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Donnelly continues crusade against ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

CPAC speaker wants more hearings before ban is lifted

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Elaine Donnelly (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A leading opponent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is continuing her effort to prevent gays from serving openly in the U.S. military and is calling for extended discussion before the military’s gay ban is lifted.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, on Thursday called for more congressional hearings on allowing gays to serve openly in the military and time to question Pentagon officials before repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” takes effect.

“Our position is Congress should tell the Pentagon, ‘Not so fast!'” she said. “They need to ask questions, they need to have hearings. We need to keep in mind what is the most important thing. … Certainly, the military is too important to be used for social engineering, political payoffs. Diversity is important, yes, but not as a primary goal.”

Donnelly urged for greater deliberation before enacting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal during a panel titled “How Political Correctness Is Harming America’s Military” at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C.

In 20o8, Donnelly gained notoriety as an opponent of gays in the military when she testified during a House hearing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After her testimony, when she decried the possible spread of “HIV positivity” in the military and the “forced intimacy” of straight troops serving with gays, Donnelly was widely criticized and lampooned by the media.

During her CPAC panel appearance, Donnelly denounced the law allowing for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that President Obama signed in December, which she said was “rushed through recklessly” in the lame-duck session of the 111th Congress.

“It’s supposed to be a non-discrimination policy,” she said. “But instead of calling it ‘Not “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”‘ … let’s give it a name. We call it the ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Law for the Military’ — ‘LGBT Law’ for short. We have to start thinking about it in terms of what it would do.”

The repeal provides for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” only after the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the U.S. military is ready for repeal. But Donnelly said this language was a “meaningless” provision in the law.

“There’s going to be a lot of problems,” she said. “The Congress has yet to have hearings on the House side on this, so our position is this: don’t you think we should ask some questions first?”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said the debate over ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has gone on for 17 years and noted House and Senate committees had several hearings in the last Congress.

“No more discussion is needed on this issue,” Sainz said. “And I think Republicans and Democrats, not just Democrats, but Republicans and Democrats, concluded that that was the case when they voted to go ahead and pass this legislation last year. At some point, you just have to call the question, and that’s exactly what happened.”

During the panel, Donnelly said she and other opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal assembled a 25-page list of questions that “not should be asked, but must be asked” to evaluate the mesaure passed last year.

Among the questions, Donnelly said, is which of the findings in the 1993 law are not valid — how will the armed forces “train people to be less senstive to sexual privacy and modesty.”

Donnelly also raised concerns about “zero tolerance” for service members who object to serving alongside openly gay people.

“What about when you have a problem and say, “This needs to changed,'” Donnelly said. “And someone says, ‘What’s the matter with you? Is there something wrong with your attitude? Are you prejudiced? We’ll get you more training — more LGBT training.'”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said what Donnelly referred to as “zero tolerance” is actually unprofessional behavior in the U.S. military.

“You see a lot, in my experience, from people who oppose this policy change and others, the desire to express their beliefs in an inappropriate and unprofessional manner, and then they get upset when they’re not permitted to engage in that type of behavior,” Nicholson said.

Donnelly also said the controversies found in teaching about same-sex couples in civilian schools would mean the military would likewise have similar problems and would need to implement a “school of choice” system.

“We know how controversial it is to have LGBT training in civilian schools,” Donnelly said. “Just imagine what that’s going to be in the Department of Defense schools where there really is no choice. Will we not need ‘school of choice’ in the Department of Defense? Yes, we will.”

Nicholson said Donnelly’s assertion is a example of someone “talking about the military who has never spent one single day in uniform.”

“There aren’t multiple ideologically based training schools for anything in the military, whether that be for occupations or the leadership academies and things like that,” he said.

Also, Donnelly said military chaplains would have to “endorse homosexuality” if they had to be ministers for openly gay people in the military.

“It was said during hearings in the Senate, ‘Well, we’re going to lose a lot of chaplains,’ so one of the questions is ‘How many chaplains are we going to lose?'” she said.

Sainz identified Donnelly’s assertion about chaplains as among “the half-truths or complete falsehoods” that she’s been repeating in her opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“No one’s being asked to endorse homosexuality,” Sainz said. “It’s kind of a bizarro statement. They are not being asked to put their religious beliefs aside.”

In addition to denouncing the repeal law, Donnelly also took issue with the Pentagon’s report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Taking a line from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an opponent of repeal in the Senate, Donnelly said the survey that went out to service members as part of the report didn’t ask the right question.

“The survey that was done, the RAND Corp. had a lot to do with it, and a company called Westat or something,” Donnelly said. “They had all these questions and they never once asked the question: ‘Do you favor retention or repeal of the law?'”

One of the questions on the survey asks service members if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed and they are working with someone who says he or she is gay, how would it affect their unit’s ability to work together to get the job done. About 70 percent of responders said it would have a positive, mixed or no effect.

Nicholson said Donnelly didn’t like the questions that were part of the survey because they didn’t result in responses that would have worked in her favor.

“I think she’s just upset that the purpose was not to conduct a referendum on military policy among members of the force because she thinks she would have won that referendum,” he said.

Joining Donnelly during the panel discussion was Ilario Pantano, a Marine sniper who served in the Iraq war, who used his discussion time to argue that the United States is a Christian nation and that China is building up its defenses “because they fear Jesus Christ.”

Pantano also said he concurred with Donnelly’s sentiments and noted that former Rep. Patrick Murphy, who championed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the U.S. House, received what he said was $90,000 from the liberal MoveOn.org and $40,000 from the Human Rights Campaign in the 2010 election.

“If people talk ultimately about issues of fairness, why are they needing to spend tens of millions of dollars to lobby the Democratic Party if it’s truly about efficacy and the good of the people who’ve been in the armed forces,” Pantano said.

In response, Sainz said HRC’s contributions to Murphy’s campaign are “hardly remarkable” because the Pennsylvania lawmaker was a friend and deserved re-election. Sainz added right-wing groups are donating money to anti-gay lawmakers who oppose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Sainz also said Pantano was being “wildly inaccurate” on the money he says HRC spent on the Murphy campaign. According to the Federal Election Commission website, HRC contributed slightly more than $9,000 to Murphy’s campaign in the 2010 election.

Donnelly also attempted to raise fears about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal law by saying it could open the door to allow openly transgender people in the military. Currently, transgender people aren’t allowed to serve in the armed forces because of regulations.

“Right now, they’re saying no transgenders,” Donnelly said. “They’ve thrown the ‘T’s’ under the bus. But the president has celebrated ‘LGBT Equality Month’ twice in the month of June. So why not? Why not? What is the rationale for excluding them?”

Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Transgender Center for Equality, said Donnelly was raising the issue of transgender people in the U.S. military to draw attention to “her last shrill efforts to try to stop “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal,” but added she’s right that trans people shouldn’t be excluded.

“There is no more reason to exclude trans people from service than there is to exclude women, or anybody, African Americans or gay people,” Keisling said. “It’s just all based on old stereotypes that people like Elaine Donnelly use to advance their own causes.”

Keisling noted that the national study on trans people made public last week found that 20 percent of them were veterans, which she said was double the national average.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Frankie James

    February 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Who is this idiot shopping for votes… This is a done deal hater!

  2. Samuel Croft

    February 15, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Shopping for anything that will get her a vote. Why don’t these people take their negative hate and turn it into something positive and do something good for the country.

  3. Skeeter Sanders

    February 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I can’t help but snicker at these homophobic fools who keep pressing to stop the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after the repeal measure was signed into law by President Obama. It’s akin to guarding the barn after the cows have stampeded out of it.

    Fools! You’re TOO FREAKING LATE! DADT is well on its way to be thrown into the garbage can and there’s absolutely NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP IT! So shut the (BLEEP) up and go home!

  4. [email protected]

    February 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    It’s hard to imagine any inaccurate attack on lunatic Donnelly, but Nicholson’s current parroting of the Pentagon Party Line that “the purpose was not to conduct a referendum on military policy among members of the force” is bull, contradicted by Servicemember United’s own history of appropriately denouncing much of the “survey”s design for fear it would influence responses. Responses = opinion = referendum.

    JULY 9, 2010, SU Press Release: “Servicemembers United… today strongly condemned the biased and derogatory design of the long-awaited Defense Department survey on issues related to the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. … ‘it is simply impossible to imagine a survey with such derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations going out about any other minority group in the military’, said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United ….’Unfortunately, this expensive survey stokes the fires of homophobia by its very design ….. The Defense Department just shot itself in the foot by releasing such a flawed survey to 400,000 servicemembers, and it did so at an outrageous cost to taxpayers.’

    Nicholson added, ‘Flawed aspects of the survey include the unnecessary use of terms that are known to be inflamatory and bias-inducing in social science research, such as the clinical term “homosexual”‘ an overwhelming focus on the potential negative aspects of repeal and little or no inclusion of the potential positive aspects of repeal or the negative aspects of the current policy; the repeated and unusual suggestion that a co-worker or leader might need to “discuss” appropriate behavior and conduct with gay and lesbian troops; and more’.”

    This revisionism, following his crooning “everything is beautiful in its own way” despite the military transparently dragging its feet on actual repeal with bogus claims including that the legislation required “training” BEFORE implementation makes one wonder if someone is eyeing a Pentagon job.

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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