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Sen. Ensign to support ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal: source (UPDATED)



UPDATE: In a statement, Jennifer Cooper, an Ensign spokesperson, said the senator is awaiting the upcoming Pentagon working group report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and testimony from military service chiefs before making a decision on the issue. Additionally, she said Ensign intends to examine “all the merits” of the defense authorization bill before committing to a vote one way or another and is hoping for a “fully open amendment process.”

The complete statement follows:

“Senator Ensign is waiting on the report from the Pentagon and the testimony of the military chiefs to see if any changes to this policy can or should be done in a way so as not to harm the readiness or war fighting capabilities of our troops. Also, he plans to review all of the merits of the Defense Authorization bill before voting one way or another; hopefully it will be a fully open amendment process.”

Additionally, the Blade obtained a copy of Ensign’s constituent letter on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Notably, the letter states that the senator believes that Americans “regardless of the sexual orientation” should be able to “fight and risk their lives in defense of this great nation.”

Still, the letter states that “major changes to personnel structure” during a time of war “could be a major distraction” to the troops’ ability to complete their mission.

The complete letter follows:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I value the opinions of every Nevadan and am always grateful to those who take the time to inform me of their views.

As you may be aware, during the Clinton Administration, Congress enacted new laws and regulations regarding homosexuals and service in the U.S. military. This compromise, commonly known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” holds that service members are not to be asked about nor allowed to discuss their sexual orientation. The law also states that any uniformed individual is subject to discharge for engaging in, attempting to engage in, or soliciting prohibited conduct.

It is my firm belief that Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to fight and risk their lives in defense of this great nation. As a nation currently engaged in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the focus of all decisions affecting military readiness, recruiting and retention, and unit cohesion should be to maximize the success of ongoing operations. Major changes to personnel structure while forces are undergoing intense training and being deployed to combat operations could be a major distraction and could degrade our troops’ ability to successfully complete the mission.

On February 2, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for a Department of Defense review of the policy. That review is expected to be completed in December of this year. I believe completing that review is necessary before further action is taken so that the concerns of our service members can be fully understood and addressed. All four of the military service chiefs have requested that the results of the review be in hand before legislative action is taken. As you may know, a federal judge in California recently attempted to supersede this process and ruled in court that the military must stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Department of Justice has stated that it will appeal this ruling. I strongly oppose over-reaching by activist judges and believe that, once the DoD review is complete, the future of the military policy must be carefully considered by the Congress.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2011 contains a provision repealing the policy and was recently submitted for consideration by the Senate. The NDAA is traditionally a piece of legislation to which defense-related amendments can be offered, and each provision is extensively debated and considered. Had the NDAA come to the floor, the Senate then would have been able to debate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Unfortunately, Democrats attempted to use this year’s NDAA as a vehicle for non-defense-related provisions and refused to allow an open and fair bipartisan amendment process. As a result, I voted against consideration of the bill and it did not come to the Senate floor. The NDAA can still be brought to the floor during the lame duck session this year, but Democrats have announced their top three priorities for legislation after the elections and national defense did not make the list.

As a former member of the Senate Armed Service Committee and Ranking Member of its Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, I assure you that I have the utmost respect for those men and women of our nation who choose to serve in the Armed Forces. I believe it is important to weigh competence, courage, and willingness to serve above all for those enlisting in the military. Please rest assured that I will keep your concerns, and the concerns of all Nevadans, in mind. Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts with me. Please feel free to contact me in the future on matters of importance to you. Should you have any other questions or comments, please do not hesitate to either write or e-mail me via my website at


Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) wants to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and intends to vote in favor of moving forward with defense budget legislation containing a provision that would end the law, according to the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada.

Laura Martin, communications director for the club, said she and other activists on Thursday met with Margot Allen, Ensign’s regional representative on military issues, who informed the group of Ensign’s opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and intention to vote for the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains repeal language.

“The first question was about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and his staffer said he supports repeal,” Martin said. “We asked her to clarify three times and she said he will vote in the affirmative on the defense authorization with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal in it.”

Martin said the question they asked was based on the condition that the vote would come up in December after the Pentagon working group completes its report on implementing repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We said after Dec. 1, when that report is out, and the defense authorization act is up for a vote with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ will the senator vote in the affirmative to pass it?” Martin said. “And she said, ‘He will.’ And we asked her to clarify that two more times and she said, ‘Yes, he wants it repealed.'”

Calls to Ensign’s office weren’t returned on short notice.

Ensign voted against the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the defense authorization bill in September. During the summer, the Nevada senator told the Washington Blade in a brief exchange on Capitol Hill that he has “concern” about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” However, Ensign said this concern was based on Congress acting before the Pentagon working group report was complete.

“The problem is you can’t go out and say to the military chiefs, ‘We’re going to survey you and see what you all think,’ and then you pass the bill to repeal it,” Ensign said at the time. “So the study should come first and then you can talk about the repeal or not of [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’]. So, yes, it is a concern simply because the study’s not done.”



Anti-LGBTQ provisions removed from NDAA

New version omits restriction on gender affirming care, book and drag bans



U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Anti-LGBTQ provisions submitted by House Republicans to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have been removed from the defense spending bill, triggering outrage from conservative lawmakers and praise from LGBTQ groups.

The conference version of the bill was released on Thursday.

This week saw the revocation of two measures targeting gender affirming care along with the book ban and drag ban. Language stipulating the list of approved flags that can be flown at military bases was amended such that more flags can be added on a discretionary basis.

“MAGA members of Congress tried to hijack the National Defense Authorization Act to advance their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, attempting to riddle it with discriminatory riders,” Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf said in a statement to the Washington Blade.

His statement continued, “They failed and equality won. Anti-LGBTQ+ provisions, including efforts to restrict access to gender affirming care, were rejected. The anti-LGBTQ+ agenda continues to be deeply unpopular across the country and a failing political strategy.”

Wolf thanked U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) for “defending equality and defeating attacks on the community.”

Pledging to vote “no” on the bill, Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) said in a post on X, “I was appointed to the NDAA conference committee but NEVER got to work on the final version of the NDAA bc they made the deal behind closed doors and here are the horrible results.”

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New bill would protect LGBTQ-owned businesses from lending discrimination

Legislation introduced by Sens. Padilla, Gillibrand and Rep. Torres



U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A bicameral bill introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) would require financial institutions to collect data on access to credit and capital by LGBTQ-owned businesses.

The legislation would thereby allow regulators to better identify and potentially remedy instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in these areas.

CNBC reported in June that a study by the Movement Advancement Project found LGBTQ-owned businesses encountered more rejections than non-LGBTQ-owned businesses that applied for funding, amid a tightening of lending standards across the board.

Specifically, the bill would “clarify that Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) requires financial institutions to collect the self-identified sexual orientation and gender identity of the principal owners of small businesses, in addition to their sex, race, and ethnicity,” according to a press release by Padilla’s office.

The California senator said, “With anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and hate crimes on the rise, LGBTQ+ business owners continue to face persistent and unjust barriers to financial success,” adding that “LGBTQ+-owned small businesses are a cornerstone of local economies, and they deserve equitable resources to help them grow and thrive.”

Padilla’s press release notes the legislation “would also add a definition for businesses owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals to the ECOA statute.”

Additionally, “The legislation also includes a Sense of Congress confirming that sexual orientation and gender identity are already covered under the ECOA (including the current data collection requirements)” while clarifying “that the sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity of the principal owners of a business should be collected as three separate forms of information.”

The Congressional Equality Caucus, Ali Forney Center, Center for American Progress, Destination Tomorrow, Drag Out The Vote, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality Action Fund, InterAct, and New Pride Agenda have backed the bill.

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Endocrine Society corrects misinformation about gender affirming care at GOP debate

Presidential candidates clashed in Ala. on Wednesday.



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) (Screen capture/NBC News)

The Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the clinical practice of endocrinology, released a statement correcting misinformation about gender affirming healthcare that was spread at the fourth Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday night.

The group said comments in which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) characterized care for transgender and gender-diverse youth as child abuse and genital mutilation “do not reflect the health care landscape” and contradict “mainstream medical practice and scientific evidence.”

“Pediatric gender-affirming care is designed to take a conservative approach,” the Endocrine Society wrote. “When young children experience feelings that their gender identity does not match the sex recorded at birth, the first course of action is to support the child in exploring their gender identity and to provide mental health support, as needed.”

The statement continues, “Medical intervention is reserved for older adolescents and adults, with treatment plans tailored to the individual and designed to maximize the time teenagers and their families have to make decisions about their transitions.”

Notwithstanding the remarks by DeSantis, other debate participants, and moderator Megyn Kelly, “gender-affirming genital surgery is rarely offered to anyone under the age of 18,” the statement says.

Additionally, “More than 2,000 scientific studies have examined aspects of gender-affirming care since 1975, including more than 260 studies cited in the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline.”

Other major scientific and medical groups like the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are “in alignment” with the Endocrine Society on “the importance of gender affirming care,” the statement notes.

Further, research shows it “can be life saving for a population with high suicide rates.”

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