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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.”


District of Columbia

Trial for man charged with assaulting gay men in D.C. park postponed for third time

Indictment says attacker squirted victims with pepper spray



Meridian Hill Park (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The trial for a 50-year-old man who was arrested July 14, 2022, on charges that he allegedly assaulted five men he believed to be gay at D.C.’s Meridian Hill Park between 2018 and 2021 was postponed for the third time last month and has now been rescheduled for Aug. 19 of this year.   

The arrest of Michael Thomas Pruden came two weeks after a federal grand jury handed down an indictment on June 29, 2022, charging him with five counts of assault on federal park land, one count of impersonating a federal officer and a hate crime designation alleging that he assaulted four of the men because of their perceived sexual orientation. 

Prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. filed a motion in court on Jan. 10 of this year opposing a request by Pruden’s defense attorney to postpone the most recent prior trial date set for Feb. 26. 

“Following indictment in June 2022, the defendant has delayed the trial in this case several times, including by firing two prior attorneys,” the prosecutors’ motion states. “While the government has not previously objected to any continuance, no further delay is warranted,” the motion says. “This is a straightforward case that should proceed to trial as currently scheduled.”

The indictment against Pruden by a U.S. District Court for D.C. grand jury provides some of the details surrounding the case.

“After nightfall, Meridian Hill Park was informally known in the Washington, D.C., community to be a meeting location for men seeking to engage in consensual sexual encounters with other men,” the indictment says. “This practice is colloquially known as ‘cruising,’” the indictment continues. 

“Michael Thomas Pruden frequented Meridian Hill Park after nightfall and on multiple occasions, including those described below, assaulted men in Meridian Hill Park by approaching them with a flashlight, giving them police-style commands and spraying them with a chemical irritant,” the indictment states. 

Virginia court records show that the D.C. indictment against Pruden was handed down 11 months after a U.S. District Court jury in Alexandria, Va., found him not guilty of a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly pepper spraying and hitting in the head with a large tree branch a man in Daingerfield Island Park in Alexandria, which is also known as a gay cruising site. 

Federal Public Defender A.J. Kramer, who is representing Pruden in the D.C. case, said in his own motion calling for postponing Pruden’s Feb. 26 trial date that he has at least two other unrelated trials coming up soon and what he called voluminous documents recently provided to him by prosecutors made the latest postponement necessary. 

“Firstly, while Mr. Pruden prefers to go to trial as soon as possible, counsel cannot be ready by February 26, 2024,” his motion states. “Given that the case against Mr. Pruden is actually five cases spanning a three-year period, the discovery is extremely voluminous, in excess of 7,000 pages,” he states in his motion. “Due to this as well as counsel’s other pending matters in the coming weeks, counsel is unable to effectively prepare motions and prep for trial under the current timeline.”

By the 7,000 pages of “discovery” documents, Kramer was referring to the requirement that prosecutors turn over to the defense attorney in advance of a trial details of the evidence prosecutors plan to present at a trial. U.S. District Court Judge Jia M. Cobb approved Pruden’s request for the postponement in a Feb. 5 ruling. 

Court records also show that Pruden was released on personal recognizance following his arrest into the custody of his mother, who lives in Norfolk, Va., where he has been staying since his release. Among other things, conditions for his release prohibit him from having any contact with the individuals he is charged with assaulting and require that he always remain inside his mother’s residence from sunset to sunrise. 

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Abbott tells UN to ‘pound sand’ amid criticism of anti-LGBTQ policies in Texas

Governor signed seven anti-LGBTQ laws last year



Texas Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs the “Save Women’s Sports Act” on Aug. 7, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday dismissed news coverage of a letter issued last month to the United Nations that expressed alarm over the “deteriorating human rights situation” for LGBTQ people in the Lone Star State.

Signed by Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law Human Rights Clinic, the letter details how Texas legislators introduced 141 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, passing seven into law.

“The UN can go pound sand,” Abbott wrote in a post on X.

In 2023, the governor signed a ban on gender affirming care for transgender youth, a ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at public universities, a ban on transgender athletes competing in college sports, a law allowing schools to use religious chaplains for counseling services, a ban on “sexually oriented performances” on public property accessible to minors (which targets drag shows), a law allowing schools to restrict LGBTQ books, and a ban on nondiscrimination ordinances by local governments.

The groups argued in their letter that these policies constitute a “systemic discriminatory policy” in violation of international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty whose tenets are enforced by the UN Human Rights Committee.

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WATCH: Washington Post grills transphobic Libs of TikTok creator

Chaya Raichik reaffirmed anti-trans views



Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok is interviewed by Washington Post journalist Taylor California. (Screenshot/YouTube The Washington Post)

Grilled on a range of topics during an interview with Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz, Chaya Raichik, spoke about the great replacement theory, the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary in high school student in Oklahoma, why she won’t delete her false accusations about the Uvalde shooter and other mass-shooters, her views on gender, feminism and more.

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