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Georgetown Hospital accused of anti-trans discrimination

Claims it doesn’t have expertise to treat those in ‘gender transition’

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Alexa Rodriguez, gay news, Washington Blade
Alexa Rodriguez, gay news, Washington Blade, Georgetown University Hospital

Alexa Rodriguez was turned away by a breast surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. (Photo courtesy Latino GLBT History Project)

A transgender woman has filed a discrimination complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights against MedStar Georgetown University Hospital on grounds that the hospital allegedly refused her request for breast implant surgery because of her gender identity.

Alexa Rodriguez, 38, vice president of D.C.’s Latino LGBT History Project, said the refusal came on May 8, five months after one of the hospital’s highly regarded breast surgeons, Dr. Troy Pittman, examined her and cleared her for the surgery contingent upon approval for coverage of the procedure by her health insurance provider.

Rodriguez said her insurer, United Healthcare, initially denied coverage but reversed its decision five months later in response to her appeal of the denial.

“They told me that when I got the pre-approval for the insurance we can schedule the surgery,” Rodriguez said. “So after I received that approval I called to make an appointment for the surgery.”

Much to her dismay, Rodriguez said a hospital employee who schedules Dr. Pittman’s appointments told her by phone on May 8 that the hospital was no longer taking transgender women for treatment or surgery.

“And I asked him why,” said Rodriguez. “He was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know. They’re not saying anything.’”

Ruby Corado, executive director of Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center that provides services to the transgender community, said at least two of her female transgender clients were also turned town for breast surgery at MedStar Georgetown around the same time that Rodriquez was turned down.

Rodriquez told the Blade one of her female transgender friends was turned down for breast-related surgery by Georgetown the same week she was informed the hospital isn’t doing the surgery for trans women.

Marianne Worley, director of media relations for MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said in a statement to the Washington Blade that the hospital has a policy of not discriminating against patients based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression among other categories.

While the hospital doesn’t offer some specific programs such as gender transition treatment, “We do see and diagnose anyone who presents to us,” she said, including transgender patients.

“MedStar Georgetown University Hospital does not have a policy on assisting with gender transition; it is just not a comprehensive service that we currently offer,” Worley said in her statement.

Saying the hospital decides which services to provide based on the “highest quality outcomes,” her statement adds, “A gender transition program is very complex, requiring an array of specialists with expertise in hormonal therapy, surgery and psychological services, to name just a few.”

“Our conclusion has been that a high quality gender transition service is best delivered in the context of an integrated program rather than in a one off manner, and such a program does not exist at MedStar Georgetown,” her statement says.

According to Worley, “Cases in which the treatment required is outside the scope of what we offer are referred to the appropriate health care facility both within and outside of MedStar Health.”

Both Rodriguez and Corado said they know of other transgender women who had transition-related breast surgery at MedStar Georgetown last year, with one trans woman having had breast surgery there as recently as January of this year.

“We know they did surgery on transgender women in January,” said Corado. “It was not an issue before. What has changed to not allow it now?”

Worley did not specifically answer that question in her written response to a Blade inquiry.

One source familiar with the hospital who spoke on condition of not being identified said some members of the medical staff at the hospital reported hearing that transgender-related surgery was discontinued earlier this year after complaints were lodged by conservative Catholic officials affiliated with Georgetown University.

“MedStar Georgetown is a Catholic hospital and, consistent with all Catholic hospitals, it operates under the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church,” Worley said in a follow-up statement to the Blade.

Rodriguez said she had been referred to Dr. Pittman at Georgetown for the surgery by her primary care physician at Whitman-Walker Health, which is providing her with the full array of treatment and services that go along with gender transition, including hormone therapy and mental health counseling.

“I then went to their office about two weeks later to try to get an answer for why they were denying me my surgery,” Rodriguez told the Blade in discussing her interaction with Georgetown Hospital. She said the employee she spoke with by phone, who she only knows by his first name of David, repeated his earlier claim not to know the reason for the denial.

She said David did not arrange for her to speak with a higher up official at the hospital, as she requested, to find out why she was denied the surgery.

“We are surprised and disappointed to learn of Georgetown’s statement and its implications for access to much-needed surgery services for the metro D.C. transgender community,” said Shawn Jain, director of communications for Whitman-Walker Health.

“Whitman-Walker routinely refers transgender and other patients to qualified specialists, including Georgetown, for healthcare needs that we do not offer in-house,” Jain said. “We apply World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care when referring transgender patients for surgical care,” he said.

“Based on our reading of Georgetown’s statement, we believe this will present some very real and tangible access to care issues for our transgender patients,” said Jain.

Brian Markovitz, a civil rights attorney who has represented clients in cases before the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said Georgetown could have a difficult time defending its decision not to provide the surgery requested by Rodriguez.

He said the fact that Whitman-Walker handled the gender transition-related aspects of Rodriguez’s medical treatment, which Georgetown says it may not have the expertise to do, could undermine a claim by Georgetown that it was legally justified in refusing to perform the surgery.

“They could be running afoul of the Human Rights Act because they are providing implants for cancer patients and other people, and because they’re doing that and they’re not going to do it for this individual they’re running the risk of liability,” Markovitz said.

He said although Georgetown could argue that it’s a Catholic hospital and certain medical and surgical procedures are against church teachings, the Human Rights Office would likely rule that the hospital is open to the general public and therefore is operating as a public accommodation, which is bound by the D.C. Human Rights Act.

The Human Rights Act bans discrimination based on gender identity and expression and a wide range of other categories such as race, religion and ethnicity.

Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the Office of Human Rights, said the office cannot comment on a pending case before the office completes an investigation and makes a determination of whether probable cause exists that discrimination occurred.

But he said that as a general principle, case law established from past court rulings and decisions by the OHR holds that if a public accommodation like a hospital offers services to non-transgender people, “under most circumstances they would have to offer that to transgender people unless there is something regarding safety or complications that are different than for a cisgender person.”

(Cisgender is a term used to describe non-transgender people.)

Markovitz said that if the OHR finds probable cause that Georgetown violated the Human Rights Act by denying implant surgery for a transgender person and the D.C. Commission on Human Rights upholds that decision, the case could become a hot button issue before D.C. and federal courts should Georgetown decide to appeal the ruling.

“I could see the hospital defending itself on First Amendment [religious liberty] grounds and this could turn into a very important case,” he said.

Should the case enter the federal court system Markovitz said Rodriguez could benefit from recent federal court rulings saying transgender people are covered under a federal civil rights law that bans discrimination based on gender.

Corado said one of the Casa Ruby clients turned down for surgery at Georgetown was suffering from complications related to breast augmentation surgery she had several years earlier in El Salvador. The client, Katherine Campos, told the Blade a Georgetown Hospital physician examined her after she experienced bleeding and pain in her breasts that may have been due to an infection.

She said the doctor determined surgery was needed to correct the problem, but a hospital official told her the hospital does not do transgender-related surgery and she would have to get the surgery someplace else.

Rodriguez said her friend who was refused breast augmentation surgery never had a chance to see a doctor at MedStar Georgetown because the person she spoke with by phone to make an appointment informed her she need not come in.

“With her it was worse because she called to schedule a consultation appointment and the guy said we are happy to have you, we are taking new clients, yada, yada, yada,” said Rodriguez. “And then he suddenly asked her are you a biological woman or are you a transgender woman?”

When her friend replied that she’s a transgender woman the hospital staffer on the phone told her, “Well at this time we are not taking transgender women,” Rodriguez said. “She was devastated. She said it was not right for him to do that.”

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Hilary Howes, CMG

    June 10, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    A similar denial of services at a California Catholic hospital a few years back ended with the hospital losing the lawsuit that followed. The Roman Catholic Church has no public teaching on the moral or ethical aspects of transexual medical services and any denial is based on personal beliefs of certain catholic individuals who may be ordained or lay. Georgetown should not hide behind some alleged policy of unified care and provide care with dignity to all but especially to the marginalized as we are called by our catholic faith to do.

    • Majorana Fermion

      July 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

      Except that Pope Francis has publicly called transgender people as big a threat to humanity as nuclear weapons, the thinking based on the other current Pope’s (emeritus?) Xmas Breakfast with the Curia speech in 2008, which was in turn based on PJP2’s book. In each, look for the phrase, “human ecology” and how they claim it is threatened by transgender and gay people.

      • Hilary Howes, CMG

        August 1, 2015 at 12:39 pm

        I the pope’s encyclical on the environment is a complex document but I can assure you he is not talking about transgender people when he refers to gender theory.
        https://catholictrans.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/what-does-pope-francis-actually-say-about-transgenderism/
        This is an excellent analisys by a catholic and transgender theologian. I wish you peace on your journey.

        • Majorana Fermion

          August 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm

          It’s not just PF’s statements, Hillary. His are merely references to those by his predecessor / other current Pope, Benedict in his Breakfast with the Curia unofficial pronouncements. And those in turn built on PJP2’s book…

          • Hilary Howes, CMG

            August 1, 2015 at 3:23 pm

            PF makes a significant change from his predecessor but if you don’t want to see it I’m sure there is nothing I can share here that will.

          • Majorana Fermion

            August 1, 2015 at 3:49 pm

            I’ve noticed that far too often, when he makes a public pronouncement that appears to be “significant change” it’s widely spread via a professional PR push. Then, almost without fail within 2-3 weeks he gives a message that refutes it and indeed solidifies the prior message. Except that second one is during “live” audience, typically in a third world country, and not pushed out by the Vatican’s PR agency. It’s a bit dishonest, to say the least.

  2. Leslie Gray

    June 10, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    So much for Christian compassion.

    • The Butterfly

      April 19, 2016 at 11:30 pm

      Because nothing says Christ-like compassion like giving a man boobs.

      • Leslie Gray

        April 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        Transgender women are not men. Transgender women are women. It’s not for you to judge the life conditions of others.

        Matthew 25:31-46New International Version (NIV)

        The Sheep and the Goats

        31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

        34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

        37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

        40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

        41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

        44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

        45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

        46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

        • The Butterfly

          April 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

          I’m a butterfly.

          • Leslie Gray

            April 22, 2016 at 4:22 pm

            Then I suggest you stay well clear of bug zappers, spiders, birds and lepidopterists with nets.

  3. A3H

    June 10, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    OMG. There are others!!

  4. Agent_J

    June 11, 2015 at 1:20 am

    You have to love the junk excuses to claim that they’re suddenly incapable of performing the surgery that they successfully performed so many times before.

    I had a similar experience with a surgeon in Raleigh years ago. They’d done great work for some other trans women I knew so imagine my surprise when they said that they “couldn’t manage the hormones” and, when I said that I had an endocrinologist handling that, they just kept repeating, “it’s the hormones.”

    I ended up having to fight them over the fee for the consultation…no way was I letting then pocket it for that. I won, too…specifically because the consultation for which I paid was to be with the surgeon who never actually meet with me at all (his front office staff delivered the refusal.)

  5. Magnolia_virginiana

    June 13, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Oh for heaven’s sake. GUH has simply made a business decision. There is no requirement that a hospital is required to provide every kind of treatment known to man. There is no requirement that a hospital implement a policy and then continue that policy forever.

    Like most businesses, GUH has built a reputation for a certain level of quality, and like most businesses, they do not want to expand their services if they cannot meet that same level of quality. GUH is operating in expensive market with limited ability to expand their facilities–and so any expansion of service has to be a decision made very carefully. They tested it out with a few patients last year and have apparently come to the conclusion that this is not a specialty they want to expand in to.

    This does not equate to discrimination.

    • Majorana Fermion

      July 14, 2015 at 1:46 am

      Except that they offer the same surgeries and treatments to non-transgender people. At that point it is no longer a business decision, it is a legal one.

      • Magnolia_virginiana

        July 14, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        A) Breast implants on non-transgender people is not ‘the same surgery’ as it is for transgendered patients.

        B) as the spokesperson clearly stated, they have experimented and found that for transgender people, the breast implant surgery is not a stand-alone procedure. It is part of a huge process requiring many, many procedures and specialists that the hospital does not have. A transgender person does not simply go into the hospital and get implants and walk out a woman.

        So no, it is still a legal one.

        • Majorana Fermion

          July 14, 2015 at 2:39 pm

          How is the surgery itself different, please?

          • Magnolia_virginiana

            July 14, 2015 at 8:43 pm

            Seriously? You haven’t noticed how women have milk ducts and men don’t? How women have fatty tissue in their breasts and men don’t? Because the structure is different to begin with, the process to insert an implant is different.

          • Majorana Fermion

            July 14, 2015 at 10:47 pm

            Seriously? Usually by the time trans women have breast augmentation they’ve been on hormones for years and have grown breasts, silly. Why do you think they need to go in for mammograms at the same schedule as any other woman? Structurally, there is no difference.

  6. Majorana Fermion

    July 14, 2015 at 1:40 am

    “MedStar Georgetown is a Catholic hospital and, consistent with all Catholic hospitals, it operates under the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church,” Worley said

    Well, how many LGBT people could that really affect, right?

    “Catholic acute-care hospitals now account for 1 in 9 hospital beds around the country, with much higher concentrations in some states, including Washington (the subject of this ProPublica story), Wisconsin, and Iowa. (When other types of facilities are included, the Catholic share of hospital beds is closer to 1 in 6, according to this fact sheet.). Keep in mind that these numbers are from 2011. Since then, according to the report, the largest Catholic health hospital networks, Ascension Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, have grown by another 30 percent or more.”

    http://www.propublica.org/article/the-growth-of-catholic-hospitals-by-the-numbers

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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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