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Former ‘ex-gay’ leader to march in Pride parade

Alan Chambers says he ‘repented,’ has new mission of inclusiveness

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Alan Chambers, gay news, Washington Blade
Alan Chambers, gay news, Washington Blade

Alan and Leslie Chambers have abandoned ‘ex-gay’ causes and now advocate for marriage equality.

Alan Chambers says he and many of his compatriots who operated the nation’s preeminent “ex-gay” organization for 12 years before they shut it down in 2013 have undergone a fundamental, personal change in their Christian beliefs and views on homosexuality.

Chambers, 44, an ordained minister who served as president of Exodus International from 2001 to 2013, is scheduled to deliver two sermons at the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday morning.

But instead of advocating for Exodus International’s past call for “reparative therapy” to help people change their sexual orientation from gay to straight, Chambers says he plans to tell the story of how he and others involved with Exodus have changed and now believe God loves and fully embraces LGBT people for who they are.

“And by change I mean we changed our opinion,” he told the Washington Blade in an interview. “We’ve changed our beliefs. We’ve changed our understanding in many respects,” he said.

“We’ve become affirming of people and supportive and affirming of marriage equality and feel like there are a lot of amazing relationships out there,” Chambers said. “And we believe that’s something that is a right that people have and should have and that God can bless those relationships as much as he can bless heterosexual relationships.”

In a development that would have been unthinkable during his earlier years at Exodus, Chambers is scheduled to march in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday as part of a contingent organized by the National Cathedral.

Chambers acknowledges his current views represent a major break from his past statements and actions.

During most of his years as president of Exodus International he fulfilled the role of poster boy for the organization’s mission to persuade people who were troubled over “same-sex attractions” to change their sexual orientation from gay to straight by embracing God and Christian beliefs.

Often accompanied by his wife, Leslie Chambers, Alan Chambers pointed to what he said was his own success in leaving a gay or bisexual lifestyle through reparative or “conversion” therapy that Exodus International and other ex-gay ministries promoted but that was debunked and condemned by the world’s major medical associations.

In 2013 Chambers shocked many of the conservative Christian leaders and organizations he worked with for over a decade by announcing Exodus International was disbanding permanently. To the dismay of those remaining supportive of “ex-gay” ministries, he publicly apologized to the LGBT community for the “pain and hurt” that Exodus had caused.

Chambers said the decision to close Exodus International followed his realization that reparative therapy did not work and often brought about feelings of shame and despondency when people were unable to change their sexual desires.

He said he also came to the realization that LGBT people were fully embraced by God’s love and that the church in many ways had failed to minister to their true needs.

While acknowledging and accepting Chambers’ remorse of his past role in the “ex-gay” movement and his current support for LGBT rights, some in the LGBT community have criticized him for not publicly confirming that’s he’s gay or bisexual.

Noting that he’s happily married and deeply in love with his wife, with whom he works closely on projects involving his public speaking tours and writings, Chambers said he’s not interested in being confined to a label.

“I realized a number of years ago before we closed Exodus that straight wasn’t a label that I wanted to place on myself,” he said. “But gay wasn’t either. It doesn’t mean gay isn’t a part of my identity or that I mind people using that as a label to describe me because in some regards, it absolutely does.”

Added Chambers: “But someone who is married happily for nearly 20 years to a woman, not because I had to be or because I needed to be but because I wanted to be. I choose really to stay away from labels that pigeonhole me into one identity that makes one group feel better or another group feel worse.”

The full text of the Blade’s interview with Chambers follows:

Washington Blade: What was it that prompted you to shut down Exodus International?

Alan Chambers: Well there were a number of factors, the first of which is it was always my goal to close down Exodus. And the reason for that was really what evolved over the course of time that I was the president of Exodus. I became president in 2001. And in the interview process they asked me what success would look like for me as the president of Exodus. I said success looks like Exodus going out of business because the church is doing its job.

And the job that I was talking about drastically changed in my mind to not helping people change but helping people be celibate, not pointing to a good or an evil but simply including people – all people – LGBTQ plus people into the life, body, and ministry of the church.

And that’s really the passion that we have today is seeking inclusion, full inclusion where people can use their gifts and not be second-class citizens in the church but be treated as I would treat anyone and that is as a full-fledged member of His family.

And I know something that changed for us and that’s one of the major factors in closing Exodus was it was founded on a premise that was faulty in our opinion. And we couldn’t modify our mission. We couldn’t rebrand our mission. In order to do the maximum amount of healing necessary we had to shut the organization down.

And I felt like that message to the church that people who had been entrenched in this movement have changed. And by change I mean we changed our opinion. We’ve changed our beliefs. We changed our understanding in many respects. And then to the LGBT community our message in closing was we pray that this is a huge healing opportunity for those who have been hurt, for those who have had different experiences frankly than I had at Exodus.

Blade: When you say the Exodus movement was based on a faulty premise, by that did you mean it’s not possible to change someone’s sexual orientation from gay to straight?

Chambers: Right – and that’s the whole premise – that Exodus was an organization that believed and promoted change.

Blade: Didn’t you say in some of your recent writings that you repented? Was all of this part of a repenting in some way?

Chambers: Yeah. And repenting, you know, means change your mind. And we changed our minds. I changed my mind on all of these things, especially how we approached them from a Christian perspective and a human rights perspective. And so we repented. I repented. I changed my mind.

Blade: By changing your mind, do you now agree with the many LGBT Christian activists such as leaders of the LGBT supportive Metropolitan Community Church that God loves LGBT people and same-sex love and committed same-sex relationships are not a sin? Is that something you now feel has validity?

Chambers: Absolutely. We’ve become affirming of people and supportive and affirming of marriage equality and feel like there are a lot of amazing relationships out there and that’s something we need to support and encourage. And it gives people the opportunity to be faithful where they haven’t been able to experience that before. And we believe that’s something that is a right that people have and should have and that God can bless those relationships as much as he can bless heterosexual relationships.

Blade: You mention in some of your writings that during your tenure at Exodus you walked the halls of Congress. By that did you mean you lobbied or advocated in opposition to LGBT civil rights legislation among other things?

Chambers: For a period of time we did lobby against marriage equality and certain anti-discrimination policies and things like that. In 2008 we publicly came out and said we were wrong for doing that and we now no longer were going to do that. And so during the last few years of Exodus – the last five or six years of Exodus we, again, to use the word repent, repented our political involvement in that regard.

And since then, since closing Exodus, I felt there were things where I needed to be very vocal about my support in the affirmation of the things that I used to oppose.

Blade: But when you stopped opposing LGBT rights legislation in 2008 were you still promoting the idea that gay people could change their sexual orientation?

Chambers: Yeah, gradually, though, we got away from the change verbiage and denounced reparative therapy and those types of things before we closed, which caused a huge fissure and separation within Exodus where other groups began to break off and form their own organizations because of our changing positions.

Blade: Clearly many conservative or fundamentalist Christians and religious right organizations like the Family Research Council still condemn homosexuality and claim gays can and should change their sexual orientation. Have any of these people confronted you or challenged you on your current beliefs?

Chambers: Oh, absolutely, yes. We were challenged tremendously in all of that. And some even made accusations against me – that I was having an affair and there was no way I could say the things I was saying for any other reason than I was cheating on my wife and I was living a double life and those types of things. I had a prominent Evangelical person call my pastors and tell them that he had a word from God that I was cheating on my family and that was the only way I could have a change of heart and change of position on all of these things.

So they have done everything from challenge me publicly and in the press to invading my private space in life by calling people and spreading lies about me. And that’s been hurtful. But it is what it is and it only galvanizes our desire to do right by the LGBTQ plus community and stand our ground and continue to work and fight on behalf of them.

Blade: You’ve undoubtedly heard those who quote Biblical passages such as Leviticus, which they interpret to say homosexuality is a sin condemned by God. Do you have any thoughts on how that can be reconciled with your own beliefs?

Chambers: I know there are a number of people on both sides who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to take scripture and prove a point with it. And what I’ve come to understand about scripture is I believe that the Bible is true. What I know of myself is I don’t have the ability to interpret it perfectly and no one else does either. So there are numerous scriptures, not just related to homosexuality but related to so many things that I look at and I think there is more to it than what’s there in the black and white.

What I do know is my understanding of scripture is that it’s full of good news and it’s full of good advice. And the good news is – the most important part in that good news is that Jesus came for all of us, that he is someone who wants a relationship with everyone. And there is no one excluded from that.

So I know there are a lot of people that explain theology and gay theology so much better than I do. What I found as a Christian and a pastor and as a person that this impacts directly – I don’t have to be concerned about what those passages actually mean because I think when it comes down to it, it is irrelevant. The arguing over that is irrelevant. He didn’t die so we can point our finger at people and say you’re better than or you’re less than or you’re good or you’re evil.

Blade: In a commentary published last October in the Advocate, writer Eliel Cruz said he believes you are sincere about the changes in your beliefs about the “ex-gay” movement. But he criticized you for not being willing so far to identify as gay or bisexual. What are your thoughts on that?

Chambers: Well Eliel is my friend and we’ve had these conversations. And he’s not the only one that feels that way. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time focused on a label. I was a part of a movement that labeled itself as ex-gay, which was frankly a label that I always hated. And that was a part of what we were involved in and entrenched in for so long. And I realized a number of years ago before we closed Exodus that straight wasn’t a label that I wanted to place on myself. But gay wasn’t either. It doesn’t mean that gay isn’t a part of my identity or that I mind people using that as a label to describe me because in some regards it absolutely does. But as someone who is married happily for nearly 20 years to a woman, not because I had to be or because I needed to be but because I wanted to be. I choose really to stay away from labels that pigeonhole me into one identity that makes one group feel better or another feel worse.

I just feel like I’m more than those things and for me, if I’m going to identity myself or label myself it’s going to be as the thing that I am. I’m a husband. I’m a father…a Christian. All of those things are far more descriptive and accurate. If I were going to pull an orientation label there is certainly truth to the gay orientation. But also as a married man for almost 20 years, my orientation is my wife. And but if I was gay or straight predominantly my orientation should be to the person I’m married to. And so when I think about it in those terms I feel like that is something that is fair to me and fair to my family to label myself in those ways.

But I certainly understand when somebody uses the gay label to describe me. And I wouldn’t argue with them. There is truth there. But as a person I prefer to live beyond sexual labels or the social labels, even though I appreciate them and understand when people use them for themselves and even for me.

Blade: Former President Jimmy Carter created a stir in 1976 when he was a presidential candidate and said in an interview that he had sinned many times because he had attractions to other women as a married man, even though he overcome those temptations and was faithful to his wife. Could that be a situation that you’re in since some have labeled you bisexual?

Chambers: Well I am married and I believe attraction in and of itself is not a sin. So for me to say I find another human being attractive I don’t think is to say that I am committing a sin. I think attraction in and of itself is value neutral. What I do with those attractions, whether it’s a gay attraction or a straight attraction or whatever – whether it’s to a person or an attraction to money that we need to something that I shouldn’t do – those are areas where I don’t yield.

When it comes to being married I feel like my priority is to my wife. And so I do have attractions. I do have temptations – all of those types of things. But I would no matter what. So my desire as a husband is to be faithful. So I exercise a great deal of restraint as any husband would or any wife would who’s committed to their partner. And so it’s not a gay or a straight issue or one is more sinful than another…My desire is to be faithful to my wife.

Blade: Do you have a position on laws that have been proposed and passed in a number of states to prohibit so-called conversion therapy for minors under the age of 18?

Chambers:  Yeah absolutely I do. I wrote an article for Religion News Service in April 2015, the day President Obama stated his opposition to conversion therapy and made a call for a ban on that for minors. And I agreed with him. And I just did an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center. They released a report on their opposition to conversion therapy and I worked with them and will continue to work with them and others to see that conversion therapy for minors is banned. I’m opposed to that. I think it is dangerous. I think it promotes shame and it shouldn’t be something that minors are forced to be a part of.

Blade: Would you have any advice for an adult who may be considering undergoing conversion therapy to change their sexual orientation?

Chambers: Yeah – my advice to people who are seeking out reparative therapy, which is the traditional name for it, is that you cannot change your sexual orientation. If someone is interested in a celibacy option whether they are gay or straight and they are married and there is a faith or moral conviction about sex outside of marriage that’s very different than seeking out reparative therapy, which I believe produces shame. Orientation cannot be changed. I spent over 20 years in the movement that promoted it, and it doesn’t work. It’s not possible.

But if someone has a moral or a faith conviction about sex outside of marriage then they should be allowed to seek help with someone who will help them achieve that goal. But that’s not reparative therapy. Reparative therapy is something that produce shame and tells you, you are less than and you can change your orientation, which is not possible.

Blade: Can you tell a little about what your message will be when you speak at the National Cathedral on Sunday?

Chambers: Well I’ll be preaching from a text and beyond that I’ll share some of my personal journey and also talk a lot about the example I believe that comes from God and the life of Jesus related to inclusion, related to grace and love and those being our highest priorities – and the hope that people who have been marginalized or hurt by the church or heard a different message from the church will realize their great worth that Christians very often fall short of speaking for God when they talk about sex and sexuality. And we need to do better.

Blade: With marriage equality now the law of the land, LGBT rights advocates say one of the most important remaining tasks for the LGBT rights movement is persuading Congress to pass a federal LGBT civil rights law. Is that something that you can support?

Chambers: Yeah. I try to stay out of politics in general, but I am supportive of legislation that protects individuals and people – groups of people who have been marginalized. And the LGBT community is certainly one of those for sure.

Blade: Can you tell a little about what you are doing now? You’re based in Orlando, Fla. Are you working for another organization?

Chambers: No, we haven’t been working for another organization. My wife is a teacher. And I speak and we both write. And we go where people ask us to go. Most often times that’s for free. And we have just tried very hard not to jump into full-time organization work or a cause but really taken the time to listen to people and spend time with people that wasn’t based around an organization we were trying to promote or raise money for.

And so we’re in the process of trying to move back toward a ministry of some sort. We’ve talked about starting some sort of a church or ministry where we can continue to speak and write just on a different level than we did before. But that’s what we’ve been doing. I freelance and have done some consulting and things like that in the interim. But we’re ready to jump back in full-time and pursue what we believe is our call.

Blade: What religious denomination did you grow up in?

Chambers: I was a Southern Baptist. We’re non-denominational at this point. You can go to Alan Chambers.org. I think there’s a bio there that you could see. We’ve not written a ton in the last couple of years, but there are some things there that we have.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. uhhuhh

    June 9, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Go to he||, Chambers.

  2. lnm3921

    June 10, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Confused child should be taking a temper tantrum over this. He was ranting on about ex-gays pushing his anti-gay agenda. The only evil is opposing the gay movement for equality under the law and freedom.

    But hey, you only remind us why the struggle still matters and why activism is never-ending!

    It’s gay pride weekend in DC and gay pride month in America! Rejoice!

  3. Jerry Reiter

    July 2, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Where ex-gay claims stand now:
    1). Every major, decades-old ex-gay ministry from the US to Australia faded into history following the national and international leaders admission nobody experienced a change of orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (after 40 years of ‘change’ claims).
    2). Gay conversion therapy was proven to be consumer fraud in a state court after every medical expert testified gay conversion therapy cured nobody and harmed many. The supreme court affirmed the decision.
    3). The World Psychiatric Association joined with every national medical association in calling for an end to gay conversion therapy (also known as reparative therapy, a made-up name for quack therapy not representing any medical or scientific basis).

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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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