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Safe haven for service members



About 13,000 service members have been abruptly fired from their jobs with the U.S. military as a result of 15 years of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. In 2005, a bill (H.R. 1059, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act) was introduced to repeal the law and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination throughout the U.S. armed forces; it never made it out of committee.

Reintroduced in 2007, again the bill never made it out of committee. In 2009, the bill was reintroduced as H.R. 1283, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009 and is currently awaiting action by the Democratic leadership in Congress.

Starting out as a group of service members who were concerned about the small numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans being included in the debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Servicemembers United was born. The mission statement for this non-partisan and non-profit organization includes the following list of goals:

• To engage in education and advocacy on issues affecting gay and lesbian troops and veterans.

• To serve as an associational organization for the gay and lesbian military, veteran, and defense community.

• To represent the voice of Iraq/Afghanistan-era gay and lesbian troops and veterans.

• To advance and inform public debate on the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

Servicemembers United provides “substantive representation for gay and lesbian troops and veterans in the discourse and debate of the issues that affect their service and their lives.” As a non-profit organization, Servicemembers United requires donations and fundraising efforts to operate.

And that’s where Motley Bar, the upstairs of EFN Lounge, enters the picture. Motley Bar, 1318 9th St., N.W., has thrown its support behind this organization with a weekly fundraising event aptly named “Active Duty Thursday”.

Billed as a “safe haven” for those serving in the military, “Active Duty Thursdays” at Motley Bar offers an open, comfortable, familiar environment for military personnel, which eases the tension caused by frequenting an openly gay establishment.

When presented with the concept of a military night at Motley Bar, owner/manager Bill Gray quickly adopted the idea. The weekly event has been built on a word of mouth platform using such social networking tools as Facebook and Twitter with numbers of attendees increasing weekly.

With the help of Servicemembers United, Motley Bar uses this night to help bridge connections between those in attendance. When caught up in the storm of being discharged from the military there are many questions that require answers not so easily obtained; the connections made on any Active Duty Thursday could potentially provide answers.

From 9 p.m.-2 a.m. each Thursday, “Active Duty” includes a mix of veterans, military supporters and family members of active duty personnel along with a sizable number of active duty personnel. The bar is filled with various musical genres outside the normal dance beats you find elsewhere: rock, punk, ska, etc. Motley Bar also enables iPhone users to access the bar’s music library and control the playlist via Apple’s “Remote” application.

Check out Motley Bar’s Active Duty Thursdays Facebook page and Servicemembers United has a detailed site that provides much more information. For general inquiries about Servicemembers United, e-mail [email protected].


U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar & lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’



J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions



U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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LGBTQ media ‘excited’ about Press Forward national media funds

Coalition of donors pledges $500 million for local news



Members of News Is Out, a collaborative of six leading LGBTQ media organizations across the country, have expressed support and excitement about the newly announced national Press Forward effort to support local media in the United States. News Is Out members represent more than 200 years of LGBTQ news and culture coverage, with two member papers starting more than 50 years ago.

“This new effort from foundations, including MacArthur Foundation and Knight Foundation, truly will be a game-changer in the local media space,” said Tracy Baim, co-founder of Windy City Times, which is part of a Chicago collaborative that is also advocating for local funding in that city. “Local media are critical to covering issues across the country, from LGBTQ+ and environmental issues to education and criminal justice reform. Philanthropy can provide an important complement to other needed revenues to help local media survive and thrive.”

In the U.S., 7.1 percent of adults, or 18 million people, identify as LGBTQ, according to Gallup. About 21 percent of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ. The media serving this community has been life-saving, resource sharing and an integral part of the movement for LGBTQ equality, News Is Out members said, adding that this media continues to fill a vital information need.

According to the Press Forward announcement, “A coalition of 22 donors announced Press Forward, a national initiative to strengthen communities and democracy by supporting local news and information with an infusion of more than a half-billion dollars over the next five years.

“Press Forward will enhance local journalism at an unprecedented level to re-center local news as a force for community cohesion; support new models and solutions that are ready to scale; and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.”

The Knight Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation have been leading the Press Forward effort.

News Is Out is supported in part by a technology grant from the Knight Foundation. The program is called the Queer Media Sustainability Lab

News Is Out is a nearly two-year-old alliance created launched by the Local Media Association, with initial funding from Google News Initiative. The members are Bay Area Reporter, Dallas Voice, Philadelphia Gay News, Washington Blade, Windy City Times and TAGG, a national queer women’s magazine.

News Is Out members have collaborated on editorial, business and fundraising opportunities.

“LGBTQ media have always played a critical role in covering and informing our communities,” said Lynne Brown, publisher of the Washington Blade. “While we have lost dozens of LGBTQ news media outlets in recent years, those of us who have survived are thriving in 2023. We have done so because we have innovated and sought new forms of revenue. The News Is Out Collaborative has assisted with support that propels us forward.”

“LGBTQ+ media is needed now more than ever, as our communities face a backlash across this country,” said Leo Cusimano, publisher of the Dallas Voice. “By working together in News Is Out, we have formed a strong alliance to help our members in technology training, editorial collaborations and much more. New funds into this ecosystem will be vital to strengthening the network of local LGBTQ+ media in this country.”

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