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Amos: Gays in military could ‘cost Marines’ lives’

SLDN calls for Marine Corps general’s resignation

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Gay rights groups are fuming over remarks that the Marine Corps’ top general made on Tuesday suggesting that open service in the military would lead to lost lives on the battlefield.

On Tuesday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos reiterated his opposition to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and suggested the presence of openly gay people in the U.S. military could be a distraction that would result in additional fatalities.

“When your life hangs on the line, you don’t want anything distracting … Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives,” Amos said, according to the Washington Post.

The general cited the recently released Pentagon study on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which found that discontent over open service is higher in the Marine Corps than in other services. 

According to the report, while only 30 percent of service members generally thought serving alongside openly gay people would have a negative impact on performance, the percentage jumped to 43 percent for responders in the Marine Corps and 58 percent for responders in the Marine combat arms units.

Amos reportedly continued that Marines don’t want a “distraction” that “may have an effect on cohesion” and said he doesn’t want to “permit that opportunity to happen.”

“I’ll tell you why,” Amos was quoted as saying. “If you go up to Bethesda [Naval] hospital . . . Marines are up there with no legs, none. We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] with no limbs.”

Amos reportedly continued: “I don’t need a staff study. I don’t need to hire three PhDs to tell me what to interpret it. I’ve got Marines that came back to me as their commandant and said, we have concerns. So if they have concerns, I do, too. It’s as simple as that.”

In Senate testimony earlier this month, Amos recommended that Congress not act to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although he said at the time the Marine Corps could implement a change in law if so ordered.

In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, chided Amos for his remarks and said he needs to “fall in line and salute or resign now.”

“Those fear tactics are not in the interest of any service member,” Sarvis said. “The General’s goal is to kill repeal no matter the consequences, perhaps at the dereliction of his other duties.”

Sarvis said Amos needs to stop lobbying against the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — who have called on Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If not, Sarvis said the president should “ask for his resignation.”

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of programs, also blasted Amos for his remarks and said he should fall in line with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who favor repeal.

“General Amos should be listening to his two bosses, the defense secretary and the joint chiefs chairman,” Sainz said. “Both have made it clear that a gradual and orderly process carried about by the Pentagon as a result of legislative repeal is a far better alternative than a judge’s decision that could bring about repeal overnight.”

On Tuesday, when asked by The Advocate to respond to Amos’ remarks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated his talking points that President Obama and Gates’ positions on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal are “fairly well known.”

“I think the president, as the commander-in-chief, has a strong viewpoint, I think backed up by the survey conducted by the Pentagon as to the attitude of the men and women in our military, that this can be done in a way that strengthens our national security, preserves the best fighting force in the world, and most importantly does away with a policy that he doesn’t think is just,” Gibbs said.

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National

Bill to support LGBTQ+ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

‘LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation & should be able to access services and care’

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(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ+ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ+ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ+ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Rep. Bonamici, Chair of the Equality Caucus’ LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Rep. Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQI+ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

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(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

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The White House

White House acknowledges IDAHOBiT, reiterates support for global LGBTQ rights

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental illness

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Pride flags fly from an apartment's terrace in Warsaw, Poland, on April 11, 2024. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia commemorates the World Health Organization's declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Biden-Harris administration on Friday used the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to reiterate its support of LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

“On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, my administration stands in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world as they seek to live full lives, free from violence and discrimination,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “This is a matter of human rights, plain and simple.” 

“The United States applauds those individuals and groups worldwide working to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ people wherever they are under threat,” he added. “We are grateful for the contributions that LGBTQI+ people make every day across our nation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden.

“On this day, we reflect upon the violence and discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons worldwide suffer and re-commit ourselves to opposing these acts,” said Blinken in his own statement. “This year, like every year, we state unequivocally: LGBTQI+ persons deserve recognition of their universal human rights and human dignity.” 

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Blinken in his statement notes LGBTQ and intersex people around the world “continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination.”

Dominica last month became the latest country to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“Even as more countries make meaningful advancements towards full equality; LGBTQI+ persons continue to be sentenced to death for daring to live their sexual orientation or gender identity, subjected to coercive conversion ‘therapies’ and ‘normalization’ surgeries, discriminated against while receiving health services, restricted from exercising fundamental freedoms, and denied the dignity of same-sex partnership and fulfillment of family,” said Blinken. 

“As we reflect upon the injustices that LGBTQI+ persons and their allies endure, we must not forget that today is fundamentally a day of action,” he added. “On this day and every day, the United States stands with LGBTQI+ persons around the world. We will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons not just because we have a moral imperative to do so, but because it helps to strengthen democracy, bolster national security, and promote global health and economic development.”

The Tonga Leitis Association is among the myriad LGBTQ and intersex rights groups around the world that acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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