Tom Steyer, the San Francisco-based businessperson who helped energize the drive to impeach President Trump before running for president, may be a longshot candidate for the White House, but he wants LGBTQ people — including transgender asylum seekers — to know he’s on their side.
One concern for LGBTQ rights supporters, if not a marquee issue, is treatment of LGBTQ asylum seekers in immigration detention. At least two transgender women — Johana “Joa” Medina Leon from El Salvador and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras — died after being placed in immigration detention.
Asked by the Washington Blade if trans immigrants in detention should be released, as a group of congressional Democrats recently urged, Steyer said “they should be released” if they can’t be held safely and given medical care.
“Well, look I’m not in favor of these extended detentions for anybody,” Steyer said. “And I think that there’s no question that transgender asylum seekers have got to be treated, specifically differently to protect them and to make sure they’re OK, and if they can’t be protected, then they should be released.”
Transgender asylum was just one issue discussed last week in a wide-ranging interview with the Blade days before the South Carolina primary, where Steyer is polling comparatively well among other candidates.
“One thing I can say about my record is the campaign itself is over 50 percent women, it’s over 50 percent people of color and it’s over 30 percent LGBTQ,” Steyer said. “So, I can say that we have an extremely diverse campaign and, in particular, there’s a very high percentage of LGBTQ.”
In an interview with the Blade, Steyer also ticked off support for the LGBTQ group Equality California (whose executive director, Rick Zbur, was his college classmate), a Los Angeles-based anti-bullying program called the Compton Kidz Club and support for AIDS hospice work as examples of his support for the LGBTQ community.
In terms of the future, Steyer’s campaign recently unveiled a 27-point LGBTQ platform, which includes major objectives sought by LGBTQ rights supporters, such as the Equality Act and overturning President Trump’s transgender military ban.
“The Equality Act is the important piece, right? That’s the biggest thing, extending civil rights protections for all the basic stuff: Housing and employment and credit and public accommodations,” Steyer said. “That’s a thing that really hits in terms of impact in society.”
In the aftermath of video of Michael Bloomberg referring to transgender people as “it,” Steyer said those remarks were “almost unbearable” to watch.
“It hurts me to hear it, to be honest, and I’m sure he regrets it,” Steyer said of the video, in which Bloomberg also blamed transgender people for Democratic losses in 2016
Although Steyer isn’t among the front-runners for the Democratic nomination, he has polled comparatively well among others in South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Saturday. A strong showing in the Palmetto State could translate into success the following week on Super Tuesday.
Zbur, whose organization Equality California has endorsed Pete Buttigieg for president, said Steyer nonetheless has been a strong ally to LGBTQ people in California.
“Tom is a friend and has been a champion for LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice in California and a longtime supporter of Equality California’s work — including at a critical time in the organization’s history,” Zbur said.
The full interview follows:
WASHINGTON BLADE: What in terms of your record on LGBTQ issues distinguishes you from the other presidential candidates?
TOM STEYER: Well, one thing I can say about my record is the campaign itself is over 50 percent women, it’s over 50 percent people of color and it’s over 30 percent LGBTQ. So, I can say that we have an extremely diverse campaign and, in particular, there’s a very high percentage of LGBTQ.
I’ve been supporting the premier LGBTQ group in California, Equality California, for years. It’s run by a guy who was my college classmate who’s been my friend for over 40 years named Rick Zbur. Equality California, we supported that for years.
We’ve also supported an anti-bullying program — that’s not explicitly about LGBTQ bullying, but is very substantially about that — for years through a guy named Fred Martin down in L.A., who runs something called the Compton Kidz Club.
There are various other things that we’ve done as a family that my wife and I have done to support — in terms of specifically AIDS hospice work, and there’s a whole bunch of policies that we’ve supported, but I think in general you can say in terms of things that actually point to activity, things, actions, things accomplished, those are some things.
Let me ask my my wife a question. Hold on one second. [pauses]
I was just about to say we run a community bank … that has had a very high percentage of LGBTQ people, but I don’t think we’ve ever measured it. But it’s something that — we live in San Francisco, Calif., which has — the bank is actually headquartered in Oakland — but it is still a place where — the bank has a very high percentage of LGBTQ people…
BLADE: Right. Well speaking of records, there’s been some news about Mike Bloomberg just yesterday in which a recently —
STEYER: … so bad …
BLADE: Yeah, I want to ask you about it. I have to ask you about it because he’s your competitor for the nomination. There was a video of him, describing transgender people, as “it,” and blaming them for Democratic losses in 2016. Have you seen that video and what’s your reaction to it?
STEYER: I simply was told he referred to a transgender person as it, and I almost couldn’t look. One of the things that’s true about Equality California is that they have — I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, are you with them?
STEYER: They do a gala twice a year one in L.A., and one in San Fran, and because Rick’s my friend, I try to always go to them, and he gives me the chance to speak as well.
And one of the things that happens at those galas is he tries to make sure every time to get a transgender young person to speak, usually somebody around 16 to 18 years old. They tend to be very polished, like a normal high school kid. Somebody who’s done public speaking, who’s very, very good.
But I remember years ago learning from one of those speeches that half of transgender people under 21 try to commit suicide, and I have always felt ever since that anyone whose heart does not go out to that community, must have a heart of stone.
That’s a level of suffering that nobody can fake and I know in San Francisco that 10 percent of the homeless population are transgender young people. It’s obviously grossly disproportionate.
So I know that you know that there’s a reason that’s true and I know what they’re going through on the street and the level of violence associated with it, and sex trafficking.
So in that context, to use that word, is really almost unbearable. I just — it hurts me to hear it to be honest, and I’m sure he regrets it. … I think it’s important to stand up against prejudice so that other people know that not everybody goes along with it, that other people feel really strongly the other way. And I try to do that with regards to every kind of person, and specifically if I know that people are suffering, I think it’s really important that they know that there are people on the other side pushing back hard.
It just made me sad. Very sad.
BLADE: Your campaign has recently unveiled the 27-point LGBTQ plan. I went through a little of bit it. I saw the Equality Act, reversing the transgender military ban. What’s going to be your priority in that vision?
STEYER: Well, I mean, the Equality Act is the important piece, right? That’s the biggest thing, extending civil rights protections for all the basic stuff: Housing and employment and credit and public accommodations. That’s a thing that really hits in terms of impact in society.
I think the transgender ban has huge symbolic and immediate impact and is a statement of where you stand and what your values are, and can be done immediately.
I think the other thing that I feel really strongly — the “Do No Harm” Act, the whole idea about reforming the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. You know that thing?
STEYER: That is really important. The idea that someone can use their religion to discriminate against somebody else and that becomes acceptable. It just can’t stand. That just can’t be right. And so, that’s very important.
But, so they’re all important in their own way. I think the one that really carries the biggest impact in terms of people’s practical lives is the Equality Act. But I think, you know, there’s so many different ways that you have to make sure that people are protected intellectually and emotionally, and you really reframe this whole thing.
That’s why it’s important to stand up against people using super cruel and discriminatory language. You can’t let that frame exist because I believe that inside that frame, you make the policy. If people accept that frame, then cruelty and discrimination becomes acceptable.
BLADE: Is that a reference to Mike Bloomberg’s comments?
STEYER: It’s a reference to any kind of discriminatory, cruel commentary. That one got me … I don’t know what your reaction was. You’re a journalist maybe you can’t say but that one got me.
BLADE: That stood out to me, I would say that, definitely.
I want to give you a do-over to one question in your interview with the New York Times. You may have wished you answered it differently. Can you expand on your vision for expanding healthcare oversight for LGBTQ asylum seekers in immigration detention?
STEYER: What did I say that you —
BLADE: You seemed like you at the time you weren’t aware of your own comments. They asked to follow up on something they said in the debate about expanding that health care oversight. I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about what you think, expand a little bit on what that oversight would look like.
STEYER: Meaning protections for people? Do you mean medical care or do you mean protections for LGBTQ people within the context of immigration?
BLADE: Well I think it applies to both. These are LGBTQ asylum seekers, so they may be seeking refuge in the United States because of persecution for being LGBTQ and there have been reports of immigrants who have died after being held in immigration detention, too.
STEYER: I don’t think there’s any question that they need to be protected based on the possibility of discriminatory and harmful practices while they’re being detained. I don’t think there’s any question.
What we’ve seen is it’s important under a number of circumstances, specifically to protect, members of the LGBTQ community. And that would be an example of a time when I think it would be significantly important. From what I can tell, it hasn’t been happening. I’m sure it hasn’t been happening. And it’s kind of a thing that I think we have to deal with.
So, I don’t know what the New York Times quoted me as saying, but I don’t think there’s any question that you have to take particular care of members the LGBTQ community, make sure that they’re not harmed physically or discriminated [against]. Absolutely.
BLADE: There are some Democrats calling for all transgender detainees to be released. Would that be something that you’d be open to?
STEYER: To be released? Well, look I’m not in favor of these extended detentions from anybody. And I think that there’s no question that transgender asylum seekers have got to be treated, specifically differently to protect them and to make sure they’re OK, and if they can’t be protected, then they should be released.
Look, I think that this is a community which you can see there’s so much violence and discrimination against that the government has a responsibility to make sure they’re protected in virtually every circumstance, and not to do so is to subject them to violence and danger.
BLADE: Let’s get to President Trump. What bothers you the most about his administration’s record in terms of LGBTQ policy?
STEYER: The transgender ban is an easy statement to make for him. It’s shown he’s discriminatory.
He chose as his vice president, a guy who’s famously anti-LGBTQ. Famously. He has pushed for the whole idea of permitting religious discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
He’s pushed in a larger way to prevent basic protections of this community. And, gosh, this isn’t unique to the LGBTQ community. What he’s trying to do is to divide Americans and to inflame his supporters by trying to separate us and trying to vilify different parts of American society, including specifically this candidate.
So, there are symbolic and substantive things that he’s done from the very beginning, even choosing his vice president. Good grief. This is a guy who’s literally famous for his behavior.
BLADE: Why do you think Mike Pence is so uncomfortable with the idea of gay rights? Why do you think that is?
STEYER: Honestly, Chris. I’m darned if I know. I can speculate about people’s motives, but I’m not God. I can’t judge their actions. As a human being, I feel. And I think what he’s done over time has been shameful. And you know, I’ve never understood the impulse, honestly, I’ve never really gotten it.
You know, I have my own psychological theories, but I think the basic point is this: He’s done it. And he should apologize for it. And he should recant and treat people like human beings, and until he does he shouldn’t be vice president of the United States.
BLADE: One more question about what happened this week. I saw you recently attended services at a Las Vegas church whose pastor described homosexuality as a sin. Do you stand by that?
STEYER: What I did was I went into that church and spoke up specifically on behalf of the LGBT community.
What I said was I am somebody who believes in accepting, everybody. I believe in accepting everybody regardless of your sexual orientation. So, actually, I did go there and actually talked about what my values are explicitly, differently.
BLADE: If I have time to squeeze in one more question, I’d like to ask you what would you say if one of your children came out to you as gay or transgender?
STEYER: My goal would be to make sure that I supported him or her as much as possible, that I would think that there might be societal pushback. And I would want to make sure that they understood that not only were we OK with it, but they were supporting it and we make sure that we push back with them against anybody who discriminated.
And let me say this, I said to my kids when they were in grammar school, one of the things that may happen to you because there may be kids who say slurs against the LGBTQ community. I know that happens sometimes. And I’m going to tell you right now, one of the best things you can ever do is stand up for them.
Because you don’t know who of your friends is actually worried about it. You don’t know which of your friends is just coming into their sexuality, trying to figure out they are because this was like when they were in third or fourth grade.
But I can tell you this: there are certainly going to be kids in that situation, There’s certainly going to be kids who are going to be feel personally attacked, and that is important to them to know that there are people who stand up for them in every case. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor to be the person who actually stands up for what’s right when you don’t know what the reason is.
I’m advising you right now as a person, do that. You’ll be better for it. They’ll appreciate it. The school and the whole place will be better if you do it. And I believe they did.
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.
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
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.
D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested
Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011
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.
Two new books celebrate Old Hollywood glory
Sheila Alexander-Reid to step down as director of D.C. LGBTQ Affairs Office
Attack on trans woman in D.C. laundromat captured in video
North Dakota lawmakers okay regulation banning Conversion Therapy
New York Gender Recognition Act passes heads to Governor Cuomo
D.C. Pride Walk and Rally set for June 12
‘Ex gays’ hold rally on Washington Monument grounds
Gallup Poll shows 70% approval for same-sex marriage
In seesaw experience, LGBTQ fed’l workers enjoy new openness under Biden
D.C. restaurants, bars ready to celebrate Pride
Sign Up for Blade eBlasts
Obituary7 days ago
Longtime LGBTQ activist, DC schools official Clark Ray dies
Local5 days ago
D.C. Pride Walk and Rally set for June 12
Local5 days ago
‘Ex gays’ hold rally on Washington Monument grounds
National7 days ago
East Texas bakery shows Pride, gets slammed, that went viral and…yeah
National5 days ago
Gallup Poll shows 70% approval for same-sex marriage
National4 days ago
In seesaw experience, LGBTQ fed’l workers enjoy new openness under Biden
Local6 days ago
Even before COVID, LGBTQ+ youth faced a high risk of homelessness. The pandemic only made things worse.
Dining3 days ago
D.C. restaurants, bars ready to celebrate Pride