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6 gay candidates competing in crowded field for Council, school board

At least 47 LGBTQ hopefuls competing for ANC seats

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gay candidates, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Three openly gay candidates are running for seats on the D.C. Council and another three are running for seats on the city’s nine-member State Board of Education in an election on Nov. 3 with a record number of candidates competing for Council and school board seats.

At least 47 out LGBTQ candidates are also running for seats on the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, according to a list compiled by the ANC Rainbow Caucus and separate information obtained by the Washington Blade. That number is about double the number of known LGBTQ ANC candidates who ran in the 2018 election.

Two of the gay D.C. Council candidates – Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alexander “Alex” Padro, who’s running as an independent, and Libertarian Party leader Joe Bishop-Henchman – are among 23 candidates running for two at-large D.C. Council seats up for grabs on Nov. 3.

And gay Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Randy Downs, who’s also running as an independent, is one of three candidates challenging incumbent Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto, the Democratic nominee, in a hotly contested race.

Downs and Padro have been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national group that raises money for LGBTQ candidates nationwide.

In one of the State Board of Education races, gay former teacher and longtime education advocate Mysiki Valentine and gay Howard University Political Science Department Chairman Ravi K. Perry are among six candidates competing for an at-large seat on the nonpartisan education board.

Gay education advocate Allister Chang, who recently served as a visiting researcher at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is one of four candidates running for the Ward 2 seat on the Board of Education. He is running to replace gay Ward 2 Board of Education member Jack Jacobson, who chose not to run for re-election and who has endorsed Chang. Chang also received the LGBTQ Victory Fund’s endorsement.

Valentine, Perry, and Chang have said the D.C. Public School System’s ability to address the needs and concerns of LGBTQ students would be among their highest priority in carrying out their role as a school board member.

Other races on the ballot this year include the D.C. Congressional Delegate seat currently held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter who’s considered the strong favorite to win re-election; and the so-called “shadow” U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats, which have no powers but serve as advocacy positions for D.C. statehood and D.C.’s interests in Congress.

Democratic incumbent Paul Strauss is considered the front runner against Statehood Green Party Challenger Eleanor Ory and Republican challenger Cornelia Weiss for the shadow Senate seat. Democrat Oye Owolewa is considered the frontrunner against Statehood Green Party candidate Joyce Robinson-Paul and independent candidate Sohaer Rizvi Syed for the shadow House seat.

Also on the ballot are races for D.C. Council seats in Ward 4, in which Democratic nominee Janeese Lewis George is being challenged by Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd; the Ward 7 Council seat in which incumbent Democrat Vincent Gray is running unopposed; and the Ward 8 Council seat in which incumbent Democrat Trayon White is being challenged by Republican Nate Derenge and independent candidates Fred Hill and Christopher Cole. George, Trayon White, and Gray are considered the strong favorites to win their respective races.

Similar to past recent D.C. local elections, nearly all candidates running and all those considered to have any chance of winning have expressed support for LGBTQ rights, with most expressing strong support. Local LGBTQ activists have said that means, unlike other cities and states, D.C.’s LGBTQ voters have the luxury of being able to choose who to vote for based on non-LGBTQ issues with the expectation that no serious candidate opposes LGBTQ equality.

However, local LGBTQ activists sometimes disagree over whether an out LGBTQ candidate should be supported on the basis of their sexual orientation or whether other issues should take precedent. Many activists, including members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political organization, say it’s important to have LGBTQ people in elective office, especially on the D.C. Council.

There has not been an LGBTQ member of the D.C. Council since gay Council members Jim Graham, a Democrat, and David Catania, an independent, left the Council in January 2015.

The Stein Club has endorsed incumbent D.C. Council member Robert White for one of the two at-large seats up for election. But the club could not endorse any of the three gay Council candidates under its longstanding rules that prohibit the endorsement of a non-Democrat when a Democrat is running in the same race.

The club endorsed all Democratic Council candidates running in the general election except Pinto in Ward 2 after Democrat Pinto was unable to obtain the 60 percent vote needed under club rules for an endorsement. The no-endorsement vote in the Ward 2 race is considered a clear sign of support among Stein Club members for Downs, whose supporters in the club voted against an endorsement for Pinto.

Observers say Downs, while in an uphill campaign, may have a better shot at winning than Padro and Bishop-Henchman, who are competing with several better known candidates, including former at-large Council member Vincent Orange.

Randy Downs and Brooke Pinto are facing off in the Ward 2 Council race that has divided LGBTQ residents. (Photos courtesy of subjects’ respective campaigns)

In the Ward 2 race, Pinto, a 28-year-old attorney and political newcomer to D.C., won the Democratic primary with just 28 percent of the vote in an eight-candidate race. Two weeks later she won a special election to fill the Ward 2 seat until January after longtime Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans (D) resigned earlier this year following allegations of violations of ethics rules.

The Democratic nominee for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat has won the general election in every election since D.C. began its local home rule government in 1974, a development that would normally make Pinto the strong front runner. But some political observers say Downs, who has received numerous endorsements from prominent Ward 2 activists and small businesses as well as from the Washington Teachers Union, say he has a shot at breaking the longstanding trend of the Democrat winning the Ward 2 seat.

Pinto has expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights and has advocated for LGBTQ supportive legislation during her four months in office. She has also received prominent endorsements, including from the Washington Post and some LGBTQ activists, including gay bar owner and ANC commissioner John Guggenmos. Also backing Pinto is gay Logan Circle ANC commissioner John Fanning, who was one of the unsuccessful candidates running against Pinto in the Democratic primary, and gay Democratic activist Austin Naughton, who serves as chair of the Ward 2 Democrats organization.

Other political observers, while agreeing that Downs has waged a strong campaign, point out that two other candidates are running for the seat that are competing for votes that Downs needs to win an upset victory. The two are independent candidate Martin Miguel Fernandez, who is vying to become the Council’s first Latino member, and Statehood Green Party candidate Peter Bolton. Both have also expressed strong support for LGBTQ issues and are positioning themselves as left-leaning progressives.

Downs has described himself as a “pragmatic progressive” compared to Pinto, who has positioned herself as a moderate to progressive on some issues, according to D.C. Council observers.

Pinto is ahead in money raised for her campaign, with a cumulative total of $189,243 as of the time of the filing of her Oct. 10 campaign finance report. She has selected to enroll in the city’s traditional campaign donor program that allows corporate donations.

Downs’s Oct. 10 report shows he is running a respectable second with $140,730 raised. He points out that he has enrolled in the city’s public financing program where he receives matching funds from the city with donations limited to a maximum of $50 per donor for a ward candidate and corporate donors are not allowed. Downs says he has far more donors from Ward 2 and from within D.C. than Pinto, who has received a large number of out-of-town campaign contributions.

Bolton’s Oct. 10 finance report shows he has raised a total of $2,841 as of Oct. 10. The most recent report that Fernandez has filed, according to Office of Campaign Finance records, is for Aug. 10, which shows he raised $9,446 as of that time. He told the Blade on Tuesday that he applied for an extension for filing his Oct. 10 report but he estimates his total funds raised are about $12,000.

Downs received a +10 rating on LGBTQ issues from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the group’s highest rating. GLAA gave ratings of +7.5 for Pinto, +7 for Fernandez, and +4 for Bolton. In a statement accompanying its ratings GLAA says each of the four candidates expressed support for all the LGBTQ related issues the group considers important in its candidate questionnaire. The statement says those with the higher ratings gave a greater degree of substance to their questionnaire responses or, like Downs, had a more extensive record of involvement in LGBTQ endeavors.

Downs created a stir in September when he released a statement criticizing Pinto for accepting maximum campaign donations of $500 each from Michigan’s Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette and Schuette’s wife. Schuette has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. Schuette also received the endorsement of President Trump when he ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan in 2018.

“These are not our values and we do not accept large donations from politicians who advocate for those values,” Downs said in his statement.

The Blade confirmed from Pinto’s campaign finance report filed with the Office of Campaign Finance that Schuette and his wife made the contributions to her campaign.

“My support for equal rights and the LGBTQ community is longstanding and unwavering,” Pinto told the Blade in a statement. “Views contrary to the rights of our LGBTQ community are abhorrent, and no contributor, politician, or anyone else is going to alter my beliefs, including my steadfast support for same-sex marriage and civil rights protections,” she said.

“I do not vet the views and actions of the thousands of supporters and contributors to our campaign, but I do take my responsibility seriously to educate and encourage all in our community to be inclusive and supportive,” Pinto said. “Mr. Downs might consider discontinuing spurious attacks on me and start discussing policies he would promote.”

Downs told the Blade his campaign website includes information on his numerous policy proposals and his long record of advocacy for Ward 2 residents. He criticized Pinto for not returning the contributions from the Schuettes.

In the at-large Council race, incumbent Democrat Robert White, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, is considered the favorite to win the so-called “Democratic” seat. He received a +10 rating from GLAA. Most political observers say the other seat, which under the city’s election law cannot go to a Democrat, is up for grabs among the better known independent candidates.

Under the city’s election rules voters are asked to select two candidates in the at-large race. The two candidates with the highest vote counts are declared the winners.

Padro is well known and has support from his home base in the Shaw neighborhood in his role as an ANC commissioner and as co-founder and executive director of Shaw Main Streets, a neighborhood advocacy and development group. But he doesn’t have widespread name recognition in other parts of the city, although his campaign signs are appearing in each of the city’s eight wards.

Bishop-Henchman, an attorney who lives in the city’s Eckington neighborhood, serves as vice president of policy and litigation for the National Taxpayers Union Foundation and as chair of D.C.’s Libertarian Party. He ran as the Libertarian Party candidate two years ago in 2018 for the D.C. Attorney General’s position against incumbent Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat.

D.C. Board of Election returns show Bishop-Henchman received 14,941 votes, or 6.68 percent, compared to Racine, who won easily with 207,451 votes or 92.77 percent.

Records from the Office of Campaign Finance show that Bishop-Henchman this year applied for and received a waiver from having to file campaign finance reports by committing himself not to raise or spend more than $500 for his campaign. That suggests he may be running as the symbolic standard bearer of the Libertarian Party and not running an active campaign. He has not responded to a call from the Blade for comment as of early this week.

Padro’s Oct. 10 finance report shows he has raised $39,010 for his campaign as of Oct. 10. In the school board race, Valentine has raised $14,488 according to his Oct. 10 finance report. Perry’s report shows he raised $5,255 for his at-large campaign as of Oct. 10. Chang’s report for Oct. 10 shows he raised $2,775 for his campaign as of that date.

GLAA gave Padro a rating of +7, saying he has a strong record on LGBTQ issues and provided “good substance” on his questionnaire responses but lost points for disagreeing with GLAA’s position for decriminalizing sex work in the District. Padro instead has called for legalizing sex work with strict regulations to prevent ill effects, a position that GLAA says “creates more barriers and marginalization” for people involved in sex work.

Bishop-Henchman received a +2.5 GLAA rating. GLAA says in its accompanying statement that he agrees with GLAA on all issues but offered “very little substance” and did not provide any record of working on LGBTQ issues.

Among the other LGBTQ supportive candidates against whom Padro and Bishop-Henchman are competing is Christina Henderson, a former staffer to D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large). Henderson received a +10 GLAA rating. Grosso isn’t running for re-election, and his seat is the one the 23 candidates, including Padro, Bishop-Henchman, and Henderson are running for. Grosso, also a longtime LGBTQ community supporter, has endorsed Henderson as his replacement on the Council.

Also running for the at-large Council seat is longtime LGBTQ community ally Monica Palacio who until earlier this year served as director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights. She received a +9.5 rating from GLAA. Former Council member Orange, who some consider one of the frontrunners for the at-large seat, received a +2.5 rating from GLAA on grounds that he did not return the GLAA questionnaire and his positions on various issues couldn’t be determined.

Record number of LGBTQ ANC candidates

Among the 47 known LGBTQ Advisory Neighborhood Commission candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot, 19 are incumbent commissioners and 22 are running unopposed. At least one LGBTQ candidate is running in each of the city’s eight wards, with most running in Wards 1 and 2.

There are a total of 40 ANCs located throughout the city with each having between two and nine single member districts, with a total of 296 individual commissioners. The commissioners hold unpaid elected positions under the city’s Home Rule Charter that are charged with making recommendations to city officials on a wide range of neighborhood issues for which city officials are required to give “great weight.”

Among those running unopposed is incumbent Monika Nemeth in Single Member District 3F06 in Ward 3. Nemeth’s election to the ANC two years ago marked the first known time a transgender person was elected to public office in D.C. She is a former president of the Stein Club and currently serves as one of the club’s two vice presidents.

Another candidate identified by the ANC Rainbow Caucus as LGBTQ is Raymond Chandler who, along with gay candidate Justin Riordan, is challenging ANC 5C05 incumbent Darlene Oliver in the city’s Brentwood neighborhood. Chandler, who goes by the name Rayceen Pendarvis, is well known in the LGBTQ community as an entertainer, emcee, and community activist.

Riordan told the Blade that both his and Chandler’s campaign signs have been torn down repeatedly while Oliver’s signs have been left alone. LGBTQ candidates in the Logan Circle ANC 2F, Rehana Mohammed and Alexandra Bailey, and Dupont Circle ANC 2B09 candidate Kyle Mulhall have also reported having their campaign signs pulled down or damaged.

Following is the list of known LGBTQ ANC candidates and the ANC districts in which they are running as released by the ANC Rainbow Caucus or obtained separately by the Blade:

Judson Wood, 1A06 (Columbia Heights/unopposed)

Kent Boese, 1A08 (Park View/incumbent/unopposed)

Michael Wray, 1A09 (Park View/incumbent/unopposed)

Larry Handerhan, 1B01 (Ledroit Park/unopposed)

Alan Kensek Jr., 1B05 (Meridian Hill Park)

Eric Behna, 1B08 (Columbia Heights)

James Turner, 1B09 (Columbia Heights/incumbent/unopposed)

Rob Hudson, 1B11 (Pleasant Plains/incumbent/unopposed)

Ted Guthrie, 1C03 (Adams Morgan/incumbent)

Japer Bowles, 1C07 (Adams Morgan/incumbent/unopposed)

Chris Jackson, 1D01 (Adams Morgan/incumbent)

Matthew Sampson, 2B01 (Dupont Circle/incumbent)

William Herbig, 2B05 (Dupont Circle/unopposed)

Mike Silverstein, 2B06 (West Dupont/incumbent/unopposed)

Matthew Holden, 2B08 (Dupont Circle/unopposed)

Kyle Mulhall, 2B09 (Dupont East-U Street Corridor)

Michael Shankle, 2C01 (Penn Quarter-Chinatown/incumbent/unopposed)

Will Mascaro, 2C02 (Gallery Place)

Brian Romanowski, 2F01 (Logan Circle/unopposed)

John Guggenmos, 2F02 (Logan Circle/incumbent/unopposed)

John Fanning, 2F04 (Logan Circle/incumbent/unopposed)

Kevin Sylvester, 2F07 (Logan Circle/incumbent)

Rehana Mohammed, 2F07 (Logan Circle)

Alexandra Bailey, 2F08 (Logan Circle)

Lee Brian Reba, 3C01 (Woodley Park/incumbent/unopposed)

Toni Ghazi, 3D02 (Spring Valley)

Christian Damiana, 3D07 (American University Park/unopposed)

Ryan Keefe, 3F05 (North Cleveland Park)

Monika Nemeth, 3F06 (North Cleveland Park/incumbent/unopposed)

Matt Buechner, 3F07 (Forest Hills/unopposed)

Evan Yeats, 4B01 (Takoma/incumbent/unopposed)

Mike Whelan, 4C06 (Petworth)

Ra Amin, 5B04 (Brookland/incumbent/unopposed)

Raymond Chandler, 5C05 (Brentwood)

Justin Riordan, 5C05 (Brentwood)

Salvador Sauceda-Guzman, 5D02 (Trinidad/unopposed)

Michael Lussier, 5D06 (Trinidad)

Rob Dooling, 6A06 (Capitol Hill East)

Drew Courtney, 6C06 (Near Northeast/incumbent/unopposed)

Ronald Collins, 6D03 (Near Southwest/incumbent/unopposed)

Andy Litsky, 6D04 (Southwest Waterfront/incumbent/unopposed)

Edward Daniels, 6D07 (Navy Yard/incumbent)

Michael Eichler, 6E01 (Shaw/unopposed)

Anthony Lorenzo Green, 7C04 (Deanwood/incumbent)

Keith Hasan-Towery, 7E04 (Marshall Heights)

Aiyi’nah Ford, 8A06 (Anacostia)

Isaac Smith, 8A06 (Anacostia)

Following is a list of 24 candidates on the ballot for the at-large D.C. Council seat in the order that they appear on the ballot along with the rating they received on LGBTQ issues from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

An asterisk indicates GLAA did not receive a returned questionnaire it says it sent to all candidates asking for their positions on LGBTQ issues from which it bases its rating score. Candidates from whom it doesn’t receive a returned questionnaire receive a “0” rating unless GLAA has information about their record on LGBTQ issues.

Christina D. Henderson

Independent

GLAA rating: +10

Vincent Orange*

Independent

GLAA rating: +2.5

Franklin Garcia

GLAA rating: +8

Rick Murphree

Independent

[Withdrew his candidacy too late to be removed from the ballot.]

Marya Pickering

Republican

GLAA rating: -3

Marcus Goodwin*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Markus Batchelor*

Independent

GLAA rating: +6

Michangelo ‘DoctorMic’ Scruggs*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Mario Cristaldo

Independent

GLAA rating: +6,5

Calvin H. Gurley*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Claudia Barragan*

Independent

GLAA rating: +1

Keith Silver*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Alexander M. ‘Alex’ Padro

Independent

GLAA rating: +7

Robert White

Democrat

GLAA rating: +10

Jeanne Lewis*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Monica Palacio

Independent

GLAA rating: +9.5

Ann C. Wilcox*

Statehood Green

GLAA rating: +0.5

Joe Bishop-Henchman

Libertarian

GLAA rating: +2.5

Kathy Henderson*

Independent

GLAA rating: -1

Eric M. Rogers*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Chander Jayaraman

Independent

GLAA rating: +5

A’Shia Howard*

Independent

GLAA rating: 0

Ed Lazere

Independent

GLAA rating: +8

Will Merrifield

Independent

GLAA rating: +4.5

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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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