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Obama admin. to SCOTUS: Let us keep enforcing ‘Don’t Ask’

Justice Dept. files brief defending stay against injunction

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The Obama administration on Wednesday continued its defense of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in court by filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for continued enforcement of the military’s gay ban while an appellate court considers its constitutionality.

In the document, Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal argues in favor of a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ stay against an injunction that would have prohibited enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Katyal argues that the stay is necessary because the injunction would cause “the government the kind of irreparable injury that routinely forms the basis for a stay pending appeal.”

“This case does not present the sort of exceptional circumstances that would warrant interference with an interim order of the court of appeals,” Katyal writes. “That court’s stay simply preserves the status quo pending its consideration of the merits of this facial challenge to a federal statute governing military affairs that has been in force for 17 years.”

The injunction was issued last month by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips after she ruled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violated gay service members freedom of speech and due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Among other reasons for maintaining the stay, Katyal argues that Log Cabin fails to show reasonable probability that the Supreme Court would take up the case if the Ninth Circuit reverses Phillips’ decision. Additionally, Katyal argues that the injunction would “short-circuit the Executive Branch’s review process” and the work of Pentagon in developing a plan to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Without sufficient time for such training and guidance, an immediate court-ordered repeal of the statute would risk disruption to military commanders and service members as they carry out their missions, especially in zones of active combat,” Katyal writes.

Last week, lawyers representing Log Cabin Republicans, which filed the litigation against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2004, asked the Supreme Court to lift the Ninth Circuit’s stay on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” injunction. The Ninth Circuit had granted the stay after the Justice Department asked for the order and appealed a district court’s decision against the law to the appellate court.

The decision on whether to vacate the stay is now before U.S. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s the circuit justice for the Ninth Circuit. Whether the entire Supreme Court will be involved in the decision on vacating the order is up to Kennedy. The justice may decide for himself of refer the application to his colleagues on the bench.

A source familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, estimated that the Supreme Court would make a decision on whether or not to vacate the stay in a week.

Doug NeJaine, who’s gay and a law professor at Loyola Law School, predicted that the Supreme Court would side in favor of the U.S. government and allow the stay to continue.

“Preserving the status quo — both in affirming the Ninth Circuit and maintaining the stay pending litigation on the merits — is the least controversial thing to do,” NeJaime said. “Plus, I doubt that the Court wants to get involved in the merits of the policy at this point, which is what analyzing the stay question (and particularly the likelihood of success on the merits prong) would require.”

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign”s vice president of communications, said Log Cabin “did the right thing” by asking the Supreme Court to lift the stay on the injunction against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and said the organization and its attorneys “have a responsibility to use every tool in their legal arsenal.”

“At the very least, it continues to bring attention to this issue and puts the Justice Department under enormous pressure if they choose to continue defending a law that has [now] been ruled unconstitutional,” Sainz said.

Download a copy of the Justice Department’s brief to the Supreme Court here.

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Virginia

Youngkin makes additional appointments to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

Governor plans to revise transgender, nonbinary student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday announced the appointment of three people to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Youngkin named Kerry Flynn, Jason Geske and Collin J. Hite to the board.

Casey Flores, the president of Log Cabin Republicans of Richmond, in July resigned from the board before his tenure was to begin. The resignation came amid growing criticism over a series of anti-LGBTQ and misogynist comments he made against Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), among others.

Youngkin last month announced he plans to revise the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students. Thousands of high school students across Virginia on Sept. 27 walked out of class in protest of the planned revision.

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National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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