June 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief: June 3

Adm. Mullen, leader in ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal, retires

WASHINGTON — With the president’s selection of Army service chief General Martin Dempsey to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the most prominent figures in the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Admiral Mike Mullen, will retire as the head of the body of senior uniformed leaders in the Defense Department.

Mullen will join outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in bidding farewell to the department. During his tenure, Mullen led the White House effort to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service by gays and lesbians in the military. Mullen testified on multiple occasions in Congress on the need to end the ban on open service in order to preserve military readiness.

Gen. Dempsey will assume his new role alongside Gates’ successor, current director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta.

Meanwhile, a major opponent of repeal indicated he will no longer push to continue barring open service. According to ThinkProgress, a Washington-based progressive think tank, when asked if he would support reinstating the law at a town hall event in Pompano Beach, Fla., Republican Rep. Allen West said, “I’m not doing anything to prevent ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The thing that I’m doing is … Look, a decision has been made.” Later he said about reinstating the law, “Now it has been done. I will sit back to see what happens.”

Illinois civil unions become law

CHICAGO — Wednesday marked the first day that Illinois same-sex couples can apply for civil union licenses from the state.

Lead lobbyist in the push to pass the bill in 2010, Rick Garcia told the Blade that lines stretched “out to the street,” at the Cook County Clerk’s office Wednesday morning. According to Garcia, the law survived six separate attempts by conservative lawmakers to derail the onset of the law after passage, and now provides 648 new rights to same-sex couples, including emergency medical decision making powers and the ability to put both spouses’ names on the birth certificate to babies born to same-sex spouses.

The new law, however, has emboldened conservatives to push for a voter referendum amending the Illinois Constitution to bar recognition of same-sex relationships.

Widow denied death benefits after husband dies

WHARTON, Texas — A judge has invalidated the marriage of Nikki Araguz and her deceased firefighter husband, killed in a fire in 2010, because Araguz is transsexual.

Though born intersex, Araguz was declared male at birth and was not able to present as her actual gender identity until years later. A couple is ineligible for marriage in the state of Texas if gender markers on both birth certificates match, rather than gender at the time that the nuptials occur.

After her husband Thomas’ death, Araguz’s in-laws sought to use the courts to invalidate the marriage and deny her spousal benefits upon claims that Thomas was unaware of Araguz’s former gender at the time they were married. The Wharton County, Texas court sided with the family.

Fla. high school selects trans prom queen, gay king

DAVIE, Fla. — Running against 14 other women at her school, McFatter Technical High School senior Andii Viveros, 17, surprised a Florida town by earning her classmates’ selection as prom queen.

Born Andrew Viveros, Andii began publicly presenting herself as female two years ago, despite being bullied and harassed, according to Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald. “They called my name and I was in total shock,” the newly crowned prom queen told the Herald. “Many students have started a petition to have me removed from the ballot. They also are outraged and say I am making a mockery of prom, because I am going in an evening gown.”

Despite the pressure, Andii stayed in the running for the prominent role and took the top prize. McFatter students did not stop with that surprise, however. Prom-goers also selected openly gay Juan Macias as prom king.

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