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Shutting down Hill’s ‘gayest’ office

Sen. Udall’s staff packing up, looking for new jobs after GOP wave

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Mark Udall, gay news, Washington Bladee
Mark Udall, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, David McCoy, John Fossum, Jake Swanton and Mike Sozan (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Take a look inside the Capitol Hill office of Mike Sozan and you get the sense that everything is business as usual.

On a Thursday just weeks after Election Day, the chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is typing away at his Mac. On the wall to his left is a shelf covered in photos of family and friends; on the wall to his right is a framed copy of an article from the New York Times on the Senate voting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

You have to step outside his office amid piles of boxes lining the hall to recognize something is amiss. His boss was among the Democratic casualties in the Republican wave on Election Day, which led the GOP to win eight seats in the U.S. Senate and control of Congress.

In addition to the legislative work during the lame duck session of the 113th Congress, Sozan, 45, and other staffers are tasked with closing down Udall’s office. That includes archiving Udall’s work— a process that normally takes a about a year for U.S. senators, but as a result of the loss, must be condensed to the span of six weeks.

On top of that, staffers are assisting each other with finding new jobs, which Sozan said amounts to “operating a head-hunting firm at the same time you’re doing everything else.”

Among the 28 people in Udall’s D.C. office now looking for work are at least four openly gay staffers — three senior members who’ve been with the senator since he took office in 2009 and one junior member — who have worked with the senator on pro-LGBT initiatives.

In addition to Sozan, who works as chief of staff for Udall, the staffers are Jake Swanton, legislative director; John Fossum, administrative and systems director; and David McCoy, a legislative aide.

Having one-seventh of the staff identify as gay has earned Udall’s Senate office the distinction of being one of the most LGBT-friendly on Capitol HIll.

Swanton, 33, who helped drive LGBT policy as part of his legislative work, said that distinction is a source of competition in some circles on Capitol Hill.

“I think there’s very friendly competition among other Senate staff about who has the gayest staff,” Swanton said. “Obviously, it rotates because staff come and staff go, but we have permanently been up there in the highest spot or the top three, I would say.”

It’s also a source of humor. According to Sozan, Udall said during remarks at a closed-door meeting with the Human Rights Campaign’s board of directors in March 2011: “Some of my staffers tell me that I’m considered to have the gayest staff on Capitol Hill. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds great to me.”

Fossum, 39, said in his role managing Udall’s staff, that efforts were made to include LGBT people, which is why the office procedures manual has a non-discrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s one of the few Senate offices that has done that from the get-go,” Fossum said. “When Mike and I were developing the office policy, it was reflective of the senator, of being accepting for all people regardless of who they are. In some sense, it’s been a non-issue because everyone’s welcome and treated equally here, but it’s also a reflection of the senator on being a good person willing to welcome all people.”

A veteran of Capitol Hill, Fossum helped found the Gay, Lesbian & Allies Senate Staff Caucus, a decade ago when he was working for Harry Reid. Calling that era a “scary time,” Fossum noted the significant changes over the course of 10 years.

“I was knocking on doors in ’04 for the Kerry-Edwards campaign,” Fossum said. “And that was the era of the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. And to have that dramatic switch in a decade is remarkable. I remember coming out to my boss; I was working for Harry Reid. And he’s like, ‘It’s not a big deal.’ I remember I was really nervous about it.”

Udall’s loss is being felt by staffers and LGBT supporters alike. The wide consensus on the Hill is that any work important to the LGBT community is likely on hold now with Republicans in charge. Udall stood out as a champion of LGBT rights despite his reputation as a moderate and constituency in the “purple” state of Colorado.

McCoy, 29, said that work in part compelled him to join Udall’s office, where his portfolio consists of LGBT issues, education, immigration and agriculture.

“When I started looking into coming to this office, a lot of his work on LGBT issuers really stood out to me,” McCoy said. “I saw numerous statements and press releases, so it definitely made it a very exciting prospect to come join a team and serve a member who has been so forward thinking on these issues for such a long time.”

Mark Udall, gay news, Washington Blade

Jake Swanton and John Fossum (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Shortly after taking office in 2009, Udall took a lead role against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Calling on President Obama in 2009 to speed up the repeal process, the senator voted for open service at each opportunity in committee and on the Senate floor.

Sozan, who served as Udall’s point person for efforts to repeal the law, recalled the decision to take the lead on the issue wasn’t universally accepted among staff because some deemed it risky for a new senator from a “purple” state.

“And to his credit, he heard that out and said ‘I’m going to do it, anyway, because I feel the country is catching up to where it needs to be on this. Things are moving forward, and the sign of a good leader is someone who’s willing to take a little bit of risk, step out in front of something and help galvanize public opinion,'” Sozan said. “So, he made a pretty calculated choice in that instance to kind of ignore some of the political advice he was getting about what we would be the safest thing to do, especially to set him up for re-election.”

In 2011, Udall came out in support of marriage equality, beating Obama to the punch, and cosponsored legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act in addition to celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the law.

In a video statement at that time, when only six states had legalized same-sex marriage, Udall said, “I support marriage equality. We have work to do. Let’s go do it.”

“I think the way in which it’s unfolding has lessons for all of us,” Udall said. “Let’s work in our states, let’s work with our neighbors, let’s work with our communities, let’s work with our elected officials. And I have no doubt that we’ll soon reach marriage equality in states and across the nation.”

More recently, Udall has worked on ensuring gay veterans living in non-marriage equality states have access to federal spousal benefits guaranteed to former members of the armed forces in opposite-sex marriages.

After the ruling against DOMA, the Obama administration extended benefits to gay married couples to the widest extent possible, but determined current law prohibits the flow of spousal veterans benefits to individuals in same-sex marriages if they live in states without marriage equality.

Udall has called on the administration to reconsider that position, saying refusing those benefits violates the spirit of the DOMA ruling, and in the meantime he co-sponsored legislation to change U.S. code to ensure gay veterans receive equal benefits.

The senator continues work on this effort to make sure it’s done before he leaves office. Just last week, he had a conversation about it with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Swanton said.

Although he’s optimistic, Swanton was tight-lipped on the actual strategy, saying, “There’s a number of different avenues for that, but we’re going to do it however we can.”

Senator-elect Cory Gardner, who beat Udall, is among the Republican politicians who is less supportive of LGBT issues. Having voted as a state legislator against LGBT non-discrimination protections and adoption rights for same-sex couples, Gardner, a two-term U.S. House member, earned a score of “0” on the Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard.

When marriage equality became legal just last month in Colorado, the candidate said the issue belongs to the courts “and we must honor their legal decisions,” but sought to change the subject.

“While others might seek to divide Coloradans, I will not do that,” Gardner said. “Coloradans are tired of politicians who spend all their time on partisan hot-button issues that divide our state. We need leaders who are focused on bringing people together on the economic issues that we all agree on.”

Despite the views that Gardner has articulated, Sozan said he can envision Gardner becoming more supportive of LGBT rights based on “just a sense of optimism.”

“In order to represent Colorado well and to have longevity there, at the very least you have to be able to have a viewpoint that is not extremist in either direction,” Sozan said. “I think that if the new senator wants to be successful, he’s going to have to have some views that are in line with where Coloradans are on these issues, or I think there will be some unhappiness with that.”

The day-to-day work load for the staffers isn’t for the feint of heart. It’s a 24/7 gig full of surprises with new legislative work each day and responses to the latest media coverage, which can cripple a social life.

Even though each of the staffers has a list of things to accomplish as they head into work, Swanton said it isn’t really necessary because those plans often go by the wayside.

“You can just go sit down on your desk, and then all of a sudden, it’ll be 7 o’clock and you can think about maybe going home in an hour because things are just constantly happening to you and being thrust on you. And it’s kind of like you’re sitting there and things are just rushing by you like 100 miles per hour, and your job is to figure out which ones to grab and work on those.”

Each of the staffers working in Udall’s office was part of the on-the-ground effort to get Udall re-elected.

Fossum, who used up vacation time to campaign for his boss, said he never before worked for a congressional office where every staffer wanted to participate — even the interns.

“We had interns here, and they got positions as field organizers and they were on our staff,” Fossum said. “And I worked with them when I was out knocking on doors.”

Swanton directed get-out-the-vote efforts in Arapahoe County, the suburbs south of Denver where he grew up; McCoy worked on college campuses in Greeley; Sozan worked throughout the state, including riding on a bus tour with Udall.

“By and large, it was really positive and actually pretty inspirational, especially when you can find somebody who wasn’t going to vote and turn them into a voter,” Sozan said. “You get doors slammed in your face sometimes; you get people who say, ‘No way am I voting for Mark Udall; I’m voting for his opponent.’ Those aren’t the most pleasant of conversations, but you move on to the next door and find an enthusiastic supporter.”

For McCoy, one of the biggest problems with on-the-ground campaign work was countering the negative campaign ads, much of which were funded by outside money.

“Colorado had some of the most outside money flooding into the state, flooding our airwaves,” McCoy said. “A lot of people were just kind of sick of the whole thing. We were trying to return to that person-to-person contact.”

Polls had consistently showed a small lead for Gardner right up until Election Day, but optimism persisted until the very end.

It was relatively early in the night when Gardner was declared the victor. Fox News was the first to call the race in favor of the Republican, followed about a half-hour later by the Associated Press. Udall called Gardner to concede at around 10 p.m. When the dust cleared, Gardner had won 48.5 percent of the votes, compared to the 46 percent won by Udall.

Watching the returns come in at a hotel event in Denver intended to be Udall’s victory celebration, Sozan said the declaration that Udall had lost the election was a “sad moment.”

“It’s never easy to lose a race, of course, especially when you put your heart into it for several years, but Colorado is losing a really terrific senator, the Senate is losing a world-class guy, and we’re all losing the opportunity to continue work on issues that he cares so much about,” Sozan said.

Fossum said he received a text message from his mother that night saying the election results were “so sad for Colorado.”

What went wrong for Udall? Two days before the polls closed, Cokie Roberts on ABC News said Udall ran a “terrible campaign” because of his reliance on women’s issues.

“Going after women on abortion and birth control and all of these things is pandering in a way that women start to just resent,” she said.

The blame for Udall’s loss is a touchy subject among staffers.When asked about it, Swanton attributed the loss to a combination of things, saying, “The election’s over and we need to move on.”

“If everybody in Colorado knew Mark Udall and who he was one-tenth like we do, then he would’ve won in a landslide,” Swanton said. “And so, I don’t think that they did know. Campaigns are tough. It’s tough to communicate a person and their values and what they really believe when everything is done in sound bites.”

In the meantime, his staff is busy looking for new work. Pursuing new work on Capitol Hill is tough thanks to the Democratic losses on Election Day. As they review each other’s resumes, they take calls from people expressing condolences for the loss of their jobs — and the loss of Udall from the Senate.

Drawing on Udall’s experience as a mountaineer who has climbed the highest peaks in Colorado, including the fourteeners (or mountains over 14,000 feet), Fossum put it succinctly: “This ’14 election was a fourteener that he didn’t summit.”

Mark Udall, gay news, Washington Blade

Mike Sozan (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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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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