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Gay teacher’s sex video stolen, posted to school site

Ark. officials fire victim of ‘cyber hate crime’

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Brian Cody Bray, gay news, Washington Blade, gay teacher
Brian Cody Bray, gay news, Washington Blade, gay teacher

Brian Cody Bray says someone hacked his computer and stole a video of him having sex with a consensual male partner, then posted the file to his school’s site. (Photo courtesy of Bray)

A gay teacher at a high school in a suburb of Little Rock, Ark., was fired from his job in October after an unidentified computer hacker gained access to a video of him and an adult male partner having sex and posted the video file on his school’s website, where it was viewed by students.

Brian Cody Bray, 29, said he was “mortified” when a co-worker at the school informed him by phone on Sept. 29 while he was home on sick leave that the video had been posted on his faculty page on the website of Maumelle Charter High School in Maumelle, Ark.

“Pretty much immediately after that phone call I went to the bathroom and threw up,” Bray told the Washington Blade. “I was just in shock that oh my God, this is something that will impact my career, impact my life and what am I going to do?”

The school’s principal and the executive director of the school district summoned him to a meeting the following week, where he said he attempted to explain that someone hacked into his email account and apparently gained access to his user names and passwords for various accounts, including his account with the online file storage site known as Dropbox.

Among other things, the Dropbox folder contained “a video recording of an intimate encounter between myself and another informed, consenting adult male,” Bray wrote on a website he recently created to explain an incident that he calls a cyber hate crime.

According to screen shots of his Dropbox site, the hacker changed the name of the Dropbox folder in which the video file was stored from “Private” to “FagTeachBray,” a clear sign, Bray says, that the hacker had targeted him because he’s gay.

He said that although he didn’t discuss his sexual orientation with students it was widely known at the school that he is gay. Bray taught several math classes and physics.

The video was first posted on the school website on Monday, Sept. 28, according to a posting time stamp on the site, Bray said. On that same day, someone identifying himself as “Jonathan” began sending text messages to one of Bray’s students telling the student that his teacher Bray was a “fag” and that the student should look at the video.

Bray, who posted a screen shot of the text message exchanges between “Jonathan” and the student, said he believes that “Jonathan” is the hacker, whom Bray doesn’t believe is a student. The student who received the text messages reported that the sender had his own cell phone number blocked on his text messages.

According to Bray, he had the student’s phone number on his computer files along with the numbers of other students who he sometimes called about school-related activities. He believes the hacker obtained those numbers when he or she gained access to his personal files.

Bray said he was not surprised when school district executive director Rob McGill and school principal Kimberly Willis informed him at an Oct. 8 meeting that they had no alternative but to terminate him.

“Of course I had to be dismissed at the time because I had lost any kind of authority with my students there,” Bray said he was told. He initially didn’t disagree with that assessment, he told the Blade, noting that he wasn’t emotionally ready to return to the classroom and resume teaching.

But he said he now believes school officials acted unfairly by refusing to provide him with severance pay and by suggesting to the school community that he was at fault for what happened despite his explanation that the video was posted to the school website by a malicious hacker.

McGill and Willis didn’t immediately respond to calls from the Blade seeking comment.

School officials also filed an ethics complaint against him with the Arkansas Professional Licensure Standards Board, which has authority to revoke teachers’ licenses, on grounds that he had at least some responsibility for the posting of a pornographic video on the school’s website.

On Jan. 12, following what Bray said was a thorough investigation, including an examination of his Dropbox files and records, the board determined there was insufficient evidence that he violated the ethics code for Arkansas educators, Bray said he was informed by the board in a written notice.

Bray said that school officials initially told him they reported the incident to the Maumelle Police Department and possibly the Pulaski County’s Sheriff’s Office. He said he was told the FBI was also investigating the case. But he later learned when contacting the police that no official report had been filed by the school.

He has since filed his own police complaint, Bray told the Blade, but he isn’t sure any of the local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are seriously investigating the case.

Debra Green, a spokesperson for the FBI Field Office in Little Rock, said, “It would be inappropriate for us to make a comment at this time,” on the Bray case. Officials with the Maumelle Police and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to calls from the Blade seeking to determine if they are investigating the case and attempting to identify the hacker.

Arkansas doesn’t have a state hate crimes law, preventing the case from being prosecuted as a hate crime if a suspect is eventually identified and arrested. Under Arkansas’s criminal code, the type of computer hacking committed by the suspect against Bray is considered a felony offense.

Jason Marsden is executive director of the Denver-based Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocates for adopting and strengthening state hate crime laws. He said nearly all state hate crime statutes, including D.C.’s, along with the federal Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, limit their coverage to violent hate crimes.

He is not aware of any such law that would treat a so-called cybercrime like the one committed against Bray as a hate crime, Marsden said.

“He’s had his life trashed by some bigot criminal,” Marsden said. “But we don’t have laws at the federal level or in the state of Arkansas that address those exact circumstances.”

Added Marsden: “He’s just in a position where nobody had contemplated this particular form of belittling, diminishing attack on someone when they drafted hate crimes laws.”

Bray said he remains unemployed as he continues to grapple with the emotional strain of the posting of the video on the school website and the derailing of his teaching career. He has created a GoFundMe site with the hope of raising funds to pay his basic living expenses until he finds work. The site includes a link to his new website, which provides a detailed account of how the unidentified suspect hacked into his Dropbox account and posted the sex video on the school website.

Among other things, Bray said he has become an activist for LGBT rights and for the passage of a hate crimes law in Arkansas.

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47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. briancodybray

    February 10, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    For more information about this big mess, or if you’re interested in online math and science tutoring, see my page at http://briancodybray.weebly.com/gofundme.html

    • Bennett Schneider

      February 11, 2016 at 1:29 am

      Hang in there!! You are completely innocent and I wish the community would rally around you and repudiate the hacker/hater. Neither sexuality nor sexual preference should be a benchmark for judging anyone’s quality of work. May all the good work you have done speak for you; may the community realize your value. May you find the perfect place to contribute your work again.

      • briancodybray

        February 11, 2016 at 10:45 am

        Thank you, Bennett. I appreciate your kind words of encouragement.

  2. guest

    February 11, 2016 at 8:03 am

    That fudgepacking stuff ain’t pretty at all roflmao

    • nimbusthegreat

      February 11, 2016 at 9:58 am

      What’s the matter biggot? To afraid to use you’re real name or at least show who you are? Shame on you. Grow up and grow a pair.

      • briancodybray

        February 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

        Thank you for coming to my defense; I really do appreciate it. But we are not going to further respond to comments like the one from guest. Those will not even be acknowledged.

      • Russ Lindquist

        February 12, 2016 at 4:52 am

        “What’s the matter biggot? To afraid to use you’re real name or at least
        show who you are? Shame on you. Grow up and grow a pair.”

        lol oh pro-homo bigots. they certainly kno how to dare someone to ‘show themselves’. meanwhile, u kno that angering bigoted homos is one of the most socially dangerous things someone can do these days…since homos r the pets-of-choice for leftist social-engineers. so how abt U grow a pair and stop pretending to hv moral-superiority, when all u hv is social-license

        ~Russ Lindquist

        ps: now watch this msg get tossed down the memory-gloryhole as ‘bigotry’…even as bigotry means ‘stubborn opposition to ideas that differ from ur own’. so enjoy ur hypocrisy, u bigoted cowards.

    • Will Parkinson

      February 11, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Voice of experience, guest?

  3. 1Truth1

    February 11, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Although I think this teacher is a victim of a hate crime and doesn’t deserve the treatment he is getting, I can’t help but think that the whole thing could have been avoided if people would stop putting their private lives online. Always assume that someone will most likely see it. I hope he gets a job soon.

    • briancodybray

      February 11, 2016 at 10:47 am

      1Truth1, thank you for the well wishes towards me finding a new job. And you are right; had I done things differently earlier, then things would also be different.

  4. RABNPA

    February 11, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Well, Brian, I am sorry this happened but let this be a lesson to you and everyone about where you store private photos and video files. Nothing is sacred or safe.
    I hope you find a new position soon.

    • briancodybray

      February 11, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Yes, this has been a lesson in where I store private photos and video files. Thank you for the well-wishes about finding a new position soon.

      • RABNPA

        February 11, 2016 at 1:44 pm

        And what about your “costar”?
        Is he doing OK?

        • briancodybray

          February 11, 2016 at 1:48 pm

          He wasn’t recognized, but also doesn’t have a job where he would be dismissed if it were known. He’s asked to be left anonymous and not to be associated with any of this.

          • RABNPA

            February 11, 2016 at 2:00 pm

            I am sure.
            Good luck to both of you.

    • uhhuhh

      February 11, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Really? Wow. Could you be more arrogant and sanctimonious? Disgusting.

      • RABNPA

        February 11, 2016 at 2:56 pm

        Sure. I could be on Facebook.
        But I am not. I like my privacy.

      • Me

        February 15, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        For all we know he put the video on the website himself as a recruitment tool. Like they say “Can’t reproduce, gotta recruit” LOL

  5. MeriMakr8298

    February 11, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I am sorry, but I cannot state strongly enough that if you make a video it really is never private. I don’t care where you store it. I don’t care whom you trust or think has your back; it is NEVER a good idea to do these sorts of videos if your job depends on it never coming out.

    This admonition is for other folks. The horse has obviously left the barn for you.

    • briancodybray

      February 11, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I cannot state strongly enough that if I make a video, it really is never private. That part, I agree with, and after reexamining my choices, I see now keeping something like that in a private, password protected was a poor choice. If I could change that, I certainly would.

      However, the issue that’s a little more central here is that it wasn’t forwarded to my mom, it wasn’t emailed to my address book, it wasn’t even used as blackmail for who knows what; the central issue was that it was posted to to my faculty webpage, and not any other type of website or electronic depository. Meaning, from the faculty directory page, when you clicked on Mr. Bray’s classroom page, the homepage link had been replaced by a link that had been hyperlinked from the video file, thereby exposing minors to adult content when they tried to check my classroom page for homework assignments or lecture notes.

      One of the worst parts about reading the documentation from the investigator was reading my former students’ hand-written testimonies of their account of events. Regardless of who switched out the links, children were exposed to adult content. But to make matters worse, they were my children (17-18 y/o children, but still children) who were exposed to adult content that happened to have me in it.

      Let kids be kids as long as they can be, because they’ll grow up quickly enough into life of fighting against entropy. And to know that I was responsible for taking part of that away from those students, even though I didn’t do it, has been tremendously heart-breaking. I think whoever did this didn’t just target me, s/he also targeted the students. Feel free to berate my poor choices of making a video like that and leaving it uploaded to a personal, password-protected account, but remember this was also done to expose minors to adult content in what should always be a safe space. I think that’s what really needs to be considered before passing blame to anyone for making a video in his private time with another informed, consenting adult.

    • uhhuhh

      February 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Does bashing the victim give a sense of importance?

      • Liza Bleu

        February 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

        I really didn’t see this post as “bashing the victim” but as a warning to people to not make the poor choices as Brian made in making/posting the video from the start. It is in the news all the time of hackers busting out those with pics/vids and putting them open net to see. Brian (and his students) are indeed victims of the a**hole who posted it to his faculty webpage. None-the-less it must not go without a lesson learned not only by Brian (of which he admits to learning a lesson here) but the rest of us who share in his unpleasant story. NEVER, never post anything compromising of your conduct (especially if you are a teacher) on your computer, secured password site, etc. If I had a diamond that was worth lets say 55K ( an ave. annual teachers pay in Arkansas) I would have it locked up in a bank vault. NOT MY HOUSE. Although I have keys and an alarm system an experienced thief will know his way in.

        • lymescale

          February 11, 2016 at 4:54 pm

          “I really didn’t see this post as “bashing the victim” but as a warning”

          But no one needs that warning pointed out to them in a post when they will get it just by reading what happened in this article. Some people who make these posts may mean well but it’s unnecessary and rubbing salt in the wound.

          • bitterandhappy

            February 12, 2016 at 11:53 am

            So you have appointed yourself as a administrator of this site, and want to tell others what they may or may not post? There is always at least one in any gay comments section.

    • Chad Thomas Odvar

      February 11, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      Just stfu..your mentality is what’s wrong with America

    • Erica Cook

      February 12, 2016 at 2:05 am

      I hope at some point you get to experience the level of compassion you are giving right now if you are ever legally wronged.

  6. Liza Bleu

    February 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Well…. I agree with MeriMakr8298….. back in the “olden” days one of my drag-sisters used to keep a diary and unfortunately that diary was found and all kinds of “stank” came out at the next family gathering….so I have always said….keep a diary (secret or naked pics/vids on the net) then they will surely KEEP YOU!!….oh btw Brian you are terribly cute!! Is it wrong of me to want to see the video?! :P j/k I do hope you find better things for you than this mess. Good luck on your job hunt. I would be happy to hear when you do find a job. So keep us posted!

    • Me

      February 15, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      He could freelance as a truck stop mens room attendant.

  7. aagold76 .

    February 11, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    shouldn’t the school be investigating the hack- their computer system was hacked- couldn’t something of this nature be used to change on line testing results, etc.? If the hacker is an employee- they should be the one fired, if it’s a student- they should be expelled.

    • SarahBJones

      February 11, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      It’s arkansas…that’s not going to happen.

      • xenonman

        February 16, 2016 at 11:24 am

        What can you expect from a state that produced the likes of the Clintons?

    • JG Garrity

      February 12, 2016 at 5:33 am

      too true

  8. Bill Rucker

    February 11, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    I’m truly sorry this has happened to you. It is sad to know in 2016 we are still facing these types of hate. I don’t know you, but you seem like a beautiful person inside and out. Selecting a Teaching career must show your love for people and education. I wish you the ever best. I was born in Little Rock, but moved to Texas as fast as I could. My heart goes out to you…….Stay strong!!

  9. Jimi Paradise

    February 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Poor guy… :(

  10. Joann Azevedo Moran

    February 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Curious what would happen if the victims were hetero. I am sorry for your situation. Stay strong.

    • briancodybray

      February 11, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Curious, indeed. But I think we all know the answer to that, unfortunately.

  11. Mike Z

    February 11, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    So sorry Brian, hopefully they find out who did this.
    If it is a student, expelled forever… a co-worker, fired immediately and severence revoked as well.

  12. Jackson Furst

    February 11, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I wanna see the video!!! :-)

    • Curtis

      February 12, 2016 at 2:52 am

      Really? Can you be any more inappropriate and tacky?

      • Jackson Furst

        February 12, 2016 at 1:38 pm

        Well, I suppose I could but I’ll be a good boy :-)

        • Matt Waits

          February 15, 2016 at 10:57 am

          Ha!

  13. 2016A

    February 11, 2016 at 6:30 pm

  14. Ogre Magi

    February 11, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Gays need to avoid the South

    and all men gay or straight need to avoid the teaching profession.

    I have heard from many in Education that male teachers are automatically suspected by parents and their fellow teachers of being pedophiles and Yet school administrators continuously whine about the need for male teachers and scratch their heads in wonder that male teachers are so hard to come by and keep

    • xenonman

      February 16, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Despite the growing number of FEMALE teachers that also become sexually involved with their charges!

  15. Me

    February 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    He want’s donations for living expenses because he is “unemployed”? Doesn’t your boyfriend have a job? LOL. Get a job that is NOT teaching. Hey, play fa**ot games. win fa**ot prizes. I figure at some point you will try and sue for wrongful termination. Good luck with that.

  16. Me

    February 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    As a gay I am sure you think even showing up for work in a sequined jock strap should not be firing offense

  17. orie

    February 16, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    U must be from Arkansas.

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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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