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Transgender Southerners face rampant discrimination, poverty

Katrina ‘absolutely devastated’ trans services in New Orleans

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Mississippi, Dandelion Project, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade
Mississippi, Dandelion Project, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the Dandelion Project gather to discuss LGBT issues in Laurel, Miss., on July 9. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LAUREL, Miss. — Caylee, a young transgender woman, was leaving a local Walmart earlier this month with her fiancé, Michael, when she said three “rednecks” in the lobby “said something smart.”

Caylee told the Washington Blade during a July 9 meeting of the Dandelion Project, a support group for LGBT people who live in Laurel and surrounding areas of the Mississippi Pine Belt, that the men called her and her fiancé “faggots” and asked them “what kind of sex acts we would be performing on each other that night.” She said they chased her and Michael to their car and jumped on top of it as they drove away.

“After that she wouldn’t hold my hand for a week in public and didn’t want to be around me in public because of the fear,” said Michael as he and Caylee sat on a couch in the living room of Dandelion Project co-founder Brandiilyne Dear’s small house on the outskirts of Laurel.

The trans people with whom the Blade spoke earlier this month in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama said they routinely experience harassment, discrimination and even violence because of their gender identity and expression.

Aiden, a 21-year-old trans man from Laurel, Miss., said during the Dandelion Project’s July 9 meeting that people sometimes tell him to “stop trying to act like somebody that you’re not.” He told the Blade that some of his classmates also harass him.

“I had people that didn’t care about it, and then I had some people that bullied me for it,” said Aiden.

Nathan Gage, a 19-year-old from Waynesboro, Miss., who came out as “gender queer” earlier this year, told his mother he was a lesbian when he was in ninth grade.

“She thought that my school did it to me,” Gage told the Blade during the Dandelion Project’s July 9 meeting. “She thought that the people I was hanging out with like that she knew turned me into being gay. She took my phone. She took everything from me. I wasn’t allowed to do anything.”

Gage said his mother has grown to accept his sexual orientation — and gender identity and expression, but he said his stepfather has become less accepting of it. He told the Blade that the pastor of a church his family previously attended once preached about trans people.

“He had these bathroom signs that were not male or female,” recalled Gage. “He would preach about how it is a sin and there was one particular scripture that he would read. When he would read it he would look my way.”

Elizabeth Anne Jenkins, president of Louisiana Trans Advocates, told the Blade during a July 13 interview at a coffee shop in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie that she received anonymous prayers and stares when she went to restaurants after she began to transition in 2008.

Jenkins at the time lived in Hammond, La., a small city about 60 miles northwest of the Crescent City. She now lives in Metairie with her partner, Donna Jean Loy, who she met on a suicide prevention website for trans people in 2009.

“I was glad to get out of Hammond and come over here,” Jenkins told the Blade as Loy, PFLAG New Orleans Co-President Julie Thompson, Mary Catherine Roberts of Equality Louisiana and her partner, Johanna Williams, listened. “Hammond’s a small town and everybody knows everybody. I was big news for at least a couple of weeks until the newness wore off.”

A trans man of color who spoke on condition of anonymity said during a July 14 interview at a beachfront mall in Biloxi, Miss., that his friends and family were not surprised when he came out in 2011. He said people nevertheless continue to use female pronouns to refer to him.

A black male security guard looked at him as the Blade took his picture in front of a sandcastle a local casino built adjacent to a group of seats and couches on which parents with their children and older people were sitting.

“I don’t make a big deal out of it anymore,” said the trans man as Jena and Jennifer Pierce, a lesbian couple from Biloxi who legally married in Connecticut last December, listened. “If that’s what they see, you know I can’t really get upset. I haven’t started any hormones or anything yet. So I just kind of go with it, but it does bother me to be called he, she or it.”

‘We were just making it month-to-month’

Mississippi, transgender, Gulf Coast, gay news, Washington Blade

A trans man on the Mississippi Gulf Coast who asked to remain anonymous. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws do not include gender identity and expression.

The U.S. Census indicates Mississippi is the poorest state in the country, with slightly more than 22 percent of its residents living below the poverty level between 2008-2012.

Nearly 19 percent of Louisianans were living below the poverty level during the same period. The U.S. Census indicates slightly more than 18 percent of Alabama residents lived below the poverty level between 2008-2012.

Roughly 15 percent of Americans lived below the poverty level during the same period.

A 2012 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found trans and gender non-conforming people were nearly four times more likely to have an annual household income of less than $10,000 than the general population.

Ninety percent of respondents said they experienced employment discrimination. Those who took part in the survey were also twice as likely to be unemployed because of their gender identity and expression.

These economic and employment disparities are even higher among trans people of color.

Ksaa Zair, a 29-year-old trans woman from Baton Rouge, La., who identifies as demisexual, told the Blade during a July 12 interview at a local restaurant with members of the Louisiana Trans Advocates, PFLAG Greater Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge Pride and Equality Louisiana that she has “never been successful at finding a job.”

She said she is “fairly sure” potential employers have refused to hire her because of her gender identity and expression. As a result, Zair’s best friend and roommate, Sergio Oramas, works as much overtime as he can at the Sears warehouse where he has worked for two months. They pay $600 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in the St. John neighborhood of Baton Rouge.

Oramas uses blue painters tape to hold his broken glasses together because he can’t afford to fix them.

“We actually have the cheapest place in this city,” Zair told the Blade. “We effectively live in one of the top five ghettos in Baton Rouge.”

Gage told the Blade that he had applied for jobs at local supermarkets, gas stations and fast food restaurants.

He said one potential boss with whom he had spoken was “iffy about it” because of his gender presentation.

“She barely shook my hand,” said Gage.

Gage currently works at a state-run school outside of Laurel where he works with people with mental illnesses and helps them obtain employment.

“I thought I’d have a problem, but they hired me,” he told the Blade. “That day I seemed to kind of go out of my comfort zone. I wore mascara just maybe to help me a little bit because I had applied for so many other jobs before and they all turned me down. I felt uncomfortable in the interview.”

South, transgender, New Orleans, gay news, Washington Blade

Miss Eddie at Belle Reve, a residence for people living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Miss Eddie, a 58-year-old trans woman living at Belle Reve, a residential facility in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans for people with HIV/AIDS who also calls herself Missy, told the Blade during a July 14 interview she “discovered” last August “that I was a lady.”

She said she and her best friend, who was once her lover, lived in a run-down house in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans near the city’s airport, for 14 years until he died in May. Miss Eddie said they used two of the four rooms for storage because the floor had sunken in and they could not live in them.

She told the Blade they tried to move after a year, but they could not afford anything over $500 a month.

“We were just making it month-to-month,” said Miss Eddie, who once worked as an Elvis Presley impersonator in the French Quarter. “We made some bad choices: Smoked some pot, spent some money there. Drank some liquor, spent money there, then cigarettes. We kind of got ourselves in a fix.”

Miss Eddie’s house had 15 inches of water inside of it during Hurricane Katrina that devastated southeastern Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005. She and her best friend stayed in their home in the weeks after the storm — and members of the National Guard along with volunteers brought them food, water and even cigarettes.

“We did not do without the whole time during the storm and after,” said Miss Eddie. “I didn’t pay no attention to the water.”

Katrina ‘devastated’ trans support services

Elizabeth Anne Jenkins, New Orleans, Louisiana, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

Elizabeth Anne Jenkins of Louisiana Trans Advocates in Metairie, La., on July 13 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Reports indicate that many trans people from New Orleans and other areas faced discrimination while living in shelters after Katrina.

Jenkins told the Blade she had heard one story of a trans woman of color who was arrested at a shelter outside of Houston because she took a shower in a women’s bathroom. She said the officers who took her into custody placed her with male inmates because she had yet to change the gender on her driver’s license to female.

“We were being cautioned at that time, as soon as we could in case if this ever happened again, to be able to have a driver’s license with the appropriate gender marker,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins added a number of doctors and other health care providers who treated trans people in New Orleans did not return to the city after Katrina. The doctor from which the trans man of color in Biloxi will receive his hormones is in the Crescent City, which is nearly an hour and a half drive from where he lives.

“[Katrina] absolutely devastated any kind of support you could get,” Jenkins told the Blade.

Lane Galbraith, founder of LGBT Wave of Hope in Mobile, Ala., told the Blade during a July 14 interview at a seafood restaurant overlooking Mobile Bay the health insurance plan he receives through his employer covers his hormone therapy and other transition-related care.

Access to hormones and other trans-specific health care remains a problem for those who remain economically disadvantaged.

Zair receives Medicare, but it does not explicitly cover hormone therapy because it is considered a cosmetic procedure. She pays $100 a month to an overseas website to receive her hormones.

“It is less legal than it sounds,” Zair told the Blade, noting she needs to see an endocrinologist because of side effects related to what she described as psychological problems she has. “I don’t have the information or the ability at hand to properly do it. I can’t sustain the actual levels of it.”

Jenkins and Loy each paid $12,000 to have their respective sex reassignment surgeries in Miami, where they spent a month recovering before they returned to Louisiana. Loy recently received breast implants in Birmingham, Ala.

It cost them $225 to legally change their name in Jefferson Parish, in which Metairie is located, and they were able to do it without an attorney. They simply needed a local judge to issue a judgment.

The process costs $550 in neighboring Orleans Parish in which New Orleans is located.

Jenkins and Loy had to secure an affidavit from the surgeon who performed their sex reassignment surgeries that stated they had undergone “irreversible gender surgery” when they legally changed their gender two years ago.

Alabama requires trans people undergo the same procedure and provide documentation of it before they can change the gender marker on their driver’s license. Mississippi mandates similar documentation, but the Human Rights Campaign says it remains unclear whether a “gender change” is sex-reassignment surgery.

Jenkins and Loy told the Blade that changing their gender marker with the Social Security Administration “was simple once we got it on our driver’s license.”

“I don’t think there are enough transgender people in Louisiana that the driver’s license places know what to do with us,” said Jenkins. “When we had it done, we took a copy of the law with us.”

Loy added most trans people — such as sex workers in the French Quarter — simply do not have enough money to pay for surgery or legally change their gender marker.

“We have a little bit of income,” she said. “So many of them like I say don’t have the money, they don’t have the money for hormones, they don’t have the surgeries.”

Trans prisoner denied hormone therapy

 

David Dinielli, Sam Wolfe, SPLC, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama, gay news, Washington Blade

Southern Poverty Law Center Deputy Legal Director David Dinielli and lawyer Sam Wolfe at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., in May threatened to file a federal lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections if it did not allow a trans inmate, Ashley Diamond, to receive hormone therapy.

David Dinielli, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Blade during a July 15 interview in downtown Montgomery that Diamond has received hormone therapy “for over half of her life.” He said the Georgia Department of Corrections has denied her access to these treatments once she entered the Valdosta State Prison in 2012.

Dinielli told the Blade that Diamond lived in a house with drag queens and other gender non-conforming people in a town without any LGBT-inclusive housing protections. He said local police routinely searched their home for evidence of drugs, prostitution and other crimes.

Dinielli said police arrested Diamond after she “basically one day she kind of fought back.”

He told the Blade that local officials charged her with escape when he said she ran away after taking off her handcuffs to buy drugs at a drug house for them in exchange for lenient treatment.

“The bottom line is that she led a life that many people who can’t participate fully as themselves lead where some of her behavior was not in the confines of the law, right,” Dinielli told the Blade. “A lot of her problems arose from what often times are called survival crimes.”

Sam Wolfe, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center who helped launched its LGBT Rights Project, has worked with a young trans woman who remains in an adult male prison in Alabama.

He told the Blade on July 15 that a prison guard had sex with her in a bathroom. Wolfe said she was released quickly after the allegations became public.

The prison guard eventually faced charges.

“She hadn’t murdered anybody,” said Wolfe. “She’s trans. She was in an adult male facility with murderers, with violent offenders and people taking advantage of her.”

Trans Miss. woman wants state to ‘fall into the Gulf’

transgender, gay news, Mississippi, Washington Blade

Caylee, on right, with her fiancé, Michael, spoke with the Blade during a meeting of the Dandelion Project in Laurel, Miss., on July 9. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Many of the trans people with whom the Blade spoke in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana remain proud of the states from which they come in spite of the pervasive discrimination and violence they continue to face.

“These are people that are hard-working and they have families,” said Galbraith. “They don’t want to move because somebody doesn’t accept them or doesn’t have tolerance or who they are and their family they’ve created.”

Caylee in Laurel, Miss., was far less forgiving toward those who have targeted her because of her gender identity and expression and the state in which they live.

“May Mississippi fall into the Gulf,” she told the Blade. “I would leave Mississippi and never look back.”

 

Editor’s note: Donna Jean Loy of Louisiana Trans Advocates was incorrectly identified as Donna Jean Roy in the original story. The Blade regrets the error.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Donna Jean Loy

    July 23, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    My name throughout the article was changed to "Roy"….lol…it's Loy…

  2. Donna Jean Loy

    July 23, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    My name throughout the article was changed to "Roy"….lol…it's Loy…

  3. Alyssa Hillger

    July 23, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    Nice article, Ms. Roy…

  4. Michael K. Lavers

    July 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

    We have fixed the spelling of Donna Jean’s last name. We apologize for the error and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  5. Nikki Hatch

    July 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    It's difficult transitioning ANYWHERE but the Bible Belt with ignorant rednecks is especially toxic. I was sent a letter bomb while working In the Middle East in 2001. I lost my eye, left hand, hearing in my right ear, suffered PTSS. My career was destroyed. Hatred knows no boundaries, unfortunately. Things are changing for the better. People are transitioning so much earlier, which allows them to be more "passable".
    For me, things have improved with time. Mostly, I fly below the radar screen at this point; however, dating is very difficult. It's a lonely journey. As soon as I tell a guy that I'm Trans, they disappear. Luckily, I have the support of family and friends. At first, my family disowned me but after 7 years they are cool. In spite of all the challenges, I have no regrets about having SRS and transitioning. It's the best decision I ever made.
    I may have lost some friends but I gained myself.

  6. Nikki Hatch

    July 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    It's difficult transitioning ANYWHERE but the Bible Belt with ignorant rednecks is especially toxic. I was sent a letter bomb while working In the Middle East in 2001. I lost my eye, left hand, hearing in my right ear, suffered PTSS. My career was destroyed. Hatred knows no boundaries, unfortunately. Things are changing for the better. People are transitioning so much earlier, which allows them to be more "passable".
    For me, things have improved with time. Mostly, I fly below the radar screen at this point; however, dating is very difficult. It's a lonely journey. As soon as I tell a guy that I'm Trans, they disappear. Luckily, I have the support of family and friends. At first, my family disowned me but after 7 years they are cool. In spite of all the challenges, I have no regrets about having SRS and transitioning. It's the best decision I ever made.
    I may have lost some friends but I gained myself.

  7. Jason D McGuire

    July 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    When we can love ourselves we gain the love of others. You're such a wonderfully caring person and supportive of and for others that it makes you a model citizen regardless of what others may think. I adore you for who you are and I'm all the way up here in Omaha. I can't imagine all the souls you've touched down in Florida and abroad. For some reason I just imagine you mentoring and being there for others who transition into a more fullness of who they are even if it's just online. You're a beacon of light in the dark in my eyes.

  8. Jason D McGuire

    July 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    When we can love ourselves we gain the love of others. You're such a wonderfully caring person and supportive of and for others that it makes you a model citizen regardless of what others may think. I adore you for who you are and I'm all the way up here in Omaha. I can't imagine all the souls you've touched down in Florida and abroad. For some reason I just imagine you mentoring and being there for others who transition into a more fullness of who they are even if it's just online. You're a beacon of light in the dark in my eyes.

  9. Nikki Hatch

    July 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    OMG. Jason, that is so sweet. I pretty much think the same of you, my friend.

  10. Donna Jean Loy

    July 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you for the correction, Michael!

  11. Donna Jean Loy

    July 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you for the correction, Michael!

  12. Angela Lewis

    July 25, 2014 at 3:47 am

    I am straight and do not know what these men and women go threw every day not only in their own heads but with the people around them. And I will be damd if someone will treat people badly around me because of them trying to be who they are. I do not tolerate it. People are people and have a right to live their life how ever they want as long as it does not hurt others. AND GUESS WHAT, as long as the people are willing there is no one being harmed. Some days I hate the human race so cruel and hateful its not even funny.

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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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