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McCain: More hearings before ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

Senator says study should assess repeal’s impact on battle effectiveness

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U.S. Sen. John McCain (Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) on Sunday said congressional hearings are necessary on an upcoming Pentagon report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before Congress moves forward to lift the military’s gay ban.

The Arizona senator also blasted the study — which reportedly will be favorable to open service — for focusing on how to implement an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as opposed to the impact repeal will have on battle effectiveness.

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McCain said he doesn’t think lawmakers should repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before adjourning for the year and maintained hearings should come first.

Asked by host David Gregory whether it’s fair to stay to ban won’t be lifted in lame duck, McCain replied, “I don’t think it should be because I think once the study comes out in the beginning of December, we should at least have a chance to review it and maybe have hearings on it.”

With the 2010 election bringing a Republican takeover of the U.S. House and a reduced Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, waiting for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until next year is expected to make the task significantly more difficult — if not unattainable.

The Arizona senator reiterated that the scope of the Pentagon working group — developing a plan to implement repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — isn’t what’s necessary to examine the issue properly.

“I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale,” McCain said. “What this study is designed to do is to find out how the repeal could be implemented. Those are two very different aspects of this issue.”

McCain emphasized that the four military service chiefs have expressed reservations about lifting the military’s gay ban before a comprehensive study is complete. Last week, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said now isn’t the time for Congress to enact repeal.

“I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal,” McCain said. “They’re the ones who are in charge.”

During a recent trip to Afghanistan, McCain said an Army master sergeant expressed concerns to him about lifting the military’s gay ban.

“I was in an outpost in Kandahar,” McCain said. “An Army master sergeant — 19 years in, fifth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan — says to me, ‘Sen. McCain we live eat, sleep and fight together in close proximity. I’m concerned about the repeal. I’d like to know more about it.’ That’s the view that I’ve got from chief petty officers and sergeants all over Afghanistan.”

Media reports have said the Pentagon report will reveal that more than 70 percent of U.S. service members don’t care if gays serve openly in the armed forces, but McCain dismissed this reporting.

“I have not seen that study, and this study was directed at how to implement the repeal, not whether the repeal should take place or not,” McCain said.

In a statement, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, lambasted McCain for the senator’s positions “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and the Pentagon study.

“Obviously the senator doesn’t like the preliminary findings of the Pentagon’s [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] survey, which found a clear majority of U.S. service members are okay serving with their gay and lesbian comrades,” Solmonese said. “The senator has known all along the study developed by the Pentagon Working Group was looking at how to repeal [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] — not whether to do so.”

Solmonese noted that McCain previously said he wanted to hear from military leadership on the issue, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said he favors open service.

Then the senator said he wanted to hear from rank-and-file troops, and, according to media reports on the Pentagon report, they say they’re OK with gays serving openly as well.

“The truth is McCain is increasingly alone in his irrational opposition to open service,” Solmonese said. “Sixty-four percent of Republicans disagree with McCain and favor lifting the ban. No matter the evidence, McCain will use whatever tactics at his disposal to not only stop repeal from moving forward, but will hold hostage the most critical military defense bill to do so.”

Also during McCain’s “Meet the Press” appearance, the positions on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” among members of the senator’s own family also came up.

Last week, Cindy McCain, the senator’s wife, appeared in a NOH8 campaign ad and denounced how current laws mean gays “can’t serve our country openly.” In a later Twitter posting, she clarified she supports the NOH8 campaign but also stands by her husband’s position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In response, McCain maintained his position that a study on the effects of repeal on battle effectiveness and repeal is necessary before moving forward.

“By the way, I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family,” McCain added.

Watch a video of McCain’s remarks here:

The transcript of the exchange between Gregory and McCain follows:

Gregory: Are you going to stand in the way — you personally — in the way of this ban being lifted?

McCain: I will stand that I want a thorough and complete study of the effect on morale and battle effectiveness of the United States military. I will listen — as I’ve said for years — to our military leaders and not a study that is leaked as we know…

Gregory: …that said seven in ten members of the military think it would be just fine to have it lifted.

McCain: I have not seen that study, and this study was directed at how to implement the repeal, not whether the repeal should take place or not.

But very importantly, we have people like the commandant of the Marine Corps, the three other — all four service chiefs are saying  we need a thorough and complete study of the effects — not how to implement a repeal — but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness. That’s what I want, and once we get this study, we need to have hearings and we need to examine it, and we need to look at whether it’s the kind of study that we wanted.

It isn’t in my view because I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale. What this study is designed to do is to find out how the repeal could be implemented. Those are two very different aspects of this issue.

Gregory: In a lot of households, this is a subject of debate, including your own apparently. Your wife, Cindy McCain, has put up an ad, a public service announcement with NOH8, a group that promotes lesbian, gay and transgender rights, and this is portion of it.

[Plays clip with Cindy McCain saying gays “can’t serve our country openly.”]

Gregory: …referring to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She did clarify this on her Twitter page. You’re both so active on Twitter. She said this. She said, “I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

McCain: …which is, a complete and thorough study and review of the effect on battle readiness and morale, and by the way, I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family.

Gregory: But, you know, what’s interesting about this, I mean, a debate in family, is there is kind of — you talk about waiting for the study — there is an appeal to honor, I mean, to your honor. You have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying, ‘Look, it’s just not right to have people lying about who they are just to be able to protect fellow citizens.”

McCain: You have the commandant of the Marine Corps who says — whose people he’s directly responsible for — is saying this could hurt our ability to win.

Gregory: Do you believe that?

McCain: I’m paying attention to the commandant of the Marine Corps. I’m paying attention to the chief of staff of the Air Force.

Gregory: You’re so close to the military, senator. You know these people. You know the issue. Do you have a sense of it in your gut about what should happen?

McCain: I have a sense that I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal. They’re the ones who are in charge. Now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I agree, the president and the secretary of defense, have all come out for repeal.

But I really would — I was in an outpost in Kandahar. An Army master sergeant — 19 years in, fifth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan — says to me, “Sen. McCain we live eat, sleep and fight together in close proximity. I’m concerned about the repeal. I’d like to know more about it.”

That’s the view that I’ve got from chief petty officers and sergeants all over Afghanistan.

Gregory: The ban’s not going to be lifted in the lame duck session. Is that fair to say?

McCain: I think that we should at least — I don’t think it should be because I think once the study comes out in the beginning of December, we should at least have a chance to review it and maybe have hearings on it.

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National

Bill to support LGBTQ+ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

‘LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation & should be able to access services and care’

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

WASHINGTON – Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) 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 (AAA) 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 Rep. Bonamici, Chair of the Equality Caucus’ 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 Rep. 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 LGBTQI+ 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

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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The White House

White House acknowledges IDAHOBiT, reiterates support for global LGBTQ rights

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental illness

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Pride flags fly from an apartment's terrace in Warsaw, Poland, on April 11, 2024. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia commemorates the World Health Organization's declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Biden-Harris administration on Friday used the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to reiterate its support of LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

“On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, my administration stands in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world as they seek to live full lives, free from violence and discrimination,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “This is a matter of human rights, plain and simple.” 

“The United States applauds those individuals and groups worldwide working to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ people wherever they are under threat,” he added. “We are grateful for the contributions that LGBTQI+ people make every day across our nation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden.

“On this day, we reflect upon the violence and discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons worldwide suffer and re-commit ourselves to opposing these acts,” said Blinken in his own statement. “This year, like every year, we state unequivocally: LGBTQI+ persons deserve recognition of their universal human rights and human dignity.” 

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Blinken in his statement notes LGBTQ and intersex people around the world “continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination.”

Dominica last month became the latest country to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“Even as more countries make meaningful advancements towards full equality; LGBTQI+ persons continue to be sentenced to death for daring to live their sexual orientation or gender identity, subjected to coercive conversion ‘therapies’ and ‘normalization’ surgeries, discriminated against while receiving health services, restricted from exercising fundamental freedoms, and denied the dignity of same-sex partnership and fulfillment of family,” said Blinken. 

“As we reflect upon the injustices that LGBTQI+ persons and their allies endure, we must not forget that today is fundamentally a day of action,” he added. “On this day and every day, the United States stands with LGBTQI+ persons around the world. We will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons not just because we have a moral imperative to do so, but because it helps to strengthen democracy, bolster national security, and promote global health and economic development.”

The Tonga Leitis Association is among the myriad LGBTQ and intersex rights groups around the world that acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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