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Rehoboth police say crackdown not aimed at gays

8 men at gay beach cited for public drinking, urination

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Rehoboth Beach, gay candidates, gay news, Washington Blade

 

Rehoboth Beach, gay news, Washington Blade

Rehoboth Beach police cited six gay men for carrying open containers of alcohol and two for public urination over Memorial Day Weekend. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rehoboth Beach police officers handed out civil citations to six men for carrying open containers of alcoholic beverages and two men for urinating in public during a Memorial Day weekend enforcement action at the popular resort town’s gay beach.

The enforcement action prompted several of the hundreds of mostly gay men who regularly congregate at the south end of the town’s boardwalk known as Poodle Beach to unleash an email campaign aimed at the Rehoboth mayor, Board of Commissioners and other officials.

“[T]he police swarmed the gay beach at the end of Queen Street, conducting arbitrary searches and writing citations,” says one of the emails, which was also sent to news media outlets. “We were left with the impression that our community was selectively targeted,” it says.

The email also says group houses in the town were being unfairly targeted through a newly strengthened noise ordinance by residents “because they do not like vacationers and/or LGBT people.”

Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks told the Washington Blade his officers responded to calls from nearby residents about widespread consumption of alcohol on the beach, which is prohibited by another local ordinance, as well as complaints that men were urinating next to nearby sand dunes and in homeowners’ yards where they could be seen by passersby.

“We are here to enforce the rules but we are also here to make sure it’s a safe, enjoyable environment for all,” Banks said. “Everyone is welcome, and I take pride in that. We never, ever try to target anyone.”

Banks said just one noise-related citation was issued to the lease holder of a house near the beach after a neighbor called police three times to complain about noise. He said it was a civil citation, the least serious one under the noise ordinance that carries a $100 fine.

One weekend resident of the house, who spoke to the Blade on condition of not being identified, said it’s a large group house where as many as 20 gay men stay during the summer months.

Steve Elkins, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, an LGBT advocacy group and community center, said CAMP Rehoboth has worked with Banks and other Rehoboth officials for a long time and nearly all have been supportive of the LGBT community, especially Banks.

“If the city commissioners were homophobic they would never have hired a lesbian city manager,” he said.

Elkins was referring to the hiring last year of out lesbian Sharon Lynn as city manager. Lynn had previously served as city manager of Provincetown, Mass., a popular beach resort town with a large population of LGBT residents and visitors.

Lynn couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“I think it is incorrect to say that gays were singled out,” Elkins told the Blade. “Whether you are gay or straight you can’t pee in people’s yards.”

Noting that the gay beach is located about eight blocks from the closest public bathrooms, Elkins said he favors the placement by the town of one or two portable toilets at the south end of the boardwalk next to the gay beach during daytime hours.

“The state and the commissioners would have to approve that,” he said.

Elkins said he was opposed to the commissioners’ decision earlier this year to strengthen the noise ordinance with the apparent intent of cracking down on large group houses that some nearby residents say create late night noise and neighborhood disturbances.

In an action considered highly controversial, the Commission adopted a new method for measuring noise in residential areas that replaces the use of decibel measuring devices with a “plainly audible standard” that is based on whether any noise coming from one person’s house or yard can be heard by the residents of an adjacent home.

“I don’t agree with the noise ordinance,” Elkins said. “But it is not targeting gays. It’s targeting group houses.”

The email sent to Rehoboth officials and the media was unsigned. Lee Whitman, a D.C. resident and Rehoboth summer vacationer, told the Blade he knows those who wrote the email.

“Among them are doctors, lawyers, a CNN producer, staff members of the Washington Post, members of the current presidential administration, and a three-time Emmy Award winner,” he said in his own email accompanying the one sent to Rehoboth officials. He did not identify them by name.

“We are skilled. We are talented,” he wrote. “And if we continue to feel persecuted we could easily pull every gay dollar from your city. Not just the money from those that were there this weekend, but all gay dollars.”

A separate email sent to the Blade by a gay Rehoboth vacationer, who also asked not to be identified, says he and his partner were present at Poodle Beach on May 24, and they witnessed what he says were many gays acting irresponsibly.

“This past Sunday was unlike any time I’ve ever experienced on Poodle Beach,” he wrote. “In the roughly four hours my partner and I spent on the beach that day, the behavior we witnessed was appalling.”

He said the beach was “trashed” with litter by people who ignored easily accessible trashcans placed on the beach.

“We witnessed guys walking around from gaggle to gaggle carrying full glass liquor bottles, openly,” he said. “We even witnessed guys walking up into the dunes…and urinating in plain view. Not one or two guys, but probably one or two dozen guys.”

According to Banks, “Two people got a citation for urinating in the dunes right in front of the officer while he was trying to clear them out.”

He said officers had responded to calls from one or more homeowners complaining about the urination. While arriving to respond to those calls, Banks said, the officers noticed the public drinking on the beach and called for additional help to respond to that issue.

Another gay man who was at the gay beach at the time, who asked not to be identified, reported seeing officers walking through the beach and approaching people who appeared to be drinking alcohol. Banks said alcohol consumption in all public places in Rehoboth is prohibited by law.

“They went from person to person to anyone drinking out of an unmarked container or cup,” the man said.

The writers of the email sent to Rehoboth officials also claim police may have conducted searches for alcohol and issued citations in parts of Poodle Beach that are outside the Rehoboth city limits.

Banks disputes this claim, saying no citations were given beyond the Rehoboth boundary. He said officers may have issued a warning to people in areas outside the boundary line, which he and city officials say is just south of Penn Street past the end of the boardwalk.

Banks said those caught drinking alcohol or in possession of an open container of booze were given a civil citation carrying a fine of $100.

“The biggest thing we try to get out to all the news media and anybody that wants to listen,” said Banks, “is these were complaints driven, not by the Rehoboth Beach Police Department, not by city officials, but by citizens. In other words, people called our dispatch center for a police officer to respond. And that’s what we did,” he said.

“I’m saddened to hear that some people want to say that it is a gay issue. That’s not what we do here at Rehoboth Beach. We want all people here.”

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64 Comments

64 Comments

  1. truthy

    May 27, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Just pee in the In the ocean

  2. Mike

    May 27, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I’ve been to Poodle several times, and it’s nothing but loud gays carrying on and drinking. Officials are cracking down in Reho, with a new ordinance and not giving Dog Fish a permit to expand. It has nothing to do with being gay, they don’t want a trashy Dewey Beach.

    • uhhuhh

      May 27, 2015 at 8:31 am

      “loud gays carrying on and drinking”

      How dare they!

      • Mike

        May 27, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        I left out drunk and annoying. And I hope they continue to monitor that beach.

        • uhhuhh

          May 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          Doubtless. Your comment history is that of a bitter old (racist) queen, screaming “stay off my lawn” in every direction. Sad you.

          • Mike

            May 29, 2015 at 5:13 am

            Over 4000 comments? Sad you. Lol

          • uhhuhh

            May 29, 2015 at 7:39 am

            Interesting to know that racists can count.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:37 pm

            Interesting to know that you don’t know the “race card” has been played so much it’s tattered, marked, smudged and worn out. Get a new schtick would ya…

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:43 pm

            the dude is at his computer right now searching the Internet for incidents he can be offended by…always perpetual outraged and ready to hit that keyboard..lol!

      • zgary

        June 1, 2015 at 6:59 pm

        and to think you are annoying and you are not even loud (but you are probably drunk)

    • Keeks

      May 27, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      Actually it’s young people. You’re older now and can’t deal with young people. “Too loud!” — sounds like a stereotype from a cartoon. Go to the other end of the beach you’ll find your peace and quiet.

  3. uhhuhh

    May 27, 2015 at 8:28 am

    So if citizen complaints are anti-gay, the police just assist homophobic citizens in their anti-gay crusade. That IS discrimination and targeting.

    Funny how Ptown never feels like a police state.

    • Heroic Hal

      May 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      If. Big, unsubstantiated if.

      • uhhuhh

        May 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm

        Substantiated? Nothing in the cop’s statement said anything about even considering whether the complaints are anti-gay. According to him, his sole job is to enable citizen complainers, whatever their motive.

        • Heroic Hal

          May 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

          I said “unsubstantiated”, not “substantiated”, and your subsequent observations don’t amount to substantiation. Anyway, if you’re a police officer who spends his day responding to complaints and checking out the circumstances that are being complained about, why is it surprising that your focus would be on determining for yourself whether the the complaint is valid (i.e., if someone complained about noise, and you’ve verified that there IS noise above the legal limits) and not on constantly second-guessing the motives behind complaints that are, in fact, valid?

          • uhhuhh

            May 31, 2015 at 11:05 am

            Because if you don’t, you allow yourself to become a tool of bigots. Only a fraction of violations are ever subjected to reporting or enforcement. Letting bigots choose who police enforce the law against is passive discrimination.

          • Heroic Hal

            May 31, 2015 at 11:58 am

            How do you propose that the police officer responding to a specific, legitimate complaint determine whether the person who reported it did so only because of bigotry?

            Or are you suggesting that it doesn’t matter whether a specific complaint is the result of bigotry, and that it only matters that there’s an overall pattern? In that case, if I have noisy neighbors, are you saying I’m not entitled to relief under the law if the noisy neighbors happen to be gay, or black, or whatever, and *other* people who have complained about noise in the past have done so selectively based on bigotry?

            Are you suggesting that if there’s a clear pattern of straight, white people making noise without anyone complaining about them, while gay people or black people who make noise do get complained about, then I, as a police officer, responding to a specific complaint that I find to be valid, may write up the offender only if the offender is straight and white, on the grounds that I am otherwise contributing to racial disparity?

          • uhhuhh

            May 31, 2015 at 4:53 pm

            See, you do understand the problem. You just prefer to ignore it and be a tool.

          • Heroic Hal

            May 31, 2015 at 7:27 pm

            Please explain how my trying to pin you down on what you think the police officer is supposed to do to solve the problem–without being psychic, without blaming people who aren’t being racist for other people’s racism, without being derelict in his duty to enforce the law–indicates that I prefer to ignore the problem? By the way, *you* haven’t provided an actual solution. You’ve only assigned *blame* for the problem. Now you seem to be patting yourself on the back for that, without seeing any reason why you should propose an actual course of action to *fix* the problem.

          • Heroic Hal

            May 31, 2015 at 7:33 pm

            Please explain how my trying to pin you down on what you think the police officer is supposed to do to solve the problem–without being psychic, without blaming people who aren’t being racist for other people’s racism, without being derelict in his duty to enforce the law–indicates that I prefer to ignore the problem? By the way, *you* haven’t provided an actual solution. You’ve only assigned *blame* for the problem. Now you seem to be patting yourself on the back for that, without seeing any reason why you should propose an actual course of action to *fix* the problem.

            I almost forgot: We don’t even have any evidence whatsoever that the biased treatment you’re assigning blame for even exists.

          • uhhuhh

            May 31, 2015 at 8:55 pm

            Take it as a compliment that I don’t think you’re dumb and helpless, like you’re pretending to be. The duty to enforce the law includes the equal protection clause too.

            As for police racism, I’ll stop holding all cops accountable for it when cops stop protecting every bigot with a badge.

          • Heroic Hal

            May 31, 2015 at 9:19 pm

            How am I pretending to be dumb? You still haven’t indicated *how* the police officer is supposed to do what you’re calling his “duty”. You can blather on about his “duty” as self-righteously as you want, but if you can’t explain how he’s supposed to exercise that duty in practice, it’s empty pontification.

            Your second paragraph removes from you any standing to criticize anyone else for bigotry, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination of any kind, since you have declared yourself free to indulge in them yourself.

          • uhhuhh

            May 31, 2015 at 11:13 pm

            Your second paragraph shows you to be a right-wing bigot unworthy of my time.

            Perhaps you are as stupid as you’re acting after all.

          • Heroic Hal

            June 4, 2015 at 12:57 pm

            Every single conclusion you’ve drawn about me is absolutely wrong. The idea that I’m right-wing is laughable. If, by bigot, you mean anti-gay, it’s hilarious, because I’ve been openly gay and an active advocate for equal treatment of LGBT people for over 30 years. In conclusion, your reading comprehension is poor, you have trouble accepting that people can analyze situations in terms other than the terms one expects them to use, stereotypically, based in their identities, and you aren’t qualified to play amateur psychiatrist.

            On top of all that, you still haven’t answered the question of what it is you expect the police officer in our scenario to do, which was the topic at hand. Instead, you’ve spent your time blowing smoke and crafting ad hominem attacks.

          • starchild

            June 12, 2015 at 7:44 am

            Valid questions and observations. And yet — the proper job of the police should be protecting life, liberty, and property, not harassing people who some may find annoying but are ultimately harming no one, in order to suck up more revenues for the State.

          • uhhuhh

            May 31, 2015 at 11:15 pm

            Incidentally, anyone naming himself “heroic” has serious insecurities. I don’t call mocking the equal protection duty “heroic.”

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:34 pm

            And I’ll support you to my last breath when you stop being a whiny b*#ch.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 11:09 am

            You sir are a total [email protected]#hole!

          • uhhuhh

            June 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

            Go back to Breitbart and Twitchy, bigot.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:34 pm

            You like that word “bigot” don’t you…LOL!!!

          • uhhuhh

            June 1, 2015 at 6:46 pm

            No, I don’t. I wish there were far fewer people like you.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:49 pm

            …and I wish there were fewer whiny little bit$% like you….

          • uhhuhh

            June 1, 2015 at 7:02 pm

            Bigot, the slur you’re looking for is “[email protected],” which is what I am.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 7:18 pm

            Hey whatever floats your boat….:)

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:32 pm

            I think blacks “kid” win in the “murdering dept”. Just sayin….

          • starchild

            June 12, 2015 at 7:41 am

            If you find complaints to law enforcement about drinking in public while causing problems for no one, urinating in nature when there are no toilets around, or making noise while having a good time at a public beach “valid”, I encourage you to check your premises.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:31 pm

            Oh poor little boy…..someone got a ticket for pissing and your life falls apart. Oh the humanity. First they came for your beer and then your urine. What’s next??!!!! End of days I tell ya….!

          • uhhuhh

            June 1, 2015 at 6:48 pm

            That movement called gay equality? Mouthy bigots like you are why it has won.

          • zgary

            June 1, 2015 at 6:56 pm

            #Freethebeachpissersornopeace

    • zgary

      June 1, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      guy gets a ticket and suddenly it’s a “police state….G-d talk about acting like a queen……

  4. Gail Shaeffer Root

    May 27, 2015 at 8:50 am

    The police aren’t being homophobic, the gays are being drunken assholes….. They deserved what they got. If it was my son I would feel the same way. Yes, we all fight for gay rights, but no one has the right to be an inconsiderate drunken fool…

  5. seth

    May 27, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Google Maps suggests Poodle Beach is just outside of Reho police’s jurisdiction. Is that the case? Secondly, I witnessed and recorded a police officer come up to a sober, resting man, wake him up, and pressure him into opening his cooler. The guy should have said no, but didn’t. He had no glass and was violating no law. This is not just gays being whiny. I do agree that urination, glass, and littering is unacceptable.

  6. Chadd71

    May 27, 2015 at 10:57 am

    “Among them are doctors, lawyers, a CNN producer, staff members of the Washington Post, members of the current presidential administration, and a three-time Emmy Award winner,” he said in his own email accompanying the one sent to Rehoboth officials. He did not identify them by name.

    ______
    Wow, so what this says to me is that these DC people are WAY WAY too important to be bothered with following laws of the little people of Rehoboth- the ones who are here year round. What a big-headed, arrogant, egotistical, and pompous [redundancy intended for emphasis] thing to write. No wonder the author is too embarrassed to reveal their identity. I am embarrassed for the author and the folks he claims he is writing for. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. My response would be- fine! Book that flight and house share in Ptown or elsewhere and leave the peaceful year round folks- and the LGBT guests who RESPECT the laws and the people enjoy a vacation in peace, because guess what? The folks in hotel rooms and smaller quieter homes are the folks with the money…NOT you and your 15 person flop house. BYE FELICIAS!!!

  7. Randy Brewster

    May 27, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    This is bullshit! Gay or straight, you piss in someone’s bush, you deserve a ticket. Drink booze on the beach, you deserve a ticket. Being Gay does not excuse poor decisions. Nor, does it allow you to claim being a martyr every time you get caught breaking the law!

    • Salvatore Seeley

      May 27, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      EXACTLY! Breaking the law is no excuse to pull the gay card out…you broke the law and there are consequences.

    • starchild

      June 12, 2015 at 7:52 am

      Why should people be robbed just for enjoying a drink on the beach? It’s a bullshit “law” (unconstitutional statute, actually!) that deserves to be broken. Do you think gay people deserved tickets for sodomy too, when that was “breaking the law”?

  8. Chris

    May 27, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Really excited to know about the number of regional Emmys someone won. Wow! Talent indeed! Is 2 or 3 the number after which you stop urinating on the property of other people? Was the email actually intended to pursuade anyone or just as an epic joke? The people being accused include lawyers in DC – they’d be the last people who would get drunk, disrespect someone’s property then argue about it. *rolls eyes*

    The scariest thing would be if all these people stayed in DC on a holiday weekend.

  9. Out Art

    May 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Funny Sharon Lynn was run out of Ptown just two years ago for many of the same problems. Police targeting the more party interested tourists. This is not homophobia, its a bad town manager who doesn’t like party tourists. I use to work in Ptown and guess what the party boys are also the best spenders! I made really good money at a t shirt shop because those boys like to spend! Not every beach town should cater to families and quiet relaxation. No town needs to deal with a tourist crowd they do not want. However, while I am knew to DC is it me or hasn’t Rehoboth beach been getting these tourists for awhile? This is not new but who knows maybe they just don’t want our money anymore!

  10. Lori Killian Bloxom

    May 28, 2015 at 9:07 am

    The noise ordinance is only the beginning. The Mayor recently introduced an ordinance, which he expects to pass at the June 19 meeting, BANNING renters from using the pool at all rental houses, effective Jan. 2018. The noise ordinance and this pool ordinance are in response to a few noise complaints for a specific property that has an owner-occupied pool (which may be the property on New Castle St.; the Mayor lives at 13 New Castle St.). It’s time to contact the Mayor and commissioners on these issues. Public urination is one thing; outlawing fun at a resort community so as not to interrupt a few retired folks’ naps (literally – that was a complaint I heard twice at commissioners’ meetings) is entirely different. There has also been talk of banning rentals entirely.

  11. Russ Capps

    May 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I saw with disgust the guys peeing *everywhere* on the beach/dunes, and it has never been that bad in my 20+ years of going. I’m glad that cracked down on that crap, I saw guys going behind houses without occupants to pee.

    • starchild

      June 12, 2015 at 7:21 am

      Too many cops, not enough toilets! I wonder how many public facilities could be installed with one police officer’s annual salary?

  12. Andy Hill

    May 28, 2015 at 11:41 am

    #thestruggleisreal

  13. Bill

    May 31, 2015 at 11:02 am

    My husband, a Nobel laureate, and I, an Academy Award winner, witnessed the events on Memorial Day.

    The “swarm” consisted of four police officers who’d probably prefer to do anything besides walking around a beach in those Michael Kors-designed uniforms. They were polite when they talked to alleged offenders.

    The people who were ticketed were amateurs. Really, pouring Svedka vodka straight out of a bottle in the open so everyone can see you don’t drink Grey Goose? And on top of that, you do poppers? And when confronted by the police you deny the cooler containing your Svedka is yours and then spend the rest of the day away from your cooler and other possessions? Amateurs and stupid.

    Rehoboth has to walk a fine line between enforcing the law and not going overboard [I refer to the pool banning ordinance] so as not to screw things up. In this case, I had no issues with the police enforcing the long-standing ordinance against booze on the beach.

    Now about those dog walkers on the boardwalk at 3PM…

    • starchild

      June 12, 2015 at 7:37 am

      Sad that you and your husband’s abundant talents are being wasted belittling people on an Internet forum for drinking less expensive vodka than you yourselves enjoy. Why not show some class and hospitality by inviting them over to share a bottle of whatever hoity-toity beverage you prefer, and some better drugs? Would it not be cooler to star in your own bohemian version of one of those Grey Poupon commercials, than to invite comparisons with people who have no issues with other long-standing ordinances, like the ones barring gays from the chapel?

      • Bill

        June 12, 2015 at 9:00 am

        To paraphrase Barney Frank:

        “Sir/Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table: I have no interest in doing it.”

  14. zgary

    June 1, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Gays…..always the victims…..

  15. steveyuhas

    June 1, 2015 at 11:22 am

    How is it homophobic to enforce laws against open containers of alcohol, public urination and other disgusting habits by drunk ‘residents’ of a beach city? I’m not sure if it makes it better or worse for the city that doctors, lawyers, CNN employees and journalists from the Washington Post and Emmy Award winning gays are involved. Does an Emmy give you the right to pee with reckless abandon? Does a CNN ID card give you an exemption to carrying open containers of alcohol? Forget the doctors and lawyers – they’re lost causes if they’re acting that way.

    • starchild

      June 12, 2015 at 7:20 am

      Unless they’ve already had too much to drink, most people do not find open containers of alcohol disgusting. Police officers ticketing people for having a drink at the beach on a nice day — now THAT is disgusting.

  16. AnonymouseIsAWoman

    June 1, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Sorry, but public urination and carrying open bottles around in an area where public drinking is forbidden is just plain bad behavior. It’s bad behavior regardless of gender, orientation, race, whatever. Attempting to label complaints about drunks pissing in people’s yards or on the dunes, public drunkenness, and loud noisy late night parties as homophobia is pretty odious. There are actually people in that town who live there year around and actually have to go to work in the morning who would like to get some sleep at night.

    • starchild

      June 12, 2015 at 7:26 am

      Forbidding public drinking is just plain bad behavior by elected officials — if they cared a whit about freedom, they would know the proper course of action is to hold *individuals* accountable when they harm the person or property of others, instead of persecuting other members of the community by criminalizing harmless fun.

  17. Shelter Somerset

    June 2, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Looks like the Politburo doesn’t like to be bothered with laws–or bathrooms.

  18. starchild

    June 12, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Isn’t there enough actual crime to keep the police in Rehoboth busy? Maybe they have too many officers on their force. Sounds like a few of them should be laid off, and the savings used to invest in a few more public toilets.

  19. Lori Killian Bloxom

    June 14, 2015 at 9:36 am

    I don’t think people are reading this correctly. The incidents of public urination were wholly and completely separate from the over-the-top and arbitrary searches of sleeping visitors on the beach. This, too, is separate from the noise issue with one rental house where they were not allowed to have an afternoon BBQ. Please note: the open container law is violated regularly all along the beach and specifically on the drive-on beaches but those areas were not and, to my knowledge, have never been targeted.

  20. Robby Bell

    June 25, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Telling a resort destination they will withhold their precious “pink pound” (a borrowed British term for gay purchasing power) if they dare enforce their own laws which apply to all people equally is tantamount to bullying. This is so embarrassing to read. “Treat us better than you’d treat anyone else because we erroneously believe to be superior to all you locals and straight vacationers, or we won’t contribute to your economy anymore!” Ever read “Gulliver’s Travels?” You sound like Laputa, going to descend and crush the “less advanced” natives if you don’t receive your tribute. God this is so gross. Grow up.

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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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