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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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National

Memphis police release Tyre Nichols arrest, fatal beating video

29-year-old Black man died after traffic stop

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(Screenshot from NBC News Now)

Three videos consisting of both body cam footage and street surveillance footage were made public by the Memphis Police Department Friday evening showing the violent arrest and beating of Memphis resident 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

Nichols died three days after he was beaten by police in a traffic stop in the Hickory Hill neighborhood around 8:22 p.m. on Jan. 7, in an altercation Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis described, saying “in my 36 years in law enforcement, I don’t think I have witnessed the disregard for a human being displayed in this video.” 

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday that five now-former Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith — were fired for misconduct, indicted by a grand jury and taken into custody.

Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. By Friday morning, they had posted bond.

Left: Justin Smith, top center: Emmitt Martin III, top right: Desmond Mills Jr., center left: Demetrius Haley, right bottom: Tadarrius Bean (Photos provided by Memphis Police Department)

As news of the beating and death spread beyond Tennessee, officials expressed concern that release of the footage would touch off violent protest in reaction.

The attorneys and family of Nichols asked for justice for their son, and peace in their city, at a press conference in Memphis on Friday, WREG News 3 reported.

Speakers included family members, attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Van Turner, president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP.

Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said that he initially wanted first-degree murder charges against the officers, but the family is satisfied with second-degree murder.

He pleaded for peace in Memphis Friday night.

“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance,” Wells said. “Please, please, protest, but protest safely.”

Protests took place in Memphis after police released more than an hour of footage in the case with some major highways temporarily shut down.

Other protests were organized in New York, as well as D.C., Sacramento, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle, with police at the ready for potential violence.

“Tonight, I stand with the millions of Americans sending condolences and love to the family of Tyre Nichols as the navigate this unimaginably difficult tragedy,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement. “We are a nation traumatized by violence, especially violence against Black Americans. We don’t even need to see the video to feel outraged that those five former officers, sworn to protect their community and now arrested and charged with murder, killed Tyre. But tonight, many people will see the video and it will elicit strong feelings — from sadness and anger to confusion and despair. Tonight, we are a city and country united by tragedy, but we are also determined — to deliver justice for Tyre and change for our nation.”

The White House held a joint emergency call Friday with the mayors of at least 16 cities before the video’s release “to brief them on federal preparations in support of state and local leaders.”

“Participating mayors shared their perspectives on how important it is to recognize the pain felt by communities across this country, be prepared in advance with a game plan to provide adequate community support, and to reinforce the importance of peace and calm during these difficult moments,” the White House said in a statement about the call, which included cities from New York City, to Atlanta, Los Angeles, D.C., Seattle and Portland.

The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement condemning the actions of the Memphis officers and calling for demonstrations to remain peaceful.

“The accounts of the circumstances of this heinous crime and the criminal actions of those involved are reprehensible,” the LAPD said.

“The department will do all within its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public’s anger and frustration is protected and prepared to facilitate those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told local media that it is preparing for the possibility of disturbances after the footage is made public. and is coordinating with other state, local and federal agencies.

“Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur,” the LASD said.

“The sheriff’s department supports the First Amendment and the people’s right to protest.”

Speaking with reporters as he prepared to depart for Camp David at the White House Friday evening, President Joe Biden said that he had spoken with Nichols’ mother prior to the video footage release for about 10 or 15 minutes.

“I spoke with Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences and told her that I was going to be making the case to the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act. We should get this under control. I can only do so much on the executive order at the federal level,” Biden said. “I was really pleased that she called for peaceful protest, no violence,” he added.

When asked about the potential for violence Biden said:

“I’m obviously very concerned about it. But I think she has made a very strong plea. She’s obviously in enormous pain. I told her I had some idea of what that loss is like and although it is impossible to believe now, a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.” 

The White House released a statement from the president that said in part:

“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day. 
 
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to the Memphis Police Department’s body camera footage being released, showing the deadly actions that took the life of Nichols, a Sacramento native, and led to the charging of five since fired Memphis law enforcement officers.

“Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” said Newsom. “Today, we are a country in mourning, and must continue our work nationwide to push reforms to prevent excessive use of force and save lives.”

“Tonight, we saw ferocious violence from an out-of-control herd,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Late Friday evening Vice President Kamala Harris’ office released a statement from the vice president on Nichols:

“Tyre Nichols should have made it home to his family. Yet, once again, America mourns the life of a son and father brutally cut short at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. The footage and images released tonight will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.
 
The persistent issue of police misconduct and use of excessive force in America must end now. 

I join President Biden in his call for accountability and transparency. We must build trust—not fear — within our communities.”

VIDEO COURTESY OF KTLA:

TYRE NICHOLS VIDEO VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED, GRAPHIC CONTENT AND LANGUAGE WARNING.

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National

FBI reports ‘explosion’ of teen boys extorted after sending explicit photos, videos

Gay adults targeted on Grindr, other dating sites

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Law enforcement officials led by the FBI and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations division are reporting an alarming increase in incidents of mostly teenage boys being tricked into sending explicit photos and videos of themselves to online scammers who then attempt to extort money from the young victims.

Spokespersons for the FBI, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where sextortion cases increased dramatically, have told the Washington Blade they so far are unaware of gay teenage boys being targeted for what authorities are calling financial sextortion.

“We have not seen that,” said Catherine Pollicicchio, a spokesperson for the FBI Field Office in Pittsburgh, when asked by the Blade if gay teens were being targeted. “But that doesn’t mean it is not happening. We may not know about it,” she said.

“Homeland Security Investigations has not observed any sextortion investigations that refer specifically to gay teenagers,” said Jason Koontz, a spokesperson for HSI Philadelphia offices.

A spokesperson for the FBI’s headquarters in Washington couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm whether FBI officials are aware of gay teenagers or gay young adults being targeted for sextortion in other parts of the country.

The D.C.-based LGBTQ youth advocacy group SMYAL is also unaware of any gay male teenagers in the D.C. area being targeted for sextortion, according SMYAL spokesperson Hancie Stokes.

But the popular app Grindr reports on its website that adult gay men using Grindr and other gay hookup apps have been targeted for sextortion in ways similar to how the straight teenage boys have been targeted.

The scammers are persuading the gay adult men to send who they believe is someone interested in a possible sexual hookup or a relationship nude or sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves. The scammer then uses the explicit images to blackmail the victim into sending large sums of money to prevent the scammer from releasing the photos or videos to the victim’s family, friends, or employer.  

In a Scam Awareness Guide posted on its website, Grindr says that unlike potential straight targets for sextortion, some of the scammers have threatened to out gay men, including bisexual men married to women, by sending their sexually explicit photos or videos to a spouse or other family members.

In yet another means of carrying out sextortion scams, according to Grindr, some of the scammers have set up a fake profile as an underage person. After tricking the victim into sending explicit images the scammer threatens to report the victim to police for soliciting sex with a minor unless a ransom is paid.

The FBI’s national office in Washington issued a “public safety alert” about the increasing number of sextortion cases targeting teenage males in a Dec. 19 press release.

“Over the past year, law enforcement has received over 7,000 reports related to the online financial sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys, and more than a dozen suicides,” the FBI press statement says.

“The FBI has seen a horrific increase in reports of financial sextortion schemes targeting minor boys—and the fact is that the many victims who are afraid to come forward are not even included in those numbers,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in the FBI statement. “The FBI is here for victims, but we also need parents and caregivers to work with us to prevent this crime before it happens and help children come forward if it does,” Wray said.

“Victims may feel like there is no way out – it is up to all of us to reassure them that they are not in trouble, there is hope, and they are not alone,” Wray said.

The FBI statement says sextortion schemes occur most often through sites where young people interact with each other such as social media, gaming sites, or video chat applications.

“On these platforms, online predators often use fake female accounts and target minor males between 14 and 17 years old, but the FBI has interviewed victims as young as 10 years old,” according to the statement. “Through deception, predators convince the young person to produce an explicit video or photo,” it says.

“Once predators acquire the images, they threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money or gift cards,” the FBI statement continues. “In many cases, however, predators release the images even if payments are made. The shame, fear, and confusion that victims feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse,” the FBI statement says.

“A large percentage of these sextortion schemes originate outside of the United States and primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast,” according to the FBI statement.

Jane Clementi, co-founder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which advocates for programs to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying, targeting LGBTQ youth, said she and the Clementi Foundation, which is a nationwide group, were unaware of any specific gay youth or young adults being targeted for sextortion.

“The fact that this is on the rise is very disconcerting and means it needs to have more media coverage to inform youth and their parents about the harms and how to deal with the situation,” she told the Blade in an email. “My hope would be that we can prevent this situation from happening in the first place.” 

Jane Clementi, her husband, and other family members founded the Clementi Foundation in 2010 a short time after their son Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman student at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, took his own life after being victimized by cyber bullying.

Tyler’s suicide drew international attention when news surfaced that his college roommate secretly pointed his laptop computer camera at Tyler’s bed when he learned that Tyler had a date with another young man and the two planned to engage in intimacy in the dorm room. The roommate informed others that he would be broadcasting a live video of Tyler’s intimate interaction with his date over the internet and would be rebroadcasting it later, a development Tyler became humiliated and devastated over after he learned what had happened.

Jane Clementi said that type of cyberbullying and other forms of what she called revenge porn or nonconsensual porn, in which someone uses private images shared with them in confidence while in a relationship and then shares the photos or videos publicly after the relationship ends has been an issue of concern for many years.

Although it is not the same as financial sextortion, it often has the same harmful impact on victims, those familiar with the two types of scams have said.

“The best place to start is by raising awareness of the issue and by having healthy conversations starting at the youngest of ages, as soon as youth have a device that is connected to the internet,” Clementi said. “And next, parents and youth need to talk through a plan for the inevitable situation they might encounter online, like harassment, intimidation or worse sextortion.”

Grindr says on its website that it has protocols in place to detect and remove fake accounts set up by scammers. “While we detect and block a huge amount of these accounts that you will never see as a user, some still get through,” Grindr says on its website.  

Advice from the Grindr Scam Awareness Guide on how to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion and how best to respond if one is targeted for sextortion can be accessed at grindr.com.

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U.S. Supreme Court

LGBTQ groups commemorate 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Equality Florida staffers attended vice president’s speech in Fla.

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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had been issued on Jan. 22, 1973. LGBTQ advocacy groups this week commemorated the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973, issued its Roe v. Wade ruling that ensured the constitutional right to an abortion for all American citizens. The Supreme Court last June overruled this landmark decision.

Fifty years later, LGBTQ activists are among those who have commemorated Roe, despite the fact the Supreme Court has overturned it. The decision, which has since caused tension between liberal and conservative groups, prompted federal and state lawmakers to act upon the sudden revocation of what many consider to be a fundamental right. 

Roe’s legal premise relied heavily upon the right to privacy that the 14th Amendment provided; however, legal experts argued that it was a vague interpretation of the amendment.

Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday delivered remarks on Roe’s anniversary in Tallahassee, Fla., saying how most “Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected.” 

“The consequences of the Supreme Court’s ruling are not only limited to those who need reproductive care,” said Harris. “Other basic healthcare is at risk.”

The overruling of Roe put into question the security of other long-held precedents, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriages, and Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision that legalized interracial marriages, because they rely on the same right to privacy that upheld Roe.

In that same speech, Harris announced President Joe Biden would issue a presidential memorandum to direct all government departments to ensure access to abortion pills at pharmacies.

“Members of our Cabinet and our administration are now directed, as of the president’s order, to identify barriers to access to prescription medication and to recommend actions to make sure that doctors can legally prescribe, that pharmacies can dispense, and that women can secure safe and effective medication,” Harris affirmed. 

LGBTQ organizations and other human rights groups continue to work to protect reproductive rights.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said she found it intolerable that “an extremist set of judges” had taken away an important right not only for women, but also nonbinary people, trans men, and the entire LGBTQ+ community.

“Because we know that reproductive rights are LGBTQ+ rights, and that so many in our community rely on access to abortion care and other reproductive health services,” said Robinson in regards to Roe’s 50th anniversary. “The ripple effects of this decision will impact the most marginalized among us the most, and we cannot stand for that.”

“Overturning Roe v. Wade was the first time in history that the Supreme Court has taken away rights, and we know that they will not stop there,” added Robinson. “This is a dangerous turning point for our country, and we have to affirmatively defend against this assault.” 

Robinson said HRC is working with coalition partners to fight the roll-back of abortion rights at the state and federal level. 

Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, a statewide LGBTQ rights group in New Jersey, said his organization is “laser-focused on ensuring that people with trans and nonbinary experiences are experiencing lived equality, which includes bodily autonomy.” 

Equality Florida showed its support of Roe by standing alongside Harris during her Tallahassee speech with several other lawmakers and activists. They also denounced Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ antiabortion policies, as well as the Florida legislature. 

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