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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

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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.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. FlexSF

    May 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    The bigots shall fail. The gays will live equally protected under the law. The law is where the power is, not personal opinions. The federal court system shall facilitate legal equality. Get ready!

  2. Bruce

    May 10, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Gee, I wonder what will happen when these senators find out that the IRS is also respecting state laws by requiring (same-sex) Nevada, Washington, and California domestic partners to file according to IRS publication 555?

  3. Thomas Alex

    May 10, 2011 at 4:50 am

    ““We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law,””

    LMAO. The military is exempt from federal law! Did you not go to school? The US military is a separate institution not governed by federal law. Why do you think they can have their own rules that violate the US Constitution?

  4. Thomas Alex

    May 10, 2011 at 4:56 am

    ““We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law,””

    Federal Law states the Government can not discriminate based on Sexual Orientation, doesn’t that contradict DADT? The US Military is exempt from Federal Law, go back to school!

  5. Steve

    May 10, 2011 at 6:02 am

    What a load of crap. I’m 100% certain that same-sex marriages have been performed on federal property before. It’s just a ceremony for FSM’s sake. DOMA doesn’t prevent ceremonies from being conducted. All it means that there won’t be -legal- recognition of the marriage. That’s an entirely different matter.

  6. blue-heron

    May 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

    The IRS is now “recognizing” the common property of Spouses and Partners and THIS is not a problem as it relates to DOMA?

    It is evidently a problem to recognize those marriages/partnerships when it comes to Distributing Federal Benefits and Protections.

    If those relationships are recognized by the state (such as California) AND THEN the Fed/IRS “recognizes” the common property status Created By those relationships, (recognized by extension but none-the-less Recognized) then how pray tell is it any different for One Department of the Federal Gov’t (IRS), to be recognizing status created by Marital and Partnered relationships, for the purpose of tax collection in this case, but Other Departments may not recognize status Created By these relationships?

    Isn’t Status likewise created in said states, which could be similarly recognized as it applies to Inheritance Tax? to Social Security? etc?

    It appears as though the Fed is acknowledging status/circumventing DOMA in ONE area, but not in others.

  7. adx

    May 10, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Poor stupid ultra-conservatives, this is why the COURT CASE on DADT repeal has NOT been closed and abandoned. The pro-gay were just waiting for you to do something like this, and the moment you try to disrupt DADT, that COURT CASE will resume and will continue to be fought. They knew it, they knew you’d try something like this and that is the specific reason that the case was NOT closed. That case is active and will continue to be fought the very second you succeed in doing anything of this sort. Have fun with that.

  8. Steve

    May 10, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Also, the State Department (by simple order from the top) offers benefits to same-sex couples that the military doesn’t. Not the big stuff like health insurance, but access to facilities, housing or relocation assistance. That’s apparently not in violation of DOMA and no one has complained. Just shows that the law is less restrictive than many people interpret it as.

  9. Joel

    May 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    DOMA says the federal government cannot recognize a same-sex marriage, but this ammendment goes MUCH further. In addition to not recognizing the marriage, it forbids a couple from even having a ceremony–whether or not it will ultimately be recognized. So, now a same-sex couple can’t even walk down an aisle in a post chapel? From these bigots’ perspectives, it’s not a marriage anyway, so what’s their problem? This amendment violates so many aspects of the Constitution.

    • PAULinDC

      May 10, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      … and it abridges the rights of the couple to worship according to their own sprituality.

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National

N.C. lieutenant governor compares gays to cow feces, maggots

“If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said

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North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (Blade file photo)

WINSTON-SALEM – Speaking to parishioners at the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem last Sunday, November 14, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson attacked the LGBTQ+ community in remarks caught on the church’s livestreaming video on YouTube.

Robinson said in his sermon that he questioned the “purpose” of being gay; said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples; and that he didn’t want to explain to his grandchildren why two men are kissing if they see that on television the Charlotte Observer reported.

The state’s Republican Lt. Governor then went on to compare being gay to “what the cows leave behind” as well as maggots and flies, who he said all serve a purpose in God’s creation. “If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said.

Democratic lawmakers expressed their outrage on Twitter:

According to the Observer, “The video was distributed Friday by a pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A protest rally was held Friday in front of Robinson’s office, but organizers also read the names of transgender people who have been killed.

This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth,” said Vance Haywood, senior pastor at St. John’s, in a statement.

Robinson is expected to run for the governor’s chair in 2024. In another video of the sermon captured the Lt. Governor ranting in transphobic terms his opinion of the Trans community:

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (Twitter Video)

Video of remarks made by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

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LGBTQ elder care facilities open nationwide, but discrimination persists

Advocates say seniors face challenges despite groundbreaking advances

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The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing facility opened this week in Los Angeles. (Blade file photo)

Marsha Wetzel, an out lesbian, shared her life with her partner of 30 years, Judith Kahn, at the couple’s home in Illinois until Kahn died in 2013 of colon cancer.

As is the case with some same-sex couples who never married, Kahn’s family took legal possession of the couple’s home several years later, forcing Wetzel, who suffered from severe arthritis, to move into the Glen St. Andrew Living Community, a retirement and assisted living facility in Niles, Ill.

According to a lawsuit filed on her behalf in 2016 by the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, when word got out that Wetzel was a lesbian after she disclosed her sexual orientation to a fellow resident, she was called homophobic slurs, spat on, and assaulted on several occasions by other residents of the facility. The lawsuit, which later resulted in a court ruling in Wetzel’s favor, charged that officials at the Glen St. Andrew facility illegally failed to take action to prevent Wetzel from being subjected to abuse and threats by fellow residents and retaliated against her when she complained.

Lambda Legal announced one year ago, on Nov. 20, 2020, that Wetzel passed away at the age of 73 of natural causes after a landmark 2018 appeals court ruling in her favor affirmed that residential facilities such as the one in which she lived are legally responsible for the safety of tenant residents.

“Marsha spent the rest of her days in a senior living community where she was out and affirmed,” said Lambda Legal attorney Karen Loewy, who represented Wetzel in the lawsuit.

Advocates for LGBTQ seniors were hopeful that the 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruling in the Wetzel case would speed up the gradual but steady advances in the rights of LGBTQ elders in long-term care facilities and in society in general.

A short time later, the New York City-based national LGBTQ elder advocacy group SAGE expanded its programs providing cultural competency training for the nation’s long-term care residential facilities. And in some cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, LGBTQ specific retirement and long-term care facilities began to open to provide LGBTQ elders with a wide range of “wrap around” services in addition to a safe place to live.

But LGBTQ elder advocates were taken aback in October of this year when news surfaced that transgender U.S. Army veteran Lisa Oakley, 68, was denied placement in more than two-dozen long-term care facilities in Colorado in 2020 and earlier this year.

“When they found out I was transgender, a lot of the facilities didn’t want me,” Oakley told USA Today. “A lot of transgender people, I’m sure, face the same thing,” she said. “We’re humans, just like everybody else.” 

Oakley told other media outlets her ordeal in trying to gain admission to a residential care facility began in October 2020, when she became unable to care for herself due to complications from diabetes. Her first choice was a facility in her hometown in rural Craig, Colo., where she had lived for the previous 25 years. She believes that facility turned her down because of her gender identity.

A social worker who assisted in Oakley’s applications for long-term care facilities said the facility in Craig said Oakley would have to be placed in a private room, which was at the time unavailable, “because she still has her ‘boy parts’ and cannot be placed with a woman” in a shared room. 

Many other Colorado facilities to which Oakley applied for admission, according to social worker Cori Martin-Crawford, cited the COVID pandemic as the reason for not accepting new residents. But as COVID related restrictions began to subside, other facilities continued to deny Oakley admission.

With Martin-Crawford’s help, Oakley finally found a facility that is LGBTQ supportive in Grand Junction, Colo., which is nearly three hours away from her hometown of Craig, where she had hoped to remain.

LGBTQ activists expressed concern that the discrimination that Oakley faced took place in the state of Colorado, which has a state law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Experts familiar with long-term care facilities for older adults have said many private elder care facilities can get around state LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws by claiming other reasons for turning down an LGBTQ person.

Michael Adams, the CEO of SAGE, told the Blade that the wide range of programs and initiatives put in place by SAGE and other groups advocating for LGBTQ elders in recent years have resulted in significant changes in support of LGBTQ seniors.

“It is the case now that in almost all states there are one or more elder care facilities that have been trained through our SAGECare program,” Adams said. “But it’s nowhere near what it needs to be,” he said. “It needs to be that there are welcoming elder care facilities in every single community in this country” for LGBTQ elders.

Adams was referring to the SAGE program started recently called SAGECare that arranges for employees and other officials at elder care facilities throughout the country to receive LGBTQ competency training. The facilities that participate in the program are designated “SAGECare credentialed,” and are included in SAGE database lists available to LGBTQ elders looking for a safe facility in which to reside.

SAGE spokesperson Christina Da Costa provided the Blade with data showing there have been 136,975 professionals trained at a total of 617 SAGECare credentialed organizations nationwide. Out of 617 organizations, 172 are residential communities. Also, out of the total of 617 are 167 Area Agencies on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Senior Centers, and senior Ombudsman offices.

Da Costa said 278 of the credentialed entities that have received the SAGECare training throughout the country are “other aging focused nonprofit and for-profit businesses.”

According to SAGE, there are 12 SAGECare credentialed elder care facilities or service providers operating in the D.C. metropolitan area, with two located in D.C. One of the D.C. facilities is Ingleside at Rock Creek, located in Northwest D.C., which is a residential facility. The other is Options for Senior America, a company that provides in-home care services for seniors, including seniors living in D.C.

A SAGE list of the D.C.-area SAGECare credentialed facilities shows that three are in Rockville, Md.; two are in Gaithersburg, Md.; and one each are in Bethesda, Md.; Arlington, Va.; and Alexandria, Va. The list shows that one of them that provides services to elders in the D.C. area is based in North Carolina.

SAGE has a separate list of the 15 elder care residential facilities in the U.S. created specifically to serve LGBTQ residents. 

None are in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. However, SAGE says it has been working in cooperation with Mary’s House for Older Adults, a D.C.-based LGBTQ organization that advocates for LGBTQ seniors and is in the process of opening LGBTQ elder residential facilities in D.C. and others in the surrounding suburbs.

Mary’s House founder and CEO Dr. Imani Woody couldn’t immediately be reached to determine when the organization expects to open its first residential facility. 

While a residential LGBTQ elder facility has yet to open in the D.C. area, activists note that in addition to Mary’s House, services and amenities for LGBTQ elders in the area are currently being provided by the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive health center, which also has a legal services branch.

Adams of SAGE said the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center opened the nation’s first LGBTQ elder residential facility over eight years ago called Triangle Square. He said the L.A. Center opened a second LGBTQ elder residential facility a short time later. And this week, the L.A. Center announced it has opened a third LGBTQ elder residential facility in Hollywood that is part of a larger “intergenerational campus” that will bring together LGBTQ seniors and LGBTQ youth. 

SAGE, meanwhile, operates two LGBTQ elder long-term care residential facilities in New York City, one in Brooklyn called the Stonewall House and one in the Bronx called Pride House. 

The other U.S. cities with LGBTQ elder residential facilities include: Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco (which has two such facilities), San Diego, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, and Islip, N.Y.

Adams said the LGBTQ elder residential facilities range in size, with the largest – New York’s Stonewall House – having 143 apartments that can accommodate 200 residents. He said others vary from 40 or 50 residential units to 120.

Advocates for LGBTQ elders point to what they consider another important breakthrough for LGBTQ elders this year in the release of a joint SAGE-Human Rights Campaign Long-Term Care Equality Index report for 2021. Adams said the report is the first of what could become an annual report and rating and scorecard for long-term care elder residential facilities and other elder facilities. 

The 2021 report includes a self-reporting assessment of elder care facilities that the facilities themselves completed through a questionnaire in which many disclosed they have LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies for elders around admission to the facility and for practices by staff for those residing in their facilities.

The report includes a chart showing that 158 elder care facilities in 31 states responded positively to the outreach to them by organizers of the Long-Term Care Equality Index.

“We are thrilled to be working with SAGE and to be working with the Human Rights Campaign who are developing the Long-Term Care Equality Index,” said Nii-Quartelai Quartey, who serves as senior adviser and LGBTQ liaison for the American Association of Retired Persons or AARP.

“There is a great deal of work that we’re doing in the area of LGBTQ older adults nationwide,” Quartey told the Blade. “And AARP has been engaged with the LGBTQ community nationwide for many years now,” he said.

“In recent years, we’ve turned up the volume in working more closely with organizations like SAGE and Lambda Legal and the Victory Fund Institute, the Center for Black Equity, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and the Hispanic Federation.”

According to Quartey, a recent AARP study of LGBTQ elders called Maintaining Dignity shows that longstanding concerns of discrimination remain despite the many advances in support for LGBTQ seniors in recent years.

He said a survey that was part of the study found that 67 percent of the LGBTQ elders who responded, “were concerned about neglect in a long-term care setting.” Over 60 percent feared verbal or physical harassment in a long-term care setting and over half “felt forced to hide or deny their identity” as an LGBTQ person, Quartey said.

Another recent survey of LGBTQ elders conducted by SAGE asking them how they feel about the use of the word “queer” in descriptions of LGBTQ people yielded findings that came as a surprise to some, according to Adams. A large majority of those surveyed from across the country said they are “comfortable at this point using that word and reclaiming that word, which is different from what we had heard historically,” Adams said.

He said in response to those findings SAGE will now as an organization gradually shift to using the term LGBTQ instead of its past practice of using LGBT.

Although Congress has yet to pass the Equality Act, last year under the Trump Administration, Congress acted in a rare bipartisan way to approve the required five-year reauthorization of the U.S. Older Americans Act with new language supportive of LGBTQ older adults. President Trump signed the legislation.

The language includes a mandate for outreach to and reporting about services provided to LGBTQ older adults in federally funded programs. It also opens the way for LGBTQ older adults to be designated in a category of “greatest social need.” Under that category, older adults receive a higher priority in the allocation of resources by the federal government.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to get over the finish line,” said the AARP’s Quartey. “And aside from passing legislation federally and on the state and local level, we absolutely need to continue the hard work of changing hearts and minds,” he said.

Longtime gay activist and writer Brian McNaught, whose latest book, “On Being Gay and Gray – Our Stories, Gifts, and the Meaning of Our Lives,” was just released, says his own very informal survey of LGBTQ elders found there is a need for intimacy that may be too controversial for the establishment LGBTQ elder groups.

“I’m a SAGE volunteer and the 81-year-old man with whom I was working after his husband of 47 years died, said after his grieving process, ‘I want to be hugged and kissed. Does that make me a bad person?’”

McNaught told the Blade he assured the man those feelings do not make him a bad person. McNaught said the man’s comment prompted him to conduct further research, in which he found that some gay male elders in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area who often need assisted living support would like to patronize gay bathhouses or seek the services of an escort agency. He said he determined that any LGBTQ elder group providing such services would trigger “a huge uproar of protests” and most likely a loss of funding.

“We don’t want to talk about sexuality and aging,” McNaught said.

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Former VOA director nominated to head U.S. Agency for Global Media

Previous CEO’s actions threatened LGBTQ internet freedom

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(Public domain photo)

President Biden on Monday nominated Amanda Bennett, the former head of Voice of America and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor, to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

“I am honored by this nomination,” Bennett told Voice of America. “If confirmed, I will be so proud to work with all the dedicated journalists at USAGM who are doing the critical and difficult work around the world of upholding and demonstrating the value of a free press.”

The agency operates independently from the U.S. government and oversees five different entities that include Voice of America, broadcasting platforms and the Open Technology Fund. The fund is an independent non-profit organization that focuses on advancing global internet freedom by providing internet access, digital privacy tutorials, privacy enhancement and security tools like encryption.

These tools have been integral in preserving internet freedom for LGBTQ people abroad, especially in places where it’s unsafe or illegal to be LGBTQ.

Bennett, 69, was named VOA director in 2016 and resigned from her post in June 2020 after conservative documentary filmmaker Michael Pack was confirmed as the agency’s CEO during the Trump administration.

Under Pack’s tenure, several technology freedom experts said the former CEO thwarted the Open Technology Fund’s efforts abroad by freezing funds. Pack also ignored a House subpoena for an oversight hearing that was meant for him to address mass firings, withholding congressionally approved funds and other questionable activities.

Pack stepped down at Biden’s request in January, and the president named Kelu Chao, a VOA veteran journalist, as Pack’s replacement and interim CEO.

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