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EXCLUSIVE: Blade’s Q&A with Hillary Clinton

‘I want LGBT people to know that I will always have your back’

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National Gay Media Association, Hillary Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Hillary Clinton laid out her vision for a ‘hopeful, inclusive America’ in a Washington Blade interview. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade, Hillary Clinton pledged to build a “hopeful, inclusive America where everyone counts” as she continues to draw a contrast between herself and Donald Trump over their views on LGBT issues.

The Democratic presidential hopeful answered 13 questions on issues important to the LGBT community in a written interview with the Blade completed Wednesday with less than one week remaining before Election Day.

“We have so much more work to do, and I want LGBT people in every corner of this country to know that as president, I will always have your back,” Clinton said.

In the interview, Clinton recommitted herself to pushing comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act and to work to ensure the prohibition on gender discrimination under current law applies to LGBT people.

“As president, I’ll make fighting discrimination against the LGBT community a top priority – including by working with Congress to pass the Equality Act,” Clinton said. “And we won’t stop there. We’ll also take on harassment, bullying, and violence – and youth homelessness, which disproportionately hurts LGBT kids.”

For the first time, Clinton explicitly vowed to veto the First Amendment Defense Act, a federal “religious freedom” bill that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

In response to Trump’s criticism over the Clinton Foundation accepting millions of dollars from countries with anti-LGBT laws, Clinton laid out the charity’s work combatting the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and pointed out Trump has had business dealings with these same countries “for the sole purpose of padding his own pockets.”

Clinton also identified as a personal role model Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the lawsuit that led the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“Edie is a truly remarkable woman: smart, feisty, and very brave,” Clinton said. “She came of age at a time when many LGBT people felt they couldn’t live openly – but she had the courage to stand up for her marriage in such a bold, public way and the faith to believe that justice would ultimately prevail.”

The Washington Blade agreed to conduct the written interview with Clinton and submitted similar questions to Trump’s campaign. Although the Trump campaign said it would answer the questions, the Blade as of this posting has yet to receive responses from the Republican candidate.

Washington Blade: Where would passage of the Equality Act fit among your legislative priorities as president?

Hillary Clinton: As you know, there are still places in America where LGBT people can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday, just because of who they are or who they love.  That’s wrong, and it goes against everything we stand for as a country.

As President, I’ll make fighting discrimination against the LGBT community a top priority – including by working with Congress to pass the Equality Act. And we won’t stop there. We’ll also take on harassment, bullying, and violence – and youth homelessness, which disproportionately hurts LGBT kids. We’ll end the harmful practice of so-called “conversion” therapy for minors, because LGBT kids don’t need to be “cured” of anything. And we’ll bring people together to reform our gun laws and keep guns from falling into the wrong hands, so that what happened at Pulse never happens again. All of these things are part of my vision for a hopeful, inclusive America where everyone counts, and everyone has a place.

Blade: If the next Congress isn’t amenable to LGBT rights, in what areas would you expand President Obama’s executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors?

Clinton: For starters, I’m going to keep working as hard as I can between now and Election Day to elect champions of LGBT rights up and down the ballot. I want us to have plenty of people in Congress who are committed to equality and dignity for all Americans.

But this is a really important question, and a reminder that LGBT rights are absolutely on the ballot in this election. Our next president can either defend President Obama’s executive actions, or repeal them. Donald Trump has promised to repeal them. If I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, I’ll protect them, and I’ll build on them. We’ll make sure we’re enforcing the President’s executive actions in a real and meaningful way. And we’ll support the efforts that are already underway in the courts and across the federal government to clarify that protecting people from “sex discrimination” means protecting them from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, too.

Blade: The Clinton Foundation has faced criticism for accepting millions of dollars from countries with laws that punish homosexual acts with death, including between $10-$25 million from Saudi Arabia. The foundation has done much good work, but do the ends justify the means?

Clinton: I am so proud of the work the Clinton Foundation has done on behalf of vulnerable people all across the world – especially the work to combat HIV and AIDS, an epidemic that disproportionately impacts LGBT communities around the globe. Due to the work of the Clinton Foundation, 11.5 million people in the developing world have access to HIV medication at 90 percent lower cost. That’s more than half of all adults and ¾ of all children receiving treatment today.

I’ve always believed that we shouldn’t shy away from confronting human rights abuses around the world – against LGBT people or anyone else. That’s why, as Secretary of State, I actively stood up to these countries and have advocated for the rights of many, including declaring that “gay rights are human rights,” and made advancing the rights of LGBT people around the world a cornerstone of our foreign policy, including advocating for the first ever United Nations resolution on LGBT rights. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has conducted business deals worth millions of dollars in or with some of these countries and has done it for the sole purpose of padding his own pockets.

Here’s the bottom line: As your president, I will continue to fight for LGBT rights here in the United States and around the globe.

Blade: In 2013, you forcefully came out in favor of marriage equality, but others, including President Obama and Republican Sen. Rob Portman, preceded you. Why didn’t you echo President Obama and endorse marriage equality as secretary of state and do you regret not coming out for it sooner?

Clinton: Like a lot of Americans, my views on this have changed for the better. And that happened because people I cared about had the grace and patience to help me understand two key things. First, everyone in this country must have the right to marry whoever they love just like everyone else. This was about being recognized as full and equal citizens and protecting families from very real discrimination. I’ve always believed marriage is a great blessing, so why deny that joy to anyone? And second, marriage equality makes us fairer, more respectful and a better country. It is the affirmation of our basic civil rights.

Blade: Based on donations to the Clinton Foundation, Donald Trump has famously said “ask the gays” who has the better record between you and him on LGBT rights. Who has the better record and what is the biggest risk to the LGBT community of a Trump presidency?

Clinton: I’ll gladly put my record on LGBT rights next to Trump’s for the voters to decide any day!

Let’s start with Donald Trump. He’ll appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn marriage equality, and said he’ll repeal President Obama’s executive actions to protect LGBT people from discrimination. And in case there’s any doubt about the kind of president he would be, look who he chose for his running mate: Governor Mike Pence, who signed a law that allowed Indiana businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT customers. We also know that Donald Trump has a long track record of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in his businesses, including reportedly against LGBT employees.

LGBT equality is an issue that’s so close to my heart. As First Lady, I fought to expand funding for HIV and AIDS research – and became the first First Lady to march in a Pride parade. As Senator from New York, I championed legislation to address hate crimes, fought for federal non-discrimination legislation to protect LGBT Americans in the workplace, and pushed for an end to discriminatory and harmful laws that blocked LGBT Americans from adopting children. As Secretary of State, I led the effort to pass the first-ever U.N. Resolution on LGBT Human Rights, launched the Global Equality Fund, ended State Department regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families equal rights, helped implement LGBT-friendly workplace policies, and updated the State Department’s policy so that transgender individuals’ passports reflect their true gender.

We have so much more work to do, and I want LGBT people in every corner of this country to know that as president, I will always have your back.

But first, we have to win this election!

Blade: Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, “religious freedom” legislation that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination, if Congress approves it. Would you veto such legislation if passed while you’re president and what is your plan to fight the growing movement of religious freedom bills across the U.S.?

Clinton: I would absolutely veto that legislation, which is part of a concerted effort to discriminate against LGBT people under the guise of protecting religious freedom. I firmly believe that we can promote equal rights and dignity for all Americans and protect religious liberty at the same time. That’s not what the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” does. It’s insincere and insidious, and we can’t let it become law.

As president, I will protect religious liberty and fight to make sure all Americans can live their lives free from discrimination. We can do both. The Equality Act, for example, advances LGBT equality while maintaining the religious exemptions that have been part of our civil rights laws for decades.

Blade: You have set out a vision to achieve an “AIDS-free generation.” How will your policies help get the country to an AIDS-free generation, and one with treatment for all who have HIV?

Clinton: As Secretary of State, I said that an AIDS-free generation was within our reach, and I will keep fighting for that future as president.

Since our fight first began, infection rates have fallen in many places, more people with HIV are getting life-saving treatment, and more babies born to HIV-positive mothers are getting the treatment they need to avoid infection. But HIV and AIDS are still with us. More than 1.2 million people live with HIV in the United States, and globally, HIV afflicts a total of 37 million people. So we’ve made a lot of progress toward this goal – but we still have our work cut out for us.

I believe that now is the time to rededicate ourselves to achieving the AIDS-free generation that is within our grasp. That’s why as president I will convene an “End the Epidemic” working group to end AIDS as an epidemic in the United States and globally. Here at home, we’ll expand the availability of HIV prevention medications like PrEP, take on disparities and barriers to accessing care, cap out-of-pocket drug costs, and launch a campaign to end stigma and discrimination. Around the world, we’ll dramatically increase the number of people on HIV treatment through programs like PEPFAR, increase our investment in HIV and AIDS research, and engage in public education campaigns in key countries where stigma and discrimination are rampant.

Blade: You have been a devout Methodist throughout your life and cited that as inspiration for seeking to help others, but the Methodist Church won’t officiate or recognize same-sex marriages. Should the church embrace same-sex marriage and do you expect that will happen?

Clinton: I’m deeply grateful for my faith, and the church that has nurtured it since I was a young girl.  As I’ve said, I believe we can protect religious liberty while ensuring that all Americans are treated equally under the law.  On a personal level, I am going to keep fighting for equality and encouraging others to embrace the LGBT community because I think it’s the right thing to do.

Blade: You made international LGBT rights a priority as secretary of state. How would you advocate for them as president?

Clinton: LGBT rights are human rights—plain and simple. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity. But hundreds of millions of people live in places where anti-LGBT violence is rampant and where they can be arrested, imprisoned, even executed for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As president, I’ll continue to stand up for LGBT rights around the world, as I did as Secretary of State. We’ll start by stepping up our support for the Global Equality Fund with a $50 million investment over the next decade. This will expand programs that advance LGBT human rights around the world and send a strong message that the United States is an ally to LGBT people everywhere. We’ll also continue to work on public health issues like HIV and AIDS, and take on discriminatory, outdated laws that stigmatize and even criminalize being LGBT. And we’ll partner with governments, multilateral institutions, NGOs, and activists on the ground so that the LGBT community around the world gets the resources and support they need to not just survive but thrive.

Blade: When you were Secretary of State, what are the top items you accomplished on behalf of LGBT people and do you have favorite memories of working with LGBT people in other countries?

Clinton: I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish at the State Department in making the advancement of LGBT equality worldwide part of our foreign policy.

We announced for the first time ever that we would take into consideration how a country treats LGBT people when we delivered foreign aid. We instructed American diplomats to raise concerns about specific cases and laws. We worked with partners to strengthen human-rights protections. I helped lead the effort to pass the first-ever U.N. resolution on LGBT human rights. And we launched the Global Equality Fund to support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world.

Some of my proudest accomplishments were actually here at home, because we know that the U.S. is strongest when we lead by example. We ended State Department policies denying same-sex couples and families equal rights, implemented LGBT-friendly workplace policies, and updated the Department’s policy for transgender persons’ passports to reflect their true gender.

Blade: The rates of violence and murder for transgender women of color remain stubbornly high. What would you do to address this problem?

Clinton: This is a serious and urgent problem. In 2015, 21 transgender people — most of them women of color — were murdered. And that doesn’t even begin to account for the violence that goes unreported or ignored.

We need to stand up for the lives and safety of transgender people, and take on bigotry and discrimination wherever they occur.

That means fighting for strong anti-discrimination laws. It means doing a better job of collecting data on gender identity and sexual orientation, because we can’t solve the problem of discrimination until we understand its full scope. It also means investing in law enforcement training to ensure fair and impartial policing in interactions with the LGBT community.

America saw the effects of hate in Orlando, with the attack on the Pulse nightclub — the deadliest mass shooting by a single person in our history. So we also need to finally pass common-sense reforms to address the gun violence epidemic.

Most of all, it’s far past time we say with one voice that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us, and they deserve to be treated that way.

Blade: You hired a gay man, Robby Mook, to run your campaign. How did you meet him and why did you choose him for the job?

Clinton: Easy: He was the best person for the job, hands down. Robby is brilliant, he’s one of the most incredible organizers I’ve ever met, and he creates a real culture of hard work and inclusion. That’s why just about everybody who works for him winds up working for him again (sometimes again and again and again!).

Blade: In separate interviews with the Washington Blade in 2008, Barack Obama cited as a gay role model his college professor Lawrence Goldyn and John McCain cited 9/11 hero Mark Bingham. Whom would you identify as an LGBT role model?

Clinton: I’m inspired by Edie Windsor, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that paved the way for marriage equality. When Edie’s wife, Thea Spyer, passed away, Edie realized she owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal estate taxes she wouldn’t have had to pay if she had been married to a man. She had to choose whether to live with this injustice, or fight back. She chose to fight back – and as a result, the Court ruled that all legally married LGBT couples must be treated equally under federal law. Edie’s case opened the door for the Supreme Court ruling one year later, which held that marriage equality was the law of the land in all 50 states.

Edie is a truly remarkable woman: smart, feisty, and very brave. She came of age at a time when many LGBT people felt they couldn’t live openly – but she had the courage to stand up for her marriage in such a bold, public way and the faith to believe that justice would ultimately prevail. And even though her own case has been fought and won, she’s still fighting just as fiercely for the rights of all LGBT Americans.

Windy City Times executive editor/publisher Tracy Baim contributed to this report.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Luis Duran

    November 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Notice she didn’t deny taking money from Saudi Arabia. If she is such a champion of human and gay rights, why would she accept money from a state that implements Islamic sharia law which mandates death for homosexuals? If the Clintons really are so pro human/gay rights, they should have the decency to return the money.

    • Alexander Nesbitt

      November 4, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      This would require of you to question the entire modern history of American politics on both sides of the aisle. What kind of black and white world do you think we live in? Hillary Clinton isn’t saintly, and even if she was, saints are a figment of a belief system that not everyone adheres to or agrees with. Yes, she exists within a hypocritical system, but one that she isn’t solely responsible for. Transactional philanthropy can be very complicated, and politics are inevitably a part of how goals are reached. We all need to get a grip and stop seeking to disempower and humiliate those who obviously have accomplished more and contributed more than we have simply because we can. Sometimes we need to focus a little more on the positive, which means adjusting our expectations based upon what’s on offer.

      • Luis Duran

        November 4, 2016 at 7:45 pm

        Funny how it goes. Many gays call and have called for boycotts on beer, tobacco,
        orange juice, tea, department stores, restaurants, etc. because someone may have said something disrespectful or offended them. But most enthusiastically support (“adjust their expectations”) for a slick-talking criminal family who accepts huge sums of money from an entity that calls for their death.
        .

        • Alexander Nesbitt

          November 4, 2016 at 7:52 pm

          I understand your point, but I am not one of those people you describe. I also believe that if politicians were to stick purely to principle, everyone would be an enemy and nothing would ever be done, and therefore nothing would ever evolve for the better. This is like those who argue that Madonna shouldn’t help Malawi in any way due to its stance on a multitude of issues that are not intrinsically American. The fact of the matter is that these people may be flawed, but they are doing a lot more to effect change than those of us criticizing them online.

          • Mark Hatchett

            November 4, 2016 at 8:17 pm

            No one is buying what you’re selling. No one. Are you on the Clinton payroll or just a silly volunteer?

          • Don Davenport

            November 6, 2016 at 7:58 am

            The scary thing is millions are buying it along with the miracle snake oil peddled by Clinton crime syndicate.

      • Mark Hatchett

        November 4, 2016 at 8:16 pm

        Who are you kidding? “Transactional philanthropy” is what you call becoming fabulously wealthy running a charity. Having been on a government payroll virtually their entire adult lives the Clintons have managed to amass multi million dollar personal fortunes and it didn’t come from saving their pennies.

        • Alexander Nesbitt

          November 4, 2016 at 8:17 pm

          I get it. You don’t like the Clintons.

          • Mark Hatchett

            November 4, 2016 at 11:03 pm

            No you don’t get it. What is it about a lying, corrupt, screeching harridan of a woman that turns you on and makes you think she won’t sell gay folks to the highest bidder in the Middle East?

  2. roccolore

    November 7, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    The same Democrats who attack North Carolina have no problem with the Muslim countries where homosexuality is a death sentence.

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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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