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LBJ’s gay purge

Newly discovered documents shed light on 1960s-era White House scandal that led to ouster of 2 senior aides

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LBJ, Lyndon B. Johnson, gay news, Washington Blade
Walter Wilson Jenkins, Walter Jenkins, LBJ, gay news, Washington Blade

President Lyndon B. Johnson requested the resignation of his longtime aide Walter Jenkins after he was arrested a second time for having sex at a YMCA near the White House, according to newly released documents. A second aide, who was revealed to be gay, was also ousted. (White House photo by Yoichi Okamoto)

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s longtime aide and White House special assistant Walter Jenkins, whose 1964 arrest for alleged “homosexual conduct” created an uproar in the midst of Johnson’s re-election campaign, revealed in a confidential memo that another longtime Johnson aide was accused of engaging in homosexual acts, according to documents released for the first time last month by the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.

The newly released documents include an October 1964 draft memo attributed to Jenkins that reveals that a government background check discovered that White House secretary and Johnson family friend Robert “Bob” Waldron “had engaged in homosexual acts” in the recent past.

The Washington Blade obtained copies of the documents from the Mattachine Society of Washington, which spent months working with LBJ Library officials to identify and discover the documents from the library’s voluminous collections.

The group, which is headed by veteran gay rights advocate Charles Francis, has taken the name of the organization co-founded in the early 1960s by gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny as D.C.’s first gay rights group.

The recently revived version of the group specializes in obtaining government documents, long withheld from the public, that tell how thousands of gays were fired from federal jobs during the post-World War II era of anti-gay witch hunts.

Francis said he and Mattachine board member Pate Felts, with the help of the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, which serves as pro bono counsel for the group, traveled to the LBJ Library to retrieve the documents with the full cooperation of library officials.

Charles Francis, Lyndon B. Johnson, gay news, Washington Blade

Charles Francis (left) and Pate Felts reviewing documents in the LBJ Library document reading room in Austin. (Photo courtesy Francis)

The Johnson White House at the time disclosed that Jenkins resigned from his job at Johnson’s request shortly after his 1964 arrest for allegedly having sex with a man in the men’s room at a YMCA facility located near the White House. An FBI report released as part of the LBJ documents, but that had been reported in the media earlier, says Jenkins had been arrested in 1959 on a similar “morals” charge at the same YMCA bathroom as the 1964 arrest.

A source who knew Waldron told the Washington Blade that Johnson also terminated Waldron from his White House position after Jenkins’ 1964 arrest, even though Waldron was never accused of wrongdoing and was never publicly identified as gay at the time he worked for Johnson. In addition to working at the White House as a presidential secretary he had been retained to perform similar duties for Johnson during Johnson’s tenure as Senate Majority Leader and U.S. vice president during the Kennedy administration.

Waldron states in an oral history released as part of the LBJ Library documents that he told friends and associates in 1964 that he decided to change careers and left his White House job voluntarily to enroll in an interior design school in New York. He became a nationally acclaimed interior decorator based in Washington, doing decorating work for prominent political figures for 26 years, and remained friends with the Johnson family.

He died in December 1995 of complications associated with AIDS at the age of 68.

“Every decorator in D.C. knew that Waldron was gay as did most of his clients,” said the source who knew him and who spoke to the Blade on condition of not being identified. “He most definitely was not a closeted gay man, nor did he make any attempt to hide his orientation.”

According to the source, unlike Jenkins, who was married with six children, Waldron was a lifelong bachelor. He regularly took on the role as escort at White House functions and on presidential trips abroad for another longtime Johnson administrative aide, Mary Margaret Wiley. But it was widely known that the relationship between the two was strictly platonic, the source and others who knew them have said.

Waldron, a native of Texas, says in his oral history that he attended Northwestern University to study court reporting and later attended “business school” in Texas. He says in his oral history that “nearing finishing a degree and no job I went to law school.” While finishing his second year at law school he says he accepted an offer in 1955 by Congressman Homer Thornberry (D-Texas) to take a job as administrative assistant in Thornberry’s congressional office in Washington. That job brought him to Washington, where he remained for the rest of his life.

It couldn’t be confirmed whether Waldron completed and graduated from any of the colleges or law school he attended. He states in his oral history that he had “no intensions of practicing” law.

Waldron stated in his oral history that he took notes at Johnson’s request as Johnson conferred with his inner circle advisers at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles when John F. Kennedy sent word that he would like Johnson to become his vice presidential running mate.

After Johnson accepted Kennedy’s offer, Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, who became good friends with Waldron, invited Waldron and Wiley to join them on the convention stage along with Johnson and Kennedy’s family members and close friends as the Kennedy-Johnson ticket was introduced to tumultuous applause in the packed convention hall.

Waldron points out in his oral history that during nearly all of the years he worked for Johnson he remained on the payroll of Texas Congressman Homer Thornberry, who was a close Johnson friend and political associate.

“Homer I know called numerous times and said Bob is spending all of his time with you, why don’t you transfer him to your payroll?” the source that knew Waldron as well as Thornberry said. “And for whatever reason they just kept cajoling Thornberry to keep him on his payroll.”

The source speculated that one possible reason Johnson didn’t want to officially appoint Waldron to his staff was because he or Jenkins, who was in charge of hiring Johnson’s staff, were reluctant to directly hire someone who might be identified as gay.

Jenkins, meanwhile, had served on Johnson’s payroll beginning in 1939, shortly after Johnson won election as a congressman from Texas. Jenkins left the staff to serve in the Army during World War II before leaving the military as a major. At Johnson’s urging, he ran for a seat in the U.S. House in 1951, but lost his race. He later joined Johnson’s U.S. Senate staff and remained with Johnson during Johnson’s tenure as Senate Majority Leader, vice president and president.

Arrested at the YMCA

Among the newly released documents from the LBJ Library is a personal remembrance of Johnson from yet another longtime Johnson administrative staffer, Mildred Stegall, who worked for Johnson nearly as long as Jenkins had and worked closely with Jenkins.

“One of the saddest days of the president and my lives was the day President Johnson asked for Walter’s resignation due to reported misconduct,” Stegall wrote. “It was a tremendous loss because Walter was like the president’s right arm and the most valuable member of the staff and I think the most capable.”

Added Stegall, “I can’t begin to count the times the president asked me, ‘What do you think happened?’ My answer was always the same. ‘I simply do not know.’”

Stegall noted that Jenkins checked himself into George Washington University Hospital after his arrest, where doctors said he was suffering from exhaustion and emotional distress.

“I have always thought that Walter’s resignation was asked for too quickly,” she wrote. “Had he stayed in the hospital for several weeks with a reported nervous breakdown the matter might have blown over, but there was no way to know and the president took the only course he thought he could take.”

An FBI report on the Jenkins arrest, dated Oct. 22, 1964, says Johnson asked FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to arrange for a “full and complete investigation” when he learned of Jenkins’ arrest one week after it took place on Oct. 7 of that year.

The report says Jenkins, then 46, attended a party with his wife that day at the new offices of Newsweek magazine before the two left the party about 8 p.m. It says Jenkins planned to return to his White House office to work in the evening as he often did. But the report says he apparently decided to make a stop someplace else before returning to work.

“At 8:15 p.m. Mr. Jenkins was arrested in the basement men’s room of the YMCA Building, 1736 G Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., by officers of the Metropolitan Police Department,” the FBI report says. “Arrested at the same time for engaging in an indecent act with Mr. Jenkins was Andy Choka, a 60-year-old retired Army enlisted man.”

The report adds, “Mr. Jenkins made no attempt to hide his identity from the officers, willingly accompanied them and admitted to having been arrested one previous time on a morals charge. The previous arrest occurred shortly before 10:30 p.m. January 15, 1959, in the same basement men’s room of the YMCA. He was charged with loitering for indecent purposes.”

It says Jenkins was released following the 1959 arrest after posting and forfeiting $25 collateral. Following his 1964 arrest, he and Choka were released after each posted $50 collateral, the report says.

The report says an apparent miscommunication between D.C. police, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service resulted in the White House not being informed of Jenkins’ 1959 arrest at the time Jenkins received his White House security clearance in 1961 when he began work for then-Vice President Johnson.

“Mr. Jenkins was interviewed by the FBI on Oct. 18, 1964, and admitted having engaged in the indecent acts for which he was arrested in 1959 and 1964, the report says. “He claimed that he had been ‘enticed’ by the arresting officer on the former occasion and that his mind was befuddled by fatigue, alcohol, physical illness and lack of food the latter time.”

The report says an extensive background investigation turned up no evidence that Jenkins compromised government secrets or acted in any way against the interests of the country or the government.

“A favorable appraisal of Mr. Jenkins’ loyalty and dedication to the United States was given the FBI by more than 300 of his associates, both business and social, representing divergent political backgrounds, who were interviewed in this investigation,” the report says.

Waldron ‘outed’ by Jenkins?

The FBI report had been released shortly after the investigation into Jenkins’ 1964 arrest. But the LBJ Library documents released to the Mattachine Society of Washington last month included for the first time several drafts of an internal memo that Jenkins reportedly prepared to “clarify” and take strong exception to some of the statements attributed to him in the FBI report.

Among other things, Jenkins said in all of the drafts of the memo that the FBI report could give the impression to some that he might have associated with people who may have engaged in homosexual conduct, even though the report didn’t say this directly.

“Never in my years of government employ, with one single and limited exception, did I associate with any person employed by any branch of the government, or any other office, whether employed by the government or otherwise – known to me to be a homosexual,” he stated in one of the drafts.

“The one exception,” Jenkins wrote, “is Mr. Bob Waldron. The relevant facts in his case are as follows: Mr. Waldron was employed by Congressman Homer Thornberry over a period of some years. From time to time he was loaned to the staff on which I was working because of his exceptional skill as a stenographer and typist,” Jenkins says in the draft memo.

He says at the time when Thornberry left Congress to become a federal judge, Waldron applied for a job with the National Aeronautics and Space Council and underwent a background check for that position.

“The field investigation of Mr. Waldron came to my attention, and it contained information alleging that Mr. Waldron had engaged in homosexual acts,” Jenkins wrote. “I did not know, and I do not know at this time, whether Mr. Waldron was or is in fact a homosexual, but I thought that the allegations were sufficient to warrant my recommending that Mr. Waldron’s application should be rejected. It was rejected.”

He states in his draft memo that the rejection of the application took place in January 1964.

“Thereafter, on a few occasions, I was present at large social gatherings where Mr. Waldron was also present,” the memo says. “This was the limit of my association with him after receiving the allegations described above. I reiterate that this is the sole exception to the categorical statement made above.”

What appears to be the final version of the Jenkins memo, dated Oct. 27, 1965 and which bears Jenkins’ name but not his signature, Waldron’s name is omitted. He is described only as a “person employed by a member of Congress” who from time to time was loaned to the staff where Jenkins worked – meaning Johnson’s staff.

The source who knew both Waldron and Jenkins believes Johnson and his White House legal advisers were clearly informed of the earlier draft that named Waldron as having been linked to “homosexual acts.” The source also thinks White House legal advisers may have played a role in drafting the memo for Jenkins.

Coming at the time of the Jenkins arrest, the source said Johnson and his advisers most likely decided to let Waldron go out of concern that he could have triggered yet another “homosexual” scandal at the White House.

Francis agrees with that assessment, saying Waldron, like Jenkins, became expendable despite his years of loyal service to Johnson.

Creating ‘revulsion’ among co-workers

Jenkins and Waldron’s departure from the White House came at a time when Kameny and his gay rights associates organized protests outside the White House calling for an end to the U.S. Civil Service Commission ban on gay civilian workers at all federal government agencies and departments.

Kameny’s correspondence to then-Civil Service Commission director John Macy prompted Macy to send Kameny his now infamous “revulsion” letter in which Macy said the Commission would not lift its ban on homosexual employees because such employees were sexual “deviates” and would create revulsion among their co-workers.

Lyndon B. Johnson, gay news, Washington Blade

John Macy, head of the U.S. Civil Service Commission in the 1960s, who referred to homosexuals as perverts and led efforts to fire gays from the federal workforce.

President Kennedy appointed Macy as head of the Civil Service Commission and Johnson retained him after assuming the presidency.

“The confidential Jenkins file safeguarded by Mildred Stegall shows how quickly a ‘bachelor’ family friend, who was as close as one could get to LBJ, could be transformed into a ‘sexual deviate’ and thrown overboard,” Francis said in discussing Waldron’s fate.

“Mainstream Johnson historians like Doris Kearns Goodwin and Robert Caro need to address the tumultuous investigations and destruction of gay and lesbian Americans beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s and continuing and even intensifying through the Johnson years,” Francis said.

Others familiar with the Johnson administration have said the political realities of the time, especially the 1964 presidential election in which Johnson was running against Republican Barry Goldwater, made it impossible for Johnson to do anything other than jettison Jenkins and Waldron.

After Johnson left the White House in 1969 he and Lady Bird welcomed both Jenkins and Waldron to the LBJ Ranch in Texas and resumed his friendship with the two men.

Jenkins died in November 1985 at the age of 67 from a stroke.

Bill Moyers, one of Johnson’s presidential press secretaries and a longtime Johnson staffer, appeared to sum up the views of those who knew and worked closely with Jenkins during the Johnson years in a 1999 interview with Out magazine.

“When they come to canonize political aides [Jenkins] will be the first summoned, for no man ever negotiated the shark-infested waters of the Potomac with more decency or charity or came out on the other side with his integrity less shaken,” Moyers said. “If Lyndon Johnson owed everything to one human being other than Lady Bird, he owed it to Walter Jenkins.”

Moyers questioned in Jenkins case

classified_security_file_insertAnother of the LBJ Library documents released last month to the Mattachine Society of Washington is a Jan. 15, 1965 letter from J. Edgar Hoover to President Johnson informing Johnson that an FBI agent one week earlier heard a “rumor” that [presidential advisor Bill] Moyers posted the $25 bond for Jenkins’ release in connection with Jenkins’ 1959 arrest at the YMCA.

The rumor was that an unidentified D.C. police sergeant “knew” that Moyers posted the bond, Hoover said.

“Without making any open inquiry into the matter, it has been discreetly determined that copies of collateral receipts maintained by the Metropolitan Police Department have been destroyed and there is no way to determine by documentary evidence who, if anyone other than Mr. Jenkins, posted collateral for him in connection with his arrest on Jan. 15, 1959,” Hoover told Johnson.

“The above is being furnished for your information and no investigation to identify and interview the unnamed sergeant will be conducted in the absence of a specific request from you,” Hoover wrote in his letter.

The documents released by the LBJ Library to Mattachine Society do not include a reply by Johnson to Hoover’s letter.

“[T]his is a rumor and totally unfounded in fact,” Moyers replied in a Jan. 18, 1965 letter to Hoover. “I was attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, at the time,” Moyers states in his letter. “I was not in Washington on any date between 1954 and January, 1960,” Moyer said, adding, “I have never posted bond for Mr. Jenkins or, for that matter, anyone else.”

Moyers, who later became a nationally known journalist, couldn’t immediately be reached by the Blade for comment on the Hoover letter.

LBJ, Lyndon B. Johnson, gay news, Washington Blade

President Lyndon B. Johnson rekindled his friendship with two former aides who were ousted in gay scandals, but only after he left office. (White House photo by Arnold Newman)

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    February 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    It’s good that these stories are related. We should never forget our history and the oppression and stigma that gay and lesbian people faced and had to endure. Being out like today was not an option and we had no rights under the law. Sodomy laws made us criminals.

    Even in the seventies and eighties being gay was something people made you feel ashamed over and was something you feared would lead to you being ostracized, beaten up, and discriminated against. After AIDS came on the scene it was much worse especially before there was any treatment for it.

    Today’s GLBT youth have it made compared to prior generations and likely take it all for granted mistakenly thinking homophobia and discrimination has been overcome and who they are really doesn’t matter to anyone anymore.

    • Mark Cichewicz

      December 29, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      A lot

  2. Rev. B.J. Stiles

    February 25, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I’ve forgotten the source, but several years ago I read the transcript of the discussion between LBJ and Lady Bird re Walter Jenkins. In the discussion, Lady Bird was defending Walter and his long-time loyalty to the Johnson’s. I think I recall that she was suggesting that Jenkins become an employee of her media empire, if it became inevitable that he had to leave the White House. Her support and defense is part of the story. Sorry I can’t remember where I read this.

  3. Jerry Pritikin The Bleacher

    February 25, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I remember the news that an aid to LBJ was arrested,) and they broadcasted and printed Walter Jenkin’s name) at a nearby Washington D.C. YMCA. It seems that many YMCA’s, were gay meeting grounds throughout the country. And at the same time, many stings were operated by the local police,too. I recall, there were quite a few jokes made about LBJ’s Initials, and Walter Jenkin’s name.

    • lnm3921

      February 25, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      The Village People hit YMCA illustrated that nicely.

      “They have everything for you men to enjoy,
      You can hang out with all the boys”

      • Mark Cichewicz

        December 29, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        I like you a lot

  4. Jerry Pritikin The Bleacher

    March 11, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Your a genuine PUTZ!

  5. Space Cowboy

    October 17, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Something really Slimey about Moyers & his Buddy Foul_Ball !!!

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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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