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Valerie Jarrett: ‘Be brave, be vigilant, continue to speak out’

Top Obama adviser on eight years of LGBT progress and what’s next

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Valerie Jarrett, Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade
National Champagne Brunch, gay news, Washington Blade

Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett gives the keynote address at the 2016 Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Obama administration is coming to an end after eight years of historic gains for LGBT rights, including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, an executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination in the workforce and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage — just to name a few highlights.

Overseeing those achievements from the very beginning of the Obama administration to the upcoming end on Jan. 20 — and in many cases coordinating the behind-the-scenes efforts for those initiatives — was Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett. As head of the White House Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs, Jarrett was responsible for leading the efforts to advance LGBT equality within the Obama administration.

Reflecting on that progress under President Obama during an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade in the West Wing of the White House, Jarrett said LGBT achievements will “quite prominently” figure into Obama’s legacy after he leaves office.

“One of my favorite quotes is Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote where he says the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” Jarrett said. “And I think that a lot of hard work happened to promote LGBTQ equality before the president took office, but under his watch, it felt like a thunderbolt, and for that the president is extraordinarily proud.”

Although there is widespread fear among many LGBT people that President-elect Trump could undo that progress, Jarrett is skeptical that Trump can reverse the changes because “the progress that we’ve made isn’t simply reflected in the laws that have been passed, although they are very important.”

“What we’ve seen is a shift in public perception and feelings and culture,” Jarrett said. “That is not likely to reverse. And fortunately on issues such as marriage equality, the Supreme Court has ruled and that is unlikely to change.”

Jarrett, 60, said she feels “pretty secure” about changes in the law like the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which she said she hasn’t heard anyone question, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, which she said “is the law of the land and that has been fully embraced by the Department of Defense.”

But as Republicans gear up to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Jarrett said she has “reason to worry” that protections under the law afforded to LGBT people and others will be undone. Jarrett acknowledged the law’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex, which the Obama administration applied to LGBT people, is one such protection, but said the benefits go beyond that.

“I also think that there are many people in the LGBTQ community who didn’t have health insurance and under the Affordable Care Act, they are among the 20 million-plus who now do,” Jarrett said. “As we have been encouraging enrollment, we have, among other groups, have really reached out to the LGBT community to ensure that they are aware of the benefits that come from health insurance and have been encouraging them to sign up during this last enrollment period during the president’s time in office.”

As those enrollment numbers continue to grow, Jarrett said she’s hopeful “that creates additional disincentive to take important benefits from the American people.”

Jarrett said the Trump transition team hasn’t given her any indication about how the upcoming administration might handle LGBT rights. Jarrett declined to comment on whether the Trump team’s lack of discussion of LGBT issues is a good sign.

LGBT advocates have lauded Jarrett and say she was instrumental in coordinating LGBT achievements under eight years of the Obama administration.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, was among those who praised Jarrett.

“Valerie Jarrett’s leadership inside and outside of the White House has been central to advancing our progress under the most pro-equality administration in history,” Griffin said. “She has always been willing to work with us and to fight for us. We could not have had better partners in the West Wing than Valerie and President Obama.”

‘America is at its best when all Americans are treated equally’

Did Obama always believe LGBT rights was a priority for his administration, or did his level of commitment increase over time? After all, Obama didn’t publicly support marriage equality until 2012. Jarrett insisted Obama was committed to advancing LGBT rights from his presidential campaign throughout his White House tenure.

“I think the president came into office with the basic belief that America is at its best when all Americans are treated equally,” Jarrett said. “That includes treating Americans equally no matter who they are and who they love, what their gender identity might be. And we have worked over the course of the last eight years on a whole range of fronts to try to ensure that equality.”

On “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Jarrett said Obama made a 2008 campaign promise to repeal the law and it was “very important to him to honor that campaign commitment.” For Obama, Jarrett said members of the armed forces who are LGBT and “prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country deserve to be able to be honest and open about who they are and who they love, so that was very important to him.”

Recalling Obama signing the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, Jarrett said the president “cared deeply about” a federal hate crimes law and recalled time spent with Judy Shepard, the mother of gay college student Matthew Shepard who was murdered near Laramie, Wyo., because of his sexual orientation.

When former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declared in 2011 the Obama administration would no longer defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in court, Jarrett said Obama “fully supported the Justice Department’s decision,” and when the U.S. Supreme Court decision against the law came down in 2013, ordered a review to ensure spousal benefits would flow to married same-sex couples to the greatest extent possible under the law.

“It was something the president directed from the top on down to make sure we did that as throughly and as completely as possible,” Jarrett added. “It was very important to him.”

But Jarrett acknowledged that LGBT advocates in some cases took the lead in coming to the administration with ideas, such as seeking guidance ensuring transgender students have restroom access consistent with their gender identity.

“That was an issue that advocates brought to us, and when they did, it seemed obvious it seemed something we should do,” Jarrett said. “And I would say we — through our Office of Public Engagement — have had extensive outreach and engagement for the LGBTQ community with the intent of making sure that our priorities reflected their priorities. And as you look back over the last eight years and the progress we’ve made, I think that there is unification of interest there.”

One issue that LGBT advocates criticized the administration for not tackling sooner was the executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. Obama signed the order during his second term in 2014, but that was after years of activism from the LGBT community.

Jarrett attributed the delay in the executive order to the weak economy during Obama’s first term after the 2008 financial crisis, saying the administration during the first term was “reluctant at that point to add additional requirements of any kind, frankly, and we were just at that point, our priority was getting the economy back on track.”

“After the president took office and the economy was in such disarray, in such weak condition — we were cautious about the president signing any executive orders affecting the business community early on, but as the economy began to become more robust, the president looked at both discrimination against the LGBT community, ensuring that contractors were paying equally,” Jarrett said.

Jarrett also said the administration needed to have a groundwork in place before the executive order was handed down, which consisted of surveying the business community as well as collaborating with LGBT advocates and faith organizations about what form the directive would take.

Asked about criticism during the early days of the Obama administration that advances on LGBT rights generally weren’t happening quickly enough, Jarrett said leg work was needed for actions across the board, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“While we were working on the economy, Brian Bond, who worked here, for example, did extensive outreach to the community,” Jarrett said. “The president engaged the military and did a survey of its members, working on exactly the parameters of how exactly repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would work. So, a lot of the work required spade work that laid the foundation for the progress we made.”

Some of this early discontent came in the form of the LGBT march on Washington, activism by GetEQUAL and Dan Choi chaining himself to the White House fence in protest over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Jarrett said “it’s always healthy to have the public engaged” when asked if those demonstrations against Obama were effective or whether changes those activists were seeking would have happened anyway.

“They should always advocate for their interests,” Jarrett said. “And it’s our responsibility to listen to all those voices and then do what we think reflects the values of our country, and that’s why I’m so proud of the president’s track record because, in the area of civil rights of the LGBT community, it’s a good example of where advocates pushed hard up on an open door. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t push. They should always push. But our door was open.”

Valerie Jarrett, Freedom to Marry, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Obergefell v. Hodges

White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke at a Freedom to Marry reception at the law offices of Holland & Knight on April 27, 2015. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The most memorable day at the White House, Jarrett said, was June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples nationwide. Jarrett said she was the one who informed Obama about the ruling that morning as he was completing his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pickney, who was among the victims of the mass shooting at a Charleston church.

“We spent the morning traveling to Charleston for the funeral for Rev. Pickney and the other eight who were killed that day,” Jarrett said. “And it was a strange juxtaposition of emotion where we were so elated that the Supreme Court ruled the way that it did. We weren’t even expecting the decision that day. We thought it would be the following week, so it was a gift coming early.”

Jarrett recalled the White House, under the coordination of strategic communications adviser Jeff Tiller, was lit the evening of the decision in rainbow colors to express solidarity with LGBT people. That night, Jarrett said she spent two to three hours on the North Portico as the lights went up along with White House staff “who stayed watching the sun go down and the colors of the White House popping into a more brilliant color.”

“That photograph, which Jeff recognized at the time, would be one that helped define the president’s legacy and would be iconic around the world and, in fact, it turned out to be just that,” Jarrett said.

The worst day? Jarrett contrasted the time after the ruling for marriage equality to the weekend in 2012 after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I still remember being in the Oval Office when the president heard the number of children that were killed and I could not process the number 20, and then when I found out how old they were, it was just unimaginable,” Jarrett said. “And then two days later I travelled with the president to Newtown, where he greeted the individual family members and first responders and spoke at the memorial service. And it was absolutely the worst day since I’ve been here.”

One item left undone for LGBT rights that Jarrett said she wished the Obama administration could have achieved is ensuring the U.S. Justice Department’s assertions about transgender rights remain intact.

Jarrett said the administration is “disappointed” by Judge Reed O’Connor’s nationwide injunctions this year against the Obama administration’s guidance assuring transgender students have access to school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and the Department of Health & Human Services rule prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in health care.

“Having welcomed many transgender children here at the White House and seen how unnecessarily hard we make their lives — when I say ‘we,’ I don’t mean we at the White House, just to be clear, we the greater society — I think we have to do everything we can to make sure that every child has a chance to grow and achieve their dreams without discrimination or stigma and to be who they are,” Jarrett said. “And I think that although we have made progress in that area, we’re not as far along as a society as I wish we were.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said even with those setbacks, Jarrett and the Obama administration have been great allies and accomplished a lot for transpeople people.

“The most helpful thing in advancing trans rights in the Obama administration was that the president himself was deeply committed to doing the right thing, and his senior people, including Valerie Jarrett, were tremendously forward in moving things along,” Keisling said. “Valerie Jarrett in particular was always supportive, always interested, always available and she always cared. She is somebody who cares about people and wants to do good policy, and it showed for eight years.”

Another piece of unfinished business is affirming the legal theory that federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, also bar sexual orientation discrimination. Although the U.S. Justice Department has asserted those laws apply to transgender people, it has not asserted that for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

With court cases asserting sexual orientation discrimination is illegal under current law proceeding through the judiciary, Jarrett said “when things go through litigation, we leave it to the Justice Department.”

“But I will say obviously the president believes that we should not discriminate. Period,” Jarrett said. “Our society is better when we’re inclusive and we recognize that we should be treating everybody equally.”

Asked why the Justice Department hasn’t made the formal assertion that anti-gay discrimination is prohibited under laws barring sex discrimination, Jarrett said, “You’ll have to put that question to the Justice Department. I can’t speak for them.” For years, the Justice Department has had no comment in response to the Washington Blade’s requests to comment on whether the sex provision in Title VII bars anti-gay bias.

‘You have to be vigilant’

After leaving the White House, Jarrett said her first priority is “going to sleep,” then figuring out plans for the future. Whatever the next days hold, Jarrett said she’ll “always speak out about the importance of equality.”

“As the president has said quite often lately, he now will assume the most important office of all — and that’s the office of citizen,” Jarrett said. “And it’s one that I now have, and so for the rest of my life, I think part of our responsibility as citizens is to fight for everyone to be treated the same.”

As for whether Obama will continue to be an LGBT advocate after leaving office, Jarrett said the LGBT community hasn’t seen the last of him.

“Not only will he advocate for equality, but he will encourage other Americans to get involved and join that important effort because our society is only as good as we make it,” she said.

What is the Obama administration’s message to members of the LGBT community who fear a Trump presidency? For Jarrett, the plan is simple: “Be brave, be vigilant and continue to speak out.”

Jarrett drew on Obama’s 2012 endorsement of marriage equality in an interview with Robin Roberts after years of evolution as an example of why personal stories can be effective.

“The president when he talked to Robin Roberts about his evolution on marriage equality told a story about his daughters who have friends whose parents are gay and his daughters couldn’t see any difference in why their friends’ parents would be treated any differently than their own parents, and he didn’t have an answer to that,” Jarrett said. “And so, the answer is, there should be no difference.”

With an uncertain time ahead, Jarrett said those are exactly the kinds of stories that can be effective because “if we continue to tell those stories, it helps people put themselves in the shoes of someone else.”

“And it is through that exercise that I think we make our best progress because it’s a change in society, not just simply a change in laws,” Jarrett concluded. “And when society is moving in a direction with momentum, it’s very hard to turn it back, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant. You have to be vigilant.”

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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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