDS surveillance and epidemiological data program that is the envy of the nation and the bedrock of our HIV prevention efforts;
    6. Authoring the East of the River HIV/AIDS initiative (later renamed the “Effi Slaughter Barry HIV/AIDS Initiative”) that infused resources in the neighborhoods where the disease was spreading the fastest but where prevention and treatment options were scarce; and
    7. Authoring the law to implement the city’s 1998 initiative to legalize medical marijuana.

    Recently David authored the city’s new law that removes obstacles faced by transgender individuals seeking new birth certificates. In addition, he authored legislation currently pending before the Council that will provide new options for LGBT and other couples to begin families by removing the city’s existing prohibition on surrogacy parenting agreements.

    Currently, David is one of only two D.C. Councilmembers to employ a transgender person through Project Empowerment.

    I have no doubt that Councilmember Muriel Bowser supports all of these issues, but she is responsible for none of them. The difference between the two candidates in this election is that one candidate – David Catania – has a record of results.

    Ben Young
    Catania for Mayor

  4. DC Native

    April 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    LOL……I see nothing on that list about affordable housing obviously Catania supports major Gentrification and not affordable housing STRIKE 1. Okay look come Nov we’ll all find out who is THE MAJORITY of residents. Supporting causes to cut HIV is wonderful and all. But that isn’t all African Americans are in The District! Besides HIV help he ignores the folks as y’all call us EAST of The River. We are in every ward in DC. But good luck!

    Oh also remember Davis said if Evans, or Wells win (Caucasian) He wouldn’t run. But if Bowser, or Gray (African American) wins he’s running? Just think how that sounds to African American working class and ‘under served’ voters…….LOL!

  5. Kyle Jones-Northam

    April 11, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    It's really a shame that Wells didn't win. I'm not sure who to choose between Catania and Bowser. TBH, since most of the candidates are very supported of LGBT issues (relative to the rest of the US), I want to look at other issues facing DC, such as supporting alternative modes of transportation (to reduce the number of cars on the streets), keeping housing affordable, keeping DC United in the District, etc.

  6. Adrian Salsgiver

    April 11, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Lou, I have always liked you, but this is a terrible article. I could not get past the first paragraph. The Mayoral race is between Bruce Majors and Muriel Bowser. Nobody will be voting for David Catania, he will get less votes then Patrick Mara. The Gay Community should wake up and support Bruce, who is not a member of Bowser's Party, the failed Democratic machine, whose leader sends drones to brutally murder innocent children around the world in the name of protecting our freedom.

  7. Greg Cundiff

    April 11, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    A former Republican running as an independent (which is code for Republican in a largely Democratic city) and a Libertarian who happens to be gay (which is code for I may be gay but I'll sell you out just as quickly as the gay former Republican will if LGBT equality stands in the way of the unbridled greed we truly care about) should pose no dilemma for Gay Democrats. If Harvey Milk came back as a formerly Republican Independent or a Libertarian who happens to be gay, I'll vote for the Democratic straight LGBT Ally every time.

  8. Michael Rogers

    April 11, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Because Bruce Majors is racist Tea Party flack who has absolutely zero chance of being elected to any citywide post, especially Mayor. If you come up less than 1/2 of 1% in the polling, you're simply a distraction from the race. I am willing to bet ANYTHING that Bruce Majors NEVER becomes mayor of DC.

  9. Michael Rogers

    April 11, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Adrian Salsgiver, I don't know you, but I'll lay down $500 bucks that Catania gets more votes than Majors… accept the bet…?

  10. Adrian Salsgiver

    April 11, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Michael Rogers, I do not know you, but know Bruce and David. I am going to ask David to drop out and support Bruce.

  11. Michael Rogers

    April 11, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Adrian Salsgiver You can ask him, but I imagine the answer will be "no." Again, Bruce has zero chance of being mayor.

  12. Adrian Salsgiver

    April 13, 2014 at 12:20 am

    David Catania can't win. If the EBT cards stop working, or something else happens to cause an awakening (we already know rioting does not work well), the people may turn to Bruce.

  13. Michael Rogers

    April 13, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Adrian Salsgiver So you think Majors can win and Catania can't?

  14. Adrian Salsgiver

    April 13, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Again; David Catania can't win. David Catania can't win under any circumstances. Again; if there is an awakening, the people may turn to Bruce. Bruce Majors can win. Bruce Majors for Mayor!

  15. Peter Rosenstein

    April 13, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I am happy to give David Catania credit for being a successful member of the Council. And I have both supported and contributed to his campaigns in the past. But David in a recent speech to the Victory Fund highlighted one of the reasons I won’t support him for Mayor. One would think listening to him he did all the things he claims credit for by himself. He didn’t . He had a host of progressive democrats that enabled these things to happen. David has often introduced legislation to grab a headline and the final legislation looked very different from what he suggested. The legislation on surrogacy is an example. He introduced it to a headline and then hasn’t done anything to move it forward and when it does move forward prompted by other members of the council it will look nothing like what he introduced. David is much too much of a one man band to make a good Mayor. Watching him deal with those who don’t agree with him can actually be embarrassing.

    The job of mayor is very different from the job of a council member. In that role David has worked for law firms and others and been paid handsomely often for his influence I would assume. We need a mayor who will work collaboratively and understand how to do that with people who have different points of view and come from a different perspective. David isn’t that person.

  16. LilRaven Publishing

    April 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Like Obama is president of all Americans, not just Blacks, Catania WILL BE Mayor of all DC residents not just Gays. He has the gravitas to do the job but also cares about people east of the Anacostia River. Muriel Bowser does not begin to compare in either area. As the city becomes not only more livable he is the choice that can lift all boats and still be business friendly.

  17. Bruce P. Majors

    April 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Greg the Libertarian Party platform has supported equal rights for gays L-O-N-G before Democrats did, since its founding in 1972. The first Libertarian presidential candidate, John Hospers, a fairly well known professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, was openly gay by 1972 standards (and was the first openly gay man to receive an Electoral College vote). The second Libertarian presidential candidate, Roger McBride, of Charlottesville, the heir to Laura Ingalls Wilder, was also gay, though not out to anyone beyond close friends. Since 1980 I think none of the presidential candidates have been gay (bi I don't know about), but the LP is certainly the only party whose first two presidential candidates were gay. Could we have some DC campaigns free of ignorance and mendacity please, now that we are at least attempting to eliminate Democratic Party corruption and pretending not to notice corruption. (By the way, which candidate was on the Metro board, now in the news for handing out corrupt no-bid contracts?)

  18. Bruce P. Majors

    April 16, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    People went nuts in the comments section, including Michael Rogers, the editor of Raw Story.

  19. Tom Mahon

    April 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    "racist Tea Party flack"
    LOL…..nothing like a hat trick of consistently wrong.

  20. Mike Shipley

    April 16, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I know Bruce personally through our work together for Outright Libertarians (OutrightUSA.org) and your claim couldn't be further from the truth.

  21. Mike Shipley

    April 16, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    If you want, not just business "friendly" but business positive, go with a Libertarian!! There is nothing like fiscal liberty for a more prosperous experience of life.

  22. Deacon Maccubbin

    April 16, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Those who think Muriel Bowser will be a friend to the LGBT community have very little to wrap their optimism in. Yes, she’s voted correctly on several issues of importance to us, and I am grateful for that, but where are the issues on which she’s led? David Catania, on the other hand, has been in the forefront of a great many legislative battle on our behalf.

    You can tell something about a politician by the company they keep. Muriel Bowser invited Robert “Bob” King, a Ward 5 ANC Commissioner, to serve on her host committee during her campaign. Mr. King, you may recall, was a top lieutenant in Bishop Harry Jackson’s assault on marriage equality. Mr. King led the effort to repeal marriage equality by putting it on a referendum ballot. Mr. King was a paid consultant for the notoriously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and spoke against gay marriage at a NOM rally on the grounds of the Capitol.

    But when I and others questioned the propriety of inviting an anti-gay activist like Mr. King into the inner circle of her mayoral campaign, Councilmember Bowser’s response was to defend Mr. King as “a fixture in this community.” She refused to remove him from her campaign. As Rick Rosendall said at the time, “for a candidate to welcome the support of a documented organizer for bigotry, and even to welcome such a person on their host committee, is at the very least a significant act of disrespect for the LGBT community.”

    We’ve already had one mayor (heck, we’ve had several of them!) who surrounded themselves with questionable characters and people of questionable ethics. We don’t need another.

    David Catania has proven himself to be a man of good character, of exceptional intellect, of unwavering dedication to all the people of the District. He has earned my vote and my support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

homepage news

Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

Published

on

Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.

Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.

In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.

If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.

“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”

The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”

“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process.  We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.

“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”

A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.

Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”

Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.

The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.

“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”

Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.

For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.

Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”

“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”

But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.

No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.

“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”

Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.

Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.

Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.

To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.

A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.

“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”

But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Continue Reading

homepage news

D.C. bill to ban LGBTQ panic defense delayed by Capitol security

Delivery of bill to Congress was held up due to protocols related to Jan. 6 riots

Published

on

New fencing around the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented some D.C. bills from being delivered to the Hill for a required congressional review. (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A bill approved unanimously last December by the D.C. Council to ban the so-called LGBTQ panic defense has been delayed from taking effect as a city law because the fence installed around the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented the law from being delivered to Congress.

According to Eric Salmi, communications director for D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who guided the bill through the Council’s legislative process, all bills approved by the Council and signed by the D.C. mayor must be hand-delivered to Congress for a required congressional review.

“What happened was when the Capitol fence went up after the January insurrection, it created an issue where we physically could not deliver laws to Congress per the congressional review period,” Salmi told the Washington Blade.

Among the bills that could not immediately be delivered to Congress was the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020, which was approved by the Council on a second and final vote on Dec. 15.

Between the time the bill was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and published in the D.C. Register under procedural requirements for all bills, it was not ready to be transmitted to Congress until Feb. 16, the Council’s legislative record for the bill shows.

Salmi said the impasse in delivering the bill to Congress due to the security fence prevented the bill from reaching Congress on that date and prevented the mandatory 60-day congressional review period for this bill from beginning at that time. He noted that most bills require a 30 legislative day review by Congress.

But the Evangelista-Hunter bill, named after a transgender woman and a gay man who died in violent attacks by perpetrators who attempted to use the trans and gay panic defense, includes a law enforcement related provision that under the city’s Home Rule Charter passed by Congress in the early 1970s requires a 60-day congressional review.

“There is a chance it goes into effect any day now, just given the timeline is close to being up,” Salmi said on Tuesday. “I don’t know the exact date it was delivered, but I do know the countdown is on,” said Salmi, who added, “I would expect any day now it should go into effect and there’s nothing stopping it other than an insurrection in January.”

If the delivery to Congress had not been delayed, the D.C. Council’s legislative office estimated the congressional review would have been completed by May 12.

A congressional source who spoke on condition of being identified only as a senior Democratic aide, said the holdup of D.C. bills because of the Capitol fence has been corrected.

“The House found an immediate workaround, when this issue first arose after the Jan. 6 insurrection,” the aide said.

“This is yet another reason why D.C. Council bills should not be subject to a congressional review period and why we need to grant D.C. statehood,” the aide said.

The aide added that while no disapproval resolution had been introduced in Congress to overturn the D.C. Evangelista-Hunter bill, House Democrats would have defeated such a resolution.

“House Democrats support D.C. home rule, statehood, and LGBTQ rights,” said the aide.

LGBTQ rights advocates have argued that a ban on using a gay or transgender panic defense in criminal trials is needed to prevent defense attorneys from inappropriately asking juries to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is to blame for a defendant’s criminal act, including murder.

Some attorneys have argued that their clients “panicked” after discovering the person against whom they committed a violent crime was gay or transgender, prompting them to act in a way they believed to be a form of self-defense.

In addition to its provision banning the LGBTQ panic defense, the Evangelista-Hunter bill includes a separate provision that strengthens the city’s existing hate crimes law by clarifying that hatred need not be the sole motivating factor for an underlying crime such as assault, murder, or threats to be prosecuted as a hate crime.

LGBTQ supportive prosecutors have said the clarification was needed because it is often difficult to prove to a jury that hatred is the only motive behind a violent crime. The prosecutors noted that juries have found defendants not guilty of committing a hate crime on grounds that they believed other motives were involved in a particular crime after defense lawyers argued that the law required “hate” to be the only motive in order to find someone guilty of a hate crime.

Salmi noted that while the hate crime clarification and panic defense prohibition provisions of the Evangelista-Hunter bill will become law as soon as the congressional review is completed, yet another provision in the bill will not become law after the congressional review because there are insufficient funds in the D.C. budget to cover the costs of implementing the provision.

The provision gives the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General authority to investigate hate related discrimination at places of public accommodation. Salmi said the provision expands protections against discrimination to include web-based retailers or online delivery services that are not physically located in D.C.

“That is subject to appropriations,” Salmi said. “And until it is funded in the upcoming budget it cannot be legally enforced.”

He said that at Council member Allen’s request, the Council added language to the bill that ensures that all other provisions of the legislation that do not require additional funding – including the ban on use of the LGBTQ panic defense and the provision clarifying that hatred doesn’t have to be the sole motive for a hate crime – will take effect as soon as the congressional approval process is completed.

Continue Reading

homepage news

D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

Published

on

shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.

According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.

Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.

“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”

The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”

Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.

Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.

In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.

“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.

Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.

The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.

In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”

At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.

The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.

In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.

The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.

It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.

Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.

The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.

The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular