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Obama gets pass on describing being gay as ‘lifestyle choice’

President’s record makes up for poor word choice, advocates say

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GloZell Green, Barack Obama, YouTube, gay news, Washington Blade
GloZell Green, Barack Obama, YouTube, gay news, Washington Blade

Barack Obama told GloZell Green being gay is a “lifestyle choice.” (Image via YouTube)

President Obama deviated this week from the language considered acceptable for talking about gay people when he described the lives of same-sex couples as a “lifestyle choice” — but virtually no one cares.

The Washington Blade reached out to various LGBT groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force and GLAAD, to ask whether they objected to Obama’s use of the phrase. None of those groups responded to a request to comment on that language, which is widely considered unacceptable and offensive because it suggests that sexual orientation is a choice.

Obama also said he hopes the Supreme Court makes the “right decision” on pending litigation seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“I’m hopeful the Supreme Court comes to the right decision, but I will tell you, people’s hearts have opened up on this issue,” Obama said. “I think people know that treating folks unfairly, even if you disagree with their lifestyle choice, the fact of the matter is, they’re not bothering you. Let them live their lives, and under the law, they should be treated equally.”

Obama’s faux pas comes the same week that he made history by becoming the first president ever to say the words “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” in a State of the Union address.

The White House didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether Obama regrets using the phrase “lifestyle choice” in the interview. The White House also didn’t respond to clarify if Obama meant the “right decision” from the Supreme Court would be a 50-state ruling against all remaining state bans on same-sex marriage.

Richard Socarides, a gay New York-base Democratic activist who has taken Obama to task before on LGBT issues, said he doesn’t feel criticism of Obama is necessary here.

“I think he was no doubt speaking in short hand and I’m sure he knows that ‘lifestyle’ is not a good word choice in this context,” Socarides said. “I also think that given his record, even us purists can give him a pass on this one.”

John Aravosis, editor of AMERICAblog, emphasized that Obama chose the words while speaking out in support of a favorable ruling on marriage from the Supreme Court for same-sex couples.

“In the grand scheme of things I’m far happier that President Obama is being our fierce advocate on marriage equality than I am upset about an anachronistic phrase,” Aravosis said. “I’m sure by now someone on staff has told him that the phrase isn’t used anymore. Considering the man’s now-stellar record on our issues, I’m happy to give a pass on this one.”

Aravosis added he also doesn’t take issue with LGBT groups remaining silent given Obama’s record to this point.

“Obama has done practically everything we’ve asked of him at this point,” Aravosis said. “He’s earned the right for us to give him the occasional pass on minor issues. And in the grand scheme, considering his record and the pro-gay context of the quote, it’s pretty minor.”

Obama has previously refuted the idea that being gay is a choice. According to CNN, in a town-hall style event in 2010 he told students, “I don’t think it’s a choice. I think people are born with a certain make-up.”

But we’ve been here before with Obama administration officials. In 2010, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, issued an apology when she made virtually identical remarks. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capeheart, Jarrett said the parents of Justin Aaberg, a gay Minnesota teenager who killed himself, did a good job because they loved him and “supported his lifestyle choice.”

“I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words,” Jarrett said later. “Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans.”

Moreover, LGBT rights groups have taken Republicans to task when GOP officials and political hopefuls have made similar comments. In 2011, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain, then the front-runner in the race to become the Republican presidential nominee, ignited a firestorm of controversy when he said in an interview on “The View” that being gay is a choice.

“Well, you show me the science that it’s not and I’ll be persuaded,” Cain said. “Right now it’s my opinion against the opinions of others who feel differently. That’s just a difference of opinions.”

At the time, then-Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese rebuked Cain for making remarks that were “frankly, jaw-dropping and certainly unbecoming of a presidential hopeful.”

Of course, Cain doesn’t nearly have the record that Obama has on LGBT issues. Weeks after making the comments on “The View,” Cain suggested he supports a U.S. constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage across the country.

David Badash, a New York-based advocate and editor of The New Civil Rights Movement, said he believes Obama, unlike others, knows being gay isn’t a choice despite his choice of words in the YouTube interview.

“President Obama has more than proven his support for the civil rights of LGBT people, so it was surprising — but not troubling — to hear him in an unscripted and casual interview use the phrase ‘lifestyle choice’ when speaking about same-sex marriage,” Badash said. “While those who do not support equality like to use that phrase as ‘evidence’ that people are not born LGBT, we know, and we know the president knows, it’s not a choice, any more than being born left-handed or with red-hair is.”

The exception to the lack of concern over Obama choice of words is gay Republicans, who say LGBT groups are treating Obama with a double-standard.

Ric Grenell, a gay Republican strategist who worked briefly on the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, said the silence among LGBT rights groups demonstrates they have a bias in favor of Democrats.

“If a Republican said being gay was a lifestyle choice, gay leaders in D.C. would be apoplectic from Dupont Circle to Capitol Hill,” Grenell said. “HRC and the other phony Democrat partisans posing as gay rights leaders are desperate to keep gay rights a partisan issue. Sadly, they do so at the expense of the movement and to the benefit their own careers.”

Grenell added he hopes the “conservative Roberts court agrees and ends this partisan debate,” referring to pending litigation seeking marriage equality before the court.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he anticipated a correction from the White House in the near future.

“Despite his sustained calls for equal rights for LGBT Americans, gaffes like this continue to make Obama’s pro-equality overtures seem like political pandering,” Angelo said. “Don’t be surprised to see Josh Earnest say the president ‘misspoke’ in the coming days.”

Obama has left Washington for the upcoming week to visit India and Saudi Arabia to pay his respects to the departed King Abdullah. If the White House were to issue a correction, it would have to be on the gaggle during the trip or the next on-camera White House news briefing upon Obama’s return.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Steve Clark

    January 24, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    I would note a minor objection to the choice of phrase as a matter of principle, but Ric Grenell is a pathetic joke. I have little doubt that the same groups would also have given Grenell's 24-hour employer Mitt Romney a break too, if Romney didn't simultaneously oppose gay marriage and gay civil unions and gay domestic partnerships and every version of ENDA and DADT repeal, and if he hadn't orchestrated a massive resistance jihad against gay marriage in Massachusetts, and if he didn't support a federal constitutional amendment to render the sniveling Grenell and every other gay person a constitutional outcast. It must take a super-human degree of self-hatred to blindly, rabidly, and unconvincingly spew attack lines for a party that fired you because the bigots who pervade your party think you're a degenerate abomination unfit for any public existence. If Grenell weren't so comically obnoxious and lacking in self-awareness, he'd almost be pitiable. But as it is, he's seems to just wander the planet spitting nearly incoherent bile at gay Democrats. Well, it wasn't gay Democrats–or any Democrats–who fired his ass because he's a f-ggot.

  2. Anonymous

    January 24, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    The Blade raised the question in a Blade opinion piece regarding larger WH LGBT press treatment issues.
    ˙
    However, the fact that national LGBT activists have been alerted, and commented on it– and we're all still chattering about it here– is self-evident proof that President Obama has *NOT* been given a pass on his LGBT parlance faux pas.
    ˙
    Sure the LGBT GOP is making a little hay out of it — out of desperation, really. But does anyone think the president is going to repeat the mistake without it resulting in similar "bad press" from LGBTs in the future, irrespective of their party politics?
    ˙
    Kudos to the Blade for raising the issue and the question. However innocent the intention, no use of offensive references by a POTUS ought be ignored.
    ˙
    Still, the larger issues of apparent WH Press Office discriminatory treatment of LGBT news organizations remains. It is far more important the president addresses those questions/ issues when he gets a chance.
    ˙

  3. Efrem Capers

    January 25, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Chris Johnson you and this publication 'The Blade' y'all gonna learn yet. Your nagging is a turnoff not an encouragement. Anything this Man say is scrutinized. Just wait till he's gone. You'll wish he wasn't. LOL!

  4. Efrem Capers

    January 25, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Obama please pay these folks no mind. These queens play too much! LOL!

  5. Stephen Driscoll

    January 26, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Ric (no k) Grenell: Democrats aren't desperate to keep gay rights a partisan issue. The Republicans do that quite well on their own. Almost every piece of ant-LGBT legislation, ballot initiative or proposal is initiated and supported almost exclusively by Republicans. They sat on their hands and scowled when the President touted the progress made toward LGBT equality. And get ready for the anti-equal marriage sh*t storm soon to be excreted from the mouths of RepubIican presidential hopefuls. And Gregory Angelo – are you serious? The President is "pandering"? Name one R who would have taken any of the steps he has. As the head of the Logs surely you remember Romney kissing your sycophantic butts when he ran for Governor and then chucking you under the bus as soon as he was elected. Logs = impediments on the waterways to progress. Gay repugnicans, put a sign on your butt: "Kick me!"

  6. Andy Lord

    January 28, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    The only way to justify a behavior is to MAKE people believe that the individual has no choice in the matter. This is the basis for the Gay agenda. I offer these examples. A man has been married for 25 years to his high school sweetheart. The whole time he has looked and other women, romanticized about having sex with other women, and maybe even had strong feelings towards a co-worker. The good news is he has a CHOICE on how he acts on those urges/feelings. Now, I'm sure if the man acts on his "feelings and urges" and has an affair then he can just dismiss it as "I was born this way" meaning that he was born to lust after women. (sadly a lot of men do believe this) This does not dismiss the fact that this is a morally wrong behavior. Who sets the moral standard you may ask? God!!
    Society may change its view of certain sinful behaviors, such as how our society now glorifies scandal and affairs, but that doesn't make it right. Only the most irrational of people actually believe that a person’s sexuality is not acted out by choice.
    Here is another example, a woman loves money and knows it is wrong to rob a bank. She may have the strongest urges from deep inside her soul to act that out, BUT she knows it is wrong and will not do it. It would be absurd for her to try and justify her urge to do something that is wrong by saying she has no choice because she was born this way.
    Homosexuality is wrong. I believe it is a sin because the ultimate authority has said so. As a Christian we believe that anyone that has not been born again through saving faith in Jesus Christ will stand judgment for their sins when they die. Let me just pause and state that the bible includes the man and woman in the scenarios above.
    As Christians, we get a bad rap for stating that our belief is that Homosexuality is sin but I would like anyone who is reading this to ponder this deeper than what the media has you to believe. If a Christian is loving and wholeheartedly believes the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and the bible is what it claims to be, then a gay person should realize that even though they aren't hearing what they want to hear The Christian loves them and displays this through being truthful and honest with them. It is the media and people like our politicians that are telling them what to hear so they can get their support or votes. This isn’t loving to me
    One last remark. It is not being a homosexual that sends people to hell. It is the fact that all of us humans have sinned against a Holy God. We have all (just to name a few) lied, stolen, blasphemed God, and lusted. The list could go on and on. The only thing that will matter when we breathe our last is if the Lord Jesus Christ has paid for our sin through us being born again. I realize some may not believe this and if so I challenge you to read the bible and make a decision for YOURSELF. Not based on what other people say. That includes me

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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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