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Nicaragua’s rainbow revolutionaries

LGBTI community pays heavy price for leading anti-government uprising



Young gay Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica sleep on the floor on thin mattresses, huddled together to share body heat. (Photo by Armando Trull)

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica and BARCELONA, Spain — A humble cinderblock home with a tin roof in a poor neighborhood in the Costa Rican capital of San José has become a refuge for nearly 40 gay Nicaraguan youth who played a leading role in the popular uprising against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime this past April. The destitute youth fled Nicaragua as refugees to nearby Costa Rica after Ortega launched a brutal and bloody crackdown on those who led months of mostly peaceful protests against changes in the country’s social security system and government corruption. The 8-month long government repression, condemned by the U.N. and the Organization of American States, has left at least 500 dead including two dozen minors as well as many more injuries. Among the victims are scores of LGBTI Nicaraguans. The violence has touched off a worldwide diaspora surpassing one million Nicaraguans, including hundreds if not thousands of gays. They are fleeing a country where neighbors inform on each other, the police and paramilitary supporters harass, illegally detain, beat, torture or kill anyone they suspect and do so with immunity.

‘They were shooting to kill’

“I never imagined that they would be so ruthless,” says Randal, a university senior studying psychology. “They were shooting to kill.” The bespectacled goateed youth’s voice quakes as he recounts the emotion filled months before he, along with many other gays were forced to flee Nicaragua. “As the number of innocent dead increased so did our rage,” he says. “The people were so enraged that we filled the streets of many cities in protests, we took over university campuses and flooded social media.” The country’s few LGBTI organizations were among the first to publicly denounce the violence. They were among the first to man the barricades, especially young gay influencers on social media. Randal says he was proud to see so many members of the LGBTI community participate in the protests.

“We were right there, upfront, in the struggle to defend our country,” he recalls. “Manning the barricades, delivering water and food. Helping the wounded. Providing encouragement,” he adds with a beaming, yet sad smile. “It was natural you see, we as a community are used to fighting for our rights. From an early age, I had to struggle for my right to be included and accepted in a homophobic culture.”

‘Payment for these protests has been death, prison and exile’

Once it became clear the Ortega regime was determined to kill or jail the dissenters even as it pretended to negotiate a settlement, many members of the LGBTI community involved in the protests realized they had little option but to flee to nearby Costa Rica. “The payment for these protests has been death, jail and exile,” says Ulises Rivas. The slight young man with copper brown skin and deep black hair and eyes was a long-time environmental and gay rights activist before the April crisis. He says when he fled for his life to Costa Rica he encountered scores of gay Nicaraguan youth who had been involved in the protests wandering the streets and parks of San José, homeless and hungry.

“About 10 of us got together and created Asociación Hijos del Arco Iris LGBTI (Children of the LGBTI Rainbow Association),” says Ulises.

Ulises approached several influential Nicaraguans who had been forced into exile in Costa Rica, including Alvaro Leiva, Nicaragua’s former human rights ombudsman. They contributed the seed money for the youth to rent the group home and launch Hijos del Arco Iris LGBTI. “We are so very grateful to them for their support. They have been among the few people willing to help us,” says Ulises.

“It broke my heart to see so many young educated Nicaraguan members of our community lost and confused in San José,” says Randal. “Hijos del Arco Iris LGBTI was our response. We not only gave them a roof and a plate of food but also a sense of purpose and a family.”

‘We share what little we have, even our body heat’

You have to drive through muddy rut filled roads on the outer fringes of San José to get to the Hijos del Arco Iris LGBTI home. It’s in a poor neighborhood where cinderblock tin-roofed houses are perched precariously on lush verdant hills. Skinny mongrels roam the neighborhood. Loud bachata music permeates the cool moist mountain air. As you enter the house, painted in faded mango, green and turquoise the first thing that you notice is the energy. Nearly 40 youth from late teens to late 20s share the space. Some are busy sweeping the cracked tile floor, others are huddled around a small battered laptop while others strategize beneath a Nicaraguan flag next to a wall calendar of upcoming events in which they will participate. I watch as a slight young man named Alberto carries an old aluminum pot to an outdoor wood fired stove and begins to make rice and beans.

“Sometimes it’s all we can eat,” he says. “Provided there are donations.”

What happens if there aren’t donations. I ask. “We go hungry,” he says almost apologetically.

Helping him cook is Arlen. The frizzy haired 20-something young lesbian was among the first people to move into the home “I was wandering through the parks, homeless,” she says. “I don’t know what would have become of me, if it weren’t for the boys,” she notes.

Two Nicaraguan refugees prepare rice and beans at the home outside San José, Costa Rica, where they are living. Hunger is among the many challenges for LGBTI Nicaraguans in Costa Rica who have fled violence associated with President Daniel Ortega’s regime’s efforts to quash anti-government protesters. (Photo by Armando Trull)

Arlen fled Nicaragua after she was flagged by security forces as one of the main providers of food, supplies and medicine to youth holed up in multiple barricades throughout Managua.

“Paramilitary crashed the door of the house where I was living,” she says. “Fortunately, I wasn’t there. That same day I headed to Costa Rica with just the clothes on my back and the little money I had.” It’s pretty much the same story for most of the youth here, fleeing one step ahead of paramilitary thugs under government orders. This humble home has indeed been a refuge. The youth share wafer thin mattresses on the floor. They huddle together like lost children, under multiple worn blankets that barely protect them from the cold sweeping up from the floor and hovering overhead. They hug battered teddy bears. On the walls, rainbow flags and even a unicorn.

“We have become like a family,” says Magdiel, one of the group’s leader, as he shivers beneath a blanket. “The older take care of the younger. We share what little we have even our body heat at night.”

A gay man from Nicaragua sits in a house in San José, Costa Rica, after he fled violence in his homeland. (Photo by Armando Trull)

In one corner of the house towards the rear a slight young man and a blonde girl sit on a battered donated sofa talking about how much they miss their families. “I had always lived within the warm and loving embrace of my papa,” she says and then bursts into tears, the sobs coming like a tidal wave. Soon the young man is also crying and so are the other youth nearby. “We are so young, so inexperienced and innocent,” says Ulises in a cracked voice as he watches the youth embrace one another. “We long for our families so very much. It’s very painful. We did what we believed was right. We stood up against oppression.” But returning home is not an option, it could place not only them but their families in danger. So Hijos del Arco Iris LGBTI is giving these youth purpose. They participate in weekly activities such as cleaning up public parks, dance lessons and free haircuts.

“We want to show people in costa Rica that we can be a positive force in the country that has welcomed us,” says Ulises. The youth also participate in workshops to learn survival skills in a new society including how to apply for asylum.

‘A humanitarian crisis’

As undocumented refugees seeking asylum in Costa Rica, these gay youth face an uncertain existence. Unable to work legally, unused to paying for healthcare and with little support they are surviving in crisis mode. More than a million Nicaraguans have fled the political violence and the economic collapse of the country since April says Marcela Farrach, a caseworker for RET International, an international relief NGO. It’s likely that thousands of LGBTI Nicaraguans are part of that diaspora says the young woman. Farrach has been working on a pilot program sponsored by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to help Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica. “They are extremely vulnerable and the funds to help them are insufficient especially as the number of refugees continues to multiply. It is a humanitarian crisis,” Farrach says.

‘I was terrified I would be tortured and raped’

Some Nicaraguan gays have managed to escape to other parts of the world where they have a better second chance at life, including Spain. That is the case for David.

The 23-year-old gay rights activist and vlogger came under government scrutiny for posting videos of his participation in the peaceful marches and subsequent postings calling out the Ortega regime’s violent crackdown. In one tearful clip, a clearly distressed David with mascara running from his eyes says, “They are sending their thugs and mobs armed with guns, knives, rifles and shotguns. I don’t want my country to become another Venezuela. I don’t know where this will end.” For David it ended in October after a gay friend Denis Madriz was found shot to death a few days after disappearing. Madriz had been active in the protests and an iconic photo of him holding a large Nicaraguan flag had made the rounds of social media. “I feared I was next,” he says. “Human rights organizations had fled the country after death threats. There was no one left to protect us.”

David crossed the border by bus to Costa Rica and after a few months of despair fled to Spain where he met two gay childhood friends, Victor and Justin. They also participated in the protests, providing food and drink to protesters. The slim young men are university students, one an industrial engineering major the other a psychology major. They both have white blond hair and that made them easy for government informants to finger them. A phone video recorded by Justin’s mother and aunt captured the night two armed paramilitary thugs came to arrest them.

“We are here for the two blondes, the terrorists participating in the protests,” says one of the thugs. The women denied the boys were there. “We don’t know what you are talking about,” they said defiantly. The thugs insisted and tried to break in the home and the women became shrill. Ultimately the thugs relented leaving with a final warning, “We were told they were here, we have their photos. We are coming back and we are going to fuck them up!” The youth had left the day before. Justin who is 5’5″ and weighs 120 lbs. and besides going to college was a professional makeup artist and manager at a family meat market. He says calling him a terrorist was an absurd but convenient label cooked up by the Ortega regime to arrest and disappear peaceful protesters.

“I was terrified that If I were to be arrested I would be tortured, raped, because that’s what they do to gay people and then disappeared,” says Justin, noting LGBTI protesters have been singled out for crueler treatment because of the homophobic nature of Nicaraguan society.

Victor and David say they feel safe in Barcelona because their rights as gay refugees are respected, but they admit that finding a place to sleep and even food is a daily struggle because they lack legal status. (Photo by Armando Trull)

Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was commonplace in Nicaragua before the protests broke out, but the Ortega’s government and specifically Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is Ortega’s wife, made some overtures to the LGBTI community.

The government in 2009 created the Special Ombudsman for Sexual Diversity position within its Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. The country’s Health Ministry in 2014 issued a resolution that bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in health care.

Murillo has appeared on Nicaraguan television with a trans woman who graduated from a prominent university with a communications degree, but the LGBTI community continues to face harassment and abuse from police officers and soldiers. Efforts to enact an LGBTI-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Managua and in other cities have stalled because of the unrest. Most LGBTI groups not supportive of the government have closed their doors as their leaders and members have fled the country.

LGBTI activists participate in a Pride march in Managua, Nicaragua, on June 28, 2018. (Photo courtesy of William Ramírez Cerda)

‘Here I feel safe and welcome’

In Barcelona; Justin, Victor and now David have found a welcoming gay community that has helped them through the process of integrating into Catalonian and Spanish society. Their first stop was the community organization STOP SIDA, which means STOP AIDS. “We have lawyers who provide legal advice on how gays who are victims of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity can apply for asylum,” says Luis Villegas, co-manager of STOP SIDA. Villegas says the organization provides information on how to integrate into Spanish society.

“We also have social workers who provide them with resources on how to survive and thrive and ways for them to participate in workshops and outreach efforts,” he says. The youth applied for empadronamiento, a status that allows undocumented refugees to access a wealth of social and health services in Spain. They were helped to process asylum applications that would ultimately result in a NIE, an alien identification number that allows them to work as their asylum case is decided. “We are proud that as a community we are able to help fellow members of our community who are vulnerable and at risk,” says Villegas.

Victor is very grateful for that help. He tells me so as we walk through Plaça d’Espanya on a beautiful crisp fall afternoon. A pair of police officers smile and nod prompting a comment from Victor. “I was very afraid of cops when I first arrived here,” he says. “I know that in most places police are here to protect you but in my country they kill us. In Barcelona, I feel protected, I feel my rights are valued, you know?”

But life in Spain isn’t easy for these gay Nicaraguan exiles. They work in the underground economy, walking dogs, doing hair and makeup or as waiters. Sometimes they stand in soup lines to save the little they make in order to pay rent. The young men rent a small bedroom in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in a rundown building. It’s in a working-class Barcelona neighborhood known as Venezuela because so many Latino immigrants live there. It’s a step up from when they first arrived says one of the young men. “We had to spend the night with our dates because we had nowhere to sleep, it was either that or the parks,” says Victor.

Shortly after that conversation, Justin and Victor were given NIE cards and David received empadronamiento The youth are very fortunate and on their way to a new life in Spain although the process is still many months from ending. For Hijos del Arco Iris LGBTI back in Costa Rica, it’s a much more difficult process in a poorer country straining under a refugee and humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions with fewer resources.

Yet all of these gay Nicaraguan youth face every day with optimism, dignity and hope. Living proof of the truth of their motto Juntos somos un volcán or “United we are a Volcano.” This volcano roared on April 19 and has continued to roar in Nicaragua and now roars in exile- Randal says his community fought for the rights of all Nicaragua and for a country where in the future the rights of all will be respected “for justice, for equality for what all of us as human beings deserve.”

Two LGBTI Nicaraguans who fled violence in their homelands embrace in the house in San José, Costa Rica, where they are currently living. (Photo by Armando Trull)

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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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