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House panel rejects spousal benefits for gay veterans

Amendment would have ensured veterans could obtain same-sex partner benefits



United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade
United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. House voted down an amendment that would ensured spousal benefits flow to gay veterans (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

A panel in the Republican-controlled U.S. House on Wednesday rejected a measure that would have enabled veterans with same-sex spouses to receive partner benefits wherever they live in the country.

By a 12-13 vote, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs failed to pass an amendment from Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) along the lines of the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act, legislation that would change Title 38 of the U.S. Code to ensure the flow of spousal benefits to gay, lesbian and bisexual veterans.

Introducing the amendment, Titus said the measure was intended to end an injustice affecting thousands of veterans who are being denied crucial benefits based on their sexual orientation and state of residence.

“This inequality for those who wore the uniform of the United States armed forces and their families is unacceptable,” Titus said.

Although the vote was a largely along party lines with Republicans voting “no” and Democrats voting “yes,” Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, was the only Republican who broke with his party to vote “yes” on the amendment. All votes cast against the amendment were from Republicans.

Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said he opposed the amendment because it would interfere with states that have enacted laws related to marriage.

“Deference to the state is not motivated by hostility, it is motivated by adherence to the Constitution,” Miller said. “As such, I believe that it is not appropriate to usurp the states’ power to democratically define marriage for their citizenry — not for personal belief, and not for bureaucratic convenience.”

In his remarks, Miller invoked a recent federal court decision upholding Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage as evidence that state laws are still standing that restrict marriage to one man, one woman. That decision upholding Lousiana’s marriage ban is one among more than 35 other rulings that have overturned prohibitions on same-sex marriage in other states.

After the Supreme Court ruled against Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration began extending spousal benefits to individuals in same-sex marriages throughout the country for the most part regardless whether the state in which reside recognize their union.

But a year after the ruling, the administration deemed that because Section 103(c) of Title 38 of the U.S. Code — which governs veterans benefits — looks to the state of residence, not the state of celebration, in determining whether a couple is married, it could not afford spousal benefits to veterans in same-sex marriages if they live in a non-marriage equality state.

Although the administration has developed a workaround for some benefits, it still won’t afford important benefits like ChampVA (health care for spouses of disabled veterans), higher disability compensation for disabled veterans with dependents, full access to VA home loans and many survivor benefits for widows.

Titus’ amendment was intended for a bill introduced by Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) called the Our Vets Deserve Better Act, which would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to meet with existing VA health care advisory committees no later than 30 days following the bill’s enactment. After the Titus amendment failed, Miller removed the legislation from the agenda at that committee meeting.

One notable Republican who voted “no” on the amendment was Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), who’s considered one of four sitting House Republicans to support marriage equality.

Although he said “the current system is not fair” for gay veterans, Jolly said he couldn’t bring himself to support the amendment because he felt it was non-germane to the larger bill.

“Frankly, if I’m Mr. Heck today, I’m wondering what the Heck has happened to my bill,” Jolly said. “Legislation I introduced on advisory panels is going to be turned into legislation to carry matters related to same-sex benefits. And on germaneness, I have a concern. I’m certainly not going to raise a point of order, but I have hard time getting to ‘yes’ on this simply because this is not the Heck bill.”

Despite his “no” vote, Jolly called for another committee markup or some other kind of forum in which the full committee could debate the measure as a standalone bill.

Also voting “no” on the amendment was Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), another co-sponsor of ENDA. He’s set to attend the upcoming annual dinner for the National Log Cabin Republicans in D.C. on September 17.

But a number of Democrats spoke out in support of the amendment, including Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), one of the openly gay members of Congress, and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), another openly gay member of Congress who’s running to become the next governor of Maine, also spoke in favor of the measure on the basis that it would afford crucial benefits to veterans in same-sex marriages.

“Access to those benefits should not be conditional upon who a veterans is married to, what state they got married in,” Michaud said. “This is common-sense measure that shows our respect and gratitude to all of our veterans.”

Lori Hensic, director of research and policy for the LGBT military group known as the American Military Partner Association, criticized lawmakers who rejected the bill.

“The ability of our nation’s veterans, no matter their sexual orientation, to access their earned benefits should be an issue that transcends partisan politics,” Hensic said. “It’s a sad reflection on the state of our Congress when our elected officials cannot put aside their differences to end this discrimination.”

Read the full opening remarks from Titus as before introduced the amendment below:

“The amendment filed is based on H.R. 2529, the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act, legislation I introduced over a year ago to address the injustice facing thousands of veteran families across the country currently being denied federal benefits based on their state of residence.

“In the Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. USA, the highest court in the land ruled that legally-married same sex couples could not be denied federal benefits.

“Nearly a year after that ruling, the Veterans Administration, through consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that veterans living in states where their marriage is not recognized would be denied access to the full range of federal benefits they have earned and deserve.

“This inequality for those who wore the uniform of the United States Armed Services and their families is unacceptable, and we, as the committee charged with overseeing the laws to serve their needs, have a duty to act.

“In March of this year, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a legislative hearing on my legislation.

“Not a single witness testified in opposition of this measure.

“I repeat, not a single witness came forward to oppose this change.

“The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America testified that, “IAVA supports equitable treatment of all veterans and their families and supports the changes this legislation seeks to make to Title 38.”

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars, VetsFirst, and AMVETS echoed this sentiment in their endorsement of the bill.

“Even the VA has endorsed changing this policy.

“The amendment simply ensures that legally-married veterans can apply for the benefits they have earned by removing language currently found in Title 38 that unintentionally bars that access for legally-married, same-sex couples based on laws of the state in which they reside.

“The current language has resulted in legally-married couples being discriminated against by the country they fought to protect. They don’t wear the uniform of a state, they wear the uniform of the federal government. If they live in California, they can get benefits. But if they move to Texas, then they lose those benefits. They live in New York, they get those benefits. But if they move to Florida, they lose those benefits.

“As I have said many times, my legislation, and this amendment, does not change the laws of any state, and enactment of this language will have no impact on state laws barring marriage equality.

“This amendment is not about supporting same-sex marriage and it’s not about forcing states to change their policies, it’s about giving all of our veterans what they deserve.

“Our veterans did not fight for a state – they fought for the United States.

“This is simply an issue of fairness to the brave men and women, and their families who serve this nation.

“I ask my colleagues to think about the veterans in your state. If you live in a state that does not recognize their marriage, you have a chance today, right now, to provide them the benefits they earned while serving our nation in uniform. Our committee has worked tirelessly in a bipartisan way throughout this Congress to ensure that ALL veterans have access to the benefits they have earned. Right now, you have the chance to continue our bipartisan efforts.

“I ask you to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘is this fair to my veterans?’

“Better yet, look into the eye of a veteran and ask, ‘is this fair?’ We have praised the heroism, the courage, the valor of our veterans throughout the last two years. I ask you to have one ounce of the courage they have and vote today to give all of our veterans’ equal rights.”

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  1. Michael Bedwell

    September 10, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    OF COURSE they did. There is never a question of whether or not a homophobic Republican-controlled committee will block a gay rights bill. There are three questions, however. 1. Why is the Administration continuing to enforce this section of Title 38 when they have refused to enforce §§ 101(3) & (31) which define a veteran’s “spouse” as “a person of the opposite sex” for the last year having asserted that, in the words of Attorney General Eric Holder: “Although the Supreme Court did not directly address the constitutionality of the Title 38 provisions in ‘Windsor’, the reasoning of the opinion strongly supports the conclusion that those provisions are unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment.” 2. What happened to the President’s January promise that: “Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families that’s what I’m going to do.”? 3. Why is no gay veterans group publicly demanding that he keep that promise and refuse to enforce Title 38 § 103(c) with the same legal and moral logic trumpeted in September 2013 by Holder?

  2. Bob Nelson

    September 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Did a single Dem vote against this bill? What kind of reporting is this?

  3. John R Costello

    September 10, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    …and there ladies and gentlemen, the Typical GOP Bigotry and Hate on Display…! Shocked? Im NOT!!!

  4. Anonymous

    September 10, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    “Deference to the state is not motivated by hostility, it is motivated by adherence to the Constitution,” Miller said. “As such, I believe that it is not appropriate to usurp the states’ power to democratically define marriage for their citizenry — not for personal belief, and not for bureaucratic convenience.”

    I call bulls**t. The feds have been stomping on states' rights for a century. By this logic, probably 20% of what the feds do would be disallowed. States would be at liberty to set 120 MPH speed limits on Federal Highways, just as one example.

    Furthermore, the issue was not the states' definition of marriage, but the provision of FEDERAL benefits to Veterans and their legally their spouses under federal law. If the money were state money, then maybe the argument would have a leg to stand on.

    As it is, if you live in some states the feds will give you the money, but if you live in others they won't. Imagine if left handed people in a state were suddenly told they weren't allowed to deduct their children on their federal taxes because of a state law. "Other people get that benefit, but we've decided that you don't, because you're left-handed."

    Try again, Congressman. Or could it be that it really is just hostility?

  5. Mark Hiser

    September 10, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted to deny spousal benefits to veterans. Below are the names of those who voted against these benefits. Also below is my letter to each of them. If so inclined, I urge you to let them know your displeasure, too.

    Jeff Miller (FL), Doug Lamborn (CO), Gus Bilirakis (FL), David Roe (TN), Bill Flores (TX), Jeff Denham (CA), Dan Benishek (MI), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Mike Coffman (CO), Brad Wenstrup (OH), Paul Cook (CA), Jackie Walorski (IN), David Jolly (FL)

    Your vote to deny spousal benefits to LGBT veterans is a shameful act of cowardice. Daily,
    members of the military face the fear of putting their lives at risk for you. Daily, the family members of these military personnel face the fear of not seeing their loved one again. You,
    however, are afraid you might not be reelected. You, however, are afraid you will upset those who fear LGBT persons. That you put your fears over the fears these LGBT veterans face is unconscionable. That you place your bigotry and hatred over those willing to die for you, and over those who daily fear the safety of their loved ones is unconscionable. You should feel nothing but shame today. I know that is all I feel for you.

  6. El Dorado

    September 10, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    So much for those gays that say that being gay doesn’t matter anymore in America. When will you learn that you will have to fight for everything most others take for granted and the struggle really never ends? Despite the advances of African-Americans they still have always to be on guard to make sure those advances aren’t reversed or watered down.

    Even if the SCOTUS were to uphold marriage equality based on equal protection clauses in the Constitution, which should be a no-brainer, social conservatives will continue to oppose it much like they do abortion. Social conservatives don’t want to accept anything that may lead to the advancement of the rights of gay Americans let alone anything that will lead to the recognition of gays as a minority class.

    Even if nationwide marriage equality becomes a reality soon, we still have a long way to go in outlawing job, housing, public accommodation and services discrimination. We can’t even agree among ourselves on how such laws should be written let alone be united enough to push for it until it happens. Look at ENDA and the never-ending excuses why sectors of our own community try to derail it.

    You take too much for granted assuming this country will put gay equality on the fast-track as a priority. Polls indicating majority support have done really nothing to get our legislative priorities voted on let alone approved! People may say such discrimination is wrong but really do little if anything about it.

  7. Don Siegal

    September 11, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Actually The American Military Partner Association has filed suit against VA secretary Robert A McDonald in Federal District Court of DC. Here is the opening.

    “The American Military Partner Association (“AMPA”), through its counsel
    Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. and Morrison & Foerster LLP, hereby petitions this Court pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 502 and Federal Circuit Rule 47.12 to review the summary of legal opinions issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”), the legal opinions referenced in that summary, and the VA instructions identified below. The challenged action mandates denial of spousal benefits to veterans and their same-sex spouses and survivors on the ground that their marriages are not accorded legal recognition by the states where they resided at the time of marriage and when the right to benefits accrued, notwithstanding that these states’ denial of legal recognition to such marriages is unconstitutional. Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed.”

  8. Michael Bedwell

    September 11, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    We are well aware of AMPA's lawsuit, but lawsuits are a last resort AFTER one has exhausted all others which AMPA inexplicably has failed to do. They chose to bypass the Court of Public Opinion—public pressure on the President. If other groups had done that, he never would have kept his promise to order federal contractors not to discriminate against LGBTs. In fact, AMPA keeps acting as if Mr. Obama has no role in this at all, as if the VA Secretary doesn't REPORT TO HIM. And, now, in the absence of any public pressure by gays and their allies, the Administration will simply fight/try to kill this lawsuit as they did the two previous ones against Title 38, one by gay vets denied 100% of their earned one-time separation pay, and THREE lawsuits against DADT. This is not to say that Mr. Obama has not done some good things for the community, too, but history proves he is often willfully in the wrong on gay rights issues, and this is another example. Thank you.

  9. Warren Jackson

    September 12, 2014 at 1:38 am

    As long as the couple is legally married the Federal government has to recognize marriage based on the DOMA ruling….So, if a couple gets married in CA then moves to AZ the Feds should still recognize the marriage.

  10. Matt Chambers

    September 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

    This is shameful

  11. Donald Quarnstrom

    September 14, 2014 at 3:45 am

    IT IS CLEAR that the right does NOT care about minorities, women, the LGBT community, children(once out of the safety of the womb), the unemployed, the homeless, veterans, immigrants, worshipers of opposing religions….who am I missing in this list?

  12. Donald Quarnstrom

    September 14, 2014 at 3:46 am

    Freedom means the FREEDOM to choose who you want to love and marry. I guess CONS only want those in the military to fight for the freedoms that CONS think are right.

  13. Donald Quarnstrom

    September 14, 2014 at 3:47 am

    And yet the heads at FOX will spin this into 'Obama's fault' by Monday.

  14. Donald Quarnstrom

    September 14, 2014 at 3:47 am

    THIS….is typical GOP standards of operations.

  15. Jon Mor

    September 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Move to Fl for a real dosage of rep politics

  16. Donald Quarnstrom

    September 15, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Jon Mor I live in Idaho…it's close enough.

  17. The Veteran Program

    October 18, 2014 at 6:49 am

    If you require more information regarding final arrangement benefits, we are happy to answer your questions.

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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



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



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



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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