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261 troops discharged under ‘Don’t Ask’ in FY-10

Total number of separations under anti-gay law is now at least 14,316



Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Recently released data from the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security reveal that the number of troops discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in fiscal year 2010 tallies out at 261, according to Servicemembers United.

The organization released the numbers for FY-2010 — which spans from October 2009 through September 2010 — on Thursday after obtaining the data through a Freedom of Information Act request. According to Servicemembers United, 250 service members were discharged from services run by the Pentagon and 11 service members were discharged from the Coast Guard.

In a statement, Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the numbers are lower than discharges under the military’s gay ban in previous fiscal years, but demonstrate that gay, lesbian and bisexual troops continued to face expulsion under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through FY-2010.

“While this latest official discharge number represents an all-time annual low, it is still unusually high considering that the Secretary of Defense issued a directive half-way through the fiscal year to make it much harder for military units to discharge troops under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Nicholson said. “Despite this law clearly being on its deathbed at the time, 261 more careers were terminated and 261 more lives were abruptly turned upside down because of this policy.”

The 261 number is significantly lower than separations under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in previous fiscal years. According to Servicemembers United, 499 troops were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in FY-2009, 715 in FY-2008 and 696 in FY-2007.

In a statement, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, also noted the numbers are lower than they have been in previous years, but added they demonstrate the need for enacting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“But these numbers underscore the need to accelerate the timeline for training and repeal,” Sarvis said. “The reality is that investigations continue and service members are still in danger of being discharged. … Until we achieve full equality for all LGBT service members, the job is not done.”

In March 2010, the Pentagon unveiled new policy limiting third-party discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and raising the rank of Pentagon officials who could initiate investigations and separations.

In October, Defense Secretary Robert Gates further raised the bar for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” expulsions by limiting the discharge authority to the military service secretaries “in coordination” with the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and the Pentagon’s general counsel, although this change took place in FY-2011 and isn’t reflected in the FY-2010 numbers.

As a result of the changes in October, Nicholson told the Washington Blade he expects to find no separations under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for FY-2011 when the data from that period is made public.

“DOD has said a couple of times that there have been no discharges since the heightened restrictions were put in place in October,” Nicholson said. “So I would expect the discharge numbers for FY-11 to be zero. I would find it very odd if there was even one discharge in FY-11 based on what the Pentagon has said several times.”

According to Servicemembers United, the official discharge statistics for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since its inception now stands at 13,686. However, the organization previously discovered that the Pentagon often omits from its official data National Guard separations, which are also excluded from the official FY-2010 numbers. Therefore, the total number of servicemembers discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to the organization, now stands at least 14, 316.

In December, President Obama signed legislation allowing for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but this repeal law won’t take effect until 60 days pass after the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the military is ready for open service. Gates has said he won’t issue certification until training for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is implemented throughout the services.

The data released by Servicemembers United doesn’t include separations for service members based on gender identity. Transgender troops aren’t discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, but as part of military regulation.

Nicholson said he has “no clue whatsoever” for discharge numbers for transgender troops in FY-2010 or in recent years in the U.S. military.

“That’s not something that anybody has ever tracked to my knowledge,” Nicholson said. “I’m not even sure that DOD tracks that. One of the issues with trans service has always been that the Defense Department classifies it differently than many in the civilian world, especially in the LGBT advocacy world, do. And so it’s not as easy to identify trans service members or identify discharges for gender identity disorder in the military as it is to track trans-related issues in the civilian employment context.”

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  1. [email protected]

    March 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    1. Under the dishonest way the Pentagon “counts” discharges, one could say Dan Choi was still in the Army National Guard which, of course, he’s not.
    2. SLDN has confirmed that gay service members are STILL under investigation SINCE the President signed the “repeal” bill.
    3. And they are STILL being forced to serve and die in silence—such as Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, killed in Afghanistan on February 27th.
    4. The Obama Administration is STILL fighting the ruling in the LCR case that found the ban unconstitutional when the success of that ruling is the ONLY thing that would prevent a future administration from bringing the ban back in the same Pentagon policy form in which it existed for over half a century.
    5. Due to the NEEDLESS so-called “training” of nongays BEFORE “certification,” the EARLIEST the ban is now expected to ACTUALLY end is October.
    6. Even then, because the Obama Administration refuses to include gays in the Military Equality Opportunity Program, gays will not have the same protections against harassment and discrimination in evaluations, assignments, etc., that nongays have, creating a gay variation on the infamous “Jim Crow Army” in which blacks were able to serve but as second class soldiers.
    7. Because the Obama Administration refuses to grant them even those military partner benefits that THEY admit are NOT banned by DOMA, such as “military housing,” gay military couples will remain second class citizens.
    8. The Obama Administration is still hounding discharged gays such as Dan Choi and Jason Knight for repayment of the so-called “unearned” portion of their reenlistment bonuses despite admitting they have the legal discretion NOT to.
    9. The Obama Administration is still refusing to give involuntarily discharged gays 100% of the one-time separation pay they’re eligible for despite the fact it is legally within their discretion. In November, the ACLU filed a class action suit against the Administration on behalf of such victims of arbitrary discrimination.

    WHY is the Obama Administration needlessly continuing to perpetuate discrimination against gays serving their country? When will Freedom ring for them?

  2. Rick Mangus

    March 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    261 brave men and women who wanted to do nothing but to serve their country, gone under gutless Obama!

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In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date



Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.


Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality



More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Bridgeport, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick



An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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