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Marine Corps leader wants separate rooms for gay troops

The uniform leader of the Marine Corps says he would seek separate quarters for Marines should Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In an interview with Military.com published March 25, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said he wouldn’t require straight Marines to bunk with gay Marines on base, if the situation can be avoided, should Congress repeal the law.

“We want to continue [two-person rooms], but I would not ask our Marines to live with someone who is homosexual if we can possibly avoid it,” Conway said. “And to me that means we have to build [bachelor enlisted quarters] and have single rooms.”

Conway said the Marine Corps is the only service that has two-person rooms because the service thinks it good for unit cohesion, but should the law change allowing open service, the Marine Corps would want to have single rooms.

“If we believe [two-person rooms] is going to be adverse to unit cohesion, then why wouldn’t we join every other services’ standard and say that, you know, under the previous regulations it was conducive, under the current regulations, it’s got the potential to cause friction,” he said.

In the course of engaging Marines on their positions on gays in the military, Conway said an “overwhelming number” have “significant concern” about issues regarding repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although he wouldn’t estimate a percentage.

“If perception is reality, we just think our corps would not want to see it changed,” Conway said. “If it is changed, it’s going to require some leadership engaging to make sure that our orders are carried out.”

Pressed further by Military.com on why separate rooms are necessary, Conway said he would “want to preserve the right of a Marine that thinks he or she wouldn’t want to do that, and again, that’s the overwhelming number of people that say they wouldn’t like to do so.”

Media sources during the past several months have cast Conway as one of the leading opponents of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in discussions among the service chiefs.

In a statement, Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a think-tank on gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said Conway’s proposal doesn’t square with decades of research on gays in the military.

“Decades of research, including all of the conclusions of the 1993 RAND study, shows that separating gays and straights is a bad idea,” he said. “RAND found that creating policies that are applied only to one group of people or to accommodate the prejudices of another group of people only undercut the larger mission of a unified, integrated force.”

Boxer introduces COBRA bill to benefit partners

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation last week that would allow same-sex domestic partners to have the same access to COBRA benefits as married couples in some circumstances.

The bill, known as the Equal Access to COBRA Act, would allow LGBT people to continue to receive coverage for their same-sex partners under COBRA if they lose their job and their former employer offered health benefits to domestic partners.

In a statement, Boxer called the issue the legislation would address “a question of fairness.”

“Every family deserves access to health insurance, especially in this tough economy,” she said. “This bill ensures that domestic partners and their families will have equal access to health coverage after a job loss.”

According to Boxer’s statement, more than half of Fortune 500 companies cover domestic partners under their health plans.

Under COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, employers must continue to offer health care coverage to departing workers and their beneficiaries for up to 36 months.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that Boxer’s bill is important because same-sex couples “are equally affected by economic hardships and should have equal access to important benefits like COBRA continuation coverage.”

“In these troubled economic times, when many Americans are concerned about the security of their jobs and health insurance, LGBT people should not also have to worry whether the COBRA safety net will be there to help protect the health of their families,” he said.

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Virginia

Va. Senate committee kills six anti-transgender bills

Democrats control chamber by 22-18 margin

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-transgender bills.

The committee rejected 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. All three measures would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia.

The committee also killed state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, Reeves’ Senate Bill 1186 and Peake’s Senate Bill 962. The measures would have banned transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

Equality Virginia in a tweet said committee members received more than 3,000 emails “in opposition” to the bills. The statewide advocacy group further noted 10 out of 12 anti-trans bills introduced during this year’s legislative session have been defeated.

“Thank you to everyone who has spoken up against these bills,” said Equality Virginia. “Virginia is remaining a better, more inclusive state because of your efforts.”

“The fight isn’t over,” added the advocacy group. “But we know Virginians will show up for trans youth, day after day.”

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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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