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Cuba has ‘come a long way’ on LGBT rights

Mariela Castro accused of manipulating advocates

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Mariela Castro Espin, gay news, Washington Blade
Mariela Castro Espin, gay news, Washington Blade

Mariela Castro Espín, right, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, speaks with LGBT rights advocates attending the ILGA World Conference last month in Mexico City. (Photo courtesy of Francisco Rodríguez Cruz/Paquito el de Cuba)

MEXICO CITY — More than a dozen Cuban LGBT rights advocates on the morning of Oct. 30 were huddled on the floor along the wall of a large ballroom of a Mexico City hotel during the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association’s biennial global conference.

The activists — wearing white T-shirts that highlighted Cuba’s participation in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia earlier this year — were finalizing their presentation in support of their country’s bid to host the 2016 ILGA World Conference. They quickly walked to the front of the room once LGBT advocates from the African country of Botswana finished their own presentation.

A lesbian and transgender woman held a large Cuban flag at the front of the ballroom as Manuel Vázquez Seijido and Yasmany Díaz Figueroa spoke from the podium. Their presentation included a slideshow with pictures of hotels in Havana, the Cuban capital, and videos of events associated with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

ILGA World Conference, Mexico City, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

Cuban LGBT rights advocates during their presentation in Mexico City on Oct. 30, 2014, to host the 2016 ILGA World Conference in Havana, Cuba. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Several of the activists passed out condoms and pro-LGBT literature as many members of the audience clapped and cheered “Cuba.” Díaz even noted during the presentation that Cuban doctors have traveled to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic.

“[The ILGA conference] would be a good thing for all sectors,” said Díaz.

Delegates to the ILGA World Conference ultimately choose Thailand to host the biennial gathering in 2016, but the activists’ bid underscores the progress that many feel Cuba has made in extending rights to its LGBT citizens over the last decade.

Mariela Castro seen as champion of LGBT rights

Supporters of Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who directs the country’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), maintain she has spearheaded a number of pro-LGBT initiatives in recent years. These include a condom distribution campaign and prompting the country’s national health care system to offer free sex-reassignment surgery to trans Cubans.

Mariela Castro was president of the local committee that organized an ILGA conference in May that drew hundreds of LGBT rights advocates from Latin America and the Caribbean to Havana and the beach resort of Varadero.

Mariela Castro, who is a member of the Cuban Parliament, late last year voted against a proposal to add sexual orientation to the country’s labor law because it did not include trans-specific protections. She has also publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples on the Communist island.

Isel Calzadilla Acosta, coordinator of the Network of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in the city of Santiago de Cuba in the eastern part of the country, during an interview with the Washington Blade at the ILGA World Conference praised what she described as Mariela Castro’s advocacy on behalf of LGBT Cubans.

Calzadilla said her organization formed in 2003 in response to Mariela Castro reaching out to local activists to work for CENESEX.

“We have seen many advances,” Calzadilla told the Blade. “CENESEX supports us with capacity building and with events and we attribute everything that we are doing to them because we have a voice with Mariela Castro.”

Argelia Fellové Hernández of the Network of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Havana agreed, noting Cuba’s gay-inclusive labor law and events that commemorated the annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

“Our island has come a long way in recent years, compared to many countries around Cuba,” Fellové told the Blade during an interview at the ILGA World Conference in Mexico City.

Mariela Castro took part in a legislative panel during the ILGA World Conference.

She did not respond to the Blade’s repeated requests for an interview while in Mexico City.

Gay Cubans sent to labor camps in 1960s

Mariela Castro’s efforts stand in stark contrast to the LGBT rights record of her uncle, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, in the years following the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

Fidel Castro’s government in the 1960s sent more than 25,000 gay men and others deemed unfit for military service to labor camps known as Military Units to Aid Production or the Spanish acronym UMAP. Authorities until 1993 forcibly quarantined people living with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria.

Cuba repealed its sodomy law in 1979.

Fidel Castro during a 2010 interview with a Mexican newspaper described the persecution of gay Cubans in the years following the revolution as “a great injustice.”

LGBT rights advocates who oppose the government — and Mariela Castro in particular — insist authorities continue to face harassment under public assembly laws.

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier were among the hundreds of people detained at a popular gay nightclub in Havana in 1997. Cuban security officials in September 2012 reportedly detained Leannes Imbert Acosta, national coordinator of the Cuban LGBT Platform, an umbrella organization of independent advocacy groups, as she left her home to deliver materials on a planned exhibit on the 1960s labor camps to CENESEX.

Cuban authorities in May reportedly arrested and “savagely” beat David Bustamante Rodríguez, an LGBT rights advocate with HIV, during a “peaceful protest” at his home near the city of Santa Clara. Neither Mariela Castro nor the Cuban government responded to the Blade’s request for comment on the incident.

A group of independent Cuban advocates criticized organizers of the ILGA conference that took place on the island in May over their decision not to invite them to the event. Mariela Castro’s supporters have repeatedly denied these claims.

Many of the Cuban advocates who attended the ILGA World Conference in Mexico City work directly with CENESEX.

‘Totalitarian regime’ leaves LGBT Cubans isolated

Ignacio Estrada Cepero, founder of the Cuban League Against AIDS, is among the independent advocates who continue to criticize Mariela Castro.

Estrada’s wife, Wendy Iriepa Díaz, is a trans woman who once worked for CENESEX.

“Mariela totally manipulates the LGBT community,” said Iriepa during a trip to D.C. in the summer of 2013 with her husband.

Cuban-born U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) remains among the most vocal critics of Mariela Castro and her father’s government.

The Florida Republican last month blasted the ultimately unsuccessful bid to hold the 2016 ILGA World Conference in the Cuban capital. Ros-Lehtinen in May 2013 sharply criticized Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based LGBT advocacy group, over its decision to honor Mariela Castro at its annual dinner.

Ros-Lehtinen a few months later met with Estrada and Iriepa in her Capitol Hill office.

“It’s very important for the U.S. community to understand what is the status of LGBT rights and the denial of rights in Cuba,” said Ros-Lehtinen after the meeting to which the Blade had exclusive access. “Mariela Castro, as part of the regime, has been on a propaganda tour internationally and here in the U.S. especially trying to sell this facade that is really non-existent in Cuba.”

Wendy Iriepa, Ignacio Estrada, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, House of Representatives, Republicans, Florida, Gay News, Washington Blade

Cuban LGBT advocates Wendy Iriepa Díaz and Ignacio Estrada Cepero, meet with U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in July 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Pedro Luís García Macías, a blogger and photographer who lives in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, appeared to agree with Ros-Lehtinen during a telephone interview with the Blade on Sunday.

“The department that she directs does not do complete work,” said García, referring to CENESEX and Mariela Castro. “It does not respect the complete diversity of the human being, the diversity of thought.”

García added the government has left LGBT Cubans “very isolated.”

“Many people are afraid to think freely because of the totalitarian regime,” he told the Blade.

Cuban advocates who support Mariela Castro with whom the Blade spoke during the ILGA World Conference were quick to blast Ros-Lehtinen and others who criticize her.

“When someone offends [Mariela Castro] it is very offensive to us,” said Calzadilla. “She has been able to understand our pain, our problems and we defend her at all levels. These people who left Cuba don’t know our Cuban reality.”

Fellové told the Blade she has “never” heard these criticisms.

“They are lies,” she said.

U.S. embargo is a ‘great impediment’

Both Calzadilla and Fellové told the Blade the U.S. embargo against Cuba has adversely affected the island’s LGBT residents.

Calzadilla said she and other advocates have faced difficulties obtaining certain medical instruments. She told the Blade the embargo makes it impossible for her to travel to the U.S. with a group of women who work in Cuba.

“I, as a Cuban activist of the people, have the opportunity to go there to demonstrate to them what the women in Cuba are doing,” said Calzadilla. “It appears that in my case the embargo is a great impediment because I will not be able to express what we are doing.”

Fellové stressed the embargo continues to have a widespread effect.

“It affects our children, our neighbors, our parents in the area of medicine,” she said. “The blockade affects a lot.”

García has a far different view.

“The blockade does not exist,” he told the Blade. “An embargo is what exists; better yet what we have is a mental embargo. The mental embargo that we have as Cubans here ensures that we cannot move forward.”

García said he wants to leave Cuba, but is unable to do so because of the cost.

“We are exhausted,” he told the Blade. “We are out of thoughts. We are out of ideas.”

Calzadilla on the other hand is far more optimistic about their future and that of their fellow LGBT Cubans.

“I am clearly optimistic,” she told the Blade. “I could say that because I have been in activism for many years and because I have seen the positive changes.”

Fellové agreed.

“We are well-respected,” she said.

ILGA World Conference, Mexico City, Cuba, LGBT, gay news, Washington Blade

Cuban LGBT rights advocates at the ILGA World conference in Mexico City. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Humberto Capiro

    November 25, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    When will Mariela Castro address with an investigation the UMAP Concentration Camps in Cuba? Will it be an "independent" one without any Castro family oligarchy influence? Doubt it! YOUTUBE – Mauvaise Conduite or Improper Conduct is a 1984 documentary film directed by Néstor Almendros and Orlando Jiménez Leal. The documentary interviews Cuban refugees to explore the Cuban government's imprisonment of homosexuals, political dissidents, and Jehovah's Witnesses into concentration camps under its policy of Military Units to Aid Protection. The documentary was produced with the support of French television Antenne 2 and won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the 1984 San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcF5ubWiy5k

  2. Humberto Capiro

    November 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Military Units to Aid Production or UMAPs (Unidades Militares de Ayuda a la Producción) were agricultural labor camps operated by the Cuban government from November 1965 to July 1968 in the province of Camagüey.[1] The inmates of UMAP camps consisted of gay men, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholic and Protestant priests, intellectuals, farmers who refused collectivization, as well as anyone else considered “anti-social” or “counter-revolutionary.”[2] Former Cuban intelligence agent Norberto Fuentes estimated that of approximately 35,000 internees, 507 ended up in psychiatric wards, 72 died from torture, and 180 committed suicide.[3] A 1967 human rights report from the Organization of American States found that over 30,000 internees are “forced to work for free in state farms for more than eight hours a day and are given the same treatment as political prisoners.”[4] The report concludes that the UMAP camps’ two objectives are “facilitating free labor for the state” and “punishing young people who refuse to join communist organizations.”[5] The Cuban government maintained that the UMAPs are not labor camps, but part of the military service.[6] In a 2010 interview with La Jornada, Fidel Castro admitted in response to a question about the UMAP camps that “Yes, there were moments of great injustice, great injustice!”[7]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Units_to_Aid_Production

  3. Humberto Capiro

    November 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: Cuba Wants You To Think It’s a Gay Paradise. It’s Not. Cuba has come a long way on LGBT rights since putting gays in labor camps. But don't believe the Castro family's gay-friendly PR. – by Justin Rohrlich
    As of 1979, being gay is no longer a crime in Cuba, although under Article 303a of the country's Penal Code, "publicly manifested" homosexuality remains illegal, as does "persistently bothering others with homosexual amorous advances." Though the Castro family is no longer sending LGBT people to labor camps as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, the only permitted LGBT movement in Cuba is the official, state-run one that Mariela Castro has created. To that end, while the rest of the world was celebrating Pride Week over the past several days, Cubans weren't. The government in Havana refuses to recognize the international week of LGBT rights celebrations, allowing only an officially sanctioned gathering on May 17 — under Mariela's patronage — to mark the World Health Organization's "International Day Against Homophobia."
    With Cuba essentially having been run as a family business since the Castros took over in 1959, it's only natural that 52-year-old Mariela ended up working for her dad. Daughter of President Raúl and niece to "Maximum Leader" Fidel, Mariela, known pretty much exclusively by her first name, occupies an interesting place in the Cuban zeitgeist, a sign of a liberalizing society — but only so far. "Brokeback Mountain" may have aired on Cuban state television in 2008, but the control Mariela and CENESEX wield over the LGBT agenda doesn't give many Cubans a sense of ownership in their own cause.
    "Are you gay?" SiSi asks.
    I tell him I am not. Neither is he. Nor is the owner. Nor are any of the employees. Though incongruity is practically an art form in Cuba — a place where cabdrivers outearn cardiologists and Fidel Castro's son is a golf champion — I'm too curious not to ask how Gats Loco came to be.
    "You know our president, yes?" SiSi asks, seeming to make a point of not saying "Raúl Castro" out loud. "In 2010, he changed the rules and we were allowed to open our own businesses. So, a friend of mine, he opened this place."
    He can see that he hasn't answered my question.
    "Okay, so, this rainbow flag outside — we are the only place in Cuba with this flag in front," SiSi says. "I think it is European, and means 'inclusiveness.' Some people, I guess, know it as the gay flag, too. I think the owner figured it might be good for business."
    The gambit has already started to pay dividends. Not because Gats Loco offers something unique to Cuba's gay community. Rather, it's because Mariela Castro, daughter of Raúl, niece to Fidel, and the director of the state-run National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), has emerged as Cuba's leading voice for the LGBT community in recent years. As the story goes, when the straight, married mother of three heard about Gats Loco and its rainbow flag, a representative sent word that Mariela would be making an official visit to "sponsor" the bar. SiSi isn't sure what the sponsorship entails beyond something about uniforms and logoed aprons for the staff.
    There are other gay bars on the island, but a gay bar willing to work with the regime rather than against it is unusual. For Mariela, it's a ready-made propaganda opportunity. And Gats Loco's owner wasn't going to pass up a chance to ingratiate himself with a Castro.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/03/cuba_wants_you_to_think_its_a_gay_paradise_its_not_castro_lgbt

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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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