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Cuban YouTubers document LGBTI life, issues

Slow, expensive internet access remains barrier



Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata is a gay YouTuber who lives in Sagua la Grande, Cuba (Photo courtesy of Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata)

SAGUA LA GRANDE, Cuba — A growing number of Cuban internet users are using YouTube to document LGBTI life and issues on the Communist island.

Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata, who lives in Sagua la Grande, a small city on Cuba’s north central coast that is located roughly three hours east of Havana, launched his YouTube channel, Nexy J Show, in 2016.

Álvarez in a video he uploaded on May 20 discusses his efforts to quit smoking. Álvarez in a video he uploaded on Oct. 6, 2017, was wearing a tank top with an American flag on it as he criticized President Trump and his administration’s policies towards Cuba.

“This president has me by the balls,” proclaimed Álvarez in the video’s caption. “The White House has become a true reality show. It leaves the Mexicans alone and it is now the Cubans’ turn to be the focus of their barbarities.”

Álvarez in one of his videos acknowledges the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead and more than 50 others injured.

His most recent video, which he uploaded on Tuesday, discusses a member of the Cuban National Assembly who reportedly came out as gay last month during the debate over the country’s new constitution with an amendment that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Cuban government is currently holding meetings that allow members of the public to comment on the new constitution. The National Assembly at the end of the year is expected to finalize it before a referendum that is scheduled to take place in February 2019.

Álvarez in his video includes a picture of a poster that refers to a labor camp — known by the Spanish acronym UMAP — to which gay men and others deemed unfit for military service were sent after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power as “the Castro gulag.” Álvarez also references Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel Castro who spearheads LGBTI-specific issues as director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), and says the Cuban government is talking about “accepting homosexuality to clean up its image.”

“We are certainly totally restricted in various aspects in Cuba,” Álvarez told the Washington Blade on Aug. 3 during a WhatsApp interview from Sagua la Grande. “(But) we are not censured in any way at this moment.”

Jhans Oscar Alonso González, who lives in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, in February launched his YouTube channel.

Jhans Oscar Alonso González, left, kisses a friend to show their support for marriage rights for same-sex couples in Cuba. Alonso is a gay YouTuber and vlogger who is based in the Cuban capital. (Photo courtesy of Jhans Oscar Alonso González)

Alonso in a video he uploaded on May 14 talked about his experience participating in the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia march that CENESEX organized in Havana. The clip included videos of the event and interviews with participants and spectators.

Alonso also talks about Ricky Martin, pansexuality and asexuality in other videos that he has uploaded.

Alonso told the Blade last week in an email that his YouTube channel is “inspired by my own experience as an LGBT+ person” and “the difficulties with which we are unfortunately forced to live because we belong to a community that suffers so much hatred.”

“All of my videos have themes that are specific to the LGBT+ community,” he said.

Alonso told the Blade he plans to upload videos from other LGBTI activists and drag queens.

‘As a YouTuber I have to sacrifice a lot’

The Cuban government in 2014 agreed to expand internet access on the island as part of the agreement it reached with the Obama administration to normalize diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington that ended after the Cuban revolution.

Trump in June 2017 reinstated travel and trade restrictions with Cuba, even though previous reports indicate his company and four of his associates violated the U.S. embargo against the Communist island twice since the late 1990s. Miguel Díaz-Canel, who, among other things was born after the revolution and supported an LGBTI cultural center in Santa Clara when he was secretary of the Communist Party in Villa Clara Province, in April succeeded Raúl Castro as Cuba’s president.

ETECSA, Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company, on its website notes there are now 725 public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. ETECSA has also launched a pilot program that allows Cubans to have Internet connections in their homes.

A billboard that honors former Cuban President Fidel Castro in Parque Vidal in Santa Clara, Cuba, on May 15, 2018. The Cuban government has opened public hotspots in the park and in more than 700 other locations throughout the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The introduction of 3G technology on the Communist island now allows Cubans to access the Internet anywhere on their smartphones.

PlanetRomeo, Grindr and other apps are becoming increasingly popular in Havana and across the country.

The Blade in May was able to use Facebook Messenger and FaceTime to call the U.S. from public Wi-Fi hotspots in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. It has also previously recorded Facebook Live reports from Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas and Santa Clara.

The Trump administration earlier this year announced the creation of a task force that is designed to expand internet access in Cuba.

The International Telecommunications Union’s 2017 report notes 43 percent of Cubans now use the internet.

Users who use the internet at public Wi-Fi hotspots purchase cards from ETECSA that cost 1 CUC ($1) an hour. They can also add money to their accounts without purchasing them.

People selling internet cards on the street for 2 CUC ($2) are common sights in Havana, Santa Clara and other cities across the country. Internet access at hotels tends to cost a bit more.

Cuba remains one of the least connected countries in the world, in part, because many Cubans simply cannot afford to access the internet. The State Department’s 2017 human rights report also notes the Cuban government “restricted access to the internet, and there were credible reports that the government monitored without appropriate legal authority citizens’ and foreigners’ use of email, social media, Internet chat rooms and browsing.”

“The government controlled all internet access, except for limited facilities provided by a few diplomatic missions and a small but increasing number of underground networks,” it says.

Álvarez told the Blade that access to the internet in Cuba has improved “a lot” over the last several years, but the bandwidth remains slow.

He said the internet centers that ETECSA operates have a connection that is “a bit better and a bit faster.” Álvarez told the Blade he is now able to use the Internet from his home, but the connection has a “very low bandwidth.”

Alonso said internet access in the country remains “quite bad” and “a privilege to be able to connect” because it remains expensive for many Cubans.

He said he spends a lot of money to go online. Alonso told the Blade he also uploads his videos early in the morning because the connection is better because there are not a lot of people online.

“As a YouTuber I have to sacrifice a lot,” he said.

A restaurant in Viñales, Cuba, on May 20, 2018, advertises internet access. Internet access remains limited on the Communist island, even though the Cuban government has opened more than 700 public hotspots across the country. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

YouTubers cubanos documentan temas, experiencias LGBTI

SAGUA LA GRANDE, Cuba — Un creciente número de usuarios de internet en Cuba están utilizando YouTube para documentar la vida y temas LGBTI en la isla comunista.

Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata, que vive en Sagua la Grande, una pequeña ciudad en la costa centro norte de Cuba que está aproximadamente tres horas al este de La Habana, lanzó su canal de YouTube, Nexy J Show, en 2016.

Álvarez en un video que subió el 20 de mayo discute sus esfuerzos para dejar de fumar. Álvarez en un video que subió el 6 de octubre de 2017 estaba llevaba una camiseta sin mangas con la bandera estadounidense mientras criticaba al presidente Trump y las políticas de su administración hacía Cuba.

“Este presidente me tiene hasta los huevos,” proclamó Álvarez en la capción del video. “A convertido a la Casa Blanca en un verdadero really (sic) show. Ya deja tranquilo a los mexicanos y ahora nos toca a los cubanos ser el punto de mira de sus barbaridades.”

Álvarez en uno de sus videos reconoce la masacre a la discoteca Pulse en Orlando, Florida, que dejó 49 personas muertos y más de 50 otros heridos.

Su video más reciente que subió el martes discute un miembro de la Asamblea Nacional de Cuba que supuestamente salió del clóset como gay el pasado mes durante el debate sobre la nueva constitución del país que tiene una enmienda que extendería los derechos matrimoniales a parejas del mismo sexo.

El gobierno se ha organizado una serie de reuniones en que el público puede comentar sobre la nueva constitución. Se espera que la Asamblea Nacional a finales del año la finalice antes de un referéndum que se programa realizarse en febrero de 2019.

Álvarez en su video incluye una foto de un poster que refiere a una UMAP — un campo de trabajo en que los hombres gay y otras personas fueron enviadas después de la revolución cubana de 1959 — como “el gulag castrista.” Álvarez también refiere a Mariela Castro, la hija del expresidente cubano Raúl Castro y la sobrina de Fidel Castro que promueve los temas LGBTI como directora del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX), y dice que el gobierno cubano habla sobre “aceptar la homosexualidad para limpiar su imagen.”

“En Cuba ciertamente estamos totalmente restringidos en varios aspectos,” Álvarez dijo al Washington Blade el 3 de agosto durante una entrevista de WhatsApp desde Sagua la Grande. “(Pero) en este momento no tenemos ninguna censura.”

Jhans Oscar Alonso González, que vive en Vedado en La Habana, en febrero lanzó su canal de YouTube.

Alonso en un video que subió el 14 de mayo habló sobre su participación en la marcha del Día Internacional contra la Homofobia, la Transfobia y la Bifobia que el CENESEX organizó en La Habana. El clip incluyó videos del evento y entrevistas con participantes y espectadores.

Alonso también habla sobre Ricky Martin, la pansexualidad y la asexualidad en otros videos que ha subido.

Alonso dijo al Blade la semana pasada en un email que su canal de YouTube está “inspirado en mi propia experiencia como persona LGBT+” y “las dificultades a las que desgraciadamente estamos obligados a vivir por pertenecer a una comunidad que sufre de tanto odio.”

“Todos mis videos son de temas específicos a la comunidad LGBT+,” dijo.

Alonso dijo al Blade que planea de subir videos de otros activistas LGBTI y transformistas.

Parques en La Habana y en otras ciudades cubanas se han convertido en hotspots de WiFi públicas. (Foto del Washington Blade por Michael K. Lavers)

El gobierno cubano en 2014 acordó expandir el acceso al internet en la isla como parte del acuerdo con la administración de Obama para normalizar las relaciones diplomáticas entre La Habana y Washington que fueron rotas después de la revolución cubana.

Trump en junio de 2017 impuso restricciones de viaje y negocios con Cuba, aunque reportajes previos indican su empresa y cuatro de sus asociados han violado dos veces el bloqueo estadounidense contra la isla comunista desde el fin de los años 90. Miguel Díaz-Canel, que nació después de la revolución y apoyaba un centro comunitario LGBTI en Santa Clara cuando era secretario del Partido Comunista en Villa Clara, en abril sucedió a Raúl Castro como presidente de Cuba.

ETECSA, la empresa estatal de telecomunicaciones de Cuba, en su sitio web nota que ahora hay 725 hotspots de WiFi públicos por todo el país. ETECSA también ha lanzado un programa piloto que permite a los cubanos de tener conexiones de internet en sus hogares.

La introducción de la tecnología 3G en la isla comunista ahora permite a los cubanos de conectar al internet en cualquier lugar en sus smartphones.

PlanetRomeo, Grindr y otras apps son cada vez más populares en La Habana y por todo el país.

El Blade en mayo podía usar Facebook Messenger y FaceTime para llamar a los EEUU desde hotspots de WiFi públicos en Vedado en La Habana. También ha grabado previamente reportajes de Facebook Live desde La Habana, Santiago de Cuba, Las Tunas y Santa Clara.

La administración de Trump a principios de este año anunció la creación de una fuerza de trabajo para aumentar acceso al internet en Cuba.

Un reporte que el International Telecommunications Union escribe en 2017 nota 43 por ciento de cubanos ahora usa el internet.

Usuarios que usan el internet a hotspots de WiFi públicos compran tarjetas de ETECSA que cuesta 1 CUC ($1) una hora. También pueden añadir dinero a sus saldos sin comprarlas.

Personas que se venden tarjetas de internet en la calle por 2 CUC ($2) son una vista común en La Habana, Santa Clara y otras ciudades por todo el país. Acceso al internet a los hoteles tiende a costar un poco más.

Cuba sigue uno de los países menos conectados, en parte, porque muchos cubanos no pueden pagar el acceso al internet. El Departamento de Estado de los EEUU en su informe sobre los derechos humanos de 2017 nota que el gobierno cubano “restringió el acceso al internet, y habían reportajes credíbles que el gobierno monitoreaba sin autoridad legal necesaria el uso de email, redes sociales, salas de charla y la navegación de los ciudadanos y de los extranjeros.”

“El gobierno controlaba todo el acceso a internet, excepto por las instalaciones limitadas proporcionadas por unas pocas misiones diplomáticas y un número pequeño pero creciente de redes underground,” dice el informe.

Álvarez dijo al Blade que el acceso al internet en Cuba ha mejorado “mucho” durante los últimos años, pero el ancho de banda sigue lento.

El dijo que las salas de navegación de ETECSA tiene una conexión que es “un poco más amplio y un poco más rápida.” Álvarez dijo al Blade que ahora puede usar el internet en su hogar, pero la conexión tiene “una banda muy pequeña.”

Alonso dijo que el acceso al internet en el país sigue “bastante mala” y “un privilegio poderse conectar” porque ya está bien costoso para muchos cubanos.

El dijo que gasta mucho dinero para conectarse. Alonso también dijo al Blade que sube sus videos temprano en la mañana porque la conexión es mejor sin muchos usuarios contectados.

“Como YouTuber tengo que sacrificar mucho,” dijo.

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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



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



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



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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