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Lieberman confident about 60 votes for ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

Conn. senator says he’s received assurances from Collins, Lugar

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is optimistic about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal in lame duck. (Blade photo by Michael Key).

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Thursday expressed confidence about having the necessary 60 votes to move forward with legislation containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal — provided certain conditions are met with the amendment process on the Senate floor.

“I am confident that we have more than 60 votes prepared to take up the defense authorization bill with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ if only there will be a guarantee of a fair and open amendment process,” Lieberman said during a news conference. “In other words, whether we’ll take enough time to do it.”

Lieberman makes the remarks after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Wednesday he’s committed to bringing to the floor in the lame duck session the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains language that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The legislation would likely come up after Dec. 1, when a Pentagon working group is due to deliver a report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on implementing repeal.

Lieberman said he’s received assurances from GOP senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) as well as “others privately” that they would be open to moving forward with defense legislation containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal provided there’s an “open amendment process” in bringing the bill to the floor.

A previous attempt in September at bringing the defense authorization bill to the floor failed when a united GOP caucus — led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — successfully filibustered the motion to proceed.

Many senators, including Collins and Lugar, who supported a repeal amendment in committee, said they were voting “no” because of limited amendments that senators would be allowed to submit for the legislation.

In September, Reid said he was permitting three amendments to the defense authorization bill: one to strip the bill of its repeal provision, one to address the “secret holds” that senators can place on presidential nominations and another to amend the defense legislation with the DREAM Act, an immigration-related bill.

Asked during the conference what he perceived as more open amendment process the next time around, Lieberman the exact terms are up for negotiation.

“It’s hard to put a number on it now,” Lieberman said. “That’s what I hope is going to be negotiated. Of course, we’ll do our best to encourage Sen. Reid to reach out to allow and somewhat larger number.”

Lieberman said the two items that are up for negotiation are the number of amendments to be allowed and the time for debate on those amendments.

Reid has since said the DREAM Act would come to the Senate floor during lame duck as a standalone piece of legislation.

Following the news conference, Lieberman said the removal of the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill would “practically speaking” help with building support for moving forward with the military budget legislation.

But Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who present at the conference, said opposition to the defense authorization bill and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is actually for reasons other than “how many amendments are we going to do, or long we’re going to debate.”

“This is about those who oppose this policy wanting to kill it and taking every opportunity they can and using the Senate rules to try and do that,” Shaheen said. “That’s exactly what’s going on here.”

Lieberman also maintained the Senate would have enough time to tackle “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal as it addresses other priorities, such as a nuclear arms reduction treaty and the extension of tax cuts.

“We’re just before Thanksgiving,” Lieberman said. “We’ve been told early on that we’d be here at least three weeks. That’s a lot of time into December, so we’ll be here at least until the week before Christmas. It’s just a question of how hard we’re prepared to work to get these things done. They’re all important.”

Lieberman said President Obama “has been active” on this issue and has been in communication with Reid as well as Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on moving forward with the defense authorization bill with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“I think he’ll, in my opinion, do everything he can to see that we get this done by the end of this year,” Lieberman said.

The news conference on Thursday was a hot spot for senators who advocate for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Among the 13 lawmakers who made an appearance were Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) who recently took his seat after winning election in November.

Udall said Congress needs to take action to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year because further delay could it “could be years” for repeal to happen.

“We’ve reached an unprecedented level of gridlock here in the Senate when legislation that funds our troops provides for our national security and makes sure that we lead the world in the 21st century is blocked from even coming to the floor for debate,” Udall said. “We ought to welcome the debate — we have an idea of how that debate will turn out — but we’re going to have that opportunity to have this vote on the floor if we have courage and are steadfast.”

The senators joked among themselves that they would work through Christmas Eve — or for Lieberman, who’s Jewish, the eighth day of Hanukkah — to finish the effort in repealing”Don’t Ask, Don’t  Tell.”

Sen. Roland Burris, known as a strong voice for repeal during his tenure in the Senate, said he thinks ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be an important victory, but noted the vote in the Senate “may come too late” for show his support.

Because he was appointed to his position in the Senate in 2009, Burris is required by Illinois state law to give up his seat to Republican Senator-elect Mark Kirk during the lame duck session of Congress and may even leave the U.S. Senate this week.

“As a black American, I know what it means to go through discrimination and unfairness, and there’s no way in the world we can have a strong military and deny those persons who are gay and lesbian … an opportunity to serve their country,” Burris said. “I support that wholeheartedly and am just sorry that I may not be here to cast the vote.”

It remains to be seen how Kirk would vote on the legislation in Burris’ stead. As a U.S. House member, Kirk voted against a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal amendment in May that came to the House floor.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) went a step further than other senators at the news conference when she said she believes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional. Some repeal advocates have been asking for President Obama to declare the law unconstitutional so he could discontinue enforcement of the law.

“I’m not a lawyer, but I believe in my heart of hearts that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is unconstitutional,” Feinstein said. “As a matter of fact, a federal district court has found that that, in fact, is the case, and it’s simple because it treats the same case of people differently.”

Still, not every member of the U.S. Senate is on board with repeal. Asked during the news conference whether he had spoken to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about getting him to support an end to the law, Lieberman said he has had such conversations, but he has had “no success” in converting the Arizona senator.

Among those present at the news conference were advocates working for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” including Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external affairs for the Center for American Progress, and Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a gay Air Force pilot who’s served in the military for 19 years, was also present at the conference and told his story about how he’s now facing potential discharge under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Right now, my ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is somewhere in the Pentagon, and I am fighting back in federal court with SLDN and my legal team to stay in the Air Force,” he said.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Tim

    November 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    If Senators Lugar, Collins & Murchowski are on board, then the chances of passage are greater, but we are losing Burris in Illinois, so it may be trading votes. I am more curious as to the other supposed votes Lieberman has received assurances from. I expect Scott Brown of Massachusets and Olymphia Snowe of Maine might also be considering voting for repeal, and if they don’t, they will probably get bounced out of office in 2012. Another thing to consider are the two do-nothing Dems from Arkansas who voted against the repeal in September; will they vote the right way this time?

  2. Sloan

    November 19, 2010 at 1:37 am

    The MOST important thing we can do now is to call our U.S. Senators at 202-224-3121 (two calls, one call for each of our senators). Ask to be connected to each of our Senators and tell them to REPEAL Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell THIS YEAR. Make the 2 calls, and get at least 5 friends and family members to do the same. Spread the word on Facebook. If you live in DC, get your friends and family outside of DC to call their Senators. No matter how supportive or opposed you think your senators are, they need to hear as many pro-repeal calls as possible from their constituents. We’ve got to keep the calls coming over the next few days and weeks, from now until it is done, this year. Tell the Senate to support our troops, strengthen our national security and REPEAL Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell THIS YEAR. Stop reading this and start calling — it’s up to all of us!

  3. customartist

    November 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Republican House and Senate Members will be held fully accountable for voting against the will of the American People, against the Military Survey, and against DADT Repeal.

    They will try to abate progress by overwhelming the process with numerous amendments, but they have had a full year to “debate’ this and all of the related issues. Keeping in mind that Repeal has already passed the House.

    Bigots are seen clearly for what they are, and their names will be made public in perpetuity, I assure you. History is already written for all practical purposes. Which Members will attach their names to it is just yet the unknown dynamic.

    Email Congress:
    https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

    Email Senate:
    http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

    Call the Congress and Senate: (202)224-3121

    *The Operator will direct you if you do not know your representative

    *IMPORTANT*
    Make your calls and letters to Congress polite and to the point.

    • Jose L

      November 27, 2010 at 2:17 am

      Your statement is pretty ridiculous. Why is it that “the will of the people” matters when it is in agreement with the gay agenda, but “the will of the people” doesn’t matter AT ALL when it is against the gay agenda, as in California? Goes to show the HYPOCRYSY of homosexual activists. Homosexual activitists are seen clearly for what they are.

  4. customartist

    November 20, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Tell Obama to Get Busy or Lose Gay Support!

    Email The Whitehouse

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

  5. Skeeter Sanders

    November 22, 2010 at 9:24 am

    It would a lot simpler of President Obama, in his capacity as commander-in-chief, issued an executive order suspending enforcement of DADT pending a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on its constitutionality. That obama hasn’t issued such an order utterly mystifies me.

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National

Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday

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Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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