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EXCLUSIVE: Gay Miss. man claims teacher raped him to ‘hate men’

Abuse allegedly took place over three years in classroom

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Jeff White, gay news, Washington Blade
Jeff White, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeff White (Photo courtesy of Brandiilyne Dear)

GULFPORT, Miss. — A gay Mississippi man says a male teacher at the Baptist school he attended in the 1990s raped him each week for three years as a way to force him to change his sexual orientation.

Jeff White told the Washington Blade during a July 14 interview at a restaurant near his home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast the teacher at Bethel Baptist School in Walls, Miss., who he identified as Steven Barnes, scheduled an “appointment” with him each Wednesday in his classroom or the office where he forced him to have oral and anal sex.

White, now 32, said the incidents took place at the school, which is in DeSoto County in northwestern Mississippi, between 1996-1999.

An embargoed press release the Blade obtained from the National Center for Lesbian Rights identifies Barnes, who is currently an associate pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, which operates Bethel Baptist School, as the teacher who allegedly raped White.

“He would rape me because I was gay and because it would make me hate men and make me change,” said White.

White told the Blade that his parents decided to send him to the school after he came out to them when he was 14 and in the seventh grade.

“They [the church’s pastors] looked at Southern Baptists like they were liberal faggots, like they would say from the pulpit,” he said.

The church’s website says Bethel Baptist School was founded in 1971 and is “staffed with an experienced, stable and caring staff.”

Tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year was $3,850 per student.

“Character and patriotism are taught in the classroom,” reads a description of the school on the Bethel Baptist Church’s website. “The curriculum is Bible based and every student is taught the truths of God’s word.”

The church’s website includes a section titled “God’s way to heaven” with a number of statements that include “agree that your sin must be paid for with death and hell” and “turn from your sin and trust Christ as your saviour.”

“In general it was a cult,” White told the Blade. “Aside from all of that other stuff going on, there was a thousand other things that they were doing.”

A woman who answered the phone at Bethel Baptist Church on Tuesday described White’s allegations to the Blade as “the biggest lie there ever was.”

Church representatives did not respond to further requests for comment before deadline.

The American Psychological Association and other medical, psychological and professional counseling organizations have said there is no evidence that so-called conversion therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to accept a case that challenged a California law that bans licensed mental health practitioners from performing so-called conversion therapy on minors. The anti-gay Liberty Counsel and the parents of a teenage son challenged a similar law that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed last August.

Lawmakers in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New York and other states have sought to ban the controversial practice over the last year.

Samantha Ames, a staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which has worked with many survivors of so-called conversion therapy through its “Born Perfect” campaign, and White met with DeSoto County officials for several hours on Tuesday to discuss the allegations.

The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the meeting took place.

“A number of the stories that we have are very disturbing and violent, this is of course a unique one,” Ames said. “It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that some people will go to to change something that has nothing to do with them.”

White told the Blade he is still angry about the teacher who he said he raped him, but he has “gotten through it.”

White earlier this year co-founded the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center, an LGBT support group based in Waveland.

“More of what I’m able to do now is to channel that anger into the work that I’m doing,” White told the Blade. “Honestly if I hadn’t had just gotten done with it [I’d be] pissed off. I would just be sitting there whining and complaining and making melodramatic Facebook posts.”

Ames said the National Center for Lesbian Rights is “incredibly proud to have” White as a client.

“I just can’t overemphasize how proud we are to represent someone this courageous,” she told the Blade. “He’s honestly one of the bravest, one of the most determined people I have ever met and he has a unique, first-hand understanding that these attempts to change sexual orientation and gender identity are linked to a culture of hostility to LGBT people and when you combine that kind of hatred and self-loathing with a position of power, whether it’s in a religious leader or a licensed therapist, people get hurt, sometimes irreparably.”

“What’s so extraordinary about Jeff is how long and hard he fought to turn that pain into something meaningful, this LGBT center that benefits every person in his state,” added Ames. “But today he’s not just helping out other people out of the darkness, he’s shining a light on it and he knows it very well.”

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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Tom Jones

    August 27, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    More crap perpetuated because of Christianity, THANKS JESUS !!

  2. Joel Steinberg

    August 28, 2014 at 10:16 am

    This had nothing to do with 'christianity' or the teachings of Jesus. This is a story about a demented predator victimizing a teenager and dreadfully using the bible and religion as his defense.

  3. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I know Jeff and I went to that school with him. I was fondled by a member of the church staff also. I was also punched in the face by the Youth Director, Wayne Pittilo. The thing is we were made to feel like it was all out fault and if we said anything we’d be punished even more. If you went to the school, you were seriously screwed because you’d get in double the trouble. Hell, they let Ron Nichols work with school children while he was awaiting sentencing for…brace yourself…RAPING A TEENAGER at a different school. Bobby Ashmore got his own Sunday School class and worked in the children’s ministry after serving jail time for the same shit. I trusted Steven Barnes and I went to him when all these things happened to me and you know what he did?

    nothing.

    That’s the kind of place Bethel is. Also, their pastor Ron Westmoreland is criminal and has been embezzling money from his clueless congregation for decades. I mean, I could name more names if you want. Jack Schaap. Or how about Phil Kidd, the evangelist that says nigger and faggot and dyke from the pulpit on a regular basis. That entire place is a sham of a church.

    • Name Witheld

      September 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      To whomever is saying they were fondled also have you stepped up and said anything? Surely you are not just bashing everyone and not helping prevent this from happening again if it did?

  4. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Bethel took us to a church camp called Triple S Christian Ranch. One year they had a guy named Kent Hoving come in and tell us all about dinosaurs and how they’re in the bible and were on the ark. Well, google that guy if you have a spare second. He’s been in prison for like 8 years for tax fraud/evasion. Yeah, real stand up people in the independent baptist church movement.

  5. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Also. They lady you talked to on the phone was Mrs. Snyder probably. She’s been the church secretary for YEARS. Coincidentally, she is also the pastor’s mother in law. That’s right. The lady screening the calls has a dog in this fight and will try to save her ass. Let’s put the sexual assult stuff aside. I totally believe it. Here’s another fun fact. That church almost had a split in 2002 because they BAPTIZED A BLACK KID. True story. I was there. You want to hear some deeper, darker shit? I got pages or days. Why don’t you email Chris Crane about the baseball bat he kept in his dorm room and what it used to say on it? I bet you he lies about it. Well, I’ll tell you what it said. Written in black sharpie it said ‘Nigger Nocker’ on it. Yep. He’s an evangelist now too. You wanna call Chris Dallas and ask him about the time he told a teenager that was moving out of state to college that god was going to have a car wreck and die on the way because he was running from god? I was sitting in teen church when he said it.

    • unknown

      September 2, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Obviously you don’t know what you are talking about. The church secretary is Mrs. Yancy and has been for several years now. Before you talk about someone make sure you have the correct names and info.

    • Sam

      September 2, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      Mrs. Yancy is the school secretary; she isn’t the church secretary, and Mrs. Yancy is the sister-in-law of Steven Barnes. So, either secretary is related to the pastor or the associate pastor. These people aren’t too far off. Try again.

      • Eddie

        September 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

        Mrs.Yancy? You mean Beverly? Yeah, Beverly McFarland-Yancy is Steven Barnes sister in law. And the school secretary. Funny, I thought it was Ashley? You know Ashley McFarland? Oh excuse me. I meant to say Ashley McFarland-Carlisle. Yeah, the Youth Director’s (Josh Carlisle) wife. The brother in law of the man being accused.

        If you don’t think for a second that they’re definitely protecting each other then you’re about as misguided as the rest of their congregation. Hmmm. Let’s see who else is related there? How about the head hancho’s (Ron Westmoreland’s) older brother Monty Westmoreland. The guy who literally built the church buildings out of the same stuff he built his house with. It’s all left over from his failed business, National Bank Builders. Yep. The man who’s been covering up all this, his brother failed at building banks so he got into the church building business. Oddly enough he only works for Ron.

        Good to see that Lee Sexton is still the principal of the school. Hmm? Where did he get his teaching degree from again? Hell, maybe he got it at the same place his brother David Sexton got his. Oh yeah. His brother David is married to Ron Westmoreland’s daughter Heather. One big ole happy, raping family. I bet you won’t ask Ron Westmoreland about the Schultz family at 4655 Apple Cove. You remember them? Drew Schultz. The kid that was abused and teased so much by his own step dad and step siblings (for being a step child, mind you) that he stabbed and killed Ben. And stabbed Emily too. Even though you were told that it was happening but you still let them live on the church property anyway and just looked the other way. I bet they don’t want to talk about the time Randall Allbright (staff member) was banging the piano player Janice Pittilo-Lumpkin. The youth director’s sister Janice was about ready to leave Jim for Randall until Randall almost killed her. Seriously, check this shit out. Before they could run away and get married they had to cleanse themselves by baptism so Randall baptized Janice. Over. And over. And over. He almost drowned her. That’s why Nancy left him. Janice had to not play piano for a few months and their men’s quartet made up of Steven Barnes, Randall Albright, John McFarland (the music director. yeah. Beverly, Ashley, and Sherry’s dad. Oh Sherry is Steven’s husband) had to disband.

        Yeah Ron Nichols too, yada yada yada. You can just pound his name into Google and find out that story. Got accused of raping a teenager so to prove his innocence he attempted suicide by washing down a punch of pills with Draino. Draino is a very thick liquid and it coated the pills and they didn’t dissolve fast enough. The idiot lived through it all. He’s a Bethel guy too. That place is as corrupt as the hard drive on Phil Kidd’s computer where he keeps all his interracial porn. Bethel is a cesspool. There are so many dirty secrets they don’t want to live up to. Pat Westmoreland (Monty’s wife) pulling a gun on Kenny Hodnett who was a legit scumbag but they had an affair, she wanted to break it off, Kenny didn’t. Guns were drawn. It’s goddamn Melrose Place around there but with drugs, sex and sex with minors.

        Also. Real quick. All the stuff above is easily accessible public police records.

        • Kris

          September 7, 2014 at 10:32 pm

          Dear Eddie,
          Although you were pretty articulate with airing out everyone’s dirty laundry but your own, you do have some of your names and stories mixed up. Just FYI. ;)

  6. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    What about the College they have? The NON ACCREDITED, make the check out directly to Ron Westmoreland College they have where they teach you to spare not and lift up your voice like a trumpet against the EVILS of fags, dykes, homo-sympathizers, and basically anyone who isn’t a white, southern, republican, independent baptist. Want me to keep going?

  7. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    how about that ridiculous Thanksgiving Offering bullshit they do every year where Ron Westmoreland challenges you to “switch places with god’. they promote what’s called a reverse tithe. YOU KEEP 10% of your income that week and you give ‘god’ 90%, that way you can see how hard it is for god and the church to make do with so little. except you have a few hundred people doing it and it all goes in to Ron Money Bags Westmoreland’s pocket.

  8. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Also. Ron Westmoreland is a product of Hyles-Anderson University. That’s the school in Hammond, Indiana that JUST made national news because they guys running it (and incidentally one of the guys all of them told us we should grow up to be like) was just arrested for…you ready?…having an affair with a teenage girl that he was SUPPOSED TO BE HELPING. Not only was he banging her but he trafficked her across state lines into Michigan where he banged her more. All of those people are cut from the same cloth. Here. Take a look for yourself. This is one of their most PRIZED evangelists:

    http://drphilkidd.com/tv.htm

    This guy says faggot, nigger, and dyke from the pulpit every time he stands behind it. All of them are a cancer and they preach a message of intolerance and hate. They judge people and classify them based on race, sex, and orientation. If you’re a white man, you’ll be fine. But if you’re a black, gay, woman you’re fucked. Look up Jeff Owens if you get a chance. A ‘preacher’ who spoke at every youth conference Bethel ever went to. He said, from the pulpit, that we should ‘stop burning flags, and start burning fags’. That’s documented. Look it up. Hell, I bet my parents still have the tape. Look up that other mother fucker George Otis Johnson from Missouri. Another one of the independent baptist shits that got nailed with 17 counts of fucking with kids.

    What else you want? I got more.

  9. My name is being witheld

    August 28, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    http://www.bethelbaptistwalls.com/staff/

    Here is their staff page. Josh Carlisle tried to make out with me at Afterglow one time. Afterglow was the little get together for teenagers they held once a month after church. He’s also a racist bigot and has NO credintials that would qualify him for ANY work with teenagers. That entire organization is a sham.

  10. US LEGAL SYSTEM

    August 28, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Well it seems like all of these comments are from the same person. Jeff maybe? Also if you read the article you might notice something. Lack of proof. It’s a he said he said. Way to try the case in the court of public opinion. Produce your proof, and call your witnesses 15 years later. Men that do things like this don’t just victimize 1 person. If it’s true there would be others. Not just wack jobs coming out of the woodwork to make a false claim I mean other kids just as involved in the church as jeff to say it happened to them too. Unless This guy only had eyes for Jeff.. Unlikley.

  11. Noname

    August 29, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Sounds like Jeff is as big a liar as he is queer. Steven Barnes is the nicest and most caring person that you will ever meet. These are all fabricated lies.

    • unknown

      September 2, 2014 at 11:13 am

      Yes, thank you! Finally someone with some sense. All of those are lies. Esp the one saying the woman secretary was related to the paster. No the secretary is Mrs. Yancy and has NO RELATION to the pastor.

    • Sam

      September 2, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Mr. Steven Barnes isn’t the nicest person that you will ever meet. He has A LOT of hate inside of him when he should be practicing LOVE.

    • KW

      September 4, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      I’ve been pretty quiet about all this but Noname’s statement says a lot about the kind of people who will defend that “church”. He said that Jeff is a big a liar as he is a queer. On what planet is that acceptable? What verse of the bible says that dehumanizing an individual with horrid labels like fag or queer is completely acceptable? I don’t know if Steve actually did and it’s honestly none of my business. I haven’t been around in a looooooong time and it’s really not up to me to decide who is a liar and who isn’t. However, I will say a lot of what is mentioned above is abundantly true and it only takes an elementary understanding of the internet and public records to read it for yourself.

      Also if you Bethel folks could stop asking my family for money, it’d be appreciated.

  12. Donna S.

    August 29, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I don’t understand why you would do this Jeff? Yeah, they preached against homosexuality and that it is sin. But you know, God knows, and Barnes knows that this never happened. Tell me, were you sitting around one day chatting with others about how “conversion therapy” doesn’t work and your lie rolled out and it snow balled into this? The people who have known Barnes and the Church know that this is a lie. It’s sad that you would do this, but something tells me that the people who truly know you, who have known you for years… They know the type of person you really are… my warning, lies fall apart, light brings out the truth and your story will fall apart before your eyes and before you know it, you won’t be fast enough to keep up with the story you’ve told. You will stumble and It will catch up with you and the people you are talking to and the people who are representing you are no fools. Before you know it they will see right through the smoke screen you are putting up. The question is, will they put a stop to it? Or will you? Regardless, the damage has been done and something tells me that the retraction to the headline news will be in small print at the back of the paper when it’s all said and done. But we all know, one day… everything will be made known… and that’s all that matters.

  13. Jack

    August 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t think Mr.My Name Is Being Witheld is saying that Steven Barnes is necessarily guilty but it more that Bethel is just a bad place in general. Sounds like the staff is under educated and ill equipped. Can’t say if Mr.White is telling the truth but I do know for a fact that at their core, the IFB have some really skewed opinions on issues concerning race, sexual orientation, and education. I know of this Phil Kidd guy and to say he’s a racist is an understatement and he is on Bethel’s calendar and I’ve even heard a podcast where the discussed and played the audio of Jeff Owens saying inflammatory remarks about gay people. I’m more interested in Bethel’s private records (i.e. financial history, school criteria, college affiliation). From the information on their websites their school is run on the ACE program which is basically home schooling. Those programs are flawed and only teach pseudo-science and creationism which, or course, is ludicrous. Their ‘college’ is unaccredited so it’s difficult to say if they even have real classes with qualified, state certified educators. Do the junior high and high-schools also employee these ‘teachers’? What about this Ron Westmoreland guy? I looked him up and he seems a little sketchy. He graduated from Hyles Anderson College in Hammond, Indiana. The same church/school that was just in the news because their pastor and school president (Jack Schaap) was committing the same kinds of sexual crimes with a minor (including trafficking). Are these people all the same? Are they training predators or pastors? They definitely look like mega church pastors (i.e. Joel Osteen and the like) to me and we all know those guys are among the most corrupt in the world, especially when it comes to finances. Joel Osteen was just in the news over a money issue actually. I also looked up this Ron Nichols guy, another product of Bethel, who just served a prison sentence for child molestation in two different states (Tennessee and Mississippi). From the outside looking in, the place looks like a breeding ground for child predators and it would be hard to believe that anyone would make up something as horrible as being raped considering the church’s track record of sexual predators and issues regarding sexual orientation and race. Don’t know if he’s guilty but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  14. Colin Angstadt

    August 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Joel Steinberg Lessard While you are technically correct, all preachers victimize people sharing bullshit ancient stories in an effort to make a living off the gullible.

  15. Trev

    August 30, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty?’ The story provides no evidence that this repeated 4 year long rape actually took place. I see a paucity of details in the story about the actual crime. What does the school tuition, the church’s attitude toward Southern Baptists, and “God’s Way to Heaven” have to do with the rape allegations against Mr. Barnes?

    The sketchiness of Mr. White’s allegations is seen in the glaring lack of substance in his story. He talks of “stuff” and “things”, and the pastor using the word “fagot” when referring to Southern Baptists. What about actual events of the story?

    “Aside from all of that other stuff going on, there was a thousand other things that they were doing.” -This statement from Mr. White tells us absolutely nothing.

    If this is the substance of White’s allegations I predict that the investigators will easily find massive holes in his story. Meanwhile, websites like this have no qualms about destroying a man’s good name with a presumption of guilt as long as it suits their political cause.

    Do you people realize the gravity of the accusations being made by Mr. White? Should we be so quick in rushing to judgement? If I was Mr. Barnes (presuming he is innocent) I would get the best lawyer money can buy and sue Mr. White for defamation.

  16. Allison

    August 31, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I am from the Horn Lake area and I saw a story on channel 5 about this. When the church responded they only had somebody from the staff, who definitely had a deer in headlights look btw, read a statement. Funny enough the guy reading the statement had a hard time reading it and it almost seemed like he could barely read at all. His name was not Steven Barnes. Why didn’t Steven Barnes face the press straight away? If he’s got nothing to hide then couldn’t he have just come out and said so. I think all these baptists churches are hiding something. It just doesn’t make any sense that someone would make that kind of stuff up especially with the record they have of child abuse. I think it’s pretty brave of him to stand up like this.

    • NO Name

      September 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Because Allison,
      When you are having allegations thrown at you, lies tossed your way, and being accused of something, you don’t say anything and get a lawyer! If you don’t know the staff and church, maybe you should come visit and then just maybe everyone on here will not believe the lies! TO GOD BE THE GLORY WHEN ALL THIS MESS IS THROUGH!

      • Allison

        September 3, 2014 at 6:55 pm

        Sorry. I have been to your church and I got scolded for wearing pants. You can stick that up your ass. Sounds like Steven Barnes still has no spine. Instead you gave us someone who can barely read? Thanks. No thanks.

  17. Alex

    August 31, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    If bethel has nothing to hide then why did they delete all of their free preaching from their website. They used to have all their sermons on there now nothing. Seems like they don’t want people hearing the terrible things they say from the pulpit.

    • NO Name

      September 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      The haven’t had that on there in years!

      • Alex

        September 3, 2014 at 6:57 pm

        Uh. No. I made my bf listen to a chapel message just last week. I wanted to show him what I listened to all the time. I went to the school. We didn’t want to believe it at first but it’s not really a surprise. Everyone there sucks.

  18. Leigh

    August 31, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    I went to this church for 3 and 1/2 years. I had to leave because they were trying to be in my business. They are very controlling and judgmental. I also could not stand to listen to the gay bashing from the pulpit. They even try to tell you God wants you to vote Republican. And someone mentioned Phil Kidd, saw that guy once, and never again.

    But I also want to say, there are some people I met there that I believe have pure hearts. I am sure there is a great amount of anxiety over this. I can just imagine the sermon this morning and tonight.

    Did you know that they tape every sermon and sell them?

    • NO Name

      September 3, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Really? hmmm…..lies

      • Leigh

        September 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm

        You don’t know my experience. My whole post is not negative, I made a positive statement, so that’s a lie too? Just like a religious freak, all contradiction and no real point. I find it difficult to believe S Barnes is evil, but this church is full of judgement and hypocrisy, at least that is how I found it to be after 3 1/2 years. You can’t speak for me, so don’t. The only thing I miss about Bethel, is the music, the music is awesome.
        i do not miss Dr Westmoreland saying “at the corner of 301 and 302, a queer is still a queer.”
        in his sermons.
        They reel you in by telling you all you have to do to get to Heaven is believe that Christ died for our sins, then they start telling you how to dress and where you should work, etc.
        If you need that kins of suffocating guidance, that’s you. They were a little too much for me, and that’s not a lie.

  19. Bzzzbzzz.com

    September 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm

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  20. Rob

    April 2, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    I am from Louisiana, I was never raped, but it doesn’t surprise me to read about this. Religious people in the south are so screwed up till it makes my head spin!!

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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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