Capitol Hill observers say recently leaked details about the upcoming Pentagon study on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are having a positive influence on the effort to repeal the military’s gay ban.
Meanwhile, some repeal advocates anticipate that congressional hearings will be held on the study before action on repeal is wrapped up.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said “it’s undeniable” that the leaked findings were “extremely helpful” to repeal advocates.
“Whether or not it’ll take us across the tipping point, I don’t know,” he added. “That’s anybody’s guess. It’s undeniable that it moves us more in that direction, but people disagree on where that tipping point is.”
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said media reports on the Pentagon working group study are still too recent to properly assess their impact on convincing Republicans to vote in favor of repeal. Still, he said he’s confident the findings will “bring in additional votes.”
“It’s certainly a bolster to the case we’ve been making with Republican lawmakers and their staff that the study is beneficial, it’s very thorough and the terms that Defense Secretary Robert Gates laid out are very clear,” Cooper said.
Repeal advocates said they hope the leaks, which were published in the Washington Post, will bolsters efforts in the Senate to pass the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains language to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” A previous vote to move forward with the legislation in September didn’t meet the 60-vote threshold to make it to the Senate floor.
On Wednesday evening, the Washington Post reported that the results of a survey sent to 400,000 U.S. service members over the summer as part of the Pentagon working group’s efforts will reveal that more than 70 percent of respondents think the effect of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be positive, mixed or nonexistent. A similar report was published Thursday in The New York Times.
These survey results reportedly led study authors to conclude that objections to gays serving openly in the U.S. military would drop after the implementation of open service. The deadline for completing the study and delivering it to Defense Secretary Robert Gates is Dec. 1.
According to the Washington Post, the working group report is about 370 pages long and is divided into two sections. The first section examines whether ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will harm unit readiness or morale. The second part offers a plan for ending enforcement of the law. This second section is not meant to serve as the military’s official instruction manual on the issue, but could be used as such if military leaders agreed.
A Democratic aide, who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity, said reporting on the Pentagon working group study is infusing pro-repeal efforts “with a newfound energy.”
“Some pro-repeal senators are already touting the findings in discussions with their colleagues, in hopes of galvanizing sufficient support for repeal,” the aide said. “The repeal effort was being hampered by the lack of a completed Pentagon study, but with the study complete — and showing that repeal can be implemented — the anti-repeal effort suddenly seems disingenuous.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on the Pentagon to make the working group report public.
“With the Senate soon turning its attention again to military policy, the results of the Pentagon review should be made available as soon as possible so undecided Senators are well informed,” Solmonese said.
But the leaked findings have already riled social conservatives seeking to keep the ban on open service in place. On Thursday, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, noted he’s previously taken exception to the Pentagon working group report because he said the scope of the study isn’t appropriate.
“We have criticized this study from the outset because the [Pentagon working group] was forbidden to explore the central question before the country — not how to implement a repeal of the current law, but whether doing so is in the best interest of the armed forces,” Perkins said. “The surveys of service members and their spouses, which were conducted as part of this process shared the same flaw, since they never asked, ‘Do you believe the current law should be overturned?’”
Perkins called on Gates to direct the Pentagon’s inspector general to investigate the source of the leaks and said the leaks to media outlets have “seriously damaged the credibility” of the Pentagon’s review process.
Reporting on the Pentagon study could influence a number of key U.S. senators who have said they want to see the results of the survey before acting on legislation.
A Republican aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the media reports on the Pentagon’s study are having a “positive” impact on influencing those lawmakers to support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
“Members who have said let’s wait for the report don’t have much to turn to when the report comes out supportive,” the aide said.
Nicholson said senators who’ve “hinged their vote on the outcome of this review” could vote for a motion to proceed on the defense authorization bill, then use the report to guide their decision on a potential amendment related to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language after the bill comes to the floor.
“Given the fact that the way it’s set up is that they can take a vote on cloture before Thanksgiving or before the report comes out … then that, in theory, doesn’t conflict with their stance because they’ll get to take a vote on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ after the report comes out,” Nicholson said.
The Center for American Progress has identified 10 senators and senators-elect who’ve said they want the Pentagon to complete the study before Congress acts on the military’s gay ban.
Among them are Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jim Webb (D-Va.). The newly elected senators who, because of state election laws, are expected to take their seats during the lame duck session — Mark Kirk of Illinois and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have also made statements along those lines.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said there have been “no concrete changes yet” on the positions of the senators and senators-elect since the publication of the media reports on the Pentagon’s findings.
“Overall, I think it’s a positive to have the stories out there and now we need to see the report itself,” Sarvis said.
The Blade contacted all of those senators and senators-elect for comment. Only Webb’s office immediately responded. The Virginia senator has previously withheld support for repeal and said he wants to wait for the Pentagon survey results.
According to Webb’s office, the senator’s position hasn’t yet changed. Will Jenkins, a Webb spokesperson, said the senator “is awaiting the release of the final report so he can review the official survey result.”
But Nicholson said Webb’s support for repeal is of limited importance because the Virginia Democrat already voted in favor of cloture on the defense authorization when Senate leadership tried to move it to the floor in September.
“Webb voted for cloture, so it really doesn’t even matter,” Nicholson said. “If we can just get past that hurdle, we don’t need everybody on board for the motion to strike vote. So in theory, we don’t really need Webb.”
One open question is whether the results of the Pentagon working group report would prompt hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and whether those hearings will prevent the Senate from moving forward with the defense authorization bill and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
The Democratic aide said it’s “unknown” whether the report would prompt hearings in the committee, although such a scenario is possible.
“But McCain, for example, could try to force hearings … and [Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl] Levin could relent to McCain’s request,” the aide said.
Nicholson said he believes there will “definitely be a call for hearings” as a result of the Pentagon working group’s findings.
Lawmakers like McCain, Nicholson said, will want hearings to “tear the review apart” and “discredit everything they’ve done and just try to find ways to poke holes in the eventuality that’s coming.” Still, he said moderate senators would want hearings for different reasons.
“I would expect that they would also support hearings, but I think it remains to be seen whether or not they would let their desire for hearings obstruct moving forward on this right now,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson noted the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language provides for a 60-day review period that is “supposed to be exactly for” congressional review, such as hearing testimony. The review period begins after President Obama, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready for repeal.
Sarvis said the decision about whether to hold hearings is up to Levin and said he “may schedule hearings this year and next year.” Still, Sarvis said the hearings wouldn’t necessarily delay congressional action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“I don’t know that the hearings would necessarily get in the way of floor consideration because committee hearings are usually held in the mornings, and the mornings in the Senate is not a time when the Senate usually is voting,” Sarvis said.
UPDATE: In a statement Friday, Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Gates is “very concerned and extremely disappointed” that Pentagon sources have leaked information about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” report and said he’s launching an investigation into the matter.
“The Secretary strongly condemns the unauthorized release of information related to this report and has directed an investigation to establish who communicated with the Washington Post or any other news organization without authorization and in violation of Department policy and his specific instruction,” Morrell said.
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State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world
Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs
The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.
Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.
• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia
• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights
• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda
• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK
• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.
Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.
Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.
More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.
“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.
Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.
“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”
The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.
Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.
Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth.
A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.
Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”
“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”
The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.
Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.
Federal government prepares for looming shutdown
White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’
However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.
As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.
This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.
Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.
Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.
“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.
“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.
The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”
Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.
Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress
Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world
A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.
Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.
The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.
According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.
In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?”
Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.
Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations.
Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.
Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.
The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them.
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.
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