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Gay, bisexual lawmakers support bill to block Syrian refugees

Maloney, Polis, Sinema among 47 Democrats who backed measure

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Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, gay news, Washington Blade

Jared Polis, Democratic Party, Colorado, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade, Victory Fund, Congressional LGBT Pride Reception

Gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is among the three out members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for a bill that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from resettling in the country. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas).

Three out members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted for a bill that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from resettling in the U.S.

U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were among the 47 Democrats who supported the measure that passed by a 289-137 vote margin.

Reuters reported the measure would suspend the White House’s plan to allow 10,000 Syrians to resettle in the U.S. in fiscal year 2016. The news wire said the bill would also require the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and national intelligence to verify each Syrian refugee is not a security risk before they are allowed to enter the country.

Lawmakers approved the bill six days after the Islamic State — a Sunni militant group also known as Daesh that controls portions of Syria and Iraq — claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and more than 300 others injured.

The three lawmakers joined 44 other Democrats in voting for the bill, even though President Obama has threatened to veto it.

The measure passed in the Republican-controlled House by a veto-proof margin. Senate Democrats on Thursday announced they plan to block the bill.

“Our nation has long stood as a beacon of freedom, but after the events of the last few weeks some leaders have given into fear and turned their backs on refugees,” said Maloney in a statement he released after the vote. “These actions are reprehensible, and present a false choice between our values and our security. It’s understandable that people are scared, and Americans have a right to know that the process we use to screen refugees will keep us safe. I have faith in our system, and I don’t believe these refugees — the overwhelming majority of whom are women, elderly, and children — threaten our communities or national security. So instead of slowing the program or pausing it, the administration should agree to immediately certify refugees if they pass the current extensive screenings and we should all refocus on actual threats.”

Sinema also issued a statement in which she explained her vote.

“The Islamic State is a legitimate, immediate threat to the United States,” said the Arizona Democrat. ”Congress and the Administration have a duty to keep our country safe from terrorism, and this legislation provides an added level of security to our robust refugee vetting process.”

“Welcoming refugees is part of America’s legacy, and we must continue to be a safe haven for the most vulnerable in our world,” she added. “Today’s bill strengthens our already thorough refugee screening process so we can both keep our country safe and continue to shelter those in need.”

“I support allowing greater numbers of refugees fleeing violence — beyond the administration’s suggested number of 10,000 — to find safety here, and I support improving our vetting system to ensure that those we admit will make our country safer,” Polis told the Washington Blade in a statement.

“The SAFE (Security Against Foreign Enemies) Act enables us to continue accepting refugees while strengthening our already-extensive vetting process so that we are taking every step within our power to ensure the safety of the American people,” added the Colorado Democrat. “Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve forcefully advocated for enabling children and families whose lives have been torn apart by violence to take refuge in the United States, and I very much want to see the United States accept more refugees of all faiths fleeing from ISIS.”

The three lawmakers faced criticism from constituents and others over their vote in favor of the bill.

“Today you voted for fear,” wrote a man on Sinema’s Facebook page. “You have essentially sided with the terrorists and what they want by making it virtually impossible for refugees to come here.”

Jamie McGonnigal, an LGBT rights advocate in D.C., also criticized the three lawmakers.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, is among the more than two dozen governors who have urged the Obama administration to no longer resettle Syrian refugees in their respective jurisdictions in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner earlier this week told reporters that all refugees undergo “rigorous screening and security checks” before they are allowed to resettle in the U.S. He said Syrian refugees “go through…additional forms of security screenings.”

Advocates have urged the White House to allow 500 LGBT Syrians to resettle in the U.S. in the 2016 fiscal year. Log Cabin Republicans is among the groups that support calls to block Syrian refugees from entering the country after the Paris attacks.

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43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Tom Carpenter

    November 20, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Sameful!

  2. Mark McGovern

    November 20, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Attack and ultimately destroy Iraq, destabilize the region, then leave the ensuing refugee catastrophe to Europe. Nice.

    • Dirk McCall

      November 20, 2015 at 11:56 am

      Exactly.

  3. ithakavi

    November 20, 2015 at 11:34 am

    What are you people complaining about? Were you hoping for the arrival of large numbers of unaccompanied orphan boys?

    • Joe Kelaidis

      November 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Have you been ignorant your entire life. You fool!!

      • ithakavi

        November 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

        Have you always been a pervert?

        • Joe Kelaidis

          November 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

          Have you always walked around with your head up your fat behind. You are one ignorant jackass!!

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm

            Yours is a rhetorical question. My ‘behind’ is not fat, and my cranium is right where it should be. You are not asking for information, merely trying (and not succeeding) in insulting me.

            In contradistinction, my question is a real question. You are obviously a pervert, otherwise you wouldn’t be so vehemently indignant at my comment. So, my question, Skippy, is whether you have always been one or was there a time you consciously decided you liked to commit disgusting acts with other men?

            But the original question was also serious. Why should the fact that sexually deviant ‘lawmakers’ oppose indiscriminate importation of Muslim ‘refugees’ be offensive to sexual deviants generally? These people have a common personality defect, but they are not all stupid or insane.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:05 pm

            In the first place jackass, being gay doesn’t make you sexually deviant. Referring to gay people as deviants does make you an ignorant jackass though. You sound like you are jealous because no rational man would bother to be with you sexually. You are the one with the problem. Why do you feel the need to makes ignorant and completely wrong posts on the section of a gay newspaper.

            Seems to me that you seek attention from other men but are just to stupid to do it in a positive way. You poor pathetic excuse of a human being. I guess you have been ignorant and rejected your entire life.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:19 pm

            1. Homosexuality is sexual deviance by definition.
            2. Homosexuality is not benign. Homosexuals are highly disproportionately sexually violent, prone to substance abuse, grotesquely promiscuous, suffer from much higher rates of depression an suicide, and represent the larges ‘reservoir’ of active sexually transmitted disease in the nation. In other words, you are public health risks.
            3. Projection is always the last refuge of a deviant who has lost the argument.

            Have a nice day, Sparky.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm

            Your post just proved that you are the deviant because you are the one projecting. Provided your sources you jackass – you are afraid to because you know that you are wrong. Just like you block your profile out of fear. Plus what are you 110? Words like sparky and droll show your age. You are one sad pathetic individual, seeking the attention of men that would never be interested in an old gas bag like you – Thanks for the laugh.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:34 pm

            So you are in denial about your drastically reduced life expectancy. Enjoy, Skippy.

            And ‘droll’ is no longer acceptable English usage? How amusing.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:39 pm

            No truth to your projected statement. Although ignorant jackasses like you do have a drastically reduced life expectancy. Again you use how amusing, another old gas bag phrase. So you are old, ignorant and fat with a reduced life expectancy. No wonder you hate so much and are not attractive to anyone.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm

            You doth protest too much.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:33 pm

            Try this as a real source, you ignorant attention seeking ancient jackass https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

            Um … Wikipedia. Pass.

            How about an article from one of your own ‘advocacy’ websites citing to peer-reviewed surveys: http://www.advocate.com/crime/2014/09/04/2-studies-prove-domestic-violence-lgbt-issue

            Google ‘homosexual’ along with a description of any social dysfunction (drug abuse, STDs, etc. etc. etc.) and you get hundreds of thousands of references to the fact that you people lead nasty brutish lives.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:49 pm

            Again, you project your own failings as a fat, ugly human seeking male attention but always being rejected. I feel sorry for you, especially considering how old you are.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:53 pm

            You can console yourself with the thought that few homosexuals live to old age.

            And I will console myself with the knowledge that somewhere in America is a poor deluded young man with a debilitating personality disorder foaming at the mouth and typing furiously and angrily into the void. How very sad.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

            Oh look I did find your profile http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/youre_right_wing_you_must_be_really_stupid/13917#.VlC0EF7pXhU Thanks for letting all of us laugh at you.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm

            You are going to have to reconcile yourself to the fact that homosexuals cannot insult normal people. Normal people are unaffected by the anger or scorn of sexual deviants. It’s sort of like being ridiculed for not having AIDS or syphilis (which you folks have in abundance). Don’t forget your antibiotics, cupcake.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:42 pm

            You are far from normal and AIDS is just not a gay affliction. If you are so unaffected by my scorn why do you feel the need to reply. Oh that’s right because you are an attention seeking pathetic jackass Cupcake – seriously – are you ancient or something?

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm

            Funny, but I’m not the one resorting to hysterical rhetoric. I’m not insulted by you. Nor do I hate homosexuals. I find them objects of pity.

        • Joe Kelaidis

          November 21, 2015 at 12:52 pm

          You are so cowardly, you even have your profile blocked. You inferior imbecile.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 12:59 pm

            Oh, you looked!!!! How droll.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm

            And you have it blocked out of fear because you know you have nothing to offer. you are such a coward.

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm

            Meet me tomorrow evening at 9:00 p.m. in Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan. I’ll be wearing the ‘No Nos Gustan Los Maricones’ T-Shirt. Pay no attention to the large gentleman with the ill-fitting suit and the ugly shoes.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:35 pm

            Oh pretending to be tough on the internet – how original. I am sure your are very large or would that be fat, with a huge butt. I don’t know about the shoes but I bet that face of yours is sure ugly. Just how ignorant are you?

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm

            I made no pretense of being tough. I’m not the big guy in the ugly shoes – I’m the guy in the T-Shirt.

          • Joe Kelaidis

            November 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm

            Yes, the big fat guy with an ugly face

          • ithakavi

            November 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

            Oh my. You’ve now officially bored me.

  4. JackNasty

    November 20, 2015 at 11:54 am

    What a despicable thing to do. These people should know better than to use the law to promote bigotry, ignorance, and fear.

  5. Rob in Tucson

    November 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Despicable for Gays, Bi’s and anyone else approve anything that goes against our deeply held fundamental beliefs on which Our Nation was founded!!! A National shame and embarrassment!!!

  6. David Phillips

    November 20, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    And to think that I supported these candidates’ campaigns in the past! No more. They were punk’d into pandering to the lowest level of ignorance and fear — do they even know anyone, particularly an LGBTI individual, who has been through the existing refugee clearance process?!

  7. S. Gander

    November 20, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    One cannot imagine the “flaws” in the character of these Democratic representatives who, above all people, should know and recognize unjustified prejudice against a particular group of people. Especially considering the humanitarian needs.

  8. Kyle

    November 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Shameful. Heartless.

  9. mgaedeke

    November 20, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    They would rather see someone of the same persuasion (LGBT) who is a Muslim to be executed by ISIS? You got blood on your hand…

    • scottrose

      November 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      ISIS is hardly the only Muslim governmental entity that murders gay people only because they are gay.

      Brunei does it. Saudi Arabia does it.

      Where is your petition to increase quotas for gay asylum seekers from countries where they are persecuted by Muslim governments?

  10. ShadrachSmith

    November 21, 2015 at 11:44 am

    We can all agree with

    Harvard psychology professor Steven A. Pinker’s remarks Thursday may have surprised some of his listeners. Violence, he said, has been declining continuously over the course of human history and will continue to fall in the future…[Allah willing].

    Multi-culturalism is flourishing, except that Jihad uses mass murder as an everyday political political tool…so if we ignore Jihad…

    • Brian's Ions

      November 22, 2015 at 2:50 am

      The Syrian refugee straw-man threat is as despicable as it is politically effective.

      But don’t blame congressional Dems for turning their backs on an obviously amateurish commander-in-chief– and his equally amateurish advisors. Maybe Obama, too, has been cursed by the arrogance of presidents’ second terms.

      Mass bigotry against any *perceived* enemy — even widow and orphan war refugees– can flourish when a commander-in-chief and his statecraft amateurs suddenly start making excuses for the triumph of ISIS (Daesh) mass murders over Obama’s feckless military actions against “ISIL.”

      BTW, these WH/Pentagon Keystone Cops did not even know (or care) enough to brand a ruthless enemy to the advantage of America and its allies.

      If you claim that ruthless, demented killers do not constitute anything as civilized as the term, *STATE*, then do not effectively legitimize said killers by using said term in public. Duh.

      Also “what is true” is that Obama, in part, created the Syrian refugee problem by failing to anticipate it, and head it off with simple no-fly zones and humanitarian relief drops.

      WH amateurs’ micro-management of the so-called ‘bombing campaign’– even now, is a prescription for its failure.

      Trying to save civilian infrastructure– so, effectively protecting said infrastructure for the use of Daesh killers and terrorist trainers– against Americans and their allies, mind you– is a level of WH/Pentagon FUBAR that is mind-blowing.

      This is not rocket science. Obama and Kerry simply do not understand one of the fundamental basics of warfare. Break the will of your enemy to resist.

      This mistaken and misguided WH is now making it easier for Daesh to resist America and its allies. Paris is clearly one of the tragic results of that mistaken thinking.

      • ShadrachSmith

        November 22, 2015 at 10:18 am

        While your concern for my morals is noted, Jihad is actually evil, see Paris.

        Your desire to disassociate Jihad from Islam is counterfactual, political, and French.

        I will not welcome the evil of Jihad into my home, sorry :-)

        • Brian's Ions

          November 22, 2015 at 5:36 pm

          Understood. Actually my comments were directed at a general readership– and intended as a relevant addition to your comments and the Blade’s story.

  11. scottrose

    November 21, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    The administration is not credible on this, unfortunately. Obama and Kerry have demonstrated a pattern of not correctly understanding the threat. (And mind you, I voted for Obama twice). First Obama called ISIS “J.V.” and then that was aggravated when he alleged he didn’t say that, but fact-checking showed that he did in fact say it. Then, he alleged that “we” had ISIS “contained” and a short time later, ISIS carried out massacres in Paris. Obama has not even acknowledged that he was wrong about ISIS being contained. To the contrary, he and some of his supporters now try to tell us that the word contained does not mean what it means. Then we had Kerry saying that the jihadist slaughters at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris had “legitimacy” and a “rationale.” And more recently, Kerry alleged that al-Qaeda had been “neutralized,” but a short while afterwards al-Qaeda carried out a massacre in Mali. So there’s no basis for trusting the administration even to understand what the threat from mainly Muslim refugees is. (As a reminder, the first attack against the World Trade Center in the 1990s was organized in a mosque; sorry if the truth hurts). Obama poses with a little girl in Malaysia, to promote his policy of letting masses of grown men from Syria in. Russian authorities warned U.S. authorities not once, but twice, that the elder Tsarnaev brother was a jihadist with evil intent. The federal government had those warnings but it did not stop the Tsarnaev brothers from shattering the lives of umpteen people at the Boston Marathon. This propaganda from the White House is insufficient and unacceptable. While some of the reactions (i.e. Trump) have been too extreme, many of us have reasonable apprehensions and doubts about Obama’s plans, but he calls us “un-American.” What’s un-American is not to listen to what constituents are thinking.

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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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