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Obama administration requests stay of ‘Don’t Ask’ injunction

Request made with California district court

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The Obama administration on Thursday requested a stay with a California federal court against a recently issued injunction prohibiting enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to documents obtained by the Blade.

In the notices, the U.S. Justice Department seeks a stay from U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips, who issued the injunction on Tuesday, under the presumption that the Obama administration will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Defendants request that the Court issue an order to stay pending appeal of its  Order, dated October 12, 2010 (Doc. 252), permanently enjoining enforcement of  the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) statute, 10 U.S.C. § 654, and implementing regulations,” one notice states.

The Justice Department asks that the district court issue a stay before Monday. If a stay is not yet entered by that time, the administration says it will seek such action from the Ninth Circuit.

On Tuesday, Phillips issued an injunction prohibiting the U.S. government from enforcing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the wake of her court decision last month striking down the law. The Justice Department had 60 days from the time the injunction was issued to make an appeal to a higher court.

In a statement, Christian Berle, deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said he isn’t surprised the Obama administration is seeking a stay against the injunction. In 2004, his organization filed the lawsuit that led to the order.

“After years of fighting this lawsuit, Log Cabin Republicans expected that the Obama administration would continue to pull out all the stops to defend ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Berle said. “Log Cabin Republicans will continue to advocate on behalf of the American servicemembers who everyday sacrifice in defense of our nation and our Constitution. If this stay is granted, justice will be delayed, but it will not be denied.”

Dan Woods, an attorney with White & Case LLP, which represented Log Cabin in court, swore to fight against the stay to ensure open service in the U.S. military.

“Now that the government has filed a request for a stay, we will oppose it vigorously because brave, patriotic homosexuals are serving in our Armed Forces to fight for all of our constitutional rights while the government is denying them theirs,” Woods said.

One of the notices offers a litany of reasons why the injunction against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be stayed. Some arguments are the injunction will “irreparably harm the public interest in a strong and effective military” and will require “a precipitous change in policy that threatens the public interest in a strong military.”

“The injunction forces the executive to immediately cease enforcing a statute enacted by Congress regarding military affairs, which alone creates harm justifying a stay,” the notice states. “The injunction also requires an immediate and dramatic change in policy without allowing time to do so in an orderly and comprehensive way.”

A footnote in the notice states that although President Obama opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the administration feels compelled to defend the 1993 statute because it’s federal law.

“As the President has stated previously, the Administration does not support the [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] statute as a matter of policy and strongly supports its repeal,” the notices states. “However, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Administration disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here.”

In a press conference Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated Obama’s opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but said Congress should be responsible for ending the statute.

“The president believes that this is a policy that undermines our national security, discriminates against those who would sacrifice their lives for their country, and is unjust; that the policy needs to be changed and should be changed,” Gibbs said. “His hope is that the Senate will take up the legislation pending before them to do just that, as the House of Representatives has already done.”

Officials in the Obama administration publicly expressed concern about the injunction against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this week.

According to the Associated Press, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Wednesday that abruptly ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have “enormous consequences” for U.S. service members. A Pentagon working group is examining the way to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and is expected to deliver a report to Gates by Dec. 1.

A co-founder of OutServe, a network for active duty LGBT service members, called Gates’ remarks”a direct attack against gay and lesbian military personnel” and denied there would be “enormous consequences” after lifting the ban on open service.

“The reality is unit cohesion is destroyed by directly making military members lie about themselves and that is a proven fact,” said the co-founder, who goes by the alias J.D. Smith because he currently serves in the U.S. military.

“By saying we would create ‘enormous consequences’ he [is] attacking us,” Smith continued. “No other group of currently serving military personnel would be attacked like this.”

In response to Gates’ comments, the Palm Center, a think tank on gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, issued a statement calling on Gates to identify the “enormous consequences” of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” enforcement.

“Secretary Gates’ suggestion that ‘enormous consequences’ await any immediate implementation of openly gay service stands in stark contrast to the evidence from other foreign militaries,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center. “Swift change and strong leadership were identified as the two key elements to this process. America is unique but we will not be the first nation to allow openly gay service, we will be the twenty-sixth.”

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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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