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LGBT Puerto Ricans still reeling from Hurricane Maria

Federal government response has been sharply criticized

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Residents of La Perla, an oceanfront neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Maria, have erected handwritten signs asking for water and other basic supplies. (Photo courtesy of Wilfred Labiosa/WAVES AHEAD)

LGBT Puerto Ricans who live in the D.C. area say their family and friends remain in a precarious situation nearly a month after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth.

Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Latinx and Catholic Initiatives, on Monday told the Washington Blade that her parents who live in Caguas, which is about 20 miles south of the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, still have no electricity at their home. Meléndez also said their water “comes and goes.”

Maria flooded her parents’ home and destroyed their deck and fence.

Meléndez told the Blade her parents have “been spending exorbitant amounts of money on propane for their generator, which” runs from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. She also said her mother told her a neighbor drilled holes into a large soda bottle, attached it to a broom stick and made a makeshift washing machine out of it.

“She’s very excited about this,” joked Meléndez.

Alec Rivera, who lives in Montgomery Village, Md., with his fiancé, told the Blade that most of his family lives in Mayagüez, Aguadilla, Cabo Rojo and Arecibo on Puerto Rico’s west and northwest coasts respectively. He also said he has relatives who live in Toa Alta, which is roughly 18 miles southwest of San Juan.

Rivera told the Blade that Maria “completely uprooted and damaged” the cistern at his great aunt’s house in Toa Alta. He said the hurricane largely spared his grandmother’s home, but electricity and cell phone service remains “spotty.”

Rivera told the Blade his cousin had a baby the day after Maria made landfall. He said she stayed in a hotel for more than a week after giving birth.

Situation ‘better’ in San Juan

Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast on Sept. 20 with 155 mph winds. Hurricane Irma brushed the U.S. commonwealth on Sept. 7.

Puerto Rican officials say Maria’s death toll stands at 48, but this figure is expected to rise.

More than 80 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without electricity and nearly half of those who live in the U.S. commonwealth lack access to safe drinking water. Maria also caused significant damage to Puerto Rico’s transportation and communications infrastructure.

Victoria Rodríguez Roldán, who lives in D.C., is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that urges Puerto Rico to allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates. She is also the director of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project.

Rodríguez’s siblings and niece live in San Juan. She told the Blade on Monday that other members of her family live in Juncos, which is located between Caguas and Humacao in southeastern Puerto Rico.

“In San Juan the situation is much better,” said Rodríguez, noting the only way she has been able to communicate with her relatives in Juncos is via text message.

“I’ve managed to talk to most of them at this point,” she added. “There is no water or running water right now.”

Food and Friends donates to Puerto Rico HIV/AIDS group

Advocacy groups in Puerto Rico and in the U.S. mainland continue to provide assistance to LGBT Puerto Ricans in the wake of Maria.

A CenterLink campaign has raised nearly $20,000 for the LGBT Community Center of Puerto Rico in San Juan’s Hato Rey neighborhood. Food and Friends has pledged to donate at least $30,000 to Bill’s Kitchen, a San Juan-based organization that provides meals to Puerto Ricans with HIV/AIDS.

“We are taking care of many people,” Bill’s Kitchen Executive Director Sandy Torres told the Blade on Tuesday in a short email she sent from her iPhone. “LGTB people always suffer a lot more. That is no different with the hurricane.”

Wilfred Labiosa, co-founder of WAVES AHEAD, an organization that works with at-risk groups in Puerto Rico, told the Blade on Monday during a telephone interview from San Juan that he and other members of his group have been able to reach Caguas and other cities and towns across the island.

“Some communities we have been to, we are the only ones who have outreached,” he said.

Labiosa told the Blade a trans woman was not given access to a cell phone to call her relatives in Arecibo when other people at the shelter in which she is “living” had access to one.

“She was left behind,” said Labiosa. “That was solved in a few hours, but that’s the treatment.”

He also said some trans Puerto Ricans are leaving the island in order to receive hormone treatment.

Trump criticism sparks outrage

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico less than 16 months after a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Nearly half of those who died during the massacre — which was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman killed 58 people during a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 — were LGBT Puerto Ricans.

Third Millennium Park, San Juan, Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

Six flags with each color of the rainbow fly in Third Millennium Park in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 6, 2016. A memorial to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre is also inside the park. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

President Trump sparked widespread outrage last month when he attacked San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz in a series of tweets after she criticized his administration’s response to Maria. LGBT Puerto Ricans with whom the Blade spoke for this story also mocked Trump for throwing rolls of paper towels to a crowd at a church in Guaynabo on Oct. 3.

“It’s going to take a federal government that is willing to acknowledge we are Americans, that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, that we are equal basically and a federal government that is willing to give Puerto Rico the ability to negotiate it’s debt in its current situation and to acknowledge this is American soil and part of American responsibility and be willing to do the same response that is going on in Florida, Texas and so forth,” Rodríguez told the Blade as she discussed the federal government’s response to Maria.

Meléndez was more direct, noting a friend lives near the church in which Trump threw the rolls of paper towels.

“She said her neighbors were pissed,” Meléndez told the Blade. “She lives in a town that is pretty conservative and pretty pro-statehood. Even then, they were like. I need water. I don’t need you to throw paper towels at me.”

Caribbean activists launch relief efforts

St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the French island of Guadeloupe suffered significant damage from Maria before it made landfall in Puerto Rico. The hurricane caused widespread destruction in Dominica when it passed over the island nation on Sept. 18.

Irma caused widespread destruction in Barbuda, St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos less than two weeks earlier.

The hurricane damaged an LGBT community center in Santo Domingo, Cuba, when it made landfall on the island’s north central coast on Sept. 9 with 160 mph winds. Irma caused significant damage in the Florida Keys when it made another landfall east of Key West, Fla., on Sept. 11 as a Category 4 hurricane.

Hurricane Irma damaged a portion of the Centro Comunitario de Cultura, an LGBT community center in Santo Domingo, Cuba. The activists who operate the community center continue to seek clothes and other items to help the area’s LGBT residents recover from the hurricane that devastated Cuba’s north central coast in September. (Photo courtesy of Victor Manuel Dueñas/Centro Comunitario de Cultura)

Lavonne Wise, an LGBT rights advocate who works for the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix, which provides assistance to survivors of sexual and domestic violence, lives with her partner in Frederiksted on the island’s west coast.

Wise on Tuesday told the Blade during a telephone interview the island is “greening up again,” but the ground remains saturated from heavy rain.

She said there has been “progress” in St. Croix, noting the federal government’s response to the hurricanes in the Virgin Islands has been vastly better than in Puerto Rico. Wise nevertheless said she and her partner have not had power at their home since Irma brushed St. Croix six weeks ago.

“It’s going to be a long road,” said Wise.

Maykel González, a Cuban LGBT activist and journalist who lives in Sagua la Grande, which is on the island’s north central coast, said he has been unable to report from Irma-damaged areas because “the police threatened me.” He said he has nevertheless been able to speak with some of the areas LGBT residents.

“This is the worst disaster of this type through which they have lived,” González told the Blade. “Some of them have suffered damages to their roofs.”

“In Sagua la Grande there is transsexual prostitution in the area around the train station,” he added, referring to sex workers who worked in the area before Irma. “They have returned to ‘work.’”

The Jamaica-based Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, which provides healthcare and other services to people with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable groups in the Caribbean, and the Center for Integrated Training and Research, a Dominican Republic-based HIV/AIDS service organization known by the acronym COIN, are working to provide assistance to the hurricanes’ LGBT victims. The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, a St. Lucia-based group, has also been working to help them.

Kenita Placide, the group’s executive director, told the Blade on Tuesday during a Skype interview from St. Lucia that four advocates from Dominica lost their mother during Maria. She also said the hurricane destroyed other activists’ homes on the island.

“Some of them have no where to stay,” said Placide.

Placide told the Blade that two activists from Dominica were able to travel to St. Lucia last week and attend a women’s conference the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality organized.

She said activists from Dominica have been able to bring empty suitcases they can fill with donated clothes and other items that United and Strong, a St. Lucian advocacy group, and her organization have received. Placide told the Blade the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality has also been able to top-off cell phones in Dominica once her organization receives the numbers.

“It was better to send items,” she said, referring specifically to Dominica. “The country doesn’t have many things to buy, so it’s actually a better to send things to them in country.”

Placide also told the Blade that people with HIV who live on the hurricane-impacted islands are also not able to access their medications.

“It’s definitely an issue. Even the tracing of the said persons are also very difficult because a lot of people are misplaced right now,” she said. “A lot of people lost all this medication and all access during the hurricane.”

Gay, lesbian 2018 Caribbean cruises scheduled

Trekr Adventures, a D.C.-based company that organizes sailing trips around the world, earlier this year organized an all-LGBT racing team in the 2017 BVI Spring Regatta in the British Virgin Islands.

Josh Seefried, co-founder of Trekr Adventures, told the Blade on Monday the company has raised more than $1,000 that it has given to two recovery funds in the archipelago. He said people from the British Virgin Islands who were at the Annapolis Boat Shows earlier this month described “complete devastation,” but added those who travel to them asked how they can support the recovery efforts.

Jim Cone, the vice president of marketing for Atlantis Events, which operates a number of gay cruises throughout the Caribbean, told the Blade on Monday the company is working with Alturi, an organization that seeks to promote further engagement on LGBT and intersex issues, and other groups “to provide much-needed relief to residents of the Caribbean, including San Juan” in Puerto Rico.

A cruise that is scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 20 will stop in San Juan; Labadee, Haiti, and St. Maarten. A second cruise that is scheduled to depart from San Juan on March 18 will stop in Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique and St. Martin.

Cone told the Blade the cruise will dock in St. Martin as opposed to St. Barts because of “extensive pier damage” in the French island’s capital of Gustavia.

“We have confirmed that at this time, both our Caribbean cruises should be able to operate their full itineraries as scheduled,” he said.

A spokesperson for Olivia Cruises, a travel company that caters to lesbians, on Tuesday declined to comment.

The company’s website notes a Caribbean cruise that will mark its 45th anniversary will leave Fort Lauderdale on April 2. San Juan and St. Croix are among the destinations that are listed.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, gay news, Washington Blade

San Juan City Hall in July 2016. Gay and lesbian cruise ships are scheduled to dock in the Puerto Rican capital next year. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. lnm3921

    October 19, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    The fake POTUS has been a failure again in his lousy callous response to the humanitarian crises! He gave his administration a ten for the response it’s done. He must be confusing that with his Emotional IQ age!

    • Kemwit Tall Tree

      October 21, 2017 at 4:56 am

      As long as the beaches are cleaned up and the hotels are running again, I would consider the efforts to be a success! Just saying.

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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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