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Pressure builds on Obama to address “Don’t Ask” in State of the Union



President Obama is facing increased pressure from opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to address how he’ll tackle his pledge to overturn the law in his upcoming State of the Union speech.

Those seeking end the 1993 law banning gays from serving openly in the U.S. military are looking to Obama to discuss on Wednesday his plans for overturning the ban this year.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said he’s received “strong indications” that Obama will address “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in his speech, but said he doesn’t believe the president “will go as far as some in our community would like.”

“There is some strategic risk involved in mentioning ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the State of the Union address, but its inclusion will send a strong message that the White House is still serious about taking on the issue this year,” Nicholson said.

The Human Rights Campaign declined to comment on whether the inclusion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the State of the Union address prior to Obama’s speech.

On Wednesday, two prominent opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili — issued a joint statement through the senator’s office reiterating their belief that now is the time for overturning the law.

Shalikashvili said a country “built on the principle of equality” should embrace “change that will build a stronger, more cohesive military.”

“It is time to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and allow our military leaders to create policy that holds our service members to a single standard of conduct and discipline,” he said.

Gillibrand was similarly critical of the ban and called it “an unjust, outdated and harmful rule that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women.”

“I’ve been working with my colleagues in Congress and other leaders to overturn this wasteful and destructive policy,” she said. “I am hopeful that President Obama will make this a top priority.”

Whether or not President Obama will address “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his State of the Union speech remains uncertain, although there are signs he will include it in his address.

On Monday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters he had postponed a hearing on the issue initially set for this month because he was told Obama may talk about the ban in his State of the Union address.

And White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during a press conference on Tuesday that discussions are underway about including plans for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the speech.

The Palm Center, a think-tank for gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, on Tuesday issued an analysis on several ways that Obama could discuss “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during the State of the Union address.

Christopher Neff, deputy executive director for the Palm Center, said in a statement the speech presents Obama with “the opportunity to announce the end of one of the most notorious policies of federal discrimination left standing in the United States.”

In one option outlined by the Palm Center, Obama could offer a legislative strategy to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The president could endorse standalone legislation that would overturn the law or announce he’ll include such language in the defense spending request he’ll send to Congress next month.

“This position would represent significant, but likely incremental, change,” the Palm Center states. “Repeal legislation faces hurdles to passage in 2010, but the President will have taken a major step forward with the base bill inclusion.”

Obama could also announce plans to change the execution of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” administratively without an act from Congress, which would likely involve giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates additional discretion in implementing the policy in a way that would reduce discharges, according to the Palm Center.

“Under this calculus, there will not be any votes in the House or Senate on repeal in 2010,” the Palm Center states. “The judgment is that it is too difficult for many moderates and this likely means that repeal will not be included in the Defense Authorization base bill from the Pentagon.”

The third option for Obama in addressing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to the Palm Center, would be mentioning the law in passing or announcing support from military leaders without putting forward an affirmative strategy.

“This would represent the least embraced of the three potential options,” the Palm Center states.

Neff also suggested in the statement that how Obama addresses “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his State of the Union speech will set for tone for how Congress would handle hearings for the defense budget after the president’s request is made public.

Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen are set to give testimony on the fiscal year 2011 defense budget request on Tuesday in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Bryan Thomas, spokesperson for the committee, said the hearing on the budget request isn’t in lieu of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hearing initially set for January, but said it’s possible senators “will choose to ask” Mullen and Gates about the law.

Also bolstering pressure on Obama to announce his plans for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a new report from the Williams Institute, a think-tank on sexual orientation at the University of California. The brief details the number of gays in the military and the cost of replacing them after they’ve been discharged under the ban.

Gary Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute and study author, said in a statement that statistical information from the U.S. government shows gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans have a presence in the military.

“Despite official policy requiring that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals remain silent about their sexual orientation, data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that an estimated 66,000 LGB men and women are serving in the U.S. military,” he said.

These 66,000 service members account for about 2.2 percent of military personnel, according to the Williams Institute. Of these troops, about 13,000 serve on active duty, constituting 0.9 percent of all active duty personnel, and nearly 53,000 serve in the National Guard and reserve forces, the study found.

The Williams Institute also found “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has cost the federal government between $290 million and more than a half a billion dollars since its inception and that replacing discharged service members under the ban costs between $22,000 to $43,000 for each person.

Gates said ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will “save a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars since estimates suggest that the policy has cost more than half a billion dollars.”


Federal Government

Trump indicted in classified document mishandling case

Former president to appear in federal court in Miami on Tuesday



Former President Donald Trump (Photo by shganti1777 via Bigstock)

A federal grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump on seven criminal counts in connection with his mishandling of more than 100 classified documents.

In a series of posts to his Truth Social account Thursday, Trump said that he has been indicted related to his mishandling of the classified documents taken to his estate at Mar-a-Lago after his term of office ended in January 2021.

The unprecedented decision comes after a more than yearlong investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into whether Trump knowingly retained classified and top secret government records when he left office and then disregarded a subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession and whether he and his staff obstructed Federal Bureau of Investigation efforts to ensure all documents had been returned.

A person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly said Trump’s lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before he announced on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted, the Associated Press reported.

In the first of a series of posts Trump wrote:

“Page 1: The corrupt Biden administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., with even more boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is ‘secured’ by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time.”

“Page 2: I have been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday at 3 p.m. I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former president of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting president in the history of our country, and is currently leading, by far, all candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 presidential election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!”

“Page 3: This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a country in serious and rapid decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!”

The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

The AP also noted it remains unclear what the immediate and long-term political consequences will be for Trump. His first indictment spurred millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t damage Trump in the polls.

No matter what, the indictment — and the legal fight that follows — will throw Trump back into the spotlight, sucking attention away from the other candidates who are trying to build momentum in the 2024 presidential race, the AP pointed out.

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The White House

White House debuts new actions to protect the LGBTQ community

The administration is coordinating efforts across different federal agencies



The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, during a call with reporters on Wednesday, announced a slate of new actions the administration will undertake to better protect the LGBTQ community.

These will focus on three major areas, she said: safety and security, issues for LGBTQ youth like mental health and housing insecurity, and combatting book bans.

President Joe Biden has “already developed a historic record of supporting the LGBTQ community,” Tanden said, noting that he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are also prepared to “host the largest Pride celebration in White House history” on Thursday evening.

At the same time, she said, LGBTQ Americans are now experiencing “a whole range of attacks” from “hateful, un-American legislation” to “a disturbing surge in violent threats.”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the administration’s “community safety partnership” will “work hand in hand with LGBTQ community organizations” to provide safety training and resources, Tanden said.

For example, she said, “and it’s so unfortunate to have to say this,” but the partnership will help LGBTQ community centers “prepare for the worst” – including “bomb threats, active shooters, and cybersecurity threats – while also protecting “healthcare providers who serve the community by working with doctors and medical associations.”

Actions for LGBTQ kids that Tanden previewed on Wednesday include HHS’s development of a behavioral health care advisory for transgender and gender diverse youth, to help ensure young people are given the best evidence-based care.

On Thursday, she said, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch federal initiatives to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness and new regulations to “protect LGBTQ kids in foster care.”

Finally, Tanden said, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “will appoint a new coordinator” to combat book bans, which disproportionately target, for exclusion, materials with LGBTQ characters or themes, or communities of color.

DoE’s coordinator will “offer trainings and resources to schools to help them understand that students have a right to learn free from discrimination, and that book bands may violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students,” Tanden said.

A senior administration official, responding to a question from the Washington Blade following Tanden’s remarks, elaborated on the scope of the community safety partnership.

Community organizations, they said, will include “health clinics, community centers, and organizations that are planning Pride celebrations, but it also includes small businesses like restaurants and bars that have been targeted because they’re run by LGBTQI+ Americans or because they host events that support that community.”

“We’ll be encouraging and reaching out directly to organizations that have been impacted by these violent threats to help make sure that they have the training and the resources they need to stay safe,” the official said.

They added that DHS and DoJ, in anticipation of the possibility that threats will increase in June, “have both been working proactively over many months leading up to Pride to communicate with state and local law enforcement about the threats that the community may face and to help local pride organizers get access to any federal safety resources they may need to help keep the community safe.”

Asked to explain how HHS’s healthcare focused initiatives will be reconciled with restrictions targeting medical interventions for trans youth in conservative states, the official noted ongoing efforts to fight back – including by federal rulemaking and litigated challenges of policies that violate Americans’ rights.

When it comes to the actions previewed by Tanden, the official said, “Almost half of LGBTQI+ youth say they seriously considered committing suicide in the past year, and that attacks on their rights have made their mental health worse. That’s a serious crisis that we want to take on and this advisory will help.”

Additionally, they said, “HHS is announcing that they’re going to release new guidance to states to help them use federal funds to offer dedicated mental health services to the LGBTQI+ community,” while “the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, is releasing $1.7 million in new federal funding for programs that support the health and mental health of LGBTQI+ youth by investing in programs that are focused on family affirmation.”

Responding to other questions about anti-LGBTQ legislation and the rising transphobic and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in America, the official offered some insight into the Biden-Harris administration’s positions on these matters more broadly.

“Part of our role here is to lift up the stories of transgender kids and their families to help the American people understand what is happening to families who, as the President says aren’t hurting anyone but are being hurt by these laws,” said the official.

“These aren’t just attacks on the rights of LGBTQI+{ Americans, they are part and parcel of a coordinated attack on our democracy,” they said. “We’re not just talking about laws that target transgender kids. These are really laws that get at the heart of our basic freedoms and values: the right to free expression, the right to make decisions about your own body, the right to parent and raise your children.”

The official added, “Opponents of LGBTQI+ Americans are leading a pretty significant campaign of disinformation,” which have included “the same types of hateful lies and stereotypes that have been used against our community really for decades and for generations.”

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Calif. school district meeting over LGBTQ studies turns violent

Police officers and protestors clashed outside Glendale Unified School Board meeting



(YouTube screenshot from KCAL)

Police officers and protestors clashed outside a meeting of the Glendale Unified School Board over LGBTQ studies and the GUSD polices on addressing LGBTQ related issues.

News footage from CBS Los Angeles KCAL showed approximately 50 Glendale police officers attempting to keep the two groups separated and then fists were thrown as both sides engaged in physical assaults. A Glendale police spokesperson confirmed that some arrests had been made but wouldn’t comment further.

Witnesses and news crews noted that many of those protesting against the LGBTQ community were from the same group that had protested at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, angered over a Pride month assembly. Officers from the LAPD’s North Hollywood Community Station responded and there were physical assaults as well.

The situation in Glendale has become increasingly acrimonious. Last year during Pride month, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Tammy Tiber, had enraged some parents after speaking to her students about LGBTQ topics on Zoom. The GUSD officials later transferred her because Tiber had told them she no longer felt safe.

A spokesperson for the district said that all materials are vetted by the GUSD, and are in full compliance with curriculum that deals with LGBTQ history, mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.

Last month on May 18, a man who is not the parent of a child in the district, accused GUSD school board vice president Jennifer Freemon of concealing consistent attempts to “indoctrinate” students on LGBTQ issues.

“They are saying boys can be girls and girls can be boys,” Henry said during the board meeting. “If you believe in that, that is your opinion, and if that is your official policy, Jennifer, that is indoctrination because it offends a lot of people’s actual doctrine.”

As an example of instructing students to “behave inappropriately,” Henry referenced an alleged recent incident involving a student with special needs. GUSD student Thelma Gonzalez, who spoke later in the meeting, was allegedly asked to provide the definition of “scissoring” during a health lesson, despite her mother requesting that she be excused.

“A violation of their doctrine, their Christian doctrine,” Henry said, referring to Gonzalez and her mother. “Regardless of what you think, what I think, what the community thinks about any faith, you violated that. And if you don’t condemn that today, Jennifer, you are a hypocrite and a liar.”

He then mounted an attack on district polices regarding its transgender students.

“If you think they value your children, you’re more than entitled to think that,” Henry said. “They will not lie to you about your child, they will lie to these parents. They will conceal that private information from parents. You have enshrined that into doctrine, into policy, which is a misinterpretation of the law.”

It is not immediately clear what policy Henry was referring to. However, GUSD’s anti-discrimination policy states the district will only disclose a student’s “transgender or gender-nonconforming status” with their consent. It also mandates that a district official may discuss with that same student “any need” to confide in their parents or guardians.

Inside the Tuesday GUSD board meeting, pro- and anti-LGBTQ protesters faced off over how schools teach gender and sexuality, attendees were suddenly told to shelter in place as the violence outside escalated. The interruption came after about an hour of public comments, most of them in defense of the LGBTQ community and the district’s handling of materials and policies.

Protesters fight outside Glendale school district meeting about LGBTQ studies:


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