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Pope’s gay friend speaks out

Grassi says Francis will make big changes in ‘small steps’

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Yayo Grassi, gay news, Washington Blade
Yayo Grassi, gay news, Washington Blade

Yayo Grassi, a friend of the Pope, says Francis wrote to him, saying, ‘In my pastoral work there is no place for homophobia.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Yayo Grassi, a native of Argentina, has known and admired Pope Francis since the future pontiff was his high school teacher at a Catholic school in a city about 200 miles north of Buenos Aires.

Grassi, 67, told the Washington Blade in an interview at his home in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood on Tuesday that he never imagined his friendship with the Pope would become the subject of international headlines.

He has been besieged with requests for media interviews since news surfaced that he and his boyfriend of 19 years met with Francis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington on Sept. 23 during the Pope’s visit to the United States.

According to Grassi, who owns a D.C.-based catering business, he initially struggled over whether to talk to the media about what he considered a private matter. But he said he decided to go public about his Washington visit with the Pope after news surfaced the previous week that Francis met with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who a judge sent to jail for refusing on religious grounds to approve marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

“One of the things that upset me extremely and profoundly was that people who were so much in love with this Pope immediately turned against him” after learning about his reported meeting with Davis, said Grassi.

“And I was telling my friends how can you forget everything this guy did? How can we forget these things for something that this woman said that we don’t even know is true or not?”

Grassi was referring to a statement released by the Vatican saying the Pope didn’t personally invite Davis to meet with him in Washington, that she was part of a larger group of people the Pope greeted briefly at a reception at the Vatican Embassy, and that Davis’s participation in the meeting was not intended to be an endorsement of various actions she has taken related to same-sex marriage.

In a development that surprised some Vatican observers, the same Vatican statement disclosed that “the only real audience granted by the Pope” at the Vatican Embassy during his Washington trip “was with one of his former students and his family,” the Washington Post reported.

Grassi told the Blade on Tuesday that a New York Times reporter identified him as the former student and quickly called him for comment.

“I said you can understand that this comes completely out of the sky,” Grassi recounted. “I said, ‘Can you give me 10 to 15 minutes to think about it?’ And he said absolutely. We’ll call you after 15 minutes.”

During that brief time Grassi said he quickly came to the conclusion that the Pope was being unfairly blamed for helping to support Kim Davis and the marriage equality opponents that had rallied around her.

“So I thought it is my friend who is being attacked,” he said. “The least I can do is defend him with the facts that I know. I don’t have to lie. All I have to do is tell exactly what happened.”

Among the things he told the Times and other media outlets, including the Blade, is that this was the second time he and his boyfriend had met with Francis since Francis was elected Pope in 2013.

Grassi told the Blade that when he informed the newly installed Pope that he and his boyfriend would be in Italy to attend a wedding for a friend that year Francis immediately invited them to greet him at a group ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square.

In front of hundreds of people “I remember Francis walking toward me with his arms open and he said, ‘You made it. You make me so happy,’” Grasso recalls. “And so we hugged and I introduced him to my boyfriend and we exchanged some words.”

Grassi told the Blade he first renewed his friendship with then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope, in 2008 when he visited Buenos Aires and met with Bergoglio, who held the title of Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Francis responded to an email message Grassi sent to the Pope this past June asking if the two could meet to catch up on things during the Pope’s visit to Washington – only if the pontiff had the time to do so.

“And he replied back almost immediately – I think the same day or the following day saying ‘oh, absolutely, I want to see you,’” Grassi said.

He said Francis told him in his email reply that Grassi should write back in early September when the Pope’s Washington schedule would be known and final arrangements could be made for their meeting. But Grassi said that when he saw media reports this summer of how busy the Pope would be in Washington he wrote back saying he would fully understand it if Francis would be too busy to meet with him.

Then, to his astonishment, about three weeks before he was scheduled to arrive in Washington Francis called Grassi by phone.

“It was my cell phone and I thought it was a joke,” Grassi said. “I was absolutely surprised that this person called me Obdulio,” the nickname that his high school teacher Bergoglio gave him nearly 50 years earlier.

“So I said who’s calling? And he said well who else calls you Obdulio?” said Grassi, who added, “Then I knew this is the real thing…And we had a 10- or 15-minute conversation. We talked about politics. We talked about President Obama. We talked about Cuba.”

Before the call ended Francis insisted he would have the time to meet with Grassi in Washington, according to Grassi. When Grassi mentioned that he would rather the Pope meet with four of his friends, some of whom were having health problems, so the Pope could bless them, Francis said, “Bring them with you.”

One of the friends captured the visit on video with her phone, which dozens of news media outlets have shown, including a scene where the Pope hugs Grassi and kisses Grassi’s boyfriend on both cheeks while displaying a broad smile.

“To me it was a meeting with a friend of mine,” Grassi said. “It was a meeting between two friends…who love each other and I admire him deeply. That would have been the end of the story and I wouldn’t have you here sitting in my kitchen if it wasn’t that this lady Kim Davis came out with this information saying she got a private audience with him,” he told the Blade.

Like others who have defended Francis, Grassi said he believes Francis was “fooled” into agreeing to include Davis among the group that he greeted during the Vatican Embassy visit.

Concerning reports that the Pope has been a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage and opposed a same-sex marriage law passed by Argentina’s Congress in 2010, Grassi said he and then Cardinal Bergoglio discussed the gay marriage issue in an email exchange at that time.

“In 2010 when the Congress in Argentina was debating the marriage equality law I read in the news that he had said quite strong and negative things about gay marriage,” Grassi said. “I was extremely surprised when I saw that,” he said. “So I fired an email to him explaining to him how much I owed him, what an important person he was in my life, how much he developed my most progressive thoughts in my life and that I was disappointed to hear that he was saying these negative things about gay people and about gay marriage.”

Added Grassi, “It was a pretty long letter. And I mentioned my boyfriend by name and told him at that time we were 14 years together.”

Bergoglio, less than three years before becoming Pope, responded with a “beautiful reply – a very loving reply,” Grassi said.

“He started by apologizing because he had hurt me, because I was hurt,” said Grassi. “And immediately after that he said I have never said any of those things that the press is publishing about me,” Grassi recalls.

“He said as a matter of fact he never expressed himself about this question. And he ended up by saying something that to me is so important,” said Grassi. “He said believe me, in my pastoral work there is no place for homophobia.”

Some gay activists in Argentina would likely take exception to Francis’s comments to Grassi in that 2010 email. At the time Francis was elected Pope, a prominent Argentinean gay leader told the Blade that media outlets had obtained a copy of a letter that then Cardinal Bergoglio wrote to four Argentine monasteries at the time the national Congress was debating the gay marriage law.

According to media reports, Bergoglio stated in his letter that the proposed law was “the work of the devil,” it would “spark God’s war,” and was a “machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Grassi moved to the United States in 1978 at a time when a military-run dictatorship was ruling Argentina and persecuting LGBT people. He said he admires gay activists in Argentina and the U.S.

He said one of the reasons he chose to stay in the U.S. rather than live in Europe, where he initially thought he would end up, was the 1978 encounter he had with then-D.C. mayoral candidate Marion Barry at the Dupont Circle gay bar Mr. P’s.

“I was there with some friends and suddenly this tall black guy comes in with a lady and does a speech to the people there on P Street,” Grassi recalls. “So I asked one of my friends, who’s that? And he said he is running for mayor and his name is Marion Barry and that’s his wife.”

“And I remember it was to me the most revealing to think that that there was this country where somebody who was running for mayor would try to get the support of gay people and would actually walk into a gay bar with his wife and ask people for their support and say if you support me I will protect you and I will fight to do positive things for you,” Grassi said.

With that as a backdrop, Grassi said he understands where gay activists are coming from concerning the Pope. But he cautions them about the resistance he says Francis is facing as he deals with a 2,000-year-old institution. He said he believes Francis is making a genuine effort to change the church for the better for LGBT people and other oppressed peoples.

“What I can say is we have to recognize the small steps that Pope Francis has taken and that considering the place where he comes from are actually giant steps,” Grassi said. “It’s not that the man does not want to do it. He has a timing for things. He has a way of saying things that are so extraordinary and making them with small steps.”

Pope Francis, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis created a stir after meeting Kim Davis but it turned out he spent more time with an old gay friend who lives in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Brian's Ions

    October 8, 2015 at 5:28 am

    IMHO, like many LGBT close friends, family and loved ones of homophobes, Grassi is in denial– and charitably, wants to protect his old friend and teacher.

    That’s understandable, even noble at some level.

    Bergoglio’s/Francis’ history of homophobic hate speech is a matter of record however. And it continues– only slightly abated in tone– to this day.

    What we’ve learned from this excellent report– and other news media reports– is that Pope Francis is a homophobic, lying fraud.

    Francis has no problem lying to his gay friends to coverup and make excuses for his homophobic leadership.

    As Kathi Wolfe and Rick Rosendall have pointed out in their Blade opinion pieces this week, the animus-driven, anti-gay *doctrine* of the Catholic Church remains unchanged by Francis.

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/10/07/two-faces-of-pope-francis/
    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/10/07/a-tale-of-two-pilgrimages/

    The Catholic Church’s “intrinsically disordered” doctrine continues to psychologically abuse millions of Catholic LGBT and straight kids alike (mostly teenagers who are a captive audience) with its bigotry and demonizations.

    No matter what Francis does or says explicitly to his gay friends, Francis’ implicit, institutional abuse of LGBTQs worldwide, speaks for itself.
    ——————————-
    “And immediately after that he said I have never said any of those things that the press is publishing about me,” Grassi recalls. “He said as a matter of fact he never expressed himself about this question. And he ended up by saying something that to me is so important,” said Grassi. “He said believe me, in my pastoral work there is no place for homophobia.”

    • Rick Rosendall

      October 9, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      In my commentary I also gave the Pope credit for his pastoral outreach. I am a policy man from way back, and cannot be satisfied short of doctrinal change that respects gay people’s dignity and the goodness of our love and its expression. And it must be noted that the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington fought LGBT activists every step of the way in our decades-long fight for civil equality under D.C. law. But we can handle nuance. We can give due credit in addition to criticism. Francis is a welcome improvement over his predecessor. For the rest, I respect the efforts by those working for change from within the Church. It is a long and painful struggle. No, it should not have to be, and cleaning out the corruption within the hierarchy is a mammoth task. But the recent torrent of bitterness unleashed by the Kim Davis flap–the responsibility for which belongs to the papal nuncio and Mat Staver–is intemperate and unhelpful.

      • Thomas

        November 9, 2015 at 10:46 am

        Nonsense. Liberal denial on this case is totally wrong. Pope Francis really supports Kim Davis.

    • Dan JS

      November 3, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      Does the doctrine abuse as much as the homosexual priests that raped pubescent boys?

  2. Marianna12345

    October 8, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Who cares what the pope thinks?

  3. Rob

    October 9, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Cuba? What earthly importance is that? How stupid do either the pope’s boyfriend or the pope who I still think is just another lying preacher think the other is. Look at where he lives, what he is homophobe is part of his job description. If not his life.

  4. Joseph

    November 3, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Dogmatic intransigence often goes hand in hand with pastoral love bombing.

  5. Thomas

    November 9, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Pope Francis really supported Kim Davis and the right to conscience objection. He told her “I want to congratulate you for your courage” and “Stay strong”. Do you honestly think Pope Francis doesn`t want to overturn same-sex marriage legislation in Argentina or the United States? Get real.

    • DorianGrayfox

      November 25, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      The Pope NEVER met privately with that old hag Kim Davis. NEVER. EAT IT.

      • Thomas

        November 25, 2015 at 3:57 pm

        Truth really hurts. :)

        • DorianGrayfox

          November 26, 2015 at 6:11 pm

          Go rim a donkey

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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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