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DNC chair hopeful wants to lead party to victory in heartland

South Bend’s gay mayor assails Trump, Pence

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Pete Buttigieg, gay news, Washington Blade

Pete Buttigieg could be the first openly gay DNC chair. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The mayor of a small city in Indiana has emerged from the pack of candidates seeking to become Democratic National Committee chair with a promise to make the party viable in America’s heartland, following the party’s 2016 election losses.

Pete Buttigieg, the 35-year-old, two-term gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., said in a sit-down interview with the Washington Blade that his experience as a local official from the Midwest is what’s needed to lead Democrats to victory.

“For a party that really needs to reconnect across our 50-plus states and territories, I think I’m in a better position than most to deliver on that based on my experience, based on my bread and butter, which is local government and political organizing,” Buttigieg said.

Along with New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, Buttigieg is one of two candidates in the mix who could become the first openly gay DNC chair. Buttigieg, however, downplayed that potential distinction.

“I want to be, of course, a chair for everybody,” Buttigieg said. “I think that we’re a party that has stood up for fairness, has stood up for freedom and I think the LGBT community has seen a lot of the most urgent issues around that in the last few years.”

Representing Millennials in the race for DNC chair, Buttigieg was once a dark horse candidate, but has quickly risen to prominence and won a significant boost after a recent endorsement from former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Among his credentials are an education at Harvard University, studying at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and service in the Afghanistan in the Navy Reserve. Buttigieg came out as gay in 2015 in an essay published in the South Bend Tribune days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality nationwide.

Buttigieg was serving as mayor during outrage and intense media coverage after then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — now vice president of the United States — signed into law a “religious freedom” bill that enabled anti-LGBT discrimination.

“The thing about Mike Pence is, he’s a super-nice guy, who just genuinely believes this stuff,” Buttigieg said. “He operates from a different reality than the rest of us operate from. He’s written that cigarettes don’t kill, he thinks climate change is made up. He must assume that people get up in the morning one day and decide to be gay.”

Although the White House has said President Trump is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights,” Buttigieg said LGBT people need only look at the president’s immigration policies to know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“No one who specializes in harming vulnerable groups can be regarded as a friend to the LGBT community even if we’re not the group he’s harming at the moment,” Buttigieg said. “And I would also say I do not believe that he cares about the LGBT community because I do not believe that he cares about anything at all.”

Chris Hillmann, chair of the New Jersey LGBT Democratic Caucus, is among Buttigieg’s supporters and said being a Democratic mayor from a “red” state makes him “a great choice to lead our party.”

“He is someone from outside Washington with a different set of ideas and connections to real people and knows what they need to hear from Democratic candidates,” Hillmann said. “His being a gay soldier who speaks seven languages and won re-election with 80 percent of the vote just makes his all around package even more impressive. As we get closer to the vote in Atlanta I think more people will see that we don’t need a rerun of the Hillary versus Bernie campaign. We need a fresh start from the next generation of political leaders and it’s time for the DNC to embrace the future.”

The crowed field to become the next DNC chair includes Buckley, former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The election for chair will take place at the DNC’s winter meeting in Atlanta, scheduled for Feb. 23-26.

The Washington Blade’s full interview with Pete Buttigieg follows:

Washington Blade: Let’s talk about the DNC race. What do you think you have to offer the DNC that other candidates aren’t offering?

Pete Buttigieg: I think I’m in the best position to deliver the changes that everybody wants to see. Everybody’s talking about a fresh start. Why not put in a fresh, new leader? We’re all talking about competing in “red” and “purple” states. I’ve been winning elections in Indiana. We’re all talking about empowering a new generation. I’m a Millennial candidate. We’re all talking about the solutions that are not going to come from Washington. I’m a local official who doesn’t get up in the morning and go to an office in Washington.

For a party that really needs to reconnect across our 50-plus states and territories, I think I’m in a better position than most to deliver on that based on my experience, based on my bread and butter, which is local government and political organizing.

Blade: You were just endorsed by Martin O’Malley. To what extent do you think that has boosted your standing in your bid to become DNC chair?

Buttigieg: I think endorsements are certainly helpful, whether it’s a former DNC chair like Steve Grossman, a successful governor like Martin O’Malley, especially since we’re headed to his city [of Baltimore for a forum], an organization like Vote Vets, which endorsed us yesterday. The coming tide of endorsements is helpful.

The most important thing, of course, is the 447 people who vote, and we’re working very hard to connect with all of them and to continue remaining in touch with voters — most of whom, we’ve found, are not making up their mind until very late in the game, which helps us.

Blade: Do you have any committed support from DNC members?

Buttigieg: Sure. When we’re ready to put out a hard count to media, you’ll know it. What I’ll say is, yeah, we’re pleased with the support that we’ve got and at the same time we’re talking to a lot of folks who are keeping their powder dry.

Blade: If elected, you’d be the first openly gay person to chair the Democratic National Committee. What would be the significance of that?

Buttigieg: I want to be, of course, a chair for everybody. I think that we’re a party that has stood up for fairness, has stood up for freedom and I think the LGBT community has seen a lot of the most urgent issues around that in the last few years. And it’s a moment where everybody in America — whether it’s DREAMers, or LGBT Americans or blue-collar workers in the industrial Midwest — wants to know where they belong in the American future, and I think I have a chance to send a pretty strong message about why everybody can belong in the America that we want to build.

Blade: There’s been a lot of discussion about why Hillary Clinton lost the election. Why do you think that was the case?

Buttigieg: When the margin’s this close, people have offered a thousand reasons and they’re all right. But a couple of patterns that I noticed in our part of the country: One is that we spend a lot of time talking about the politicians themselves, there was a lot of talk about Hillary, “I’m with her.” And then increasingly the theme of the campaign became, “We’re against him.” That left a lot of people at home saying, “OK, but who’s talking about me?”

We’re talking about the candidates themselves as if they were what mattered most, missing the chance to talk to the voters about how their lives were going to be impacted by the decisions made in Washington.

I also think there were a lot of areas where we didn’t show up the way we could have. Even in rural counties, even in rural counties we’re not going to win, you still got to show up because losing by 60-40 versus 80-20 adds up when it comes to statewide counts in the Electoral College, and I think we need to make sure that our message does a better job of balancing the values that make us Democrats with on-the-ground outcomes and how all of this hashes out in people’s everyday real lives.

Blade: I noticed you didn’t mention either the Comey letter or Russian involvement in your response there. Do you think those were not factors?

Buttigieg: I think they were factors, but knowing the majority that Democratic values command among the American people, an election should never be that close to begin with.

Blade: What is your plan for LGBT issues at the DNC?

Buttigieg: I think the LGBT community can’t be taken for granted by the DNC, especially given the level of “pinkwashing” of the Trump campaign that we saw. And even though the latest worrisome rumors of some kind of executive action so far haven’t led to anything, we have to recognize that this is a president who specializes in targeting vulnerable people and communities for abuse, and therefore, no matter who he’s abusing at the moment, he cannot be a friend of the LGBT community, and a vice president who has one of the most spectacular anti-LGBT records of any living American politician.

Blade: But is there anything in terms of goals for the structure of the DNC?

Buttigieg: Obviously, we got to make sure the council is strong. We got to make sure that we have good representation among our staff, our vendors, our delegates. I think all of us are going to say basically the same thing about that. That’s a commitment that we make to the LGBT community and to every community, every community of interest that makes a part of the Democratic coalition.

At the same time, I don’t want people in the LGBT community or any other part of the Democratic coalition to feel like we’re going to talk to the community one at a time, or that we’re trying to buy people off. We want people to be Democrats because they believe in Democratic values and support Democratic candidates because it’s the right thing to do, and living our values in terms of the makeup of our delegates and our staff, that’s something we do because it’s the right thing to do, not in order to impress people.

Blade: Can you elaborate a little more on how the Democratic Party could win in places like Indiana? Barack Obama won in 2008, but that was an aberration.

Buttigieg: Yeah, but we also have a Democratic U.S. senator. Up until 2010, five of our nine members of Congress were Democrats. Then redistricting happened and a few other things happened.

You can see how the “50-State Strategy” really benefited a state like mine if you look at where we stood in let’s say 2008 or 2010. And so, part of it is we’ve got to make sure we’re investing in every part of the country. We also got to make sure our message is explained in terms it cases out for real people, so when we talk about something like ACA [repeal], we talk about the stories of the human beings who are going to be affected by it. I think people in my own immediate and extended family would be affected by having the rug pulled out from under us with something ACA [repeal]. We can’t just be talking in terms of statistics.

Communities, working-class communities, rural communities actually have the most to lose from bad policy. We’ve got to make sure we talk about policy, not on their own terms and certainly not in terms of the game in Washington, but in terms of what’ll it actually do to and for people in their everyday lives.

Blade: How would you evaluate being gay in a state that has never had statewide LGBT non-discrimination protections and very recently Mike Pence as governor? It certainly must be different than being gay in a place like Washington, D.C.

Buttigieg: Yeah, just a little. When I came out, we didn’t really know what impact that was going to have, but it obviously wasn’t a problem for the re-elect. We got 80 percent for the re-elect. There was some ugliness online, that sort of thing. But for the most part, people just wanted to know that I was going to be a good mayor, and people in the community more broadly, they wanted to know they’re going to be OK.

I did have a lot of people — especially younger people, students — who maybe didn’t know that their community had a place for them who’ve come forward or come out or come to the LGBT center, and that’s a really compelling thing to see. But I had people who reached out from other parts of my life, people in the military, people I went on missions with and I had no idea they were in the same boat. And of course, living in Mike Pence’s Indiana, it’s probably that much more important for people to know that everybody’s safe.

But we got a long way to go. We had a guy beaten to death because he was gay in South Bend in 2016. And we’re one of the handful of states that doesn’t have hate crimes legislation. We got a very long way to go.

On the other hand, the other thing I noticed after I came out, and something that I think was especially important because during the whole religious freedom fight, I was concerned about people who really want to come to the right side of history, but they just can’t get themselves there yet, making sure we didn’t force them into a corner and push them away, making sure we kind of help them get there.

And so, one thing that’s been amazing to me is people, especially in an older generation who actually in an occasionally awkward way, but a very endearing way, loved the opportunity to show that they’re accepting — women in their 70s who would come meet my partner, and then come to me later and say, “I met your friend. He’s wonderful.”

And people in their own way are trying to get on this road to acceptance. I had — the newspaper delivery guy stopped bringing me my paper after I came out for some weird reason, and my neighbor told me with tears in her eyes — she was about my mom’s age, I imagine they’re pretty conservative, we don’t talk politics much — basically told me about how she let him have it. I started getting my paper again.

Blade: That’s the reason why? You came out and he stopped delivering your paper?

Buttigieg: Apparently. She had a conversation with him. She watches my house very carefully when I’m away, noticed the paper wasn’t arriving and she confronted him. So I guess my point my is, it’s not false that we’re a state that really cares about the idea of welcome, the idea of inclusion, the idea of being nice. It’s been interesting to watch how people to start to watch the relationship between that and acceptance and inclusion for the LGBT community.

Blade: What was the experience like with Gov. Pence from the legislature passing a “religious freedom” law, him signing it, the outrage that followed afterwards and him signing the so-called fix?

Buttigieg: Obviously, I was just experiencing that also just as a mayor in Indiana, right? And in this tricky place of wanting to encourage the efforts to stand up to this kind of thing and on other hand, feeling defensive about your state, too.

So, for example, we had somebody call one of our museums, a great museum donor, saying I still love your museum, but I can’t give to anything in Indiana right now. You had a lot of moments like that. I think that’s why you saw bipartisan resistance. The Republican mayor of Indy was just as furious about this as I was in South Bend. And the revolt of the business Republicans was a big part of what turned the tide.

The thing about Mike Pence is, he’s a super-nice guy, who just genuinely believes this stuff. He operates from a different reality than the rest of us operate from. He’s written that cigarettes don’t kill, he thinks climate change is made up. He must assume that people get up in the morning one day and decide to be gay. And so, as nice as he’ll be to you in person, when it comes to policy, like a moth to a flame, he goes in for these divisive and backward-looking policies and I think is having the same influence in the White House right now that he did as governor.

As governor, I think the people around him tried to talk him out of these blunders, and they happened anyway. Now, I think it’s the reverse, it’s him talking people into things, and I’m very nervous about what that means. I think that for those who know him, the idea of him as sort of mastermind, man-behind-the-curtain kind of thing isn’t very plausible because there was a lot of bumbling in the administration as governor.

But when you have a president who actually has no ideology of his own, and who is very susceptible to the influence of whoever spoke to him last. Having somebody with this extreme mentality in that position of power is a threat not just to the LGBT community, but I think to the community of people who are committed to enlightenment.

Blade: Why did you choose to start your political career in a small town in Indiana. You’re a talented guy, military background, Rhodes scholar, but then you decide you’re going to be mayor of South Bend, Ind. What made you do that as opposed to move to a larger city and start a career in federal office?

Buttigieg: Well, it’s home. I didn’t run for mayor because I was looking for an office to run for. I ran for mayor because I wanted my city to do better. Just like before that, I ran for state treasury because I thought the state treasury was doing a terrible job.

I really cared about my home town. When I was away, and I was in consulting for a while, I was traveling all over the world. I’d go to places like Washington and have a beer with somebody I knew from South Bend, and the conversation would turn to what’s going on around home.

I have noticed a lot of lot of very capable people face a decision at some point about going home to a relatively unhip place to make a difference, and as a friend of mine put it, in this country, you got to be from somewhere, and sooner or later if you’re going to make yourself useful in that way in public office, sooner or later you got to go home. And I know a lot of great people from the heartland who are doing good things, but they were not able to walk away from the job in New York or Washington or Dubai. And so, they’re not in public service in the way I would love to see them do, but they’re doing other things. And that’s OK for them.

For me, I care about my home. I was at a party, a house party in San Francisco, and I mentioned that I was moving home to Indiana, and the person who was a much younger professional I was talking to asked what sick relative I was moving to take care of. I was like it’s home. It’s a wonderful place with great people and I’m part of a community that we take care of each other in a way that’s really special and I have a chance I grew up in to watch the buildings rise and fall because of decisions you make to try to make the place better. If it’s the last thing I do in politics, that’s a pretty great thing to have done.

Blade: You may have mentioned this publicly before, but how do you envision your role as mayor and being DNC chair at the same time?

Buttigieg: I can’t. I’m going to have to step away, and I love my day job, but it wouldn’t be fair to the city and it wouldn’t be fair to the party. There might be a shoulder season of a few weeks, but you can’t do those two things at once.

Blade: I’m just going to smash my last two questions together. What do you make of the White House last week saying Trump is respectful of LGBT rights and he’d preserve President Obama’s executive order against anti-LGBT discrimination and do you think there’s a lesson for LGBT people in the travel ban he signed?

Buttigieg: I’ll circle back to what I said earlier: No one who specializes in harming vulnerable groups can be regarded as a friend to the LGBT community even if we’re not the group he’s harming at the moment. And I would also say I do not believe that he cares about the LGBT community because I do not believe that he cares about anything at all.

Blade: That’s pretty succinct.

Buttigieg: It’s just not convincing, right? Nothing he says is convincing.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark Cichewicz

    March 9, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    I like this man, Pete Buttigieg. I can be proud and see him takeing us places.

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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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