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Appeals court extends stay on ‘Don’t Ask’ injunction

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A U.S. appellate court is allowing for the continued enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as judges consider a legal challenge against the law.

On Monday, the U.S Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision to extend a stay on an injunction that would have blocked enforcement of the military’s gay ban. The injunction, issued last month by a lower court, temporarily stopped the enforcement “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

But in a 2-1 split decision, the majority on the three-judge panel write that the continued enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is necessary because the U.S. government has convincing arguments that an injunction will result in “immediate harm and precipitous injury.”

“We also conclude that the public interest in ensuring orderly change of this magnitude in the military — if that is what is to happen — strongly militates in favor of a stay,” the judges write.

The majority decision, written by U.S. Appellate Judges Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Stephen Trott, means that discharges can continue under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and military recruiters can turn away openly gay Americans seeking to join the armed forces.

In his dissent, U.S. Appellate Judge William Fletcher says he favors a partial stay, but the part of the injunction blocking the discharges of gay service members should remain in place.

“Defendants would not be required during the pendency of the appeal to change their recruiting practices, to change their personnel manuals, or, subject only to the requirement that they not actually discharge anyone, otherwise to change their practices,” Fletcher writes.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, which filed the lawsuit in 2004, said he’s “disappointed” the court will allow the continued enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Despite this temporary setback, Log Cabin remains confident that we will ultimately prevail on behalf of servicemembers’ constitutional rights,” Cooper said.

Cooper urged Obama to use his stop-loss authority to prevent the further discharges of gay service members as the Ninth Circuit hears the case.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also expressed disappointment with the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

“Every day that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is in force, Americans are losing out on the best and brightest service members defending our country,” Solmonese said. “For the good of our national security, the endless legal wrangling and political posturing has to stop.”

Solmonese called on President Obama and Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislatively by the end of the year.

The Obama administration brought the case of Log Cabin v. United States to the Ninth Circuit after U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips last month issued an injunction against the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The U.S. government argued the court should place a stay on the injunction because, among other reasons, the U.S. military needs to devise training and guidance to those affected by ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision on Monday affirms a temporary stay the appellate court had already issued as it heard arguments over whether to keep the injunction in place.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and sole named plaintiff in the lawsuit, called the Ninth Circuit’s decision “really unfortunate” and said the U.S. goverment “tricked” the judges into issuing a stay on the injunction.

Nicholson said none of the “enormous consequences” that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had previously expressed concern about with respect to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” had to pass when the law was enjoined under the injunction.

“It is concerning that the government can so blatantly pull one over on an appeals court, and it is equally frustrating that such a distinguished court would allow itself to be fooled so obviously and so publicly in the name of ‘deference,'” Nicholson said. “Abdication is more like it.”

Legal experts are expecting the Ninth Circuit to make a decision in the case next year after the court hears oral arguments.

Download a copy of the decision here.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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