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Murphy confident Congress will overturn ‘Don’t Ask’ this year

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The sponsor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation in the U.S. House is confident Congress will overturn the law this year — even as other lawmakers have indicated repeal may not happen until later.

In an interview with DC Agenda Tuesday, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) said he believed lawmakers would overturn this year the 1993 statute preventing gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military and that he’s expecting Congress to take up the issue “legislatively in the next couple months.”

Murphy said the upcoming defense authorization bill could be a vehicle for passing repeal legislation. He noted that passage as part of defense authorization would give the Pentagon time to complete the study currently underway on the law.

“We usually don’t pass that into law until October of that year,” Murphy said. “October is about seven months away. That’s plenty of time for the folks to get ready to just put out to the troops that you need to respect not just one another’s race, one another creed, but also one another’s sexual orientation.”

Still, Murphy said defense authorization was just one way that Congress could enact repeal. Other options remain available.

“I think that’s one of the vehicles moving forward, and so I anticipate getting this done this year,” he said.

Murphy said momentum has been building toward repeal in the last couple months, leading to a position where Congress can overturn the 1993 law. In particular, Murphy cited the testimony Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen gave last month in support of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Now is the time when senior leadership in our military who are responsible to have the best policies for our young men and women who serve the country are calling for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — as has our commander-in-chief,” Murphy said. “So now Congress needs to get off the sidelines and get this done this year.”

Murphy said the growing number of lawmakers who have expressed support for repeal also is contributing to the momentum.

Last month, Murphy picked up another co-sponsor for repeal legislation in the House, Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), bringing the total number of co-sponsors for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act to 188. Murphy said he’s received commitments from about two dozen other House members that they’d vote in favor of the bill should it come to a floor vote, which would bring the votes close to the 218 needed for passage.

Murphy also expressed enthusiasm for plans by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to soon introduce companion legislation in the Senate and said the independent senator should be able to bring Democrats and Republicans on board.

“I know he’s committed to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’“ Murphy said. “I know he knows the best thing for our military, and frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, I think he’s been one of the leaders in the Senate.”

Murphy said he’s expecting Lieberman’s bill to be similar to his in terms of doing away with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and providing for a non-discrimination policy. But Murphy said he’s unsure about other details, such as whether Lieberman’s bill will have a longer implementation time to allow the Pentagon to complete its study on the law.

The lawmaker is not alone in expecting that Congress will repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. On Saturday, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said at a fundraising dinner in Raleigh, N.C., that 2010 would be the year that advocates would do away with the ban on open service in the military.

Despite these expectations, others have expressed doubt about whether Congress will repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

Media reports have indicated the White House hasn’t provided Congress a clear path forward on proceeding with repeal. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently told DC Agenda the White House has been “muddled” on the issue and that he’s hoping the White House makes the path clear for Congress in coming weeks.

But Murphy said the White House has been crystal clear in that Congress should work to do away with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“The commander-in-chief has said that he wants the Congress to put a bill on his desk to finally repeal this harmful policy that has hurt our national security and has cost the American taxpayer $1.3 billion,” Murphy said.

Another voice of doubt comes from Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who said he’s skeptical the votes are there to repeal the law banning open service.

Levin has been floating the idea of a legislative moratorium on discharges, which he said lawmakers might more likely support because it doesn’t predetermine the outcome of the study currently underway at the Pentagon.

But Murphy called a moratorium “half-stepping” and said that full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still the way to go.

“This is a time when we need to make sure that we refocus our efforts on capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda,” Murphy said. “Now is not the time to have Chapter 15 investigations and hearing if someone is gay or straight in our military.”

Along with many other Democratic lawmakers, Murphy could face a difficult re-election campaign this fall. A number of Republicans have lined up to challenge the lawmaker, including Mike Fitzpatrick, the former House member whom Murphy ousted in 2006 by taking 50.3 percent of the vote.

Asked whether his public support for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was having an impact on his constituents’ view of him, Murphy dismissed such worries about his re-election prospects.

“I wasn’t elected to worry about re-election,” he said. “I was elected to make sure that I’m fighting for the families of our military and to keep our country and our economy strong, and I’m doing everything in my power to make good on that special trust and confidence.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee essentially kills three anti-transgender bills

Measures would ban transition-related health care for minors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Tuesday essentially killed three bills that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in the state.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the Senate Health Subcommittee “recommended killing” state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. 

“We expect these bills to be officially dead after the full committee meets on Thursday,” said Equality Virginia.

Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, and they have said they will block any anti-LGBTQ bill that reaches their chamber. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday reiterated this point.

“With the defeat of these bills in the Senate, our (Virginia Senate Democrats) made it clear that *any* bills in the House targeting trans kids during the final week before crossover will not become law if they make it to the Senate,” she tweeted. “Let’s focus on feeding kids, not singling them out.”

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff, who is Jewish, traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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National

Memphis police release Tyre Nichols arrest, fatal beating video

29-year-old Black man died after traffic stop

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(Screenshot from NBC News Now)

Three videos consisting of both body cam footage and street surveillance footage were made public by the Memphis Police Department Friday evening showing the violent arrest and beating of Memphis resident 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Nichols died three days after he was beaten by police in a traffic stop in the Hickory Hill neighborhood around 8:22 p.m. on Jan. 7, in an altercation Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis described, saying “in my 36 years in law enforcement, I don’t think I have witnessed the disregard for a human being displayed in this video.” 

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday that five now-former Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired for misconduct, indicted by a grand jury and taken into custody.

Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. By Friday morning, they had posted bond.

Left: Justin Smith, top center: Emmitt Martin III, top right: Desmond Mills Jr., center left: Demetrius Haley, right bottom: Tadarrius Bean (Photos provided by Memphis Police Department)

As news of the beating and death spread beyond Tennessee, officials expressed concern that release of the footage would touch off violent protest in reaction.

The attorneys and family of Nichols asked for justice for their son, and peace in their city, at a press conference in Memphis on Friday, WREG News 3 reported.

Speakers included family members, attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Van Turner, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP.

Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said that he initially wanted first-degree murder charges against the officers, but the family is satisfied with second-degree murder.

He pleaded for peace in Memphis Friday night.

“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance,” Wells said. “Please, please, protest, but protest safely.”

Protests took place in Memphis after police released more than an hour of footage in the case with some major highways temporarily shut down.

Other protests were organized in New York, as well as D.C., Sacramento, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle, with police at the ready for potential violence.

“Tonight, I stand with the millions of Americans sending condolences and love to the family of Tyre Nichols as the navigate this unimaginably difficult tragedy,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement. “We are a nation traumatized by violence, especially violence against Black Americans. We don’t even need to see the video to feel outraged that those five former officers, sworn to protect their community and now arrested and charged with murder, killed Tyre. But tonight, many people will see the video and it will elicit strong feelings — from sadness and anger to confusion and despair. Tonight, we are a city and country united by tragedy, but we are also determined — to deliver justice for Tyre and change for our nation.”

The White House held a joint emergency call Friday with the mayors of at least 16 cities before the video’s release “to brief them on federal preparations in support of state and local leaders.”

“Participating mayors shared their perspectives on how important it is to recognize the pain felt by communities across this country, be prepared in advance with a game plan to provide adequate community support, and to reinforce the importance of peace and calm during these difficult moments,” the White House said in a statement about the call, which included cities from New York City, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, D.C., Seattle and Portland.

The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement condemning the actions of the Memphis officers and calling for demonstrations to remain peaceful.

“The accounts of the circumstances of this heinous crime and the criminal actions of those involved are reprehensible,” the LAPD said.

“The department will do all within its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public’s anger and frustration is protected and prepared to facilitate those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told local media that it is preparing for the possibility of disturbances after the footage is made public. and is coordinating with other state, local and federal agencies.

“Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur,” the LASD said.

“The sheriff’s department supports the First Amendment and the people’s right to protest.”

Speaking with reporters as he prepared to depart for Camp David at the White House Friday evening, President Joe Biden said that he had spoken with Nichols’ mother prior to the video footage release for about 10 or 15 minutes.

“I spoke with Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences and told her that I was going to be making the case to the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act. We should get this under control. I can only do so much on the executive order at the federal level,” Biden said. “I was really pleased that she called for peaceful protest, no violence,” he added.

When asked about the potential for violence Biden said:

“I’m obviously very concerned about it. But I think she has made a very strong plea. She’s obviously in enormous pain. I told her I had some idea of what that loss is like and although it is impossible to believe now, a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.” 

The White House released a statement from the president that said in part:

“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day. 
 
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to the Memphis Police Department’s body camera footage being released, showing the deadly actions that took the life of Nichols, a Sacramento native, and led to the charging of five since fired Memphis law enforcement officers.

“Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” said Newsom. “Today, we are a country in mourning, and must continue our work nationwide to push reforms to prevent excessive use of force and save lives.”

“Tonight, we saw ferocious violence from an out-of-control herd,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Late Friday evening Vice President Kamala Harris’ office released a statement from the vice president on Nichols:

“Tyre Nichols should have made it home to his family. Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. The footage and images released tonight will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.
 
The persistent issue of police misconduct and use of excessive force in America must end now. 

I join President Biden in his call for accountability and transparency. We must build trust—not fear — within our communities.”

VIDEO COURTESY OF KTLA:

TYRE NICHOLS VIDEO VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED, GRAPHIC CONTENT AND LANGUAGE WARNING.

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