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Taking sides in ‘painful’ mayoral race

Survey shows Catania backers, undecided activists outnumber Bowser supporters

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Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade
Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade

Hilary Rosen, a longtime LGBT advocate and CNN commentator, endorsed David Catania for mayor. A Blade survey of prominent D.C. activists reveals a split in support for Catania and rival Muriel Bowser. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

An informal survey of 37 prominent LGBT advocates in D.C. found that 13 of them would vote for Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor if the election were held this week, 12 would vote for Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and 12 were undecided.

All but five of the activists identified themselves in the survey conducted by the Washington Blade as registered Democrats This development suggests a significant number of LGBT Democrats who are normally loyal to their party in D.C. elections are considering voting for Catania, the openly gay independent and former Republican.

Veteran transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who was among those saying she’s undecided in the mayoral race, appeared to reflect the views of many in the LGBT community in weighing their choice between Catania and Bowser.

“Party lines become blurred when the independent candidate represents the Democratic Party line supporting the needy and social welfare to a greater extent and better than most Democrats,” said Hughes.

“I am inclined to vote along my party line, Democrat, but I need to know more about Council member Bowser’s vision for the District,” she said.

Hughes was also among about 30 mostly Democratic LGBT activists that met privately with Catania on Monday at Catania’s campaign headquarters on Connecticut Avenue, N.W., to engage in a “frank” discussion on a wide range of issues, including non-LGBT issues, according to those familiar with the meeting.

Others attending the meeting were transgender activists Earline Budd, Ruby Corado, and Alexandra Beninda and gay Latino activist Jose Gutierrez.

Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who organized the meeting, said most of the attendees, including him, supported Mayor Vincent Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary and are now either undecided or are leaning toward Catania in the November general election.

Bowser beat Gray in the primary by a margin of 43 percent to 33 percent according to final returns released by the Board of Elections. Six other candidates, including another three members of the City Council, finished far behind Bowser and Gray.

Hudson said he now supports Catania. Although he said Catania’s record on LGBT rights is far more extensive than Bowser’s, his decision to back Catania is based on his belief that Catania is better qualified to lead the city.

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

LGBT advocates in D.C. are divided between David Catania and Muriel Bowser in the race for mayor. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

Among the LGBT advocates supporting Bowser are Bil Browning, founder of the LGBT news blog Bilerico Project, and his partner, Jerame Davis, former executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

Other Bowser supporters, as identified in the Blade survey, include Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, both former presidents of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club; Courtney Snowden, public relations executive and former Human Rights Campaign official; A. Billy S. Jones, veteran gay rights activist; and Riley Temple, an attorney and gay rights advocate.

Gay Democratic activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who serves as a communications consultant to Bowser’s campaign, said other Bowser supporters include Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign; Jeff Marootian, former LGBT outreach director for the Democratic National Committee; and veteran lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid, a radio talk show producer and founder of the lesbians of color advocacy organization Women In the Life Association.

Also among Bowser’s LGBT supporters is Christopher Dyer, the gay activist who served as director of the City’s Office of GLBT Affairs under former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Hamilton pointed to a statement released by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz congratulating Bowser on the day following her primary victory. He said Wasserman Schultz’s strong backing of Bowser would prompt D.C. Democrats, including LGBT Democrats, to remain loyal to their party’s nominee.

“Muriel’s vision to move D.C. in a positive direction resonates with the District’s working and middle class families,” Wasserman Schultz said in her statement. “Her plans to invest in the city’s schools, infrastructure, and economic development embody the Democratic Party’s priorities to increase opportunity for all.”

Although Wasserman Schultz said she believes D.C. Democrats are committed to uniting behind Bowser following the April 1 primary, at least two nationally recognized lesbian and gay Democrats have come out in support of Catania.

Hilary Rosen, a communications firm executive, Democratic Party advocate and commentator on CNN, announced on her Facebook page last month that she’s backing Catania because, among other things, he’s a “candidate who can bring people together.”

Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and current principal in the Democratic leaning lobbying and public affairs firm Elmendorf-Ryan Communications, raised eyebrows in Democratic Party circles when he, too, announced his endorsement of Catania.

Among other things, Elmendorf serves as chairman of the board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which also has endorsed Catania. The group raises money for openly LGBT candidates for public office across the country.

“I think David is a candidate who can bring people together and most importantly has shown himself to be willing to do the work,” Rosen said in her Facebook statement. “For example, when he chaired the [D.C. Council] Health Committee he created accessible health clinics for residents all over D.C. but most importantly east of the River.”

Others who identified themselves as Catania supporters in the Blade survey include Deacon Maccubbin, former Lambda Rising bookstore owner; Joel Lawson, Dupont Circle civic activist; Roger Moffatt, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Southwest Waterfront area; Alexandra Beninda, transgender activist and member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission; and William Waybourn, former publisher of the Washington Blade. Each of them said they are Democrats.

Also identifying themselves as Catania supporters in the survey are Marvin Carter, CEO of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters; Charles Francis, public relations executive and founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the preservation of the papers of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny; and Berin Szoka, a Libertarian Party activist and 2012 supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Carter and Francis said they are registered as independent voters. Szoka said he’s a registered Republican.

Among the 12 Blade survey participants who identified themselves as being undecided in the mayoral race, gay activist Bob Dardano, transgender activist Toni Collins, and gay ANC commissioner and Georgetown University student Craig Cassey said they are “leaning” toward backing Catania. Each said they are registered Democrats.

Gay rights advocate and journalist Isaiah Poole and gay Asian and Pacific Islander association director Gregory Cendana said they are undecided but are leaning toward Bowser. The two said they are also registered Democrats.

Others identifying themselves as undecided are A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic; Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, a Ward 1 civic activist; attorney, tax preparer and Ward 1 civic activist Wallace Dickson; and attorney and Dupont Circle civic activist Edward Grandis. All five said they’re Democrats.

Another survey participant saying he was undecided was Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. Turner, a registered Republican, said the local GOP has the legal authority to nominate its own mayoral candidate and may do so in time for the June filing deadline for the November general election.

In addition to Bowser and Catania, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors and Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician and perennial D.C. mayoral candidate, will also appear on the November ballot for mayor.

Majors and Faith ran unopposed in their respective party primaries on April 1. However, Board of Elections returns show that Faith received 191 votes, 19 fewer than the 210 write-in votes cast for several people not yet identified by the Board.

A Board of Elections spokesperson said Faith was expected to be certified as the winner because she received more votes than any of the individual write-in candidates.

The returns showed that Majors received a total of 30 votes in the primary by Libertarian Party members. Three write-in votes were cast by members of his party.

The Blade’s survey included Majors’ and Faith’s names as mayoral candidates in the November election, but none of the LGBT advocates participating in the survey expressed support for them.

Majors, a D.C. real estate agent and longtime supporter of LGBT rights, has said he plans to wage an aggressive campaign espousing Libertarian Party principles and how they would benefit the city.

The Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, did not endorse a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote of the club’s membership. Gray received the most votes but fell just short of the 60 percent threshold.

In a development that surprised some longtime Stein Club members, the club didn’t take immediate steps to endorse Bowser as the Democratic nominee at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 14.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s officers would soon discuss plans for when to hold an endorsement meeting. She noted that the club’s bylaws prevent the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in races where a Democratic candidate is running.

Former Stein President Vorndran, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, said the club’s longstanding tradition since its founding in the 1970s has been to endorse Democratic primary winners at the club’s first meeting following the primary if the club had not already endorsed those candidates.

As a Democratic Party organization, endorsing primary winners almost never involved controversy assuming they were supportive on LGBT issues, Vorndran said.

“It was as routine as approving the minutes,” he said.

But he said the club’s apparent hesitation to endorse Bowser at its meeting this week suggests the club’s officers are uncertain that Bowser would garner the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement at this time.

With a number of club members supporting Catania, a sizable number of members would be expected to vote for the option of “no endorsement,” at least two club members told the Blade.

Peoples said the club and its officers are following an endorsement process adopted last year in which a club endorsement-political committee was formed to determine procedures for making endorsements.

“Our goal is to involve members in the process as much as possible,” she told the Blade. “At Monday’s meeting I said that we would take the feedback to the political committee and give them a chance to determine what the best next step is for the process,” she said.

“The only thing that can be inferred from that is that the Stein Executive Committee remains committed to an open and transparent endorsement process,” she said.

The possible complication in the Stein Club’s endorsement process is yet another example of how divisions within the LGBT community over the Bowser-Catania race may create tension between fellow Democratic activists.

“This race has been painful because I have been forced to make choices which adversely affect individuals whom I respect and admire,” said transgender activist Hughes.

“David Catania has been an LGBT champion, an exemplary and effective Councilman, and personally I love him,” Hughes said. “Muriel Bowser has supported LGBT rights and many in our community love her.”

Added Hughes, “It would be a relief to abdicate choice and rely solely on party line, but this choice will have a real impact on how the District will fare and prosper in the next four years.”

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Jeri Hughes

    April 17, 2014 at 3:18 am

    Let's keep an open mind and hear Councilwoman Bowser's vision for the Ciity….

  2. Jeri Hughes

    April 17, 2014 at 3:18 am

    Let's keep an open mind and hear Councilwoman Bowser's vision for the Ciity….

  3. DC Native

    April 17, 2014 at 12:49 am

    I’m sorry there is NOTHING PAINFUL about anything with me, But I understand this The Blade and it’s conceern is the LGBTQ Community a certain part anyways. However the people that you’re mentioning decisons sway who??? NO ONE.

    Trying to make Bowser look questionable for Republican Catania. Isn’t a GOOD LOOK. And this community is a fragment of the voting block NOT THE MAJORITY! And we’re all waiting for Machem’s indictment of currently Mayor Gray. And for Catania’s sake they better do so because if they don’t. All that grandstanding in front of cameras telling Gray to resign makes me think he will REGRET that whole act!

  4. Jeffrey Zane Slavin

    April 17, 2014 at 9:12 am

    The Democratic Party has been strongly supportive of LGBT rights in the recent past. As a former DC Dem Officeholder, I am SHOCKED that some of my prominent LGBT friends would consider abandoning our party's fantastic nominee MURIEL BOWSER. For those that do, however, and that is their right, I do hope that they will refrain from negative campaigning because that will be quite damaging for future collaboration….

  5. brian

    April 17, 2014 at 5:55 am

    The hard truth is that DC’s Democratic Party has been shattered from within by a culture of cronyism and corruption perpetrated by the very leaders we Democratic voters put into office over the past 8 years.
     
    Rank and file Democrats– both LGBT and straight have been BETRAYED– from crooked and dishonest ward ANCs, to crooked and dishonest council members, and to the cronyism and process corruption of TWO DC MAYORS in a row now.
     
    As was proven when many thousands of Dem voters stayed home on April 1st, rank and file Democrats — straight and LGBT, and of all skin colors — are disgusted and discouraged by that betrayal too.
     
    It’s not about anyone’s so-called “vision.” That’s just more empty rhetoric and PR. Who seriously believes Adrian Fenty’s legacy of cronyism and empty promises will be changed by his hand-picked crony successor, Muriel Bowser?
     
    It matters not what ANY public officials have done on behalf of LGBT civil rights. LGBT Democrats owe no allegiance whatsoever to Dem party bosses and Dem leaders who have been tacitly complicit in the perpetuation of DC Dems’ culture of cronyism and corrupt practices.
     
    Nor do LGBTs activists owe personal or political loyalty to liars, crooks or corruptors of the public’s trust. Such misplaced party loyalty stains all of us and the cause of LGBT civil rights itself.
     
    DC’s government is at an historic turning point. So is DC’s Democratic Party. It will take a long time and perhaps several elections to return our government and our party to an ethical norm.
     
    Will our government and our once great local Democratic Party be returned to the hands of the people, or remain largely in the sullied or corrupt hands of the few? Vote by vote, the answer to that question is in the hands of each of us now.
     

  6. brian

    April 17, 2014 at 7:47 am

    MORE OF BOWSER’S PATRONIZING ‘SUPPORT’ OF LGBTs
    (Are his ‘prominent LGBT friends’ scared yet?)
     
    ======================================================================
    “I am SHOCKED that some of my prominent LGBT friends would consider abandoning our party’s fantastic nominee MURIEL BOWSER… I do hope that they will refrain from negative campaigning because that will be quite damaging for future collaboration…” — Jeffrey
    ======================================================================
     
    Oh, my! Yep. That looks very much like an implied threat against “future collaboration” with LGBTs.
     
    I’m guessing this party-bossy warning against “negative campaigning” is defined in this instance as any discussion or commentary critical of MURIEL BOWSER.
     
    Ain’t it just like a patronizing Bowser party boss to threaten “prominent LGBT friends” with lack of ‘future collaboration…’
     

  7. LeoMarius

    April 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

    There is no room for partisan labels on a municipal level. Exactly what national issues are relevant to DC’s municipal duties?

    Take away the party labels, which Catania has done as an independent. On the one hand, you have one candidate who was an ANC chair 7 years ago and who is described by her own council colleagues (all within her own party) as a policy lightweight who lacks depth of knowledge and an understanding of the needs of the city. On the other hand, you have a veteran who is respected by his fellow council members for his experience and expertise.

    If it were not for Adrien Fenty’s patronage, no one would have ever heard of Muriel Bowser. She has been unremarkable on the Council and shows no promise as Mayor. It will be a sad day if DC again elects a political featherweight to follow up a corrupt mayor as it did 20 years ago with Sharon Pratt Kelly. It took DC a decade to recover from the Kelly-Barry era all because DC residents voted on party line for what should be a non-partisan office.

    • DC Native

      April 18, 2014 at 1:52 am

      Roght Leo,

      In laymen’s term DON’T ELECT NO MORE BLACK PEOPLE TO LEAD DC. We want them out of DC. And David being a conservative masqueraded as a indepEndent will get that job done!!!

      HA HA Keep insulting Muriel and watch the TIDE RISE against THOSE THAT TRY IT!!!

  8. Andy Hallock

    April 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    As far as mayor's go – there is no democratic or republican way to pave streets, pick up trash, clear snow, build streetcars, invest in infrastructure…So deciding based on party is silly.
    Rather DC's major issues are a massive credibility gap and endemic corruption. Who will address those two issues openly and honestly has my vote.

  9. I'm Just Sayin'

    April 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Let’s turn the tables and ask this question: Had Jack Evans won the primary and Murial Bowser jumped ship and ran against him as an independent, do you really think that DC’s overwhelmingly democratic cadre of black voters would chose party over “one of their own?” The facts are that Bowser doesn’t need LGBT support to win. Catania does. That in itself should inform any LGBT voters choice, should they actually want to be represented in this city. It’s true that Bowser has never been an impediment to advancing gay rights, but it’s equally true that she has never been out front as an advocate. Election rhetoric from even gay-friendly Democrats is not a good predictor of future action when it comes to LGBT support (where’s ENDA?) Given the chance to elect a non-partisan capable gay man, with a strong legislative track record, respected by his city council colleagues, as Mayor of a major US city with worldwide exposure and not taking it is indefensible. The fact that people like Elizabeth Birch don’t get the importance of a Mayor Catania, explains why her tenure as HRC leader was short.

    • DC Native

      April 18, 2014 at 1:55 am

      IT AIN’T HAPPENING…

  10. brian

    April 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    As far as mayor’s go – there is no democratic or republican way to pave streets, pick up trash, clear snow, build streetcars, invest in infrastructure…So deciding based on party is silly. –Andy
    ==========
     
    That’s exactly right, Andy. And partisan politics only encourages more of the cronyism and corruption we’ve seen with the Fenty and Gray Admins and a number of council members.
     
    DC ought to join 75%+ of other cities and adopt non-partisan elections. That would at least cut down on the party bossism and monied corruption we’ve endured.
     
    According to the National League of Cities, 18 cities larger than DC have non-partisan elections — ascending by current US Census population projections, they are …
    Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, San Diego, San Jose, Detroit, Jacksonville, Austin, Columbus, Fort Worth, Memphis, Boston, El Paso, Milwaukee, Denver, Seattle and Nashville.

  11. Bruce Majors

    April 17, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Berin Szoka, a very bright and able campaigner for Ron Paul in 2008, has to my knowledge never been active in the Libertarian Party. He has a small l libertarian political philosophy, but is in another party and so is a libertarian activist, not a Libertarian Party activist. I suspect he does not know how much his ideas differ from Catania's. One suspects there are voters who think Catania is more a supporter of the market economy or limited government of fiscal accountability than is Muriel Bowser for reason that are prejudicial, superficial and thoughtless. An African-American, female, non-gay, Democrat, might actually be slightly more libertarian than a white, male, gay, former Republican. It is bigotry to assume Catania, who has defended putting taxpayers on the hook for hospital care for undocumented immigrants, regulating pharmaceutical employees, and bailing out government schools when almost all their students leave for charter schools, is more "libertarian" than Muriel Bowser.

  12. Bruce Majors, Libertarian for Mayor

    April 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Both Democrats and Republicans are Johnny come latelies to gays and their rights, both chasing after public opinion at best, and not leading it. In DC the GOP locally has gay marriage in its platform, and the Democrats do not. But only the Libertarians have 3 gay candidates, and only they have ever run gays as Presidential candidates.

    Berin Szoka, a very bright and able campaigner for Ron Paul in 2008, has to my knowledge never been active in the Libertarian Party. He has a small l libertarian political philosophy, but is in another party and so is a libertarian activist, not a Libertarian Party activist. I suspect he does not know how much his ideas differ from Catania’s.

    One suspects there are voters who think Catania is more a supporter of the market economy or limited government or fiscal accountability than is Muriel Bowser for reasons that are prejudicial, superficial and thoughtless. An African-American, female, non-gay, Democrat, might actually be at least slightly more libertarian than a white, male, gay, former Republican. It is bigotry to assume Catania, who has defended putting taxpayers on the hook for hospital care for undocumented immigrants, regulating pharmaceutical employees, and bailing out government schools when almost all their students leave for charter schools, is more “libertarian” than Muriel Bowser

  13. Jessica Lee

    April 17, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Well put. Berin is way off on this one. Catania is nuts. And white gay men say a lot of insulting things about Muriel. I want to know why Catania has a full time lawyer job, what he gets paid and what he does for his firm.

  14. Jessica Lee

    April 17, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Well put. Berin is way off on this one. Catania is nuts. And white gay men say a lot of insulting things about Muriel. I want to know why Catania has a full time lawyer job, what he gets paid and what he does for his firm.

  15. Bruce Majors

    April 18, 2014 at 11:11 am

    you know I don't even have a lot against him, though he is no limited government advocate, though maybe a "good government" advocate. But people really are assuming that the white gay guy is more "libertarian" than the black woman, without looking at their records.

  16. brian

    April 18, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Catania got us gay marriage when HRC was quivering in the corner, saying the timing wasn’t right. He picked a battle against the odds (and the gay establishment) and he won. My husband and I are direct beneficiaries of his proven leadership. How gays could even contemplate voting for anyone else is beyond me.

  17. BriansIons (NB, pls: no longer as "brian")

    April 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Catania got us gay marriage when HRC was quivering in the corner, saying the timing wasn’t right. He picked a battle against the odds (and the gay establishment) and he won. My husband and I are direct beneficiaries of his proven leadership. How gays could even contemplate voting for anyone else is beyond me. (posted 4/18/14, 10:07 am, above as another “brian”)
    ============================================================================
     
    For the benefit of all other Blade reader ‘Brians’ — whether using a first or other name — who feel they must also use a “brian” (lower case ‘b’) name tag, I will use my more familiar, more unique moniker(s) elsewhere of “brian.ions” or “BriansIons”– now and in the future.
     
    FOR THE RECORD… I am NOT the Blade reader who posted a comment (above) as “brian” at 10:07 am this morning (18 Apr).
     
    That raises a rather interesting question to consider.
     
    I do hope there is not an attempt at campaign “dirty tricks” going on here. (It would not be the first time, BTW.) I will be happy to alert readers here again if I detect such.
     
    Whatever, whoever, the poster is entitled to his personal opinion of course. And I don’t entirely disagree with its sentiment.
     
    However, to be VERY clear, I try NOT to speak for all ‘gays’ or all LGBT people. We are far too diverse a set of people for that nonsense.
     
    Moreover, I hope I would not be so presumptuous as to advise an entire group of Blade readers to vote for a mayoral candidate — even one as terrific as David Catania — solely on the issue of Marriage Equality.
     
    Fact is, Catania’s representation of the ALL of DC, through all his elections, has always been on the basis of addressing the FULL range of issues that face a big American city (over 500,000 in population, i.e.) — as well as some unique issues that face DC as the Nation’s Capital and a non-state, federal jurisdiction.
     
    David Catania has represented the entire city on COUNCIL for 17 years addressing that full set of issues– including his pioneering leadership on a full range of LGBT issues, which can never be matched by Bowser.
     
    Indeed, Muriel Bowser, so far appears to seek LGBT votes on the basis that she has a gay campaign manager and a gay brother. Seriously, folks.
     
    In addition, yesterday, one of Bowser’s supporters, Mr. Slavin (see above posts), a self-described, former DC “Dem party officeholder” even implied LGBTs in DC would suffer ‘damaged future collaborations’ with DC’s Democratic Party if “negative campaigning” was used against Bowser.

    Bowser is an untested, stealth candidate on lots of issues. But speaking of LGBT issues, are any LGBT voters reassured by the Bowser Campaign’s and party-boss supporters’ comments on the subject, so far?
     
    IMHO, Muriel Bowser should stop playing *politics-as-usual* games.
     
    Bowser has nothing to fear by conducting a campaign, right NOW, this Spring, that respects the curiosity of ALL voters about her unclear and sparse record on the Council. Bowser is already flip-flopping on education issues.
     
    Ms. Bowser should debate David Catania, now, and throughout the remaining campaign. DC voters deserve honesty and transparency from their candidates.
     

  18. BriansIons

    April 19, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Catania got us gay marriage when HRC was quivering in the corner, saying the timing wasn’t right. He picked a battle against the odds (and the gay establishment) and he won. My husband and I are direct beneficiaries of his proven leadership. How gays could even contemplate voting for anyone else is beyond me.
    (Posted 4/18/14, 10:07 am, above as another “brian”)
    =============================================
     
    One last thing I neglected to mention regarding this likely ruse-identity-posting yesterday… “quivering in the corner” is not a phrase I would ever apply to HRC’s approach to its persistent advocacy of LGBT human rights issues.
     
    It was (and is) easy for any of us to criticize a methodical, step-by-step approach with respect to any LGBT rights issue — especially when the existing legal protections of our inherent rights were nearly non-existent. Every jurisdiction poses its unique set of legislative challenges to change. Perhaps DC’s most noteworthy has always been the 90-day congressional veto.
     
    Over time, HRC’s careful, methodical approach to legislative change, nationally (and likewise, GLAA’s similar approach locally) has produced a steady string of accomplishments that LGBTs would not have enjoyed without those step-by-step efforts.
     
    It is not a zero-sum effort for the LGBT activists and elected officials, however. HRC’s and GLAA’s missions are tempered by their abilities to affect change. Likewise, effective legislators have entirely different abilities and doable missions.
     
    David Catania recognized the exquisite moment for Marriage Equality change in DC, and he acted without hesitation to get it accomplished successfully. That HRC and GLAA followed and assisted as Catania ‘took the point’ in that effort shouldn’t surprise anyone.
     
    David used his well-honed legislative skills, working in concert with Phil Mendelson, to make Marriage Equality a secure reality for DC.
     
    However, that was done in a careful, two-step process. Catania did it in a way that would not trigger serious congressional opposition — a possibility which could have easily set back the cause of Marriage Equality for DC and in other states nationally.
     
    That is skillful legislating and that is skillful leadership — which, without question, recommends David Catania highly for mayor.
     

  19. Odessa M Shannon

    April 19, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    It never ends!

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

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

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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.

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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

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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.

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

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

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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.

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