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DOJ appeals lesbian Air Force officer’s reinstatement

But Witt able to resume service in U.S. military

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The Obama administration is appealing a federal district court’s decision to reinstate back into the U.S. Air Force a lesbian nurse who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department filed an appeal notice with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking the appellate body to reconsider a decision by a Washington State district court to allow Maj. Margaret Witt back into the Air Force.

The three-page notice gives no explanation for why the Obama administration is appealing Witt v. Air Force and simply states that “notice is hereby given” that the Justice Department has made the filing.

In September, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that Witt, who was discharged in 2006 after serving in the Air Force for 19 years as a flight nurse, should be allowed back into the military.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement the administration filed the appeal as it “traditionally does when acts of Congress have been held unconstitutional,” but said this filing “in no way diminishes” President Obama’s commitment to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislatively this year.

“Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy,” Gibbs added.

Gibbs said the president and administration officials “have been working with the Senate” to move forward during the lame duck session with passage of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains repeal language.

But Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, blasted the Obama adminstration for appealing to a higher court the decision to reinstate Witt.

“Notwithstanding President Obama’s concession that the military’s current anti-gay policies are hurting national security, his administration is continuing to pursue the discharge of a decorated officer who did not ‘tell,’ who would not have even been investigated under the military’s current guidelines, and whose discharge has been found not to promote unit cohesion or morale,” Davidson said.

Davidson called the decision to appeal the district court’s ruling — in addition to not suspending discharges pending review of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — a “significant failure on the part of our nation’s Commander in Chief.”

Doug NeJaime, who’s gay and a law professor at Loyola Law School, said he thinks the decision to appeal the Witt ruling is consistent with the Obama administration’s decision to appeal U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillip’s recent ruling that struck down “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“So just as the government is appealing the substance of Judge Philip’s decision …, the government is appealing the substantive decision here as well,” NeJaime said.  “While disappointing, it is in some ways consistent with the appeal in Log Cabin Republicans.”

In a statement, Witt said she’s “thrilled” to be able to resume her service in the Air Force and said the people in her unit “are like family members.”

“Thousands of men and women who are gay and lesbian honorably serve this country in our military,” she said. “Many people forget that the U.S. military is the most diverse workforce in the world — we are extremely versed in adaptation.”

According to the ACLU of Washington, which represented Witt in the litigation, Witt will be the first openly gay person to serve in the military due to a court order.

NeJaime said he thinks the Obama administration’s decision not to seek a stay on Witt’s reinstatement as it appeals the case is the result of pressure to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Given all the pressure on the administration in light of the failed attempts to repeal [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’], it seems appropriate that the government would not seek to prevent Major Witt’s service pending appeal,” NeJaime said.

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National

NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated

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(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor

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First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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