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Pride protest ignites stormy debate in D.C.’s LGBT community

Accounts differ wildly in assessment of No Justice No Pride actions

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No Justice No Pride activists end their self-imposed blockade and march down P Street. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The actions of protest group No Justice No Pride, members of whom formed a blockade Saturday evening that required the Capital Pride Parade to be rerouted and delayed by more than an hour, have inspired a wide range of strong reaction from parade participants, long-time D.C.-area LGBT activists, Capital Pride officials, observers and others.

Social media was ablaze Saturday and throughout the weekend with some saying the group, a self-described ad-hoc coalition of activists that “seeks to end the LGBT movement’s complicity in systems of oppression that harm LGBTQ2S (i.e. queer/two-spirit) communities,” ended up doing little more than angering and alienating people who should be their allies while others said the loudest denunciations seemed to come from cis, white, gay men who were mad because their party got delayed.

“I think their parade interruption was ill advised,” said Lane Hudson, a longtime, D.C.-based gay activist. “From what I know about Capital Pride, they are very open minded and welcoming. To suggest otherwise is simply not true. If there is a lack of LGBT, queer and two-spirit involvement, it’s because of a choice (by those folks) not to get involved in Capital Pride. … It’s about who shows up.”

SaVanna Wanzer, a Capital Pride board member, trans woman of color and founder of Transgender Pride (an official Capital Pride event), agrees.

“When we have our (Trans Pride) organizational meetings, it’s the same six people who show up every year along with the executive producer and producer of Capital Pride,” Wanzer said. “I don’t know if any of the protestors have any desire to volunteer with Capital Pride or not, but we’d love to have more trans people of color on the board.”

On Saturday, June 10 about 3:30 p.m., a couple hundred No Justice No Pride protesters held a march of their own on the Capital Pride Parade route walking together while pop songs blasted from a loudspeaker and participants chanted anti-corporate slogans. Later another group joined hands with a chain-like material on P Street between 15th and 16th streets, N.W. in the planned route of the parade. Ten protesters formed a chain, chanting slogans and clashing vehemently with bystanders. Eyewitnesses said they saw no violence erupt though some No Justice protesters say they were kicked and spit on.

The parade was significantly delayed and eventually was rerouted. There was a strong presence of D.C. Metro Police at the site of the protest. No arrests were made.

No Justice No Pride members distributed pink sheets in which they demanded that Capital Pride add more trans women of color to leadership positions, more stringently vet which corporate sponsors are allowed to give money to Capital Pride, prevent uniformed police officers and military personnel from participating in the parade because of fraught histories with these groups and LGBT people and many other issues. A full list of their demands can be found at nojusticenopride.org.

The group found supporters among the D.C.-area LGBT establishment.

“It does seem to be predominantly the cisgender, white gay men who are the most upset these people weren’t dragged away and arrested,” said one long-time local black lesbian activist who is not allowed to speak on the record because of her job. “But D.C. has a long history of allowing protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights. We’re not going to drag people from the street so you can continue to party. That’s ridiculous. This is a backlash against the white gay men from Logan Circle. Did they want this to turn into the next Ferguson? Think a little bit about the pros and cons and check your privilege at the door.”

Others, though, say the No Justice protesters had no interest in having their concerns addressed in a reasonable way and refused to back down. A pre-Pride meeting at National City Christian Church on May 8 was heated on both sides. No Justice No Pride plans a “debrief and forum” on Friday, June 23. Look for the group on Facebook for details.

“There are people out there who are never going to be satisfied, 100 percent no matter what you do,” Wanzer said. “They’re always going to have a complaint, they’re always going to have something to say. They say they’re protesting for the rights of trans people of color, but not all the local trans people of color are on the same page with them. We don’t need them to protest or speak out on our behalf. What they did was inappropriate because it took away from the enjoyment and the feel of Pride. If anything it backfired in a way because it made those of us in Capital Pride more unified.”

Others say the protesters have several good points but did themselves more harm than good with their tactics.

“It remains to be seen if tactics like disrupting Pride parades engage or alienate the community and allies,” said Dave Kolesar, a local white gay man. “And with regard to corporate sponsorships of Pride, there was a time not that long ago when finding corporations to sponsor events was nearly impossible as a conservative backlash would inevitably follow. So while it is always a legitimate concern to be able to strike the right balance between corporate and grassroots involvement, I would be cautious about pushing corporations away.”

Hudson agrees.

“Most of the corporations they are targeting have 100 percent ratings on the (Human Rights Campaign) Corporate Equality Index. While intersectionality is much needed, it cannot always require purity. Life, including activism, is a set of choices. Progress isn’t always perfect and it can always be built upon.”

Others say the No Justice No Pride protesters don’t understand the long and tangled history the D.C. LGBT community has with some of the groups they targeted. Cathy Renna, a longtime activist who spoke on behalf of Capital Pride this week, says she knows of trans folks who worked for defense contractors Northrop Grumman, one of the groups No Justice said was not an appropriate Pride sponsor, when they couldn’t continue their military service with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” still in effect.

And to tell military and police they weren’t welcome at the parade, Renna says, was unrealistic.

D.C. Pride protest, gay news, Washington Blade

No Justice No Pride protesters in action on Saturday (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I think there was a good faith effort during and after the community forum to try and address some of these concerns, particularly with the police contingent but Capital Pride was not going to exclude them because they did not want to exclude any groups,” Renna said. “Most people understand the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit has a long history working with our local community and anytime you have a crowd of any size like that in D.C., there’s going to be a sizable police presence.”

“I have a lot of mixed feelings,” said Ruby Corado, a long-time D.C.-based trans activist who runs Casa Ruby, a local LGBT community center. “While I acknowledge that some of their issues are valid and I think there’s value to what the group is saying, I struggle with how they’re doing things. … I really do think shutting down the parade for three hours was a little bit too much, I really do, because there were a lot of people there, lots of trans and queer people of color, who’d worked really hard and were there to celebrate. Yes, sure, do hold Capital Pride accountable, but everyone needs to be held accountable, not just Capital Pride.”

Yet accounts of exactly what happened, how the protest was handled and who exactly was behind it differ based on whom you ask. Several local trans residents declined Blade requests for comment for fear of angering No Justice protesters.

Renna spotted a group of about 50-75 people carrying a tri-colored banner that said “No Justice No Pride — Queer & Trans Resistance” on Friday on 14th Street, N.W. and said it appeared to be a significantly different group than those who protested at the parade. Emmelia Talarico, a No Justice No Pride senior organizer said she had no knowledge of who that group was.

“As far as I know, that didn’t happen,” Talarico, a trans woman, said. “If some folks did that, they did not meet with us as representatives of No Justice No Pride.”

Talarico also denied other rumors circulating this week that some of the protesters at the Saturday parade were paid. She said the reality was quite the opposite.

“That’s not at all true,” she said. “We did pay for about six or seven people, black trans women, to perform at the healing space we had but that was because we felt that they deserved to be paid for their work like anyone else would be. No one who was in the blockades who took action in the street were paid. Some of us even emptied our bank accounts to make this happen.”

She also said assertions by some that the No Justice folks were far-left radicals who are out to destroy Pride in D.C. and in other cities is wildly inaccurate.

“We don’t want to destroy Pride, we want to make it better,” Talarico said. “It’s not about destroying Pride, it’s about making it into something that’s more representative of all of us and honors those of us who are struggling at the margins. A lot of this is coming from fissures that have been boiling beneath the surface for decades. The reason people are reacting so strongly is because we’re forcing them to see it for the first time in a long time.”

Accounts also vary as to how much dialogue happened in previous years about some of these issues and whether concerns were brushed aside and if Capital Pride was given a reasonable amount of time to address their concerns this year.

“I can honestly say that we as a team, and I’m speaking as a board member of Capital Pride, we are working as a team to better all or at least most of the issues they’re protesting,” Wanzer said. “But it can’t be done overnight. It’s an ongoing effort and we are taking steps and working on it.”

Wanzer said she finds it interesting that No Justice seemed to have no issue with Transgender Pride this year.

“The fact that there even is a Transgender Pride doesn’t fit their narrative, so they just ignored that,” she said.

Sgt. Brett Parson of D.C. Metro Police, a long-time spokesperson for the department, said no arrests were made because “it was a peaceful event,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Blade.

“As long as a First Amendment assembly is peaceful, MPD makes every effort to facilitate that expression of rights while also ensuring the safety and security of the community,” he said.

Talarico said that’s not true.

“I was not surprised but I was very disappointed at the way several folks, mostly cis, white gay men, were treating the activists,” she said. “We had bottles chucked at us, trash dumped on us, I got punched, shoved, kicked and spit at. We brought our own de-escalators. We came peacefully and with people trained to make sure this would be a non-violent protest.”

In a post-parade official statement, Capital Pride organizers said they were “troubled by reports that some onlookers responded to the protesters with verbal and physical harassment.”

There’s also confusion as to the degree to which GetEQUAL, an advocacy group that fights for LGBT issues “through confrontational but non-violent direct action” is intertwined with No Justice No Pride. GetEQUAL Director Angela Peoples has been active with No Justice. Talarico said the two groups have been working together.

No Justice No Pride’s list of demands of Capital Pride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“We really respect them and love working with them,” Talarico said. “I definitely commend them for all the help they gave us. I would say they are a very good group.”

But as to rumors GetEQUAL may be behind similar protests in other cities, Talarico said she had no knowledge of such actions. Peoples did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are aware of actions that have happened in Tel Aviv, in Boston, Pittsburgh and we know that there are actions being planned in Philadelphia, New York, somewhere in Washington and in San Francisco. Some of those folks have been reaching out to us asking for tips, advice and support.”

Talarico said she is unaware of any single group spearheading the efforts, though.

“Some of the narrative we’ve been pushing seems to be resonating with people across the country on their own issues and I think a lot of the grievances are shared,” she said. “A lot of these Prides have a lot of corporations that are trying to exploit trans and queer youth and a lot of those grievances are shared. I would like to see a lot of these cities work tightly with their local communities that are under attack and address their own grievances.”

Another recurring theme in some of the No Justice criticism is that the group has lost sight of who the real enemy is. Renna, a longtime activist who formerly worked with GLAAD and was around during the ACT UP AIDS protests in the ‘80s, says she’s never seen the LGBT community at this level of internal conflict before.

“We’ve certainly had disagreement in terms of tactics, but it’s just a bit heartbreaking to feel like people are now attacking other people personally and that has not happened in the past. There’s been such a complete lack of any benefit of the doubt or any sense of community negotiation that both sides understand in terms of the bigger picture and trying to do things realistically. Some of these demands are so overreaching and just not true.”

Deacon Maccubbin, who started Capital Pride in D.C. in 1975, said No Justice’s actions show ignorance of Pride history and are a disservice to the trans and LGBT people of color who enjoy the parade annually.

“There were so many disappointed people at the parade,” he wrote in an online post to a GetEQUAL social media comment that he gave the Blade permission to reprint. “There were kids of all colors and gender expressions who practiced for weeks to make their contingents, their dance routines, their signs and placards be something they could be proud of. Shame on you. There were huge numbers of people of color, joy visible on their faces, their voices strong and proud. … You stomped on their day of celebration. You had no consideration for what they may have gone through to be there and what sacrifices they may have made just to survive until 2017. … Today’s action was a total fail. There was nothing to be proud of in it.”

Capital Pride organizers said they will continue to “encourage a robust, civil and healthy conversation within the community about all of the issues that impact us … in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

The Blade’s Michael Key and Lou Chibbaro Jr. contributed to this report. 

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. uhhuhh

    June 14, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    The tantrum has not ignited any debate for me. It has ended any debate.

    I won’t even consider anything on that list of demands now.

    I don’t submit to anti-gay bullying. Ever.

  2. Rich C.

    June 14, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    >A full list of their demands can be found at nojusticenopride.org.

    This website would have me sign a petition supporting their demands. Most legitimate online petitions 1) show the number of persons who have signed; and 2) allow one to view the names of those who have signed. This site does neither. The petition platform in its Privacy Policy claims “When you sign an online petition, register for an event, or fill out a form, that action is public information.” Really? How about some transparency, NJNP?

  3. Tensely

    June 15, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Bullying is right. SaVanna and Ruby are so respected. No one realized…at least NJNP that Trans Pride is Capital Trans Pride. Supported by Capital Pride. SaVanna started it . Her friend Holly ( a white Trans woman ) continues . Both of them have been over nice about helping our Trans male group participate every year. Holly has always answered emails, picked up the phone and helped a small non profit out when needed. She’s not a TWOC. But would hope she’s considered for leadership. Being a TMOC I hope Trans Men are included …perhaps it’s jsut editing. But choosing based on color if wrong. The work that’s done is important,
    SaVanna is Prides only board member, I hope she fights for ANY Trans Person.
    Trans people can’t afford to divide themselves. Don’t give into NJNP’s demands. Do what has worked!
    And it’s telling this interview only was able to talk to one NJNP person. Well written and the good Capital Pride does needs to be hilghted more!

  4. Adam

    June 15, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Oh my, where to begin…

    Everyone has a right to free speech, but not to block traffic or parades. These protestors could easily have marched IN the parade, and their message would be seen by everyone. Instead, they close to block the parade, making the people they purport to try to persuade confused, angry, & LESS likely to support the protestors.

    I realize I am a white cisgender man, and I need to check my privilege that my biggest concern eas that we almost didn’t get to march in a parade. But still, Pride means a lot to the LGBT community, and we all worked hard on our marching contingents. Something these protestors need to realize is that community is more than just a bunch of loud voices in a room shouting at each other. Community requires cooperation, empathy, & a willingness to agree to disagree at times. By the protestors’ action, seeking to silence all but themselves, they have shown a great disrespect of the larger LGBT community. They purported to speak for the “true” Gay community when in fact they sought to silence many many voices from that same community.

    Pride is many things; it doesn’t have to be JUST protest or JUST celebration. It can and should be both.

    It’s not as if there aren’t other immediate venues to protest in, such as…oh, I don’t know, the National Pride March that same weekend.

    Baltimore, Philly, & NYC Pride & other large pride parades will now need to be wary all the more for disruption, costing more money and making Pride more inaccessible. Thanks a lot, protestors. Really, you shouldn’t have.

    • Cole Carter

      June 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Don’t apologize for being a cisgender white male! You have done nothing wrong except taken on the “burden” this very small contingent of professional victims expects you to. I will continue to live MY life as I see fit, looking out for MY rights and not allow some group of self imposed, professional victims limit my capabilities. I work, I pay taxes and I pay my own bills. I don’t tell you how to live your life, so don’t think you can even begin to impose your beliefs and values on me. This group should re-name themselves NoBrainsNoCommonSense. This group is making no headway in the Gay community and even less in the straight community. As a matter of fact, they are bringing a negative light to all of the progress that has been made over the years.

      • in_this_moment_free

        June 16, 2017 at 10:50 pm

        Live by your contributions as well as your meritorious conduct and enjoy your life according to your own design and conscience! I ask nothing more of my fellow citizens.

  5. Mr. M

    June 15, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Who the f**k are they to say “No Justice, No Pride”? It’s my Pride march just as much as it is theirs. They have not persuaded me to join their cause. Quite the opposite actually. I am shutting them out. I don’t care if they call me a “racist” anymore. This is too much. It was hard enough to come out as gay, now I’m being shamed for being a white gay? Done.

    • Tensley

      June 15, 2017 at 9:32 am

      I’m a Black Trans man, apparently they don’t want me either, this group is f*cked up. I haven’t been shamed yet. But haven’t been acknowledged. Apparently they’re only for “Trans women of color”
      We’re in the same club my friend

      • Mr. M

        June 15, 2017 at 9:46 am

        Indeed. They talk about “erasure” while literally calling for the erasure of other LGBTQ people, be they white cisgender gay males, black transgender men, or gay women. I feel sorry for them – they are perpetual victims and do nothing to help their cause or make real change, they just alienate themselves. But now I’m getting ticked off that they are disrupting Pride parades. For me, this is one of the only times I can really feel free in public. It’s like we’re being shamed back into the closet.

        • Tensely

          June 15, 2017 at 9:57 am

          It was a shame. They left a group of Latina drag queens and Trans women in feathers costumes in the heat for 2 hrs. A group of ( I believe) Middle School students marching band, mostly black in the sweltering heat. Did they have ANY water to supply people? NO! But Pride don’t give 2 f*cks about other people’s health or safety.
          And Trans Pride is run every year – flawless event other cities should be jealous of. Supported by Capital Pride. With the diverse committee they want. But do they care to acknowledge that. NOPE doesn’t fit into their “narrative” I was on the committee one year. Ryan Bos was very empowering of this event.
          And now we’re hearing how much $$ this will cost Pride for the extra cops/time, and of course they took the high road and are paying for it.

          • Mr. M

            June 15, 2017 at 10:09 am

            I work at a school in DC and many of the parents are same-sex parents and were excited to march with their kids. White, black, Asian, they were all there. And their day was totally ruined, especially because like you said, the incredible heat was nuts. Many decided just to go home rather then wait for a reroute, and went home disappointed. I truly don’t think they realize how many people they are alienating.

          • Tensley

            June 15, 2017 at 10:15 am

            Exactly. I’m glad Pride thought to bring the water bottles out. Personally I feel they should have been arrested. Even after the fact, they put folks health at risk.
            I understand why Pride didn’t want the PR. But the police chief made a bad choice. It’s not too late. I’m sure people suffered dehydration and heat stroke.
            NJNP has NO PRIDE. They’re SHAME.

  6. Adam Miramon

    June 15, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    For some members of the LGBTQIA2S community, their struggle is literally life and death . . . EVERY DAY. If you are critical of the actions of No Justice No Pride, then you were never an ally to the entire transgender community or queer people of color.

    It is important for those of us in positions of privilege to check our privilege . . . whether it be race, gender, class, financial, education, etc . . . before we are critical of political actions that have brought the racism, classism, transphobia, and colonialism to the surface of the LGBTQIA2S.

    Please take a moment to reflect on the slight inconvenience you may have experienced on a Saturday afternoon when compared with being afraid for your life every single day.

    Do any of the queers here remember the fear you felt when forced to live in the closet?

    Now imagine NOT having that closet because you can’t hide your skin color or your gender.

    • Curious

      June 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      You are not helping anyone, and least of all your cause, by posting this sort of inane and counterfactual comment.

      • Adam Miramon

        June 16, 2017 at 9:27 am

        What is counterfactual about my comment?

    • Frank Ellis

      June 15, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      LGBTQIA2S – wTF

      • Adam Miramon

        June 16, 2017 at 9:08 am

        Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Intersex-Asexual-Two-Spirit

        • Tensely

          June 16, 2017 at 5:15 pm

          I think he found that on vox.com

          • Adam Miramon

            June 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm

            And I’m sure you have a degree in Gender and Sexuality studies to prove me wrong.

          • Tensely

            June 16, 2017 at 5:30 pm

            And your a white cis man…I’m a black Trans man

          • Adam Miramon

            June 16, 2017 at 6:26 pm

            Fair enough.

    • Tensely

      June 15, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      ????

      • Adam Miramon

        June 16, 2017 at 9:26 am

        Capital Pride promotes this myth that Pride is a celebration . . . Pride is meant to commemorate riots at the Stonewall Inn in which trans women of color rose up against oppression . . . specifically, police oppression and brutality. The “Gay Liberation” march (aka the first Pride parade in NYC) in 1970 was to commemorate the riots of the previous year. The roots of our struggle are quite literally grounded in a protest against the powers of oppression.

        When the first Pride in DC happened in 1975 as a “block party,” being out of the closet was an act of protest, an act of rebelling against the oppression, and an act of breaking the status quo. Being out of the closet no longer has the kind of power it did in 1975. We have come a long way, and what No Justice No Pride has shown is that we have a long way to go.

  7. LesbianTippingHabits

    June 15, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I am also very concerned that this situation has prompted so many in the LGBTQ+ community not to tip generously for good service.

    Remember, tips are good karma. And karma never lies. Happy Pride!

  8. in_this_moment_free

    June 16, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    You catch more friends with honey…in a reasonably interesting outfit of course.

    • Jon Perry

      August 22, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      You should have been there to tell Marsha P Johnson that at Stonewall

      • in_this_moment_free

        August 23, 2017 at 1:52 pm

        Why? That was then, this is now.

        • Jon Perry

          August 23, 2017 at 8:09 pm

          What has changed? These people obviously felt they weren’t being listened to so they had to start screaming. Same with the origins of the gay lib movement.

          • in_this_moment_free

            August 23, 2017 at 8:25 pm

            Why are you saying I should have been at Stonewall to tell Marsha P Johnson? What are you up to with that? As if she can’t live her own life in her own time according to how she sees fit???

  9. Tensely

    June 18, 2017 at 10:07 am

    I’m curious why other LGBTQ non-profits weren’t singled out for board diversity. A quick look online does show board members for other groups , national and local ( WWH, HRC, DC Center, DC Care, Wanda Alston, Casa Ruby, HIPS, Chamber of Commerence etc..) not singling any out, some are much better than others, two are “worse than” Capital Pride.
    Maybe there’s more to it? Do we know the bylaws of each organization? Do we know the start or stop times of board terms.
    I served on a mentioned board ( a black Trans male) and had to resign over work. Not served a year, and 1/2 of that I didn’t attend meetings.
    Stuff happens. I know I wasn’t stuck on as a token, but I couldn’t fulfill my duties.
    I care more about the output these groups make, and the input they give the communitylb

  10. Kemwit Tall Tree

    June 20, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    Time to drop the “T” (and all those other letters) from our movement and make it LGB. It’s apparent that their struggle is not our struggle, so let’s not fool ourselves any longer. They treat us like enemies, so we should act accordingly.

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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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