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Chrys Kefalas supports federal LGBT rights bill

Gay Republican running to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)

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Chrys Kefalas, gay news, Washington Blade
Chrys Kefalas, gay news, Washington Blade

Chrys Kefalas (Photo courtesy of Chrys Kefalas for U.S. Senate)

A gay Republican who is running for retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)’s seat on Thursday said he supports a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law.

“The legislation is needed,” Chrys Kefalas told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview, referring to the Equality Act. “Let’s move it…its time to get it done.”

Kefalas, who was former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s legal counsel, spoke with the Blade two days after he formally announced his campaign.

Mikulski is among the Equality Act’s original co-sponsors. U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards — two Democrats who are also seeking the longtime incumbent’s seat in the U.S. Senate — also co-sponsored the measure.

“We’re glad to see Chrys Kefalas endorse the Equality Act and affirm that everyone should be able to live free from fear of discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof of the Human Rights Campaign told the Blade in a statement. “By supporting the Equality Act, Chrys Kefalas is also reflecting the opinion of a majority of Republicans who have said in poll after poll that they support federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”

Candidate backs bill to suspend Syrian refugee resettlement

Kefalas, 36, is running against state Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore and Harford Counties), Anthony Seda and Richard Douglas for the GOP nomination to succeed Mikulski. The son of Greek immigrants would become the first openly gay Republican elected to either house of Congress if he were to win the general election in 2016.

Kefalas, who is vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, told the Blade that his experience as a small business owner is among his qualifications.

“The middle class and small businesses need a seat at the table,” he said.

Kefalas said jobs, taxes and business regulations are among the issues about which Maryland voters are talking. He added the more than 300 homicides that have taken place in Baltimore so far this year and the ongoing distrust between police and local residents in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death in April is also “an issue of great concern for Marylanders.”

“My experience, my leadership are all well suited for issues that Marylanders are talking about,” said Kefalas.

Kefalas recently announced his engagement to Tommy McFly, a radio host for WIAD in D.C.

He told the Blade that he recognizes his fiancé at campaign events if he “is around.” Kefalas added his U.S. Senate bid is “possible because of him.”

“I am who I am,” said Kefalas. “My life is out in the open. I certainly don’t message on the fact of who I love.”

Kefalas spoke with the Blade two weeks after the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would suspend the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the wake of last month’s Paris terrorist attacks.

He said he would have voted for the controversial measure.

“We have to take a measured approach,” Kefalas told the Blade. “I have a great appreciation of history, what we did and did not do for Jewish refugees during World War II. But given security concerns I would have supported a suspension.”

“National security has to be foremost,” added Kefalas. “We have to lean on our ‘allies’ like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

Kefalas described the Islamic State’s execution of men who accused of committing sodomy as “horrific” and “barbaric.” He noted to the Blade that consensual same-sex sexual relations in Iran are also punishable by death.

“We’ve negotiated an agreement with a regime that is equally as offensive,” said Kefalas, referring to the agreement the U.S. brokered with Iran earlier this year over its nuclear program. “We need a change. We need a U.S. senator from Maryland that can ask the tough questions and embraces human rights for everyone.”

Chrys Kefalas, gay news, Washington Blade

Chrys Kefalas (Photo courtesy of Chrys Kefalas for U.S. Senate)

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Brooks Austin

    December 5, 2015 at 12:48 am

    The one thing I agree on is it doesn’t matter if he’s gay or not. What matters is he’s a racist bigot, a far right tool, and a hypocrite. It’s a double standard that he whines about the Iran deal but he has no problem supporting Egypt and Saudi Arabia which are just as brutal dictatorships as Iran and Saudi Arabia is partiality responsible for the rise of ISIS. I wonder what far right groups he’s getting donations from and which extremist presidential candidate he’s voting for is. Is he sucking Donald Trump’s cock?

  2. Stephen Clark

    December 5, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    No, he doesn’t support the Equality Act. His very first vote as a senator would be to install a Republican bigot as the Senate leader and kill any prospect of the Equality Act every coming to the floor for a vote. This is the same b.s. that Richard Tisei tried to pull in his Massachusetts House run. Just as with Tisei, a vote for this homosexual Republican is a vote to kill any LGBT legislation. We’re not stupid. We didn’t fall for this intelligence-insulting doublespeak in Tisei’s case, and we aren’t falling for it in this homosexual Republican’s case either.

    • Cackalaquiano

      December 6, 2015 at 8:44 am

      Excellent point. IF the Republican Party could just focus on economic issues, small government ideals, etc. they’d be a legit voice at the table. The party as a whole has become so infected by angry theocratic extremists that even relatively reasonable Republican candidates cannot be supported. The party has to stop pandering to the Christian Taliban to regain relevance.

      • Steve Karper

        December 12, 2015 at 12:29 am

        BTW the repub party -how it maintains contrrol – if you dont hew to the party line of hatred etc, the wipe the good guys out at the next prrimary

    • Katrina Rose

      December 6, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Lets not forget its not just the “homosexual Trojan horses.” Under the system of majority control in both houses of Congress, its any Republican in either chamber while the chamber is under Republican control. If folks want to indulge in ‘good Republican’ fantasies while Congress is firmly in Democratic hands, then fine. But otherwise? Its worse than a fantasy, its a zombie movie.

      When I moved to Iowa in 2003 I kept hearing about how good of a Republican Jim Leach – who represented the district covering Iowa City – was. ‘Oh, he’s a good guy.’ ‘Oh, he’s one of the good Republicans.’ Yadda, yadda, yadda….

      Yeh – he was a ‘good guy’ after voting at the beginning of every session over the previous decade to put Newt Gingrich/Dennis Hastert and Dick Armey/Tom DeLay in charge of the agenda of the chamber, ensuring that he’d never be faced with having to cast a vote on anything pro-LGBT.

      Hell, even now, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has a trans son and claims to support the legitimate (read: trans-inclusive) ENDA. But not only has she voted to put Boehner/Ryan in charge of the agenda, she refuses to entertain the notion of a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor for a vote.

    • Steve Karper

      December 12, 2015 at 12:28 am

      BTW Eherlich woulldnt support a basic non discriminatioon protections bill for gays which also would have banned local covenants banning jewish people from buying homes in eg Chartwell in severna park, where I live
      This guy is a wolf in sheeps clothing. We need him like we need a h ole in the head

      An assocciate of Ehrlich got 4 mos in jail for having robo calls to dems in the 2012 electioons saying no need to go vote, the democratic leadership re voting was enormous

      WE didnt get state non discrimination laws passed until D gov Glendening agreed to sign the bill.

      REcently a GOPProud dem leader all but said he was giving up on the repubs and becomng dem. the repu paprty has been captured by the most hate filled people in the nation, eg Carson, who was kicked out of Johns hopkins university and said that (in effect) if the jews had armed themselves the holocaust wouldnt have happened _yes- a totaly untrained mob off people vs the horrifically power ful nazis

      that assmouth obviously racist Trump who wants to deport 11 million brown people who came here for a better life and to escape the drug lords of mexico and even worse honduras, where kids are turned into child soldiers and the girls are used as sex slaves for those monsters

      If we all vote, we can turn the tide on the republican tea party extremists

  3. Frank Seager

    December 5, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    The Equality Act may have some good features. But the problem is that it also has some bad features, and some that are of debatable necessity and value. The following examples illustrate the good, the bad, and the debatable.

    THE GOOD: Housing is a necessity, and housing discrimination is unquestionably harmful. Certainly a law against housing discrimination against LGBTs is understandable and justifiable. Same for any other public accommodation that provides essential goods or services.

    THE BAD: Infringing on the the liberties and rights of others should be done only if there is a compelling need to do so. There is no compelling need to force a baker, a caterer, a photographer, or a florist to service a same sex wedding. Especially when there are plenty of bakers, caterers, photographers, and florists who will gladly provide you the service. People have a right to refuse to help with functions that they disagree with. And while housing is essential, cakes pictures and flowers are not. Be happy for your freedom to do as you see fit. And respect the freedom of other people to do as they see fit as well.

    THE DEBATABLE: Job discrimination. Yes, you can be fired for your sexual orientation. You can also be fired for your Zodiac sign, the football team you root for, your face-book page, and countless other reasons that have nothing to do with job performance. But without evidence of economic disparity, there is no compelling reason to remove sexual orientation from the long list of reasons you can be fired for. Most surveys I’ve seen indicate that homosexuals do as well, if not better than heterosexuals in terms of income. So, maybe a job discrimination bill could pass. But the burden
    is on the supporters to show that there is actual harm that needs to be corrected, and that the bill is the least restrictive way of correcting the harm.

    So my advice to the LGBT community is to try and pass the good and the debatable as two separate bills, so that the good does not get bogged down by the debatable. And forget trying to pass the bad.

    • Cackalaquiano

      December 6, 2015 at 8:58 am

      On the “compelling need” question: why then can a restaurant or baker not refuse service to a minority just because they don’t want to serve minorities? I hear more folks argue that if you’re open for business, you should serve everyone. I suspect a better line to draw would be regarding offensive or contrary messaging (like the baker makes the cake, but you put the gay or lesbian figures on top).

      I’m definitely not a lawyer – I think it’ll be interesting to see how this is litigated. And it’s another reason why it matters who gets elected president since they nominate SC justices.

      • Frank Seager

        December 7, 2015 at 10:34 am

        If a baker will service birthday parties, retirement parties, etc for homosexuals, but refuses to service same sex weddings for anyone – straight or gay – then it is clear that it is the function itself, and not the individuals that form the basis of his refusal.
        In terms of the minorities in your question, this would be the same as if the restaurant or baker had no problem servicing blacks, but refused to service a anti-gay rally being staged by a black group. That’s not discrimination against blacks as long as the restaurant or baker would also refuse to service a similar rally being staged by a white group. .

        • EdA

          December 8, 2015 at 3:41 am

          Why would a straight person want a same-sex wedding? “I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry” was just an Adam Sandler movie.

        • Cackalaquiano

          December 8, 2015 at 5:29 am

          I don’t really think your first example would hold up since straight folks aren’t asking for same sex weddings, but your second example gets at that “message” idea that seems to make more sense to me. Until I’m on the Supreme Court though, my opinion doesn’t matter much does it? ;)

          • Frank Seager

            December 8, 2015 at 11:39 am

            It is becoming somewhat common (and very practical) for single moms to join forces in one household for the benefit of their children. Maybe single dads too – but much more rare. There would be many legal advantages for people in these types of households to formalize their living arrangement as legal marriage – irrespective of whether sex is a component of the relationship or not. I don’t think same sex marriage applicants are asked whether they are straight or gay, so there is probably no easy way to determine how common this would be. But I don’t think we can presume that it does not happen.

        • Tony

          December 8, 2015 at 3:37 pm

          Mr. Seager:

          Do you understand what “public accommodation” is? A public entity (restaurants, florists, bakeries) can not discriminate, period. That is the backbone of the Civil Rights Act which banned discrimination in all public accommodations. Your example of the restaurant not serving a black or white anti-gay rally is discrimination and against the law. If you have a business that is open to the public, as long as the person or persons can pay, you must serve them. Period. Black letter law.

          • Frank Seager

            December 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

            The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination against people on the basis of their race, color, religion, or national origin in public accommodations. It did not ban discrimination against functions – such as anti gay rallies. So yes, if you are a caterer, and someone wants you to cater an anti-gay rally you can indeed refuse. Ditto for bakers, photographers or florists.

    • Katrina Rose

      December 7, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      “Especially when there are plenty of bakers, caterers, photographers, and florists who will gladly provide you the service”

      You can prove that there are no places in the United States that do not have access to multiples of all such public accommodations, including at least one that is LGBT-friendly?

      Womb-controllers in Texas will have you believe that even after the state’s most recent unconstitutional anti-abortion law was enacted all women in the state had access to reproductive healthcare.

      It all depends on what your definition of “spin” is.

      • Frank Seager

        December 7, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        I’m sure there are places that don’t have any bakers, any florists, any caterers, or any photographers. But these are not essential services. And I’ve never heard of anyone wanting to make such places illegal, or demanding a right to force bakers etc. to move there.

        • EdA

          December 8, 2015 at 3:36 am

          Then I take it that you still feel that it’s OK to keep blacks or Hispanics or Orientals [offensive term used intentionally] from eating at the same restaurants as us white people?

          • Frank Seager

            December 8, 2015 at 11:19 am

            “Then I take it that you still feel that it’s OK to keep blacks or
            Hispanics or Orientals [offensive term used intentionally] from eating
            at the same restaurants as us white people?”

            There is no logical way to arrive at that conclusion from anything I have said.

          • Steve Karper

            December 12, 2015 at 12:38 am

            discrimination is discrimination. whose next Jews, my half japanese grand dauther etc

            Seager – dont know if your a fool or a bigot (from the german Bi-gott -hatred in the name of god)

          • Frank Seager

            December 15, 2015 at 11:16 am

            “discrimination is discrimination”

            There’s legal discrimination such as choosing where to locate your business, what to sell, and what events to service. Then there’s illegal discrimination such as a hotel refusing to provide shelter to blacks.

            “whose next Jews, my half japanese grand dauther etc”

            If the politically correct crowd has its way, then people who know how to think are the next target. So you’re probably not in any danger.

            “Seager – dont know if your a fool or a bigot (from the german Bi-gott -hatred in the name of god)”

            Since I have said nothing foolish, and have expressed no “hatred in the name of god” it looks like you are stuck in a false dichotomy.

    • Steve Karper

      December 12, 2015 at 12:34 am

      its time to also besideds fining these xxtian bigots pull their police and fire protection etc etc etc

      If they want to discrimintee locally, they can put a cross on thier door, legally incorporate as church and probably go broke in much of the usa

      the sooner the better

      • Frank Seager

        December 15, 2015 at 12:13 pm

        “its time to also besideds fining these xxtian bigots pull their police and fire protection etc etc etc”

        Like when the Nazis removed police and fire protection from the Jews on Kristallnacht.

  4. EdA

    December 6, 2015 at 1:41 am

    The idea that this person would voluntarily wish to strengthen the capacity of Ted Cruz and his ilk to ruin his own life, the life of his partner, and the lives of a minimum of 13 million other Americans is horrifying. He surely knows that Cruz, who will remain a senator, capable of launching serious mischief and then with a grievance besides, actively condones a Christianist psychopath who advocates the death penalty for LGBT Americans and that Cruz has called for the revocation of those few rights that we have and for the nomination of Supreme Court and other justices who are opposed to the notion of equal justice under law, not just for us but for any group Cruz doesn’t like.

    I’m glad that he supports an Equality Act.I would imagine that he realizes that with anything like a Republican ability to filibuster, this is not likely to go anywhere in the next Congress. This is a senate whose Republican majority has just voted to deprive the heroes of September 11, some of whom live in Maryland, Virginia, the District, and West Virginia, of health care as they are dying.

    Mr. Kafalas, realistically, can do a lot more to promote equality at the workplace as a vice-president of NAM than he could as a Republican senator. (And as a vice-president of NAM, what HAS he done to promote equality at the workplace?) Although I think and hope that either Chris Van Hollen or Donna Edwards would, deservedly, wipe the floor with him or with any other Republican candidate, I hope that Mr. Kafalas reconsiders a very ill-advised decision and potential career move.

  5. JackNasty

    December 6, 2015 at 2:31 am

    Why would anyone who wanted to pass this bill ever vote for Republican? A GOP majority will elect a GOP leadership for the Senate, the one thing that will keep the bill from ever coming to the floor for a vote.

    If Chrys Kefalas truly wants to help, he needs to run as a Democrat.

    • EdA

      December 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      “If Chrys Kefalas truly wants to help, he needs to run as a Democrat.”

      We already have solid allies running as Democrats. If he truly wants to help, he could fund raise for the eventual Democratic nominee and/or also for the Democratic nominee for president. Note that Senator Rubio announced his support for restoring the ability of federal contractors like ExxonMobil to discriminate against LGBT Americans.

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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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