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Reid recommits to ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal in lame duck

Senators talk of extending session to vote on gay ban



Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reaffirmed on Monday his commitment to bring a vote "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal (Blade photo by Michael Key).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reaffirmed on Monday his commitment to bring “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal to vote in the lame duck session of Congress amid fears other legislative priorities will bump the issue from the agenda.

Reid pledged to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by year’s end on the Senate floor as he described a litany of legislative items he wants the chamber to take on during lame duck, including passage of the DREAM Act, renewing tax cuts for middle class families and ratification of the START Treaty.

“We’re also going to repeal the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” Reid said. “We’re going to match our policy with our principles and finally say in the United States, everyone who steps up to serve our country can be welcome.”

Legislation to repeal the military gay’s ban is pending before the Senate as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill. A previous attempt to bring the legislation to the Senate floor in September failed when a united Republican caucus blocked consideration of the measure.

Many senators — including Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) — said they wanted a more fair amendment process with more amendments for the minority as a condition to moving forward with the legislation.

In his remarks, Reid said Republicans are blocking consideration of the defense authorization bill because they don’t believe they have the votes to take out the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision by amendment once the legislation reaches the floor.

Reid said when Republicans refuse to debate the defense authorization bill, they also “hold up a well-deserved raise for our troops, better health care for our troops and their families” as well as other important initiatives for the U.S. military.

A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also affirmed President Obama wants Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

“The White House remains fully committed to passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, including the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ during the lame duck,” the official said. “This is a priority for the president, and are we confident that the Congress will be able to address this issue this year.”

Concern that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal may have fallen from the schedule emerged when Reid offered remarks earlier in the day and didn’t include the defense authorization bill as among the legislative items for which he would file cloture on Monday.

Instead he listed other items, including the DREAM Act and legislation that would provide healthcare benefits and compensation to workers who responded to Ground Zero during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Reid only mentioned the defense authorization bill after Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) reminded him on the floor to say something about the legislation.

The majority leader responded by saying he had bipartisan conversations on Sunday about trying to find a way to move forward with the defense authorization bill.

“The issue on that, Madam President, is what we do with amendments,” Reid said. “And without belaboring the point here, I would be happy to consider doing a number of amendments if we had time agreements on those amendments. But to just have an open process — at this stage, I don’t see how we can do that.”

Jim Manley, a Reid spokesperson, said Reid didn’t include “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” among the items on which he would file cloture on Monday because the Senate leadership is still in talks to find enough Republican support to move forward with the defense authorization bill.

“Discussion are ongoing that involve Sen. Levin, Sen. [Joseph] Lieberman, Sen. Collins and others about trying to put together a debate that will satisfy folks and both of the aisle,” Manley said.

Manley said he couldn’t make a prediction on when these discussion would conclude, but said Reid remains committed to bringing up the legislation to a vote during lame duck.

Despite the commitment from Reid for a vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” concerns that time will run out before lawmakers act persist.

In a brief exchange with the Washington Blade on Capitol Hill, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich.) expressed concerns about being able to move forward with the defense authorization in the limited time that remains in the session.

“The longer this go on the more difficult it becomes, but I’m obviously … still hopeful,” Levin said.

Christopher Neff, deputy executive director of the Palm Center, a think tank on gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara, acknowleged that time is an issue as he said he still sees a path forward for repeal.

“The calendar, in my estimation, has always been a bit more difficult than the vote count, but I do think that there are scenarios where this can be finalized for a signature before Congress adjourns,” Neff said.

Neff cited what he perceived as Obama’s commitment to repeal as a reason for why repeal can still happen and noted a recent call the president made to Levin against stripping the defense authorization bill of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language.

“President Obama has shown strong leadership in reaching out to Sen. Levin and to Sen. Reid to try to move this process forward,” Neff said. “I think the White House has taken a leadership role on this and they want to see it delivered and I think there’s more to be done.”

Talk is emerging about extending the legislative session beyond what was previously planned to accomodate a vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

During his earlier remarks, Reid set Dec. 17 as the target date for when he wants the Senate to adjourn for this Congress and said he doesn’t think his colleagues want to stay until Christmas Eve as they did last year.

But Manley said the Dec. 17 target date for adjournment is “not hard and fast” and “we’ll have to wait and see how long we’re going to need.” He added the entire Democratic caucus would agree to extending the session for that to happen.

In a statement, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said the Senate should stay in session for until the remainder of the calendar year if that’s what’s necessary to complete legislative work before the chamber, such as passage of the defense authorization bill.

“It’s time to follow Elvis Presley’s advice — we need ‘a little less conversation, and a little more action,’” Udall said. “I’m willing to stay through Christmas and New Year’s, if that’s what it takes, to fight for middle-class tax relief, the defense authorization bill, public lands legislation — which means jobs for Coloradans — and other important work.”

On Monday, the Huffington Post reported that Lieberman and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) were in favor of extneding the legislative session to pass “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“Sen. Lieberman believes that there are at least 60 votes to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year, provided that leadership allows time for sufficient debate and amendments,” Lieberman spokeswoman Erika Masonhall was quoted as saying. “Wanting to go home is not an acceptable excuse for failing to pass a bill that provides essential support for our troops and veterans and failing to take action that the president, the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have called for.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”



Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure



The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

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, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone



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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