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In first, White House hires openly trans staffer

Freedman-Gurspan makes history as Obama appointee

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NCTE, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, gay news, Washington Blade
NCTE, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, gay news, Washington Blade

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan (Photo courtesy NCTE)

The White House for the first time has hired an openly transgender person as a member of its staff, LGBT advocates and the Obama administration announced Tuesday.

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who formerly served in trans advocacy as policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Racial & Economic Justice Initiative, has been appointed to a senior position in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. She’s set to begin her new role as an outreach and recruitment director in the Presidential Personnel Office on Tuesday.

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, welcomed the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House in a statement to the Washington Blade.

“Raffi Freedman-Gurspan demonstrates the kind of leadership this administration champions,” Jarrett said. “Her commitment to bettering the lives of transgender Americans, particularly transgender people of color and those in poverty, reflects the values of this administration.”

According to the White House website, the Office of Presidential Personnel oversees the selection process for presidential appointments and works to recruit qualified candidates for service in departments and agencies across the government.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she’s “elated” about the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House staff.

“That the first transgender appointee is a transgender woman of color is itself significant,” Keisling said. “And that the first White House transgender appointee is a friend is inspiring to me and to countless others who have been touched by Raffi’s advocacy.”

During her tenure at the National Center for Transgender Equality, Freedman-Gurspan focused on the experiences of transgender people of color and those living in poverty. Among her duties was advocacy on behalf of improving the conditions of transgender people in prison, addressing biased policing against transgender communities, limiting the use of detention for undocumented transgender immigrants and finding solutions to address violence against transgender communities of color.

Carl Sciortino, a gay former lawmaker in the Massachusetts State House and executive director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, called Freedman-Gurspan a “role model,” recalling her days working for the state legislature.

“Among her many contributions, she was instrumental in helping pass the Transgender Equal Rights Law,” Sciortino said. “I am proud to see her continue to lead by example, as she takes her voice and her passion to the White House. Her hiring is a symbol of progress for the transgender community, but without a doubt I know it will be her skill and hard work that will benefit many.”

The Obama administration has appointed openly transgender people into federal government positions before, but no appointee so far could be considered a White House staffer. For example, President Obama appointed Dylan Orr in 2009 as special assistant in the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, although he’s since left the government. Another openly trans Obama appointee is Amanda Simpson, who’s currently executive director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives.

In June, Obama named Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as another senior openly trans official by appointing him to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, also praised the appointment of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House.

“For the first time in history, a transgender American will serve the president as a member of the White House staff,” Moodie-Mills said. “We’re celebrating because this is an important milestone for the transgender community, but we’re also thrilled that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, an incredibly smart, talented, and committed professional, will now be working for the American people.”

Wade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference for Civil & Human Rights, said Freedman-Gurspan’s appointment represents “a remarkable step forward” for LGBT rights.

“As the old saying goes ‘if you’re not in the room, then you can’t possibly be at the table,’” Henderson said. “Our nation will be stronger with Freedman-Gurspan, an advocate from The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights coalition, both in the room and at the table as the first openly transgender White House staffer.”

Diego Sanchez, policy director for PFLAG National, said the addition of Freedman-Gurspan to the White House is important for transgender people everywhere.

“As a governmental trailblazer myself, as the first openly trans senior staffer on Capitol Hill, I know that educating from the inside is key,” Sanchez said. “Raffi is another example of tremendous LGBTQ standouts chosen by this administration, and it is gratifying that more trans people, including her generation and the ones that will follow, can know that their gender identity is not a deterrent, but rather a benefit that complements their professional prowess.”

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53 Comments

53 Comments

  1. Jaime Gandarilla

    August 18, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Cheers

  2. Sarah Katherine

    August 18, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Good luck to her, but Amanda Simpson was first.

  3. Hp440lisa

    August 18, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    “LGBT” represents sex discrimination and queer conversion therapy President Obama supports!

    • Granite Skyline

      August 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      It’s cute how you set aside some special time to humiliate yourself publically by flaunting you ignorance.

      Do you designate some special self-humiliation time every day, or is today a special occasion?

      • Hp440lisa

        August 18, 2015 at 3:09 pm

        Sorry if the truth hurts! I don’t remember “LGBT activist” asking all of us if we wanted to be “Included!” Look at the Transgender Surveys and groups! They claim there are 700,000 in the U.S where are they? What “Transgender” attracts outside of the kids is all the freakiest transvestites and wanna be transsexuals.

        • Richelle Mulka

          August 18, 2015 at 3:18 pm

          I’m sorry you can’t see all 700,000 of us trans* people in the U.S. , I guess we just blend in too well ! I’m truly sorry you can’t pin-point all of us accurately so you can focus your hatred on a one-on-one basis , I’m sure there must be other groups you can easily identify and hate at your leisure !

          • Hp440lisa

            August 18, 2015 at 3:27 pm

            I’m sorry you are so ignorant as to think you have a right to “include” all of us in your sex discriminatory and queer conversion therapy word “Transgender.” I am a person that was listed male at birth and am now legally female. You got zero right to call me either “Transgender” or include me in the “Gay Community.” You guys need to quit sex discrimination towards people like me.

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 18, 2015 at 3:41 pm

            I fail to see what your complaint is all about, we are both both M to F and living full-time transitioning legally and medically as females. I have no grudge with you personally, I do however think you’re being overly critical of the transgender community. Sorry if I somehow hurt your feelings, but I have valid feelings of my own. Respect should be a mutual thing.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm

            Its funny respect should be a mutual thing but where is the recognition of those of us that do not identify as or with Transgender and the gay community? All I ever saw was bullying those like myself with false accusations under the Transgender activist started Transsexual separatist movement.

          • scorpiannes

            August 18, 2015 at 8:50 pm

            Why are you two girls fighting for…its obvious that gender identity is different than sexual preference…as for Bruce Jenner…No fricken way he is a woman..he doesn’t have the “essence” that is woman…but the kid on I am Jazz totally has the essence of being female so I get that she is a girl born with the wrong sex organs…as a suburban mom who has a friend with a transgender teenager to us Bruce Jenner is making a mockery out of the whole transgender situation. His show constantly focusing on his Prada glasses or whatever the fuqk he was plugging,,, I wish you girls would call out that phony Bruce Jenner for what he is instead of fighting amongst yourselves

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 18, 2015 at 11:43 pm

            You make a valid point , we have far more in common than we have differences. Mostly a matter of semantics overall, I bear no grudge with Lisa . Jenner just makes me crazy, I get compared with her almost daily . “Why aren’t you pretty like Caitlyn, you’ve been transitioning far longer !” and other remarks tend to make me a little crazy. She has more money than God and has the means to do ANYTHING & EVERYTHING she desires. She has little if anything in common with poor people like myself fighting daily to just exist , she’s paid no dues. She just bought the whole Club instead.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 2:36 am

            I transitioned to become the female I always felt I should have been born. I never identified as a cross dresser and the closest I would say I felt like one is when I was presenting as male.
            Those who don’t want genital surgery and that when push comes to shove really identify as their birth sex but want to live as the opposite sex should not be being mixed up with those who best fit the medical definition of being transsexual.
            I never needed or wanted to be part of a “Transgender” group I wanted to become a woman. I live my life as a woman and at work I don’t go into it. I’m me.

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 19, 2015 at 5:52 am

            Lisa, I can respect your viewpoint. My goal is to live out my life (I’m 64) as the female I always felt myself to be, I much prefer being considered simply a woman without a lot of qualifiers. I suspect we each are on our unique quests to be our real selves I wish you all the best in your life ahead, may you find your Truth your own way !

          • scorpiannes

            August 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

            I’m sorry I cannot refer to Bruce as female….you and Lisa….yes I will respectfully refer to you as female. As a person born female I get your struggle that comes with being a woman….makeup hair all that…but its much much more to be a woman than what Bruce pretends it to be. He is NOT a pretty woman….and what woman IS pretty at 65 yo? If any other 65 yo woman dressed like a 25 …every gay on the planet would be dissing that queen right off her throne …but some reason this Bruce idiot gets a pass. Please don’t fight you and Lisa….to be honest I didn’t get your struggle until I found out about my friends teenager going through what you guys have and it really helped me understand that its not a choice or just someone being crazy. Its an “essence” that this kid clearly has…and its hard….also shows like I am Jazz…what an eye opener for a conservative mom like myself…Bruce’s show just set the trans community back 25 years in my opinion..because BRuce is a h orrible horrible so-called role model… Bruce is a cross dresser at best….take care of yourself and I bet you are beautiful!! Both you and Lisa!!

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 19, 2015 at 11:54 am

            Thank You for your kind words and encouragement, they are always appreciated. Lisa and I found ourselves engaged in that wonderful thing known as a “cat fight” , I feel rather silly about the whole thing looking back on it a day later. I wish Jenner no harm, but if she would retreat from the public eye I’d breathe so much easier ! Personally, I think a great deal more of Kristen Beck being a spokesperson and follow her campaign closely. She’s a “go to” person that sets goals and achieves them the vast majority of the time. I respect her immensely and envy her sheer determination. I only wish I were so confident ! I probably should apologize to Lisa for over-reacting, I was feeling very nervous and vulnerable at the time.

          • zFashionizta

            August 21, 2015 at 11:26 am

            Serious someone would be so mean as to say that you are not as pretty as Caitlin, Caitlin is not even as pretty as a Caitlin; disregard their comments because Jenner is not pretty.

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 21, 2015 at 12:17 pm

            Thank You for your very kind remarks,it was very sweet of you !

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 2:26 am

            Really Transgender makes a mockery out of the proper word Transsexual. That vast majority of adult transgenders and those who self identify as Transgender or transsexual are not transsexual. A true transsexual will identify with the medical definition of the word Transsexual being an accurate description because they identify as the opposite sex they were listed at birth, but it is not their personal identity male or female is!

          • scorpiannes

            August 19, 2015 at 11:36 am

            Lisa why did you just confuse me more…lol I just want you to be happy…in all seriousness Please have a blessed life and stay beautiful!! I get what you are saying…

        • Granite Skyline

          August 18, 2015 at 3:20 pm

          Thanks for the illogical hodgepodge mishmash of opinion-stated-as-fact.

          LGBT people have been around since the dawn of time. People like Caitlyn Jenner are finally becoming their true selves.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm

            We are not all “LGBT” and that is sex discrimination and a work of fiction that needs to come to an end.”LGBT” history is a work of fiction.

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 18, 2015 at 3:46 pm

            Lisa, I do feel we as members of the T community have very little (if anything) in common with the LGB movement. They are about sexual orientation and we are about gender orientation. Not the same thing, it probably confuses the general public no end, which makes acceptance of all of us unlikely.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm

            I do not really see an all encompassing community. I see those who want to call themselves “Transgender” and part of the “Gay Community” as sexually exploiting and discriminating against everyone else!!! They are also being used by scientist to justify “including” all of us into research without our consent. It is really shameful stuff!!!

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 18, 2015 at 4:10 pm

            I agree with you on this, I see myself more as a trans-sexual but the whole medical community marks me down as trans-gender. Apparently being trans-sexual is no longer considered politically correct, my OB/GYN who administered my HRT insisted on listing me as being a trangender with associative gender disorder. So even my friendliest medical provider sees me as mentally ill, not all that flattering somehow. I now prefer to think of myself as just another (albeit somewhat unique) woman, I think I’ve “arrived”. We tend to be treated as freaks by the medical community at large. “They laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at them because they’re not .”

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 2:18 am

            I don’t know where you go for treatment but the word Transsexual is in my medical records and I forbade the VA from using the word Transgender on me. I don’t self-identify as transsexual but I think it is the word that when used properly best describes a person in my circumstance.

          • Richelle Mulka

            August 19, 2015 at 5:43 am

            I go to Planned Parenthood for my HRT, which puts me in the rather unique position of being a father with the same OB/GYN as my two daughters ! PPH has their own style of classifying Trans* people but have always treated me with respect and kindness. I feel lucky I found them when I did, they saved me from driving 2 1/2 hours to Seattle for care.

          • Granite Skyline

            August 18, 2015 at 4:08 pm

            Each of your posts gets gibberishier and gibberishier.

            Medical science confirms that there is a biological basis for homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism — certainly being intersex is proof that people are born that way (no one wills themselves to have a penis and a vagina).

            Put down your tinfoil hat and pick up a medical book.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 2:15 am

            There is proof that people who are specifically Transsexual are born that way but that does not cover the vast majority of those who self-identify as “Transgender” a supposed umbrella term. Show me brain research showing a crossdresser is born that way. Show me research that someone other than an intersex person can identify as neither male or female and is born that way! The fact is “Transgender” sexually exploits what it means to be transsexual and sexually discriminates against people who best fit the definition of being Transsexual and that do not identify as or with the “LGBT.”

          • Granite Skyline

            August 19, 2015 at 8:43 am

            There is plenty of research out there, you are just choosing to avoid and ignore it.

            What’s it to you what other people’s gender issues are? Why are you so fearful?

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 11:50 am

            I’m not avoiding the research and have probably read a lot more than you have. Many research articles point to problems with LGBT research being biased towards the most dysfunctional and LGBT activist, convenience sampled because it either comes from those in treatment or known LGBT places. For the same reasons it is sample biased and it is also methodologically flawed.

          • Granite Skyline

            August 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

            You need to step away from paranoid agenda-driven content and look at research done by reputable scientists.

            There is no “gay agenda” — that is merely the stuff of paranoid minds.

            All the reliable, reputable research points to people being born LGBT. Even animals are gay (a big problem for conservationists) –Do you think 1/3 of all turtles are gay because they have hatching-issues or were influenced by gay activists?

            You are silly.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm

            You are being silly and showing your LGBT bias. The vast majority of same sex attracted people I’ve ever met didn’t identify as or with the word “Gay.”
            There is an LGBT agenda and it is not a good one and no less conversion therapy then what is on the right side.

          • Granite Skyline

            August 19, 2015 at 1:59 pm

            Yeah, you’re a full-blown lunatic.

            Conservation therapy has been proven to be ineffective at best, but very harmful in most cases. There is zero evidence that pray-away-the-gay charlatans are anything but snake oil salesman.

            You are so deep in the closet your mailing address is Narnia.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm

            No I just happen to be a lot smarter than you. Calling someone who best fits the definition of being transsexual “Transgender” is conversion therapy and sex discrimination against them. You are saying because I was listed Y at birth and now am X you have a right to label me “Transgender” and “Include” me in the gay community. How is that not sex discrimination and undermining my legal rights as a person now legally X sex?

          • Granite Skyline

            August 20, 2015 at 10:02 pm

            By immediately trying to assert that you are of superior intelligence you have inadvertently revealed a few things about yourself.

            1. That you are not really intelligent at all.
            2. That you’re in love with yourself.
            3. Conversing with me reminds you of how stupid you are, and that makes you uncomfortable.

            But enough about you — you are boring. Back to the topic at hand….

            Take, for example, a woman in Britain named Hayley Haynes. She went through puberty like every other girl, but never got her period. She went to the doctor. Test revealed that she had XY chromosomes –therefore she was a man. But because of a glitch, she developed as a woman.

            Gender is complicated.

          • Hp440lisa

            August 20, 2015 at 10:21 pm

            I have honors to show my intelligence level. Plus we were not talking about genetic variations. We are talking about people who are chromosomal and genitally one sex but identify as the opposite sex. We are not talking about someone who identifies as their birth and chromosomal sex but that wants to live as the opposite sex (Transgender.) We are specifically talking about Transsexualism and brain sex differentiation as being the source of transsexualism.

          • zFashionizta

            August 21, 2015 at 11:44 am

            That young Lady was born with a Intersex condition which can be medically and scientifically proven unfortunately there is no proof to why a person feels transgender.

    • Carol Anne Cooper

      August 18, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      WTF are you even trying to say here?

  4. Kiroula

    August 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    What I want to say will be deleted because this site is FOR gays and freaks. Here goes:
    Our country has gone BONKERS!!!!!!!!! Can someone pinch me and tell me I am in the middle of a nightmare?

    • Granite Skyline

      August 18, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      It’s not everyone else, it’s just you, you are bonkers.

    • Hp440lisa

      August 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      It is true and the idea every person with some level of same sex attraction or that identifies as the opposite sex is “LGBT” or identifies with the “LGBT” is a load of crap

  5. FauxyVixen

    August 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    …as President Obama continues his epic trolling of the GOP…

  6. Charles Volcher

    August 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    No she’s not the 1st Michelle Obama is the first

    • Richelle Mulka

      August 18, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      What does that remark even mean ???????

  7. scorpiannes

    August 18, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I’m sorry this has got to be the ugliest hispanic jew guy I have ever seen. How on God’s green earth are we supposed to REALLY believe that he is a woman? Seriously? Seriously? No…not gonna happen!!

    • Jean-Pierre Levac

      August 18, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      It’s impressive how much stupidity, ignorance and hatred you managed to pack in such a short statement.

      • scorpiannes

        August 18, 2015 at 8:35 pm

        So you must find him attractive then…what does that say about you?

        • Jean-Pierre Levac

          August 19, 2015 at 9:42 am

          She’s a her.

          Concern yourself on what that says about you.

          • scorpiannes

            August 19, 2015 at 11:18 am

            HE’s a MAN dude….what are you blind? To PRETEND that this MAN is a women demonstrates your degree of mental illness. I AM a REAL woman and it is an absolute INSULT for anyone to remotely consider this man a woman….

          • Jean-Pierre Levac

            August 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm

            The sad thing here is not that you can’t grasp that she’s a woman, it’s that you are so obtuse that you’ll probably never comprehend it.

          • scorpiannes

            August 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

            Enlighten me then…how is a person born MALE with MALE DNA and genitalia a Woman? Explain how a male boy is now a female woman? Please help me understand HOW it is possible that he was born with MALE DNA and is NOW a female woman….talk about being obtuse…you’re also delusional and a science denyer

  8. Mary Irons

    August 19, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Ver

  9. Another Batshit Citizen

    August 19, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    That’s fantastic; however, are we just checking a box or is this person actually qualified?

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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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