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Could Pentagon’s ‘Don’t Ask’ review hinder repeal?

Petraeus suggests outcome ‘could go in either direction’

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(DC Agenda Photo by Michael Key)

As the top U.S. commander overseeing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan expressed support Tuesday for reconsidering “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he noted the Pentagon study currently underway could offer a positive or negative take on open service.

Following his initial remarks on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, made the remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the possible outcome of the study.

Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked Petraeus to confirm he said earlier in Levin’s office that the study could show repeal’s “likely effects could go in either direction.”

“I believe you told me — either negative or positive, the study could show,” Levin said.

Petraeus affirmed that he made those remarks, saying, “It could. It could. Yes, sir.”

Asked by DC Agenda to clarify this view of the study, Levin replied, “Yeah, in terms like the impact on recruitment, readiness — it could have a positive or negative — and that’s what he confirmed here.”

Petraeus didn’t talk to reporters after the hearing.

If the parameters of the study are to determine whether repeal would have a positive or negative impact — as opposed to examining the best way to implement repeal — it would be inconsistent with how Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the review in congressional testimony last month. At the time, Gates said the study would focus on implementing repeal and not whether it would be beneficial or harmful to the military.

“The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it,” he said. “We received our orders from the commander-in-chief and we are moving out accordingly.”

The nature of the study as described by Petraeus and Levin also raises questions about why President Obama, who campaigned on repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” would authorize a review that could complicate repeal efforts.

But Kevin Nix, spokesperson for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said he’s “confident” the working group will follow the directive outlined by Gates “to figure out how best to implement open service.”

“The Senate repeal bill gives the military plenty of additional time — well into 2011 — to look at how to transition while Congress moves to end the law in 2010,” Nix said.

Nathaniel Frank, author of “Unfriendly Fire” and research fellow for the Palm Center, a think-tank on gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the problem with the working group is that it could succumb to what he called “political expediency.”

Frank said “mounds of research” have already answered questions about the impact on open service in the military. If the group does its job well, Frank noted, the findings will be consistent with this research and discover “there will be no negative impact or that any impact will be negligible and manageable.”

“But if the group falls prey to political pressure to exaggerate the risks to readiness, that will be used by obstructionists to derail reform in Congress, and ultimately full repeal is up to Congress,” Frank said.

Although the study was outlined as a way to implement repeal, Frank said what Gates actually put in place was a “political process,” and Obama’s willingness to set it up “does raise concerns about a repeat of the failures of 1993.”

Whatever the focus of the study, Petraeus backed the review Tuesday during the hearing as the best way to approach “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while saying the time has come to “consider a change.”

“I believe the time has come to consider a change to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ but I think it should be done in a thoughtful and deliberative manner,” he said. “And that should include the conduct of the review that Secretary Gates had directed that would consider the views of the force by changing the policy.”

Petraeus initially asked for eight minutes to give a statement on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in response to a question from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but Levin denied him that opportunity, saying giving the general eight minutes would violate the rules by going over the time McCain was allotted for questioning.

Levin said another senator could devote their entire question-and-answer time for Petraeus so he could offer his longer statement, although no committee panel volunteered their time. At the end of the hearing, Levin said he would welcome the longer statement from Petraeus if he wanted to submit it as part of the record.

In response to Petraeus’ remarks, Nix said SLDN is awaiting the general’s eight-minute answer before weighing in on Petraeus’ position.

“We agree that open service is more than a sound byte,” Nix said. “The bottom line is our service members are professionals and they know how to bring about the change to open service.”

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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National

Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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