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Court orders injunction against ‘Don’t Ask’ enforcement

Justice Dept. has 60 days to appeal decision

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A California federal court on Tuesday granted an injunction against the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” throughout the United States and across the globe.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips confirmed her earlier opinion in September against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the case of Log Cabin v. United States by granting an immediate and permanent injunction barring the U.S. government from enforcing the law. Additionally, the court ordered the suspension of all pending proceedings and investigations under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In her injunction, Phillips reiterates that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violates the free speech and due process rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members under the First and Fifth Amendments. Phillips says her injunction “permanently enjoins” the U.S. government “from enforcing or applying the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command.”

The Justice Department has 60 days to determine whether or not to appeal the decision to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokesperson, said the U.S. government is reviewing the ruling.

President Obama has pledged to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Many opponents of the law, including members of Congress, have urged the president not to appeal the court decision.

During a press conference Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs deferred comment on the injunction to the Justice Department.

“Obviously there have been a number of court cases that have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in this case,” Gibbs added. “And the President will continue to work as hard as he can to change the law that he believes is fundamentally unfair.”

Christian Berle, acting executive director for the National Log Cabin Republicans, which filed the lawsuit in 2004, said the court’s decision is the only “reasonable solution” in how to handle “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the wake of the ruling finding the law violated service members’ constitutional rights.

“These soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines sacrifice so much in defense of our nation and our Constitution,” he said. “It is imperative that their constitutional freedoms be protected as well.”

Berle added the injunction strengthens national defense because the U.S. government is no longer compelled to “discharge service members with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination.”

Francine Minadeo, a spokesperson for White & Case LLP, which represented Log Cabin in the case, said the order has no stay of injunction and the firm doesn’t know whether the government will appeal the decision.

Aaron Tax, legal director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said his also organization applauds the ruling, but warned gay, lesbian and bisexual service members in the U.S. military against making their sexual orientation public in the wake of the Phillips’ order.

“This order will likely be appealed by the Justice Department and brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit where her decision may well be reversed,” Tax said. “Service members must proceed safely and should not come out at this time.”

Greg Rinckey, an attorney with Tully-Rinckey, which handles “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” cases, also said LGBT service members remain “in danger” if they decide to come out.

“I envision there will be an appeal filed [Tuesday or Wednesday] requesting an injunction for a stay on it, so it’s definitely not safe to come out now,” Rinckey said.

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and sole named veteran plaintiff in the lawsuit, called the order “another historic and courageous step in the right direction.”

“While this is certainly news to be celebrated, we would also advise caution in advance of a potential stay from the Ninth Circuit,” he said. “If the appellate court wishes to put itself on the right side of history, however, it will allow this sound and long-over due decision to remain in effect.”

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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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