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‘Don’t Ask’ protest set for Friday on Capitol Hill

Groups want Senate to extend legislative session

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Groups seeking an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are planning a Capitol Hill protest on Friday to demand that lawmakers consider repeal of the military’s gay ban before the year is out.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the demonstration is intended to encourage the Senate to extend the legislative session until they pass the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill, which contains a provision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“We must show our rage for repeal and insist the Senate stay in Washington until they have finished the job,” Sarvis said. “We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, ‘If not now, when?’”

The protest is set to begin at noon at the Upper Senate Park, which is North of the U.S. Capitol, at the corner of Constitution Ave. and Delaware Ave., NE.

SLDN is the lead organization coordinating the protest, but other groups have signed on as sponsors, including the Human Rights Campaign, American Veterans for Equal Rights, VoteVets and People for the American Way.

Talk of extending the session has emerged as many LGBT advocates fear other legislative priorities — such as extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and ratification of the START Treaty — will bump “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal from the calendar.

On the Senate floor on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reaffirmed his intention to bring up “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal during the lame duck session of Congress. Still, he announced that Dec. 17 would be the target date this year for adjournment and said he doesn’t think his colleages wanted to stay in session until Christmas Eve as they did last year.

But with a number of unfinished items still on the agenda, including “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, senators such as Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have raised the idea of extending the legislative session.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the Democratic caucus was set to discuss the possibility of staying longer than originally planned during its weekly meeting Tuesday.

“I think they’ll end up staying through probably at least the 20th or the 21st, or maybe 22nd,” Nicholson said. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure for them to do that.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate committee kills six anti-transgender bills

Democrats control chamber by 22-18 margin

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate Education Committee on Thursday killed six anti-transgender bills.

The committee rejected state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. All three measures would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia.

The committee also killed state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, Reeves’ Senate Bill 1186 and Peake’s Senate Bill 962. The measures would have banned transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

Equality Virginia in a tweet said committee members received more than 3,000 emails “in opposition” to the bills. The statewide advocacy group further noted 10 out of 12 anti-trans bills introduced during this year’s legislative session have been defeated.

“Thank you to everyone who has spoken up against these bills,” said Equality Virginia. “Virginia is remaining a better, more inclusive state because of your efforts.”

“The fight isn’t over,” added the advocacy group. “But we know Virginians will show up for trans youth, day after day.”

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee essentially kills three anti-transgender bills

Measures would ban transition-related health care for minors

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Tuesday essentially killed three bills that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in the state.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the Senate Health Subcommittee “recommended killing” state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 960, state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Colonial Heights)’s Senate Bill 791 and state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County)’s Senate Bill 1203. 

“We expect these bills to be officially dead after the full committee meets on Thursday,” said Equality Virginia.

Democrats have a 22-18 majority in the state Senate, and they have said they will block any anti-LGBTQ bill that reaches their chamber. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly transgender woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday reiterated this point.

“With the defeat of these bills in the Senate, our (Virginia Senate Democrats) made it clear that *any* bills in the House targeting trans kids during the final week before crossover will not become law if they make it to the Senate,” she tweeted. “Let’s focus on feeding kids, not singling them out.”

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The White House

Doug Emhoff visits monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin

Second gentleman marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Auschwitz

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The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism in Berlin on July 23, 2022. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the memorial on Jan. 31, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Tuesday visited a monument to gay victims of the Nazis in Berlin.

A readout from Emhoff’s office notes he visited the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism with Philipp Braun of the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group. Christopher Schreiber and Alexander Scheld of the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Federation were also with Emhoff.

“The Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals under Nazi Socialism is intended to honor the homosexual victims of National Socialism and at the same time ‘set a constant sign against intolerance, hostility and exclusion towards gays and lesbians,'” notes the readout.

Emhoff on Tuesday visited other memorials that honor the Sinti and Roma and people with disabilities who the Nazis killed. The second gentleman also visited Berlin’s Holocaust memorial before he met with five people who survived it.

The second gentleman earlier in the day participated in a roundtable with Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and met with Ukrainian refugees at Berlin’s New Synagogue. Emhoff on Monday participated in a meeting at the city’s Topography of Terror Museum that focused on antisemitism.

International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1945, took place on Jan. 27. 

Emhoff, who is Jewish, traveled to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum and participated in ceremonies that commemorated the camp’s liberation. He later attended a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, visited Oscar Schindler’s factory and met with Ukrainian refugees at a U.N. Refugee Agency community center before he traveled to Germany.

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