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House defense committee to vote on anti-gay amendments

Measures would disrupt ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal, prevent same-sex marriages on bases



Amendments that could disrupt “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and mandate that marriages on military bases comply with the Defense of Marriage Act are set to see votes on Wednesday when a House defense panel takes up major Pentagon budget legislation.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and opponent of gays in the military, plans to introduce an amendment aimed at derailing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal by expanding the certification requirement to include input from the four military service chiefs.

In a statement Monday, Hunter announced he would introduce the amendment to expand the certification requirement during the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill. The measure would interfere with the repeal law that President Obama signed in December, which allows for implementation of open service after 60 days pass following certification from the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The four military service chiefs are far more closely connected to the day-to-day realities facing each respective service branch than those who are currently required to sign off on the repeal — including the president,” said Hunter said. “The president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs should all take part in the certification process, but excluding the service chiefs is a mistake.”

Hunter, who introduced standalone legislation earlier this year mirroring the planned amendment, added the military service chiefs may agree to enact repeal at the same time as the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or they “may have other recommendations for implementation and timing.”

The Hunter amendment could be one among several amendments that could be introduced by opponents of gays in the military to disrupt the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal process. Informed sources said other measures could be an outright abrogation of the repeal measure that Congress passed and Obama signed last year as opposed to merely implementing a certification expansion.

Involving the military service chiefs in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal certification process could disrupt or delay open service in the U.S. military because some uniform leaders of the military — notably Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos — expressed opposition to passing repeal legislation last year. Amos has since said the Marine Corps would work to implement open service.

Despite the qualms that were expressed last year, each of the service chiefs testified in April that the process for enacting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal has been proceeding smoothly. Some service chiefs — including Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead — have said they oppose any effort to expand the certification requirement and they believe the defense secretary would adequately represent their views in the certification process.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said he thinks the Hunter amendment is an attempt at a “do over strategy” because Republicans didn’t get what they wanted when the last Congress passed legislation allowing for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“It just seems like they didn’t like the outcome, so now they’re trying to get another bite at the apple,” Sainz said.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said those who worked for legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” plan to send a letter in opposition to the Hunter measure and similar amendments before the committee markup.

“We’re simply going to members of the House Armed Services Committee saying don’t allow or take into consideration amendments that would be anything seen as repealing repeal,” Cooper said.

Despite efforts from advocates, if the Hunter amendment is supported in committee along party lines, the measure would likely pass because Republicans enjoy a majority on the panel by a margin of 35-27. After the defense authorization bill is reported to the House floor, a similar vote of approval could be expected on the House floor because Republican have control of the chamber. The bill could see a House floor vote as early as the week of May 23.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said he fears the committee has sufficient votes to pass Hunter’s amendment.

“The reality is if the majority in the chamber want to move that amendment they can adopt it successfully,” Sarvis said.

But Cooper said he doesn’t think the support is present in committee to approve the Hunter amendment because defense officials have said the current repeal process is working.

“I don’t think the votes are there,” Cooper said. “I think it would be pretty short-sighted for some of those folks to actually take a vote on something that has had such positive reporting from the [Defense] Department.”

Even if House Republicans are successful in approving the expanded certification measure as part of their defense authorization bill, passing such a provision into law would be challenging because the Senate would agree to it during conference negotiations and Obama would have to sign the measure.

Further, defense officials have testified that certification could happen mid-summer, and the final version of the defense authorization will likely not reach the president’s desk until after that time, rendering Hunter’s provision useless.

Sarvis said the Senate schedule won’t allow for floor consideration of the defense authorization bill until July and the conference committee at the earliest would be in late September or October.

“If we have certification this summer, the 60 days may well have run before the September-October conference,” Sarvis said. “And, I think — the authors of some of these ‘delay-derail’ amendments — they know that.”

Sainz also noted that Republicans are going to have a problem in passing the amendment into law because it runs contrary to the previously stated Republican emphasis on economic issues during the 2010 election.

“This is a complete and total diversion from the American people’s priorities on the economy, jobs and dinner table issues,” Sainz said. “The American public does not believe that this issue needs to be considered once again, and we will make sure the people understand that this is a complete and total disconnect from what the priorities should be.”

Akin plans measure to prevent same-sex marriage at bases

Another planned amendment follows controversy in the wake of new Navy policy guidance stating that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal would enable same-sex marriage ceremonies to take place on military facilities and that Navy chaplains can officiate over these ceremonies.

Steve Taylor, a spokesperson for Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), said his boss intends to introduce a measure that would rollback the new guidance issued by the Navy.

“He intends to offer an amendment Wednesday,” Taylor said. “It would say that marriages [are] allowed to be performed on bases when they comply with DOMA.”

According to the Navy memo, which is dated April 13 and signed by Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, the new guidance was issued after the Navy conducted legal review of the issue of same-sex marriages and questions emerged related to same-sex marriage during the initial course of Navy training for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

The guidance states that use of base facilities is “sexual orientation neutral” on the issue using base facilities for same-sex marriage.

“If the base is located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, then base facilities may normally be used to celebrate the marriage,” the memo states.

Additionally, the memo says Navy chaplains are allowed to perform same-sex marriages in their official capacity if they chose to do so.

“Regarding chaplain participation, consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization, a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage: if it is conducted in accordance with the laws of a state which permits same-sex marriages or union; and if the chaplain is, according to applicable state and local laws, otherwise fully certified to officiate that state’s marriage,” the memo states.

The memo states that the guidance with regarding to having same-sex marriages on base is a change to earlier training, which stated that same-sex marriages aren’t permitted on federal property. According to the memo, the guidance for chaplains is not a change, but “a clearer, more concise and up to date articulation” of policy.

Following the emergence of the letter this week, Akin and 62 other Republican U.S. members wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a letter dated May 6 stating the policy change doesn’t comply with DOMA.

“We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law,” the letter states. “Not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriages, but it also implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages so long as they do not violate state statutes.”

The letter adds that DOMA “protects the sanctity of the bond specifically between a man and a woman” and continues that “as defenders of the institution of marriage we agree with the vast majority of the American people that the preservation of marriage is critical to society’s stability and is in the best interest of American families.”

Despite the letter, several recent polls have found that a majority of the American public now supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. A poll last month from CNN found that 51 percent of American believes marriages between gay and lesbian couples “should be recognized by the law as valid” while 47 percent remain opposed.

Sarvis said the memo is being circulating on Capitol Hill by anti-gay activists seeking to invoke the more controversial debate on same-sex marriage in an attempt to disrupt to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“The operative word in that letter is ‘may,'” Sarvis said. “They ‘may’ use the facilities. The chaplain ‘may’ elect to marry two gay service members on post if marriage is permitted by state law in that state.”

Sarvis added no chaplain is required to marry anyone — regardless of whether the marriage is same-sex or opposite-sex — if the chaplain has an objection to the union. Further, Sarvis said that no language in DOMA speaks to facilities on military installations.

However, Sarvis said the committee would pass the amendment if House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) characterizes it as a party-line vote for Republican committee members.

“If the chairman of the committee positions it as a party-line, then the numbers on the committee would indicate that such an amendment would likely pass by party-line, and, who knows, it could pick up a couple Democrats,” Sarvis said.


Federal Government

Trump indicted in classified document mishandling case

Former president to appear in federal court in Miami on Tuesday



Former President Donald Trump (Photo by shganti1777 via Bigstock)

A federal grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump on seven criminal counts in connection with his mishandling of more than 100 classified documents.

In a series of posts to his Truth Social account Thursday, Trump said that he has been indicted related to his mishandling of the classified documents taken to his estate at Mar-a-Lago after his term of office ended in January 2021.

The unprecedented decision comes after a more than yearlong investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into whether Trump knowingly retained classified and top secret government records when he left office and then disregarded a subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession and whether he and his staff obstructed Federal Bureau of Investigation efforts to ensure all documents had been returned.

A person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly said Trump’s lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before he announced on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted, the Associated Press reported.

In the first of a series of posts Trump wrote:

“Page 1: The corrupt Biden administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., with even more boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is ‘secured’ by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time.”

“Page 2: I have been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday at 3 p.m. I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former president of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting president in the history of our country, and is currently leading, by far, all candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 presidential election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!”

“Page 3: This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a country in serious and rapid decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!”

The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for a comment.

The AP also noted it remains unclear what the immediate and long-term political consequences will be for Trump. His first indictment spurred millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t damage Trump in the polls.

No matter what, the indictment — and the legal fight that follows — will throw Trump back into the spotlight, sucking attention away from the other candidates who are trying to build momentum in the 2024 presidential race, the AP pointed out.

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The White House

White House debuts new actions to protect the LGBTQ community

The administration is coordinating efforts across different federal agencies



The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing ceremony (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, during a call with reporters on Wednesday, announced a slate of new actions the administration will undertake to better protect the LGBTQ community.

These will focus on three major areas, she said: safety and security, issues for LGBTQ youth like mental health and housing insecurity, and combatting book bans.

President Joe Biden has “already developed a historic record of supporting the LGBTQ community,” Tanden said, noting that he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are also prepared to “host the largest Pride celebration in White House history” on Thursday evening.

At the same time, she said, LGBTQ Americans are now experiencing “a whole range of attacks” from “hateful, un-American legislation” to “a disturbing surge in violent threats.”

Administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the administration’s “community safety partnership” will “work hand in hand with LGBTQ community organizations” to provide safety training and resources, Tanden said.

For example, she said, “and it’s so unfortunate to have to say this,” but the partnership will help LGBTQ community centers “prepare for the worst” – including “bomb threats, active shooters, and cybersecurity threats – while also protecting “healthcare providers who serve the community by working with doctors and medical associations.”

Actions for LGBTQ kids that Tanden previewed on Wednesday include HHS’s development of a behavioral health care advisory for transgender and gender diverse youth, to help ensure young people are given the best evidence-based care.

On Thursday, she said, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will launch federal initiatives to combat LGBTQ youth homelessness and new regulations to “protect LGBTQ kids in foster care.”

Finally, Tanden said, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “will appoint a new coordinator” to combat book bans, which disproportionately target, for exclusion, materials with LGBTQ characters or themes, or communities of color.

DoE’s coordinator will “offer trainings and resources to schools to help them understand that students have a right to learn free from discrimination, and that book bands may violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students,” Tanden said.

A senior administration official, responding to a question from the Washington Blade following Tanden’s remarks, elaborated on the scope of the community safety partnership.

Community organizations, they said, will include “health clinics, community centers, and organizations that are planning Pride celebrations, but it also includes small businesses like restaurants and bars that have been targeted because they’re run by LGBTQI+ Americans or because they host events that support that community.”

“We’ll be encouraging and reaching out directly to organizations that have been impacted by these violent threats to help make sure that they have the training and the resources they need to stay safe,” the official said.

They added that DHS and DoJ, in anticipation of the possibility that threats will increase in June, “have both been working proactively over many months leading up to Pride to communicate with state and local law enforcement about the threats that the community may face and to help local pride organizers get access to any federal safety resources they may need to help keep the community safe.”

Asked to explain how HHS’s healthcare focused initiatives will be reconciled with restrictions targeting medical interventions for trans youth in conservative states, the official noted ongoing efforts to fight back – including by federal rulemaking and litigated challenges of policies that violate Americans’ rights.

When it comes to the actions previewed by Tanden, the official said, “Almost half of LGBTQI+ youth say they seriously considered committing suicide in the past year, and that attacks on their rights have made their mental health worse. That’s a serious crisis that we want to take on and this advisory will help.”

Additionally, they said, “HHS is announcing that they’re going to release new guidance to states to help them use federal funds to offer dedicated mental health services to the LGBTQI+ community,” while “the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA, is releasing $1.7 million in new federal funding for programs that support the health and mental health of LGBTQI+ youth by investing in programs that are focused on family affirmation.”

Responding to other questions about anti-LGBTQ legislation and the rising transphobic and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in America, the official offered some insight into the Biden-Harris administration’s positions on these matters more broadly.

“Part of our role here is to lift up the stories of transgender kids and their families to help the American people understand what is happening to families who, as the President says aren’t hurting anyone but are being hurt by these laws,” said the official.

“These aren’t just attacks on the rights of LGBTQI+{ Americans, they are part and parcel of a coordinated attack on our democracy,” they said. “We’re not just talking about laws that target transgender kids. These are really laws that get at the heart of our basic freedoms and values: the right to free expression, the right to make decisions about your own body, the right to parent and raise your children.”

The official added, “Opponents of LGBTQI+ Americans are leading a pretty significant campaign of disinformation,” which have included “the same types of hateful lies and stereotypes that have been used against our community really for decades and for generations.”

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Calif. school district meeting over LGBTQ studies turns violent

Police officers and protestors clashed outside Glendale Unified School Board meeting



(YouTube screenshot from KCAL)

Police officers and protestors clashed outside a meeting of the Glendale Unified School Board over LGBTQ studies and the GUSD polices on addressing LGBTQ related issues.

News footage from CBS Los Angeles KCAL showed approximately 50 Glendale police officers attempting to keep the two groups separated and then fists were thrown as both sides engaged in physical assaults. A Glendale police spokesperson confirmed that some arrests had been made but wouldn’t comment further.

Witnesses and news crews noted that many of those protesting against the LGBTQ community were from the same group that had protested at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood, angered over a Pride month assembly. Officers from the LAPD’s North Hollywood Community Station responded and there were physical assaults as well.

The situation in Glendale has become increasingly acrimonious. Last year during Pride month, a third grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Tammy Tiber, had enraged some parents after speaking to her students about LGBTQ topics on Zoom. The GUSD officials later transferred her because Tiber had told them she no longer felt safe.

A spokesperson for the district said that all materials are vetted by the GUSD, and are in full compliance with curriculum that deals with LGBTQ history, mandated under California’s FAIR Education Act, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

It amends the California Education Code to include the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful reference to contributions by people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community in history and social studies curriculum.

Last month on May 18, a man who is not the parent of a child in the district, accused GUSD school board vice president Jennifer Freemon of concealing consistent attempts to “indoctrinate” students on LGBTQ issues.

“They are saying boys can be girls and girls can be boys,” Henry said during the board meeting. “If you believe in that, that is your opinion, and if that is your official policy, Jennifer, that is indoctrination because it offends a lot of people’s actual doctrine.”

As an example of instructing students to “behave inappropriately,” Henry referenced an alleged recent incident involving a student with special needs. GUSD student Thelma Gonzalez, who spoke later in the meeting, was allegedly asked to provide the definition of “scissoring” during a health lesson, despite her mother requesting that she be excused.

“A violation of their doctrine, their Christian doctrine,” Henry said, referring to Gonzalez and her mother. “Regardless of what you think, what I think, what the community thinks about any faith, you violated that. And if you don’t condemn that today, Jennifer, you are a hypocrite and a liar.”

He then mounted an attack on district polices regarding its transgender students.

“If you think they value your children, you’re more than entitled to think that,” Henry said. “They will not lie to you about your child, they will lie to these parents. They will conceal that private information from parents. You have enshrined that into doctrine, into policy, which is a misinterpretation of the law.”

It is not immediately clear what policy Henry was referring to. However, GUSD’s anti-discrimination policy states the district will only disclose a student’s “transgender or gender-nonconforming status” with their consent. It also mandates that a district official may discuss with that same student “any need” to confide in their parents or guardians.

Inside the Tuesday GUSD board meeting, pro- and anti-LGBTQ protesters faced off over how schools teach gender and sexuality, attendees were suddenly told to shelter in place as the violence outside escalated. The interruption came after about an hour of public comments, most of them in defense of the LGBTQ community and the district’s handling of materials and policies.

Protesters fight outside Glendale school district meeting about LGBTQ studies:


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