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‘Don’t Ask’ repeal could be certified mid-summer

Pentagon officials testify on ending military’s gay ban



Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Clifford Stanley (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Top Pentagon officials said Friday that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal training could sufficiently be complete by mid-summer to allow for certification to end to the law at that time during a congressional hearing in which GOP lawmakers expressed discontent with moving toward open service.

In a hearing before the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Clifford Stanley and Director of the Joint Staff Vice Adm. William Gourtney said implementation for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is proceeding on track and troops are being trained to handle open service.

Stanley told the Republican-controlled panel that training could be sufficiently finished by mid-summer to allow for certification for repeal.

“We’re looking at mid-summer” to move towards certification, Stanley said, adding that this target time could be delayed if something disruptive emerges that Pentagon leaders don’t anticipate.

According to Stanley, the U.S. military has trained more than 200,000 members of the armed forces on handling open service, or about nine percent of the armed forces.

Gourtney concurred that mid-summer is the time for when certification for repeal is expected to happen.

“It’s really the magnitude of the challenge that’s out there and making sure that as we get our arms around the magnitude of the challenge, we don’t miss anything,” Gourtney said. “So we’re grateful for the deliberate process that has been laid out and we’re [looking at] mid-summer for the recommendation. Followed by 60 days after that, repeal is achievable.”

In December, President Obama signed legislation allowing for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but the anti-gay law will only be off the books after 60 days pass following certification from the president, the defense secretary, and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gay service members are still in danger of discharge from the armed services until the certification process is complete.

The military services are progressing with three tiers of training to prepare troops for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Pentagon previously established in its repeal implementation plan that the completion of Tier 2 training — or the training of leadership of troops within a service — could be the time when certification could happen.

According to Stanley’s written testimony before the committee, Tier 2 training for the Navy is set to end on April 30, for the Air Force on May 1 and for the Coast Guard on May 15. For the Army, Tier 2 training is set for completion for its active component on July 15 and its reserve component on August 15. The Tier 2 training for the Marine Corps was already set for completion on March 15.

Goutney said the time for issuing repeal certification is dependent on when the Army completes its training for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The admiral said instruction for the Army is expected to be complete at a later time because the service is larger than others.

Following the hearing, Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told the Washington Blade he believed training for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could be accelerated and should be concluded by May 1.

“There’s no reason why it should take the better part of this year to get to open service,” Sarvis said. “So, if we don’t have certification until mid-July or August, then we’re talking about October or November before we get there. I don’t think that’s what the majority of members of voted for repeal had in mind.”

The subcommittee testimony from Stanley and Gourtney was expected to precede a hearing the full House Armed Services Committee on April 7. Josh Holly, a committee spokesperson, told the Blade each of the military service chiefs are slated to testify on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal on that date.

As Stanley and Gourtney provided an update on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal implementation efforts, they fielded questions from Republican subcommittee members who were hostile to moving torward open service.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), chair of the subcommittee, expressed displeasure with the pace at which the Democratic-controlled Congress last year moved forward with repeal legislation during the lame duck session of Congress.

“I felt the repeal was rushed through without adequate review and consideration of the extent of the full implications of repeal,” Wilson said. “I believe the lame duck session was undemocratic and that dozens of defeated congress members adopted a law with significant consequences, but it failed to even pass a budget. It was a violation of the principles of representative democracy.”

In response, Sarvis blasted Wilson for suggesting that Congress improperly moved forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal last year.

“Mr. Wilson knows better,” Sarvis said. “There was nothing undemocratic about last year’s vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The measure passed both houses of Congress on a strong bi-partisan vote.”

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps, was particularly critical of the Pentagon report favoring open service that came out before Congress repealed the law and said he had “no confidence in the process” for implementing open service.

“I think that this survey and study was a conclusion looking for a study,” he said. “This is a political decision made by the executive branch and the military will follow it under whatever circumstances or ramifications it has to the combat effectiveness of our forces.”

Some of the more pointed criticism of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came from freshmen GOP lawmakers who were elected to office in 2010 during the Republican wave and weren’t present for the vote last year on ending the military’s gay ban.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), an Army veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, said allowing open gays to serve in the armed forces is, in effect, forming “the military to a behavior.”

“I remember going through the military, we took behaviors and we formed it to the military,” West said. “Using a term that they have over in the Middle East, I’m just very wary of the fact that this could be the camel getting his nose under the tent.”

West also invoked the 2009 Foot Hood shootings in which Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major serving as a psychiatrist, was charged with killing people 13 with a firearm and wounding 29 others. Hasan is an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, and questions have emerged over whether pressures over his religion prompted the incident.

“We had commanders up here at Walter Reed that saw some very disturbing behaviors there with Maj. Nidal Hasan, but for whatever reasons — I think one of the main reasons is the retribution of an atmosphere of political correctness — they did not speak out about that,” West said. “Of course, we know what happened when he was transferred down to Foot Hood, Texas.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he’s offended West would suggest “political correctness would trump military order and discipline” in addition to the lawmaker’s comparison of the service of gay troops to the Fort Hood assault.

“Congressman West’s remarks were an unnecessary and unfortunate distraction from the valuable report by the repeal implementation team,” Cooper said.

Rep. Austin Scott (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Questioning backfired on one freshman Republican who apparently was attempting to demonstrate that gay troops have been discharged not for identifying as gay, but for violating the military’s code of conduct.

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) asked Gourtney whether as a Navy officer he had discharged anyone from service because of sexual orientation. Gourtney admitted that he had in either 1994 to 1995.

“We had an incident shortly after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ passed that a young sailor came forward through his chaplain, through our chaplain, that he was gay, and we discharged him from the service,” Gourtney said.

When Scott pressed on whether this sailor was discharged because he was gay or because he violated a standard of conduct, Gourtney replied that it was because of the sailor’s gay identity and not for any other violation, much to the surprise of Scott.

“That’s not the answer I thought you would give,” Scott said, eliciting laughter from those who were in attendance at the hearing.

Gourtney added that there are cases in which standards of conduct have been violated as part of separations under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but said these incidences are few in number.

Additionally, Scott asked about the cost of implementing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Stanley replied the cost of training material has been about $10,000 — considerably a low number for government spending.

But Scott expressed skepticism about the estimate and requested further information.

“If something was done at the [Defense Department] for $10,000, I’d like to know what it was,” Scott said. “I haven’t seen anything out of there with a price-tag that low.”

Rep. Vicky Hartlzer (R-Mo.), another freshman Republican, noted that men and women aren’t permitted to bunk or shower to together in the armed forces and questioned why the military would ask straight troops to shower with gay service members.

In response, Gourtney said the rationale is based on the difference between gender and sexual orientation.

“Gender is very public and sexual preference is very private,” Gourtney said. “We’re not asking about their sexual preference.”

But Gourtney’s answer apparently didn’t allay Hartlzer, who said the military isn’t “being consistent” with its policy.

“I’m very concerned that in a time of war in our country — we have men and women in harm’s way — that we are making such a radical, major shift in our policy,” she said.

Hartlzer isn’t a stranger to taking anti-gay positions. Last month, she introduced a House resolution condemning President Obama for dropping defense of the Defense of Marriage Act against litigation in court.

Democrats who voted in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal defended the decision of Congress to end the statute last year and said the focus of the 112th Congress should be moving toward that goal.

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said discussion should move away from whether open service should be implemented and Congress should instead focus on proper oversight of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“I think the debate is no longer really on whether or not to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual American from serving in uniform,” Davis said. “The issue that we are here to focus on today is how the services and the department are preparing — and informing leadership — on how the policies and regulations that are being considered have an impact on military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention of the armed forces.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal was a change that Congress needed last year to enact because the anti-gay law is “morally reprehensible policy.”

“I just think that it violated the fundamental value of fairness and equal treatment that we cherish in this country, and I’m just so pleased that we’re here to talk about the end to it and the transition out of it, which, I think, is great,” she said.

Following Scott’s question on the cost of implementing repeal, Pingree said the $10,000 number is infinitesimal compared to the $193.3 million estimate offered by the Government Accountability Office in January on the cost of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from fiscal years 2004 to 2009.

“It’s not only unconscionable that these people were willing to serve their country and came forward, or were asked to leave, but the costs are horrendous,” she said.

Despite the qualms of Republican subcommittee members, LGBT advocates dismissed the possibility that Congress could at this point delay or derail the end to the military’s gay ban. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has introduced legislation that would expand the certification requirement to include input from each of the service chiefs, which, if enacted into law, could disrupt the repeal process.

Davis told the Blade she doesn’t think Congress has a chance of interfering with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now that legislation has already passed a measure that would repeal the statute.

“I think there are people that would love to slow down the process, but actually I think it’s proceeding fairly well and I don’t know that that would be necessary,” she said.

Sarvis said the ability of the opponents of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in Congress to thwart open service at this time is “highly unlikely.”

“Obviously, there are a few members who would like to delay or derail, but I don’t think that’s where a majority are,” Sarvis said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ned Flaherty

    April 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    When 6 homophobic TeaPublicans tried — but failed — yesterday to delay, de-fund, and de-rail the repeal of DADT, Pentagon officials swiftly rebuffed them at every step.

    Calling open service by gays and lesbians a “radical major shift” that’s “jeopardizing missions and putting people in harm’s way,” 6 homophobes from the House Armed Services Committee pressed high-ranking DoD officials about imaginary problems like wasted funds, endangered troops, mass resignations, impaired missions, and open service training for military children, and said that it’s a double standard to house and shower armed forces men separately from women.

    They refuse to realize that they lost all those debates already.

    DoD officials gave swift, clear answers: the training materials costing less than one cent per person are now being distributed, the training schedule is rolling out quickly, no one has resigned, soldiers are not at risk, and there is no double standard in keeping the men’s showers and barracks separate from the women’s. The roll-out is finishing this summer, with no negative effect on morale, readiness, cohesion, retention, or recruiting.

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VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights



(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1



Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

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Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service



For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

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