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Sanders rebuked for calling Human Rights Campaign ‘establishment’

Groups say on Twitter they’re “disappointed” with candidate



Bernie Sanders, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, Vermont, Democratic Socialist, gay news, Washington Blade
Bernie Sanders, United States Senate, U.S. Congress, Vermont, Democratic Socialist, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) indicated the Human Rights Campaign is an “establishment” organization. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders referred on Tuesday to the Human Rights Campaign — as well as Planned Parenthood — as “establishment” organizations, leading to retaliation from the groups and his competitor in the primary.

Sanders indicated the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood were “establishment” groups during an interview on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” when the host asked about the organizations’ decisions to support Hillary Clinton.

The Human Rights Campaign announced on the same day its board unanimously voted to endorse Clinton in her bid for the White House and Planned Parenthood endorsed Clinton earlier this month.

The U.S. senator from Vermont initially responded by saying he “would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization,” citing his support from grassroots groups like the Howard Dean-founded Democracy for America and

But Sanders then indicated Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign were similar to the Wall Street establishment his campaign is challenging.

“What we are doing in this campaign, and it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we’re taking on not only Wall Street and the economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment,” Sanders said. “So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund, in Planned Parenthood, but you know what, Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time, and some of those groups are in fact part of the establishment.”

Sanders’ declaration that the Human Rights Campaign (whose name he misstated during the Maddow interview) belongs to the “establishment” echoes remarks made to the Washington Blade on Tuesday by Sanders spokesperson Michael Briggs. In response to the Human Rights Campaign endorsement of Clinton, Briggs said, “It’s understandable and consistent with the establishment organizations voting for the establishment candidate, but it’s an endorsement that cannot possibly be based on the facts and the record.”

During the interview with Maddow, Sanders said he “will challenge anybody” with his record on LGBT rights, recalling being one of 57 House members to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. On women’s rights, Sanders said he believes he has a “100 percent lifetime pro-choice record.”

“But that’s what happens in politics,” Sanders added. “Look, I’m going to do well and hopefully win not because of establishment support. What we are going to do well in, and what we are doing well in, is rallying the grassroots of this country.”

Sanders cited the large crowds at the rallies he’s hosted over the course of his presidential campaign and claimed 2.5 million individual campaign contributions, which he said is more than any campaign in history.

“I concede I’m not going to get establishment support,” Sanders added. “I’m not going to get the support of the governors and the senators with a few exceptions or many of the major organizations, but the reason that we’re doing so well, why we’re ahead now I believe in New Hampshire, why we’re closing the gap in Iowa, why we’re gaining in Nevada and South Carolina, and why we’re doing better and better all over the country, it is not from the establishment, it is from the grassroots of America.”

After his interview, Clinton took to Twitter to criticize Sanders, questioning why he would consider groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood, which has been the target of conservative attacks, as “establishment” groups. The tweet is signed with an “-H” indicating it’s written by Clinton herself, not just her campaign.

Both Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign followed up with tweets of their own saying they’re disappointed Sanders would characterize them as “establishment” groups.

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  1. JackNasty

    January 20, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Thirty-two board members of the HRC called the shot, then expected members to fall into line when they endorsed Hillary “DOMA was for your own good” Clinton.

    Sanders is right. The HRC is a typical, top-down, undemocratic organisation whose leaders appear to be more interested in perpetuating their cushy jobs as D.C. lobbyists than in securing equal protection for gay Americans.

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 10:52 pm


      HRC never made that statement. You’re full of it.

      • Brrelli

        January 20, 2016 at 11:49 pm

        Hill-bag was against civil rights, women’s rights and marriage equality for a very, very long time. She’s a conservative pretending to be a “progressive.” Bernie is a true humanitarian and activist for the people; HUGE difference.

        • StrawberryFroYo

          January 21, 2016 at 1:48 am

          Hill-Bag? Yeah, you’re a progressive. Only when it suits you.

        • mjr1114

          January 21, 2016 at 11:16 pm


      • novenator

        January 21, 2016 at 4:01 am

        I think the quotes around that ‘for your own good’ comment should have been an apostrophe to indicate it wasn’t a direct quote, but what she implied. Clinton defended her support of DOMA

    • Kagi (TNI Collective)

      January 21, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Got it in one. I have been done and over the HRC (the council, not Clinton, though I’m kinda over her too) for years now. They support, mostly, a ‘sanitised’ version of the LGBT community being visible…those of us on the fringes, like trans, non-binary, gender-nonconforming, especially those of colour, who will never fit comfortably into any of society’s boxes no matter what gets legalised or what protections are passed, they do not support us or reflect our needs and never have.

  2. Jeremy Chase

    January 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    For fuck’s sake! Would it kill people to do just five minutes of actual research?

  3. Jp310

    January 20, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    The HRC is already part of the establishment. Just because it didnt start that way doesnt mean the the HRC didnt change over the years. This org is just like any other now, just follows the money and doesnt give a damm what is members and the plp, they say they represent want.

  4. Michael Rogers

    January 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Selling out despite what your members want is a clear indicator of establishment ethos.

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      This member, as well as nearly all my friends that are also members, agree with the decision. Speak for yourself please.

      • MaryAnn Lovier Jackman

        January 22, 2016 at 12:03 am

        Isn’t that just what he was doing?

  5. MS

    January 20, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    HRC may fancy itself a grass-roots advocacy organization but it’s simply not. The HRC is a political super PAC that supports mainstream gay causes at the peril of those on the edges of the mainstream gay movement (like trans folks). The HRC’s decision-making is based on MONEY and POLITICS. So yes, they are very much an “establishment” organization, whether they like to admit it or not. Personally, if I were Bernie’s campaign, I would not have even responded to their BS and would have just let it go. But his campaign’s comments are still right on. The HRC won’t get another dime of my money because I don’t trust them to have the best interests of the entire gay community at heart. They only fight for us when it’s profitable to their corporate backers to do so. Maybe it didn’t start that way, but now it’s all about money and it stinks.

    • Kagi (TNI Collective)

      January 21, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      As one of those on the edges, THANK YOU. I have never given a dime to them and never will. They do not support me and my rights and best interests.

      • MS

        January 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

        Better to give to a local LGBT organization anyway; especially one that helps youth. Your money will be more likely to actually aid someone who needs help! Your money to HRC is largely going to support the administration of the organization and the salaries of the big wig execs.

  6. Keith Barber

    January 20, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    HRC forces me to choose between them and Bernie. I choose Bernie. I have withdrawn my HRC membership and cut off all financial support. Let their highly-paid executives get funded by Hillary from now on.

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 11:07 pm

      “Self-sabotage is an unconscious subversion, disruption or obstruction to hinder your own cause or endeavor. You consciously have a desired outcome but you work against yourself unconsciously.”

      • Kagi (TNI Collective)

        January 21, 2016 at 10:31 pm

        HRC doesn’t represent me or my rights and never has, as a trans non-binary person who will never fit into any ‘normalised’ boxes. They have been fighting to get mostly white, cis gay and lesbians acknowledged by pushing the idea that they are ‘normal’ and just like everyone else. Those of us who aren’t, and won’t ever be, they don’t seem to give a damn about.

        • MaryAnn Lovier Jackman

          January 22, 2016 at 12:03 am

          I have not trusted HRC for years. They are interested in not making waves, and they do control their representative board with an iron hand. If it had been up to HRC, we would still not have marriage equality. I stopped supporting them about 10 years ago.

          • old married lady

            January 23, 2016 at 2:34 am

            I lost patience with them when they left transfolk off of ENDA-again. T-people are always the first ones pushed out into traffic when LGBT rights groups need to “tighten up” the language of proposed civil rights laws. The Republicans aren’t the only ones having trouble with “establishment v. base”.

      • Mike Barbeau

        January 23, 2016 at 4:20 am

        A clinton supporter lecturing others on self sabotage. will wonders never cease

  7. MichaelW

    January 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    This might bring a bit of clarity as to why the HRC was so eager to jump in and make an endorsement during the primaries rather than waiting to see which of their Democratic allies gets the nomination:

    “[Chad] Griffin [President of the Human Rights Campaign] got his start in politics volunteering for the Bill Clinton presidential campaign, which led to a position in the White House Press Office at the age of 19. Following his stint in the White House and his graduation from Georgetown University, he led a number of political campaigns advocating for or against various California ballot initiatives, as well as a number of fundraising efforts for political candidates, such as Hillary Clinton andBarack Obama.”


  8. Libertarius2012

    January 20, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Seems like anyone who isn’t for Sanders MUST be part of the establishment or in bed with wall street. He won’t win, even with America Rising and Friends of the Earth PACs trucking in supporters and inflating the numbers in the polls. They are scared of her, and the right is scared of her. Bernie is a push over to the right. Even trump could wipe the floor with him easily. Bernie is in an entirely different game and needs to come back to reality. You dont spit in the face of groups youn”claim” to stand behind.

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 11:21 pm


      I couldn’t have said it better myself. Like that will help him or something? They only thing he is doing is dividing the party!

    • Bryan Dillon

      January 21, 2016 at 12:22 am

      LOL.. you really think it’s right wing PACs pushing up his numbers? SMH

      • StrawberryFroYo

        January 21, 2016 at 1:51 am

        What numbers?

  9. uhhuhh

    January 20, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Bernie jumps the shark.

    You’re either with his suicide cult or you’re “establishment.”

  10. Cindy Van Vreede

    January 20, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Today I watched a video that was made in 2008. The Human Rights Campaign had invited Hillary to speak to their group. The person introducing her explained how Hillary invited HRC to Washington several times when she was a senator, to come up with a strategy for victory on LGBT issues. It wasn’t just marching in a parade or voting in our favor a few times, it was helping to secure our rights with a plan, research, and resources. That’s why she got their endorsement. She fucking earned it.

  11. Moxa

    January 20, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    That HRC sided with the candidate with a much weaker LGBT rights record just because they believe (probably erroneously) that she has a better chance of winning, is a total sell out to establishment politics. Bernie was right on the money. Just another endorsement by an organization which does not reflect the will of its own constituency.

    • Kagi (TNI Collective)

      January 21, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Exactly. They have a good record for supporting equal rights for gay white men and lesbians, cisfolk who can ‘normalise’ once they have marriage rights, but the rest of us? We’ve been left in the cold for years.

  12. Dana Alan

    January 20, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Check this out. Really, Mrs. Clinton, how can you claim they are not when the Human Rights Campaign president, Chad Griffin, worked for you and your husband in the White House, and has done fundraising for you. Thought that wouldn’t come out, didn’t you!?

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Problem with your argument is that Chad Griffin didn’t make this decision by himself. The panel of 32 board members did, it was unanimous!

      • Dana Alan

        January 20, 2016 at 10:58 pm

        The President of the Board wields a good amount of influence over the others. The point being, the connection was there and the membership was not polled.

        • Ron Childers

          January 20, 2016 at 11:04 pm

          Doesn’t change the fact that it was a unanimous vote by 32 members of the board.

          He is the President but he didn’t make them vote that way. That was each persons personal decision.

          I understand you don’t like it but all this rhetoric is only hurting the party not helping! You think Bernie can win with a dived Party? NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

          Here’s an Article I think you should read…

          “Hey Liberals:Enough with the @#$%! Infighting!”
          “The 2016 presidential election is one of the most important we’ll ever see. We’ll either have another Democratic president, thus continuing our journey to greatness, or a Republican take over and start undoing all of the progress we’ve made. Most polls show us set for another Democratic victory, but there’s one contingent that could derail that. Sadly, it’s not Republicans; it’s extremists who have hijacked the “progressive” label…”

          • Bryan Dillon

            January 21, 2016 at 12:13 am

            That’s such a crock of shit. An awful lot of us Bernie supporters are not democrats to start with or are disenfranchised democrats who are leaving the party due to it’s shift to the right. The term Democrat doesn’t inspire greatness anymore. They’ve abandoned the unions, jumped in bed with Wall Street and created a kabuki of wedge issues, so they can look like they are still dong something for the progressives, while selling us out to the 1%. Sorry, I’m done with these Third Way neoliberals. Calling progressives extremists is ridiculous. We didn’t leave the democratic party, it left us.

          • Kagi (TNI Collective)

            January 21, 2016 at 10:29 pm


          • novenator

            January 21, 2016 at 4:02 am

            The executive board voted unanimously, there was never a membership poll done (much less a recent one). That’s a top down decision, not a bottom up one, and the members know it.

          • Mike Barbeau

            January 23, 2016 at 4:16 am

            on the contrary. Hillary can’t win with a divided party because only the corporate dems will vote for her. Bernie has dems, independents and repubs. She is only in touch with the leadership of these orgs. The rank and file want Bernie. Right now she is slamming him on healthcare yet 89% of democrats and 49% of republicans support single payer. She and her cronys are out of touch.

  13. gaylib

    January 20, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Oh my god, you all are a bunch of whiny sore losers. We really have come a long way when gay people can claim that their own civil rights organization is “establishment”. Well don’t come crying to them or me when President Cruz rolls back all the protections both Obama and Clinton have enacted while in office, sodomy laws come back onto the books and your marriages are all nullified. Bunch of ingrates.

  14. Rick Lopez

    January 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    I agree with it towards Human Rights Campaign. Does anyone remember when they placed Transgender People in the back burner in early 2000. No ones remembers that… Hillary just became supportive of Marriage Equality when it was the right thing to do, now they want to support her — Hell No! That’s the main reason I do not support HRC or what they stand for. They stand as a corporation and taking donations under the NGO Status. I would support a group that treats everything equally and does not backdown because an issue is not comfortable at the moment. Let’s fight for all equally!

    • Kagi (TNI Collective)

      January 21, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      You said it. Trans people, especially trans people of colour, have been shafted or ignored by them for YEARS now. Almost decades. Personally I don’t think they’ve ever really supported those of us who are ‘uncomfortable’, on the edges and the fringes of the queer community.

      • Rick Lopez

        January 21, 2016 at 10:44 pm

        I have your back and totally agree with you! My heart goes out to the Transgender Community, and representation from HRC has been sad and with people like Ms Jenner doesn’t help either.

        • Kagi (TNI Collective)

          January 21, 2016 at 10:58 pm

          Yeahhhhh. She’s like a poster icon for them, rich and white and ‘normalised’. That’s great for her. But a lot of us trans folk can’t ever pass, not even with surgery (eta: even if most of us weren’t low income and can’t afford it), and those of us who are non-binary are even worse off. I’m trans nb and disabled, and there is literally nothing that can make me ever ‘normal’ or comfortable to straight cis folk. Even if I wasn’t a multiple into the bargain.

          Also, thank you. I appreciate the support.

          • Rick Lopez

            January 21, 2016 at 11:56 pm

            Blessings all the way! Stay peaceful and try your best to stay calm during these coming months until the election. Peace!!!

  15. lnm3921

    January 20, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Hey, none of the candidates running for the Presidency are ideal. When are they? We often find ourselves picking the less of two evils.

    Bernie has some nice idealistic ideas that are appealing. But at the end of the day, how realistic would it be that they would be implemented especially with a GOP majority controlling both Houses in Congress? Look at the reaction to Obamacare. How many times has the GOP voted to repeal that one issue?

    Bernie I think is a bit too old for the job. He looks like he’ll fall asleep at any moment. I don’t really want someone that likely won’t be anymore than a one-term President. He may also be viewed too far to the left for the so called “mainstream” voter. Typically you have to come across as a moderate not too extreme to the right or left in the general election.

    Could I be wrong? I’ll concede that I didn’t think this country would elect an African-American as President given the racist environment I grow up with up until then. Anything is possible, but I’d really be surprised if Bernie could make it to the finish line.

    There is too much at stake to take the gamble. The next President will likely impact the direction of the SCOTUS which has handed us most of our legal rights to date. If that court should shift more to the right, our advances can be threatened! Look what has happened to affirmative action and voting rights. Never assume anything is permanent and can’t change!

    I’m particularly concerned that the major GOP Presidential candidates — Trump, Cruz and Rubio —- are all pretty extremists. It’s pretty sad when the other two make Trump look like a moderate! I can’t recall when this last happened.

    While Hillary carries baggage and is far from perfect, she may be in a better position to attract a majority of voters than Bernie would. Yes, I know in the primaries Bernie is significantly beating Hillary but those are Democratic voters, right? Not independents which tend to carry elections.

    I do agree though that HRC and Planned Parenthood could have waited until an official candidate was chosen on both sides but they are also likely being realistic!

  16. Peter Freeman

    January 20, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    If you follow the news, HRC is being rebuked by the LGBT community for their support of Clinton. Clinton had stated in the past that marriage was between a man and a woman before she “evolved.” Bernie has always been 100% the LGBT community since the ’70s and as Mayor of Burlington, VT, hosted the first Gay Pride parade.

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      “Clinton had stated in the past that marriage was between a man and a woman before she “evolved.” ”

      As did the POTUS as well as nearly every politician currently in office.

    • Ron Childers

      January 20, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      ” Bernie has always been 100% the LGBT community since the ’70s and as Mayor of Burlington, VT, hosted the first Gay Pride parade.”

      Not according to this Article…

      “Sanders did support civil unions as far back as 15 years ago, but it was for the same reason he opposed the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996: his strong belief in state’s rights. He wasn’t advocating for legal marriage for same-sex couples. He actually avoided the subject.”

  17. joe

    January 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    HRC is like a Gay restaurant. They assume we support them because they are Gay and we have to regardless of quality, service, or price.. I have noticed that in many situations, some poor schlub does all the heavy work, and then when its the down hill side of a struggle, and an impending win, HRC either announces its support, lacking until then, claims to have been part of the victory, or gets vicarious involvement by saying they are glad for the result and implies they have been there the whole time. I know of what I speak. They love celebrities, but ignore the hoi poloi.

    • Tom

      February 3, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      That’s not fair. A lot of gay restaurants are fantastic!


    January 21, 2016 at 3:28 am

    Y’all are really carrying on. Please don’t fight so much that we lose it ALL to the GOP!

  19. novenator

    January 21, 2016 at 4:00 am

    Bernie has a FAR better record on LGBT rights than Clinton, and most people know it, so the HRC board of directors did a disservice to their members, donors, and cause by endorsing the wrong candidate. Same goes for PP, SEIU, and others too.

    Bernie Sanders has a strong, bold, very extensive track record of supporting gay rights dating back 40 years. In a letter he published in the early 1970’s, when he was a candidate for governor of Vermont from the Liberty Union Party, Sanders invoked freedom to call for the abolition of all laws related to homosexuality

    In 1983, as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie threw in his full support for a highly controversial gay pride march in the city

    Bernie proclaimed Gay Pride Day in Burlington 2 years later in 1985

    He fought against the discriminatory DOMA (that first lady Hillary Clinton supported) Bernie verbally blasted a conservative bigot on the House floor who didn’t want “homos in the military”

    Bernie wanted to add full civil rights in housing, employment and public accommodation for LGBT people to the 1964 Civil Rights Act

    Bernie didn’t call marriage “a sacred bond between a man and a woman as a bedrock principle” on the Senate floor unlike some, or hold off on standing strong for LGBT Marriage Equality until 2013. He has always been a consistent champion of LGBT rights.

    Hillary Clinton VS. Bernie Sanders on Gay Rights and LGBT Equality

    Clinton quotes against LGBT marriage:

    “I think marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.”

    “I believe that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”

    “the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman”

    Clinton was against Civil Unions until 2010 and against Marriage Equality until 2013. She called marriage “a sacred bond between a man and a woman as a bedrock principle” on the Senate floor in 2004

    Clinton defended her support of DOMA (the Defense Of Marriage Act forbidding LGBT equal marriage rights)

  20. Chris Capps-Schubert

    January 21, 2016 at 5:34 am

    Still in no way reconciles their endorsements to the prospective candidates voting records. They should have the guts to state why they chose to endorse a certain candidate atleast.

  21. AtheismRules

    January 21, 2016 at 6:54 am

    If your organisation chooses someone who has only been pro HR for 3% of her life – and ignores a candidate who has been 100% pro HR all his life – AND has a HIGHER HR score from HR ORGANISATIONS – then he is spot on calling you “part of the establishment” !!

  22. Khris Buhuri Covey

    January 21, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    What a piece of work! Support women. Nope don’t think so. Embarrassing to have him on our party.

  23. MaryAnn Lovier Jackman

    January 21, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    HRC is establishment. They make a lot of noise, but do very little. It’s the local grassroots groups like TEP that have made the difference. Sanders is right. Their endorsement of Clinton was rigged because the president of the organization worked for her campaign.

  24. Tom

    February 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    This is comical. No one can honestly dispute the fact that the Champagne Fund is establishment.

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Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise



Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.

Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.

In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.

If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.

“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”

The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”

“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process.  We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.

“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”

A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.

Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”

Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.

The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.

“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”

Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.

For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.

Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”

“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”

But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.

No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.

“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”

Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.

Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.

Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.

To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.

A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.

“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”

But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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D.C. bill to ban LGBTQ panic defense delayed by Capitol security

Delivery of bill to Congress was held up due to protocols related to Jan. 6 riots



New fencing around the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented some D.C. bills from being delivered to the Hill for a required congressional review. (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A bill approved unanimously last December by the D.C. Council to ban the so-called LGBTQ panic defense has been delayed from taking effect as a city law because the fence installed around the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented the law from being delivered to Congress.

According to Eric Salmi, communications director for D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who guided the bill through the Council’s legislative process, all bills approved by the Council and signed by the D.C. mayor must be hand-delivered to Congress for a required congressional review.

“What happened was when the Capitol fence went up after the January insurrection, it created an issue where we physically could not deliver laws to Congress per the congressional review period,” Salmi told the Washington Blade.

Among the bills that could not immediately be delivered to Congress was the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020, which was approved by the Council on a second and final vote on Dec. 15.

Between the time the bill was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and published in the D.C. Register under procedural requirements for all bills, it was not ready to be transmitted to Congress until Feb. 16, the Council’s legislative record for the bill shows.

Salmi said the impasse in delivering the bill to Congress due to the security fence prevented the bill from reaching Congress on that date and prevented the mandatory 60-day congressional review period for this bill from beginning at that time. He noted that most bills require a 30 legislative day review by Congress.

But the Evangelista-Hunter bill, named after a transgender woman and a gay man who died in violent attacks by perpetrators who attempted to use the trans and gay panic defense, includes a law enforcement related provision that under the city’s Home Rule Charter passed by Congress in the early 1970s requires a 60-day congressional review.

“There is a chance it goes into effect any day now, just given the timeline is close to being up,” Salmi said on Tuesday. “I don’t know the exact date it was delivered, but I do know the countdown is on,” said Salmi, who added, “I would expect any day now it should go into effect and there’s nothing stopping it other than an insurrection in January.”

If the delivery to Congress had not been delayed, the D.C. Council’s legislative office estimated the congressional review would have been completed by May 12.

A congressional source who spoke on condition of being identified only as a senior Democratic aide, said the holdup of D.C. bills because of the Capitol fence has been corrected.

“The House found an immediate workaround, when this issue first arose after the Jan. 6 insurrection,” the aide said.

“This is yet another reason why D.C. Council bills should not be subject to a congressional review period and why we need to grant D.C. statehood,” the aide said.

The aide added that while no disapproval resolution had been introduced in Congress to overturn the D.C. Evangelista-Hunter bill, House Democrats would have defeated such a resolution.

“House Democrats support D.C. home rule, statehood, and LGBTQ rights,” said the aide.

LGBTQ rights advocates have argued that a ban on using a gay or transgender panic defense in criminal trials is needed to prevent defense attorneys from inappropriately asking juries to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is to blame for a defendant’s criminal act, including murder.

Some attorneys have argued that their clients “panicked” after discovering the person against whom they committed a violent crime was gay or transgender, prompting them to act in a way they believed to be a form of self-defense.

In addition to its provision banning the LGBTQ panic defense, the Evangelista-Hunter bill includes a separate provision that strengthens the city’s existing hate crimes law by clarifying that hatred need not be the sole motivating factor for an underlying crime such as assault, murder, or threats to be prosecuted as a hate crime.

LGBTQ supportive prosecutors have said the clarification was needed because it is often difficult to prove to a jury that hatred is the only motive behind a violent crime. The prosecutors noted that juries have found defendants not guilty of committing a hate crime on grounds that they believed other motives were involved in a particular crime after defense lawyers argued that the law required “hate” to be the only motive in order to find someone guilty of a hate crime.

Salmi noted that while the hate crime clarification and panic defense prohibition provisions of the Evangelista-Hunter bill will become law as soon as the congressional review is completed, yet another provision in the bill will not become law after the congressional review because there are insufficient funds in the D.C. budget to cover the costs of implementing the provision.

The provision gives the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General authority to investigate hate related discrimination at places of public accommodation. Salmi said the provision expands protections against discrimination to include web-based retailers or online delivery services that are not physically located in D.C.

“That is subject to appropriations,” Salmi said. “And until it is funded in the upcoming budget it cannot be legally enforced.”

He said that at Council member Allen’s request, the Council added language to the bill that ensures that all other provisions of the legislation that do not require additional funding – including the ban on use of the LGBTQ panic defense and the provision clarifying that hatred doesn’t have to be the sole motive for a hate crime – will take effect as soon as the congressional approval process is completed.

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D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011



shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.

According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.

Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.

“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”

The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”

Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.

Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.

In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.

“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.

Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.

The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.

In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”

At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.

The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.

In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.

The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.

It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.

Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.

The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.

The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.

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