August 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief

Equality Forum asks first lady to launch GLBT History Month

WASHINGTON — Equality Forum has invited first lady Michelle Obama to launch this year’s GLBT History Month in October.

“GLBT History Month teaches history, provides role models, builds community and celebrates the GLBT community’s national and international contributions,” said Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum’s executive director. “The White House celebration of GLBT History Month is an important demonstration of the administration’s support of our equality.”

In connection with GLBT History Month, Equality Forum annually features a different icon each day at The project presents each icon, which this year includes such people as actress Cynthia Nixon and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, by way of video and biography.

Equality Forum noted that Obama was asked to help launch this year’s event in part because she and the White House have held celebrations for Women’s History Month, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.

A White House aide said the Equality Forum’s invitation would be “given careful consideration.”

Only a fourth of troops surveyed on gays respond

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department said that only about a quarter of the troops sent a survey on gays in the military responded.

The Associated Press reported that Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said that close to 103,000 service members completed the survey, which asked questions like how they would react if assigned to a room with a gay person.

The Defense Department had delivered 400,000 surveys to troops as part of its study on how it could lift the ban without hurting morale. The deadline to respond was Sunday.

Smith said 150,000 surveys will be sent to troops’ family members later this month.

Despite early victory, aviator faces ‘Don’t Ask’ discharge

WASHINGTON — A highly decorated gay Air Force aviator whose pending discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been highly publicized won Monday a request to temporarily prevent his expulsion from the U.S. military.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Morrison & Foerster LLP had filed the request for a temporary restraining order last week on behalf of Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, according to SLDN. Fehrenbach is 13 months away from retirement.

SLDN and Morrison & Foerster announced Monday that they’d “reached an agreement” with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Air Force and the U.S. District Court in Idaho, where the case is pending.

“The agreement prevents the Air Force from discharging Lt. Col. Fehrenbach under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the discriminatory law barring gay and lesbian service members from serving openly and honestly, until the court can schedule a hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction,” says the announcement.

Fehrenbach previously said he’s been waiting more than two years for the U.S. military to “do the right thing” and allow him to continue his service.

“I have given my entire adult life to the Air Force that I love,” he said. ”I have deployed six times and risked my life for my country. In the two years that I’ve been sitting at my desk rather than inside my jet, I’ve offered to deploy numerous times. I’m ready, willing, and able to deploy tomorrow, but I’m barred from deployment, because of this unjust, discriminatory law.”

The injunction was filed after the General Counsel’s Office to the Secretary of the Air Force reportedly reviewed Fehrenbach’s case and sent a recommendation to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. Without action by Donley, Fehrenbach could have been discharged within days, according to SLDN.

In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, urged Donley to employ the new regulations for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” implemented earlier this year to keep Fehrenbach in service.

“Lt. Col. Fehrenbach signed up nearly 19 years ago willing to risk all and die for his country, flying nearly 90 combat missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo,” he said. ”Why and how the hell do we end up firing our best and brightest when we’re fighting in two wars?”

Sarvis said Fehrenbach’s discharge would “dramatically underscore that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is still the law and all gay and lesbian service members should be on notice.”

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