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‘Our country is at a crossroad’: Reggie Greer to LGBTQ voters on 2020 election

‘Out for Biden’ steering committee to assist in building support

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Reggie Greer is LGBTQ+ vote director for the Biden campaign. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

As LGBTQ+ vote director for Joseph Biden’s presidential campaign, Reggie Greer has his work cut out for him.

After all, he’s charged with marshaling LGBTQ support for the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate amid a deadly coronavirus pandemic and tremendous unrest over racism and police brutality.

In an interview with the Washington Blade on Monday, Greer said he relies heavily on his upbringing and passionate belief in inclusion in confronting the challenges he faces in the 2020 election.

“I am a gay Black man who grew up in the South and has been lucky and fortunate to have been impacted and influenced by many LGBTQ leaders and my parents and teachers, who really instilled in me that kindness and inclusion and the power of your own voices is something that you ought to cherish,” Greer said. “And I think every day in this role, given that this campaign cycle has been so unique, I’ve leaned in on that.”

Greer, who’s 33 and remains a D.C. resident, is charged with serving as liaison between the Biden campaign and the LGBTQ community — a role that involves conference calls and highlighting issues important to LGBTQ people, such as passing into law long-awaited federal LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in the form of the Equality Act.

In a prior role, Greer was director of community engagement for the LGBTQ Victory Institute, where he served as point person for the nation’s more than 850 openly LGBTQ public officials.

Although Greer declined to say whether Biden would name his Cabinet members before Election Day, including any LGBTQ appointments, Greer pledged Biden “will prioritize the appointments of LGBTQ people in an administration.”

Bolstering Greer’s work is “Out for Biden,” a newly created steering committee in the Biden campaign that seeks to motivate the estimated 11 million LGBTQ adults to vote for Biden.

Among the goals for “Out for Biden” is strengthening collaboration across intersectional lines, honing communications for a cohesive movement and providing unprecedented access to our country’s most prominent LGBTQ+ leaders.

High-profile LGBTQ members of “Out for Biden” include Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.); Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David; Mara Keisling, executive director, National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund; and Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims.

Greer said the LGBTQ steering committee would be welcome to undertake campaign efforts to motivate LGBTQ voters in the 2020 election.

“Through ‘Out for Biden,’ which we launched today, we’ve been working to increase our efforts to collaborate with LGBTQ organizations and leaders at the local, statewide, federal level, to ensure that voters have the tools they need to be a part of the process, and also improve the communication between all these different entities that are doing really important work to register voters, get information to them about mail-in voting, to get them involved in some of the local races and statewide races and that also are important to ensuring that we have a pro-equality government up and down the ticket,” Greer said.

Read the full interview with Greer:

Washington Blade: Let me start off with a very basic, but important question: Who is Reggie Greer?

Reggie Greer: Who is Reggie Greer? That’s a very good question. I’m glad that you started off there. I am someone who is deeply passionate about the future LGBTQ Americans have — and I want to be part of a growing movement of people trying to ensure that —

[Phone line disconnects, but Biden campaign calls again shortly after.]

Greer: As I was saying, I am deeply passionate about the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ issues, LGBTQ voices and want to be part of a growing movement that includes us in the increasingly diverse American electorate.

Vice President Biden has made it clear that LGBTQ people are a big part of his coalition and as someone that really values engagement, I’m really excited to bring this approach to this work.

I am a gay Black man who grew up in the South and has been lucky and fortunate to have been impacted and influenced by many LGBTQ leaders and my parents and teachers, who really instilled in me that kindness and inclusion and the power of your own voices is something that you ought to cherish.

And I think every day in this role, given that this campaign cycle has been so unique, I’ve leaned in on that. I leaned in on the idea that every person has a voice, and if any of us can fight to ensure those voices are heard, that’s what we ought to be doing.

Blade: Tell me about some of the specific goals you have as LGBTQ+ vote director for the Biden campaign.

Greer: Absolutely. I think, given the fact that our country is at a crossroad right now, and we have COVID-19 impacting our communities in so many ways, and this election season is so unique, the main goal is clear that LGBTQ people, no matter where they live, no matter their background, and pro-equality voters are able to not only interact with this campaign, but able to be a part of the electoral process in a way that’s substantive.

So, through “Out for Biden,” which we launched today, we’ve been working to increase our efforts to collaborate with LGBTQ organizations and leaders at the local, statewide, federal level, to ensure that voters have the tools they need to be a part of the process, and also improve the communication between all these different entities that are doing really important work to register voters, get information to them about mail-in voting, to get them involved in some of the local races and statewide races and that also are important to ensuring that we have a pro-equality government up and down the ticket. So, that’s the main goal is really to give voters the tools they need to be a part of this process.

Blade: I think many Americans, including LGBTQ people are increasingly concerned about racism and police brutality. How do you see that playing out in your role?

Greer: Absolutely. Systemic injustice, and racism are issues that we’re going to have to address head on, and we’re going to have to do it through leadership. Vice President Biden has spent his whole life fighting against systemic issues, and working to change the system in ways that benefit and work for everyone, and has shown this kind of leadership that we need to actually get things done.

Right now, as we speak, the vice president is down with the family of George Floyd, paying tribute to his life and really bringing comfort to a nation that can’t understand why we don’t have leadership now willing to address these issues head on.

When we look at COVID-19, which is another problem that is complex enough, not to be solved by through rhetoric and bluster, but really requires someone to understand how government works, requires that you need experts at the table to get things done. Vice President Biden has really leaned in on ensuring that he’s surrounded himself with the people who know how to get things done.

And I think for me, personally, again, as someone who’s Black, gay, has a disability, I know full well how important it is to have a government that values and includes diverse voices, appoints people to important positions within the government that can bring those lived experiences to these very tough issues. And the promise really of a Biden presidency is something that we’re working on now, as a campaign which is including as many voices from around the country as possible, so that we can have a government that that sees us, that includes us, and fully represents us.

Blade: How has the coronavirus hampered your work personally?

Greer: So, the campaign has completely shifted digital, and even through the launch of “Out for Biden,” we are empowering LGBTQ people and those who support our campaign to engage virtually.

For now, because this is the main priority is ensuring that people remain safe and keep their attention on caring for those around them. Of course, organizing virtually has been challenging but it’s certainly opened up the campaign in a way that has allowed us to reach across the country faster and people, the kinds of conversations that we’re having around all the issues that we care about.

In this time, I feel like we’ve been able to raise raise awareness faster through some of the roundtables that we’ve hosted. The last national call that we did was on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ people. And the people who watched were from all across the country, and after the call, and after any of the virtual events that we’ve done, I’ve gotten messages from all across the country talking about how they’ve shared that with their networks and with their friends and their neighbors and their family members.

So, this is a very interesting time to do electoral organizing virtually, but certainly you know we’re leaning in on trying to get the vice president’s message out there as far and as wide as possible.

Because I do think LGBTQ people know what’s at stake. There are 11 million eligible LGBTQ voters around the country, there are millions more pro-equality voters, and they see this administration for what it is. They understand that this government has intentionally attacked transgender Americans, has rolled back protections for LGBTQ youth, has diminished our standing in the world on LGBTQ equality, and they are also leading and responding to the call to get out the message of not only our campaign but for everyone really fighting for LGBTQ equality.

That’s part of the reason why I’m hopeful, I think LGBTQ people because we are in every other community, quite literally understand how to build coalitions better than any other community and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Blade: Four years ago, Hillary Clinton was the first presidential candidate to march in a Pride parade. Of course, Biden won’t have the same opportunity. What has been under discussion about ways Biden could recognize Pride?

Greer: That is good you asked that. Obviously, given the moment that we’re in, we’ve been really respectful of things that we’re rolling out, but please stay tuned. We have a lot of exciting Pride initiatives coming up. Today, the launch of “Out for Biden” being the start of that.

I think we’re trying to ensure with all plans the rolling out from Capitol Hill and from the campaign around racial equity, around the economy, plans around how to continue to address the impact of COVID-19, we certainly have been working with each other to figure out when best to roll everything out, but please stay tuned, we’re going to have some pretty fun announcements about how we’re going to mark Pride Month.

Because, again, the vice president has spent his entire career fighting for LGBTQ people, and he was the highest-ranking official to come out in favor of marriage equality when he did in 2012 and as a private citizen has made LGBTQ equality, a priority through making it one of his hallmark pillars at the Biden Foundation and starting initiatives like “As You Are.” And even on this campaign, the plan that he rolled out, the plan to advance equality is comprehensive and really will push the well-being and equality forward if we can get Joe Biden elected as president. So stay tuned for some announcements, I promise you they’ll be great.

Blade: Can you give us a flavor of what they’ll be?

Greer: I can’t right now. I would love to, but I can say that we’re thinking about what I was talking about earlier, the intersection of our community, and the diversity within our community, uplifting the voices of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, folks of color, youth and veterans and people who are small business owners, artists, advocates, activists. We’re really now as a program thinking through how to do that effectively, but throughout Pride Month, we’re certainly going to be featuring all of our community.

Blade: You’re pretty close to Biden. Do you have a favorite memory of an interaction with him or anecdote along those lines?

Greer: I do, I do. The vice president has a level of empathy and has the amazing ability to care for people. His ability to empathize with people I think this is — it can’t be matched by very many other people, and it’s something I really value about him as a person, and as a leader.

And I was talking to him about LGBTQ equality, just as in preparation for an event and he stopped me and he said this is something I really want to do. This is something — this is what I want to make the hallmark of my administration. And I think that shows that he has a level of commitment to LGBTQ equality, that is paramount.

Also, thinking about the recent passing of Aimee Stevens. In some of the folks that whenever he was asked about it, whenever he was attending an event, he had attempted to call her, but unfortunately she passed earlier in the day and you could tell that her death has impacted him, but he really took time to talk through her legacy and why her passion and her commitment to fighting that should be something that all of us should be inspired by, something that deeply touched me because it demonstrated not only who he is as a person, but that he has always been a leader and who he will be as president.

Blade: Any day now the Supreme Court is going to rule on LGBTQ rights. Is the Biden campaign doing any contingency planning for possible outcomes in that decision?

Greer: We are actively monitoring the Title VII rulings, and as with any decision that the Trump administration may be coming coming down with. Specifically for Title VII, we have been very grateful to be working with LGBTQ movement leaders to understand the scope and impact of those rulings potentially and will be ready on decision day to inform and to help be a part of talking about what we need to do moving forward after the decision.

I think more than anything, the vice president believes in respect and dignity for all people, including LGBTQ workers, and I think for all of us, we ought to be thinking about the kind of country that comes after the Title VII rulings because really the decision is in our hands. The ultimate decision is in our hands. And this is why this election is so important in fighting to create an America that’s inclusive and includes everyone, and the vice president’s made passing the Equality Act, and advancing LGBTQ legislative priorities central pieces of his plan to advance equality.

In doing so, we have the beginning of what will be our response, not only as a campaign, but hopefully as an administration. And, we will most certainly be ready whenever the Supreme Court rules and we are monitoring this very, very closely.

Blade: Can you divulge the details about the talks you’ve had with advocacy groups about the decision like, who was involved and what possible things were considered?

Greer: I think that very generally, it’s just informative, getting information from movement leaders who can help us shape the outcome but until the decision comes down I wouldn’t want to say.

Blade: Let’s talk about appointments. Is the campaign considering a unity Cabinet, or naming a diverse set of Cabinet members ahead of the election?

Greer: The way I would answer it is the president has to make 4,100 appointments. Going back to my time at the Victory Institute, federal appointments has been something I’ve been passionate about for a very, very long time, and Vice President Biden’s made a commitment to ensuring that this administration reflects the diversity of America that’s including making LGBTQ appointments. Under the Obama-Biden administration, 330 LGBTQ people were appointed to positions throughout the federal government, which accounts for around eight percent of all appointments, which may be higher than the population share, which demonstrated even then their commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ people have very important decision-making roles throughout the administration.

So, you know, while it’s too early to talk about Cabinet appointments, you can rest assured that Vice President Biden will prioritize the appointments of LGBTQ people in an administration.

Blade: Let’s talk a little bit about the Trump administration, which has built a significant anti-LGBTQ record? Which one of his anti-LGBTQ policies bothers you the most?

Greer: Where do we start? So, in thinking about the way the Trump administration has treated LGBTQ people. I always start with the appointees that President Trump has named. His government as taking an intentional approach toward protections for LGBTQ Americans and attacking LGBTQ people for the sake of doing it.

And thinking about restoring the soul of our country, really is prioritizing restoring a government that doesn’t do that, that sees people, that seeks to represent people, it doesn’t deceive people. So that that’s where I would start.

But I think what’s really troubling, for me, is the protection that the Trump administration has rolled back for trans Americans, thinking about access to health care, thinking about trans people serving in the military, and so forth and so on.

This administration has been willing to single out transgender Americans in a way that has been very troubling and personally upsetting to me, which is why in summarizing the Vice President’s plan, which is protecting LGBT youth, passing the Equality Act, making the U.S. a leader again on equality around the world. The summary of that plan, which is advancing, protecting and restoring protections for trans Americans is something I’m really excited about because we need to get our government back to a place where are fighting for all of us, especially our transgender siblings.

And then the second part is the attacks on LGBTQ youth, the disregard to the lived experiences, the bullying, the harassment that LGBTQ youth face, and this administration’s willingness to — everything from having the Education Department turn a blind eye to it, to ignoring it, not supporting bills that would ban conversion therapy. LGBTQ youth are completely ignored by this administration. I also think that is very troubling.

Blade: Well speaking of appointments, there is one in particular I want to ask you about, Richard Grenell, who was until recently the acting director of national intelligence. Trump reportedly told him that his appointment as acting DNI was important because he was the first openly gay Cabinet member. Do you think Richard Grenell’s appointment was important?

Greer: Here’s how I’d answer that question, Chris, I think that if you have spent your life prioritizing the well being of LGBTQ people and thought to honestly fight for and advance LGBTQ equality, that makes anyone’s appointment a big deal and even think about history or even thinking about people serving in key appointments, the real power comes when they prioritize and they embrace grace and what it means to really fight for members of our community.

Biden National Press Secretary Jamal Brown: We have time for one more question, just so you know.

Greer: So, I think that Vice President Biden will appoint LGBTQ people into positions that will not only be there. You will find people that will fight for LGBTQ people period.

Blade: Right, since I got one final question I’ll just smush two together here. What would be your message to disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters who are not inclined to vote for Biden, in terms of what is at risk for LGBTQ Americans if the vice president doesn’t win in November?

Greer: The way I’d answer it: I think LGBTQ people understand what’s at stake in this election, and they want to see a country that really includes LGBTQ people and gets us to a place where our people are reflected in the laws that are coming out of Washington.

And so, I think that they’re getting involved, and this campaign is going to continue to work as it has from day one, to include all voices, every LGBTQ voice matters. And I’m looking forward to the next five months and getting out there, certainly virtually but in any capacity party to include LGBTQ voices of all backgrounds.

[Brown later told the Blade he had signaled time for one last question because the two had an imminent next appointment.]

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Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

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Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.

Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.

In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.

If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.

“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”

The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”

“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process.  We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.

“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”

A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.

Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”

Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.

The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.

“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”

Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.

For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.

Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”

“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”

But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.

No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.

“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”

Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.

Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.

Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.

To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.

A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.

“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”

But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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D.C. bill to ban LGBTQ panic defense delayed by Capitol security

Delivery of bill to Congress was held up due to protocols related to Jan. 6 riots

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New fencing around the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented some D.C. bills from being delivered to the Hill for a required congressional review. (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A bill approved unanimously last December by the D.C. Council to ban the so-called LGBTQ panic defense has been delayed from taking effect as a city law because the fence installed around the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented the law from being delivered to Congress.

According to Eric Salmi, communications director for D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who guided the bill through the Council’s legislative process, all bills approved by the Council and signed by the D.C. mayor must be hand-delivered to Congress for a required congressional review.

“What happened was when the Capitol fence went up after the January insurrection, it created an issue where we physically could not deliver laws to Congress per the congressional review period,” Salmi told the Washington Blade.

Among the bills that could not immediately be delivered to Congress was the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020, which was approved by the Council on a second and final vote on Dec. 15.

Between the time the bill was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and published in the D.C. Register under procedural requirements for all bills, it was not ready to be transmitted to Congress until Feb. 16, the Council’s legislative record for the bill shows.

Salmi said the impasse in delivering the bill to Congress due to the security fence prevented the bill from reaching Congress on that date and prevented the mandatory 60-day congressional review period for this bill from beginning at that time. He noted that most bills require a 30 legislative day review by Congress.

But the Evangelista-Hunter bill, named after a transgender woman and a gay man who died in violent attacks by perpetrators who attempted to use the trans and gay panic defense, includes a law enforcement related provision that under the city’s Home Rule Charter passed by Congress in the early 1970s requires a 60-day congressional review.

“There is a chance it goes into effect any day now, just given the timeline is close to being up,” Salmi said on Tuesday. “I don’t know the exact date it was delivered, but I do know the countdown is on,” said Salmi, who added, “I would expect any day now it should go into effect and there’s nothing stopping it other than an insurrection in January.”

If the delivery to Congress had not been delayed, the D.C. Council’s legislative office estimated the congressional review would have been completed by May 12.

A congressional source who spoke on condition of being identified only as a senior Democratic aide, said the holdup of D.C. bills because of the Capitol fence has been corrected.

“The House found an immediate workaround, when this issue first arose after the Jan. 6 insurrection,” the aide said.

“This is yet another reason why D.C. Council bills should not be subject to a congressional review period and why we need to grant D.C. statehood,” the aide said.

The aide added that while no disapproval resolution had been introduced in Congress to overturn the D.C. Evangelista-Hunter bill, House Democrats would have defeated such a resolution.

“House Democrats support D.C. home rule, statehood, and LGBTQ rights,” said the aide.

LGBTQ rights advocates have argued that a ban on using a gay or transgender panic defense in criminal trials is needed to prevent defense attorneys from inappropriately asking juries to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is to blame for a defendant’s criminal act, including murder.

Some attorneys have argued that their clients “panicked” after discovering the person against whom they committed a violent crime was gay or transgender, prompting them to act in a way they believed to be a form of self-defense.

In addition to its provision banning the LGBTQ panic defense, the Evangelista-Hunter bill includes a separate provision that strengthens the city’s existing hate crimes law by clarifying that hatred need not be the sole motivating factor for an underlying crime such as assault, murder, or threats to be prosecuted as a hate crime.

LGBTQ supportive prosecutors have said the clarification was needed because it is often difficult to prove to a jury that hatred is the only motive behind a violent crime. The prosecutors noted that juries have found defendants not guilty of committing a hate crime on grounds that they believed other motives were involved in a particular crime after defense lawyers argued that the law required “hate” to be the only motive in order to find someone guilty of a hate crime.

Salmi noted that while the hate crime clarification and panic defense prohibition provisions of the Evangelista-Hunter bill will become law as soon as the congressional review is completed, yet another provision in the bill will not become law after the congressional review because there are insufficient funds in the D.C. budget to cover the costs of implementing the provision.

The provision gives the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General authority to investigate hate related discrimination at places of public accommodation. Salmi said the provision expands protections against discrimination to include web-based retailers or online delivery services that are not physically located in D.C.

“That is subject to appropriations,” Salmi said. “And until it is funded in the upcoming budget it cannot be legally enforced.”

He said that at Council member Allen’s request, the Council added language to the bill that ensures that all other provisions of the legislation that do not require additional funding – including the ban on use of the LGBTQ panic defense and the provision clarifying that hatred doesn’t have to be the sole motive for a hate crime – will take effect as soon as the congressional approval process is completed.

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D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

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shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.

According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.

Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.

“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”

The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”

Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.

Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.

In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.

“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.

Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.

The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.

In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”

At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.

The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.

In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.

The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.

It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.

Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.

The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.

The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.

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