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Lagging in polls, GOP hopefuls take aim at LGBT rights

Trump quiet on social issues, unlike Santorum and Jindal



Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) spoke at the Values Voter Summit on Sept. 25. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Watching GOP presidential candidates speak at the Values Voter Summit, a pattern emerged: The lower a candidate stands in the polls, the more vehemently he’ll attack LGBT rights.

A number of Republican hopefuls appeared on stage Friday at the annual conference for social conservatives in D.C., which is hosted by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.

But while top-tier candidates were largely quiet on LGBT issues, the further down the contenders were in the polls, the more they had to say.

Front-runner Donald Trump had nothing to say about LGBT people and made few references to social issues, basing much of his speech on his family Bible, which he held up at the beginning and end of his remarks.

Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, running a close second to Trump in recent polls, also never explicitly addressed LGBT rights, although he accused progressives of seeking to eliminate God from the public sphere. Carson was silent on the issue despite his anti-LGBT reputation and decision to sign the National Organization for Marriage’s pledge to oppose same-sex marriage.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former New York Gov. George Pataki and Ohio Gov. John Kasich didn’t appear at the Values Voter Summit.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who’s risen in polls after his performance in the second debate, spoke of LGBT rights in terms of protecting religious liberty, which is considered code for conservatives to mean promoting anti-LGBT discrimination.

“In the year 2020, I want to be able to say that we have defended religious liberty,” Rubio said. “That we have supported – that we have worked to our heart to support the right of our people not just to hold traditional views, but to exercise them, to express them.”

Amid efforts by the Obama administration to advance LGBT rights, Rubio accused the administration of attempting to “redefine family.”

“It’s persecuted and now even prosecuted those who do not agree with the new direction that those seek to take us,” Rubio said.

Rubio also made a veiled dig at same-sex marriage, saying he had enjoyed privilege because he was “raised in a stable home by a mother and a father, a man and a woman who were married.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reiterated the pledge he made during the first Republican presidential debate to instruct his administration to promote religious liberty, saying it would be his priority after rescinding Obama’s “illegal and unconstitutional” actions and investigating Planned Parenthood.

“The third thing I intend to do on the first day in office is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS and every other federal agency, that the persecution of religious liberty ends today,” Cruz said.

After visiting Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for denying marriage licenses to all couples, gay or straight, in her office despite multiple court orders, Cruz expressed solidarity with her while on stage at the conference.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Kim in a Kentucky jailhouse,” Cruz said. “Now, six months, a year ago, if I had come and said that a Christian woman was going to be thrown in jail, locked up in jail, for living her faith, the media would have dismissed me as a nutcase. That’s where we are today. And I’ll tell you, Kim and I, we embraced. And I told her, I said, Kim, thank you. I said, Kim, you are inspiring millions across this country by standing for your faith.”

Ted Cruz, United States Senate, Values Voter Summit, U.S. Congress, Republican Party, Texas, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks at the Values Voter Summit on Sept. 25, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The candidates who are polling so low that they didn’t qualify for either of the first two main Republican presidential debates were most vocal about their opposition to LGBT rights.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum bragged about his efforts in the U.S. Senate during the Bush administration to push for a U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“When I was in the United States Senate, I stepped out on the issue of marriage way before anybody else, even before they started to approve gay marriages in the courts,” Santorum said. “I criticized the Supreme Court. I said we needed to pass a federal marriage amendment. Republicans and Democrats alike said – called me all sorts of names. You’re just trying to pick on these people. We don’t need to deal with this. There’s no issue here. There’s no problem here. I said, ‘We’ll have gay marriage within 10 years.’ I said this 11 years ago and I was wrong. I missed by a year.”

Santorum criticized Republican candidates like Fiorina, Bush and Kasich, who say the time has come to move on after the Supreme Court decision.

“We have a United States Supreme Court who has directly assaulted the First Amendment of our Constitution,” Santorum said. “And 10 of the 14 candidates say, oh, it’s time to move on. We have a United States Supreme Court that says marriage has nothing to do with children that marriage is about adults. And 10 out of the 14 Republican candidates say it’s time to move on. If you’re not willing to fight for the Constitution, for the First Amendment, and for the American family, why are you running for president as a Republican?”

Santorum had no comment when asked by the Washington Blade if he shared objections expressed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to the nomination of Eric Fanning, who’s gay, for Army Secretary. Huckabee has said the appointment was Obama’s “attempt at appeasing America’s homosexuals.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal identified the Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage as evidence the American Dream is slipping away.

“What do I mean that it’s slipping away?” Jindal said. “Eighteen trillion dollars of debt. Planned Parenthood selling baby parts across our country. We’ve got a president who’s declared war on trans fats and a truce with Iran. We’ve got a president who won’t even say the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ We got a Supreme Court that thinks they’re smarter than God in redefining marriage.”

Jindal also drew a contrast between the fate of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her email controversy and the fate of Davis as an example of what’s wrong with the country.

“Right now, if you give away our nation’s classified secrets, you mishandled classified information, you can run for president,” Jindal said. “You don’t believe in gay marriage, they lock you up in jail. That’s what’s happening in America today.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, Huckabee said little on marriage or LGBT rights even though he’s the candidate who most publicly supported Davis after she was jailed. Still, he did offer her a brief mention in his remarks, saying “Kim Davis and people like her will never, ever go to jail one minute if I’m president.”

The strength of the candidates’ LGBT attacks is, generally speaking, inversely proportional to their stature in the polls. A Fox News poll published Thursday found among likely Republican voters, Trump leads with 26 percent, followed by Carson at 18 percent, Fiorina at 9 percent, Rubio at 9 percent, Cruz at 8 percent, Bush at 5 percent, Kasich at 4 percent, Huckabee at 3 percent, Paul at 2 percent, Pataki at 1 percent while Santorum, Jindal and Sen. Lindsey Graham didn’t poll at all.

Despite the conservative nature of the Values Voter Summit, the willingness of lower-tier candidates to speak out against LGBT rights stands in contrast to the conference in recent years when the issue was sidelined in favor of other topics like abortion. But that was before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, the Republican presidential primary heated up and opposition to LGBT rights gained steam after the Davis flap.

John Fluharty, who’s gay and the outgoing executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, said lower-tier Republican candidates are attacking LGBT rights “to try and raise their profile.”

“The thing they can’t seem to understand is that politics is about addition,” Fluharty said. “Republicans want a candidate that allows more Americans to have a seat at our table.”

Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, downplayed the distinction of the candidates on LGBT issues.

“I don’t know if there’s big policy differences on these questions, but there’s definitely differences of style, which is why these kinds of conferences are really important,” Schlapp said. “I kind of feel like if you look across the policy areas, there’s not many policy differences with these candidates, but they’re very different kinds of people, different types of men and women.”

Schlapp said the summit was a chance for the American voter to evaluate each of the candidates’ character and the way they approach controversial issues.

“My view is that all of these candidates have all these chances to connect with the people in the audience,” Schlapp said. “And that’s what this is about: to see if there’s some kind of chemistry, if this is someone I can see leading the country.”

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  1. Foodahz

    September 25, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    I can’t wait to read their platform. That’s always a hoot.

    • Ernie Hughes

      September 29, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Yep filled with hate and distraction from the real problems they created with Bush.

  2. Peking_Duck_sd

    September 26, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Bobby Jindal is basically what Republicans would call an “anchor baby.” His mother, an Indian national, came here while she was pregnant to go to college. Instead of waiting a few months to have her baby in India then come here, she came to this country and then immediately took time off to have the baby here. It’s pretty naive to think their baby’s citizenship and the benefits of giving birth here versus in India wasn’t a consideration in their decision. Polls show most Americans support gay marriage. Gay marriage is illegal in India. Perhaps Bobby Jindal should move back to the land of his ancestors if he is unable to embrace American laws and values.

    • BruceMajors4DC

      September 26, 2015 at 10:28 am

      What a tired screed. You forgot to tell us if momma Jindal, here legally, stayed in the US. And if she did so if she did so illegally. Anchor baby refers to a child of an illegal immigrant. It’s an anchor because without it the parent has no legal pretext to be here.

      I would suggest when you deport Jindal you go with him since you don’t understand English.

      • lazerhaze

        September 26, 2015 at 3:51 pm

        I support deporting Bobby Jindal and his entire family, kids and all. I don’t care what he is or even that he’s a citizen.

        • sJames6621

          September 27, 2015 at 4:55 am

          jindal is another of the repubs high priests of hate, pandering to the kluxers in Louisiana, loaded with those scum and the birthplace / youth of the hate filled FRC leader tony perkins

          google tony perkins – david duke (grand wizard of the klan) etcc

          • BruceMajors4DC

            September 27, 2015 at 7:36 am

            What a moron. I doubt you can show that Jindal has done anything with Duke or the KKK. But your facial anus spews filth. I guess it’s all you can do. Subnormal fool.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          September 27, 2015 at 7:32 am

          Being cannon fodder and shock troops for totalitarianism is a perennial possibility for the more vacuous among us, isn’t it?

        • Ernie Hughes

          September 29, 2015 at 10:00 am

          Oh no not Jindal, worst ever!

      • Peking_Duck_sd

        September 26, 2015 at 5:37 pm

        You’re an idiot. The definition of anchor baby is someone making a conscious choice to have their baby in a country that has birthright citizenship. Jindal’s mother was not a citizen of the U.S. When she had him here. Keep defending the Republican’s double standards and Jindal’s anti-gay stances, I’m not sure why you have a Hillary for Predident photo on your profile, you sound like a garden variety right wing tool.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          September 27, 2015 at 7:31 am

          Hillary is rather obvious a criminal as is Bill. Only a dwindling rump of imbeciles don’t know this.

      • lnm3921

        September 27, 2015 at 5:54 pm

        Do you understand that “anchor baby” is an offensive racial slur to people?

  3. BruceMajors4DC

    September 26, 2015 at 10:24 am

    So in other words, over two thirds of GOP primary voters in polls are supporting candidates who either did not appear at this forum and are not attacking gay rights. This is in stark contrast to 2008 when Santorum won Iowa and was in second place nationally for a while – and when Obama and Hillary still advocated “one man one woman” marriage. Don’t you think your particular headline spin could be viewed as a little less than real journalism?

    • lazerhaze

      September 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Real journalism? What a laughable concept.

      • BruceMajors4DC

        September 27, 2015 at 7:40 am

        Well, many of the fungally PC partisans have never seen it. It would be like sunlight on them.

    • Peking_Duck_sd

      September 26, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      The point of the article wasn’t the number of people supporting anti-gay Republicans, the point was to illustrate that those with the lowest poll ratings are resorting to the most fervent anti-gay rhetoric. Learn to read before responding to an article or to a post (as you did to mine below) and you won’t make yourself look like such an ass.

      • BruceMajors4DC

        September 27, 2015 at 7:38 am

        II am afraid you are the one with no reading comprehension. The story is that most of the GOP is supporting the candidates not saying anti-gay things — a similar movement to the Democrats finally not supporting DOMA, even though Hillary and Obama did 7 years ago. The headline is twisted and dishonest, like most of you Dembots.

        • lnm3921

          September 27, 2015 at 5:57 pm

          What Hillary and Obama did 7 years ago doesn’t matter anymore since they came against DOMA and now openly support our rights.

          What does matter now is that most of the GOP candidates still oppose marriage equality and any laws that benefit GLBT Americans. The GOP platform does not support our rights. If they refuse to support us, we shouldn’t support them!

    • sJames6621

      September 27, 2015 at 4:59 am

      btw carson is some kind of right wing extremist xtian nut case – called Obama a nazi (the nazis murdered all the 26000 blacks in germany)

      he was kicked out of johns hopkins university when the students threatened to boycott the graduation ceremonies if he spoke there a few years ago

      • sJames6621

        September 27, 2015 at 5:00 am

        repubs some of them still honoring the kluxers and going nuts over equal marriage per scotus

        • BruceMajors4DC

          September 27, 2015 at 7:40 am

          And yet Democrats elected Kim Davis in the Democratic primary. Hmmm.

      • sJames6621

        September 27, 2015 at 5:10 am

        btw here is rev McCoy head of the so called “protect marriage from the gays” here in MD

        mckoy was #3 and laughed when the total a-hole anderson spit out his gays deserve death

        knowing what was coming, equality md had a debate between mcCoy and a board member, with a black democratic group – they two were horrified at what was said

        how does this come about – the former slaves took up the religion of their masters and the hate carried on to a new victim group.

        • BruceMajors4DC

          September 27, 2015 at 7:41 am

          You poor thing. So turgid no one can read what you are barking about.

      • BruceMajors4DC

        September 27, 2015 at 7:39 am

        What a funny little creature you are. You get someone kicked off a university to censor him and then you call him a Nazi. I think that’s your upper lip you are smelling.

    • sJames6621

      September 27, 2015 at 5:11 am

      santorum, the son of a 6th gradeeducated coal miner. as someone said-hatred is passed down generation to generation att tthe dinner table

    • JoeNCA

      September 28, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      Rick Santorum also vied for a federal marriage amendment (as NEITHER Obama nor Hilary did), and then Santorum lost by the largest margin of any incumbent Republican senator in history.

      You people never learn, do you?

  4. lazerhaze

    September 26, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    To Republicans bigotry is a commodity that they use when they have no valid policy positions but need political attention

    • BruceMajors4DC

      September 27, 2015 at 7:35 am

      No dear. Claiming to be anti-racists and screaming “bigot” at others, while you smear politicians of color who disagree with you and while you steal the lives and futures of black kids by kidnapping them and selling them to teachers unions in failed state schools in exchange for donations to your candidates is what YOU do because you have no solutions. It’s also why you and your party are the most virulent racists in America, objectively speaking. The Republicans are merely lame in going along with you instead of wiping your criminal gang out.

      • Skipper Doyle

        September 27, 2015 at 3:50 pm


      • lnm3921

        September 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm

        Yes, the Democrats are a racist party that’s why the US President, a Democrat, is African American. There are more people of color and minorities in the Democratic party because it fights for their issues.
        All the GOP has is tokens like Rubio, or that homophobic Ben Carson, and some brain-dead gay Republicans. They dress up in suits and parade around trying to convince us that we will be financially better off putting them in office. It’s a sham! Get our votes then backstab us and forget us later.

        I remember Mitt Romney running for the Governor of Massachusetts saying he was better on gay issues than Ted Kennedy and promised to support our right to marry. After gaining office and marriage equality became a reality he became its biggest opponent. NEVER trust a conservative!

        Your rant is about teacher’s unions. Yet, it’s a fact that more affluent neighborhoods have resources to provide better educations to their students than unfortunately inner city kids. You can still get a good education if you apply yourself. Tenure for grade school teachers is the problem, allowing bad teachers to stay on the job with no means of getting rid of them. However, you can still manage to get a decent education if you apply yourself in public schools. I got one and made it to college. Where you have a will you can find the way!

      • lazerhaze

        September 29, 2015 at 1:42 am

        The willful ignorance and chosen delusion you spew is as valuable as you are. Worthless.

      • lazerhaze

        December 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        You are delusional. Go read more right wing propaganda. You haven’t gone insane enough to where you’re a domestic terrorist yet. You need for further programming.

  5. Ernie Hughes

    September 29, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Rubio a lightweight wetback, yeah he really knows something! Santorum a washed up Senator the good people of PA flushed down the toilet years ago, and Jindal an Indian from India playing off fears, heck most people fear his people are gonna poison the water in all the motels they own and take over the US in 20 years, much less elect him President!

  6. Mark Cichewicz

    September 30, 2015 at 8:10 am

    We all have and know the answers surrounding the LGBT community, the lack of rights we face every day and what should be done to fix this injustices. Our fait needs to be taken out of the hands of extremely religious bigoted republicans by the president. He needs to pass Federal Civil Rights Legislation to protect the LGBT community. 

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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



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



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



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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