Connect with us

Living

Gates urged to certify ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal before retirement

SECDEF set to leave position at June’s end

Published

on

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is set to retire on June 30 (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal are calling for imminent action to implement open service in the U.S. military before Defense Secretary Robert Gates leaves his position at the end of this month.

Advocates of open service say delaying certification for repeal after Gates retires on June 30 could unnecessarily add to the time before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is off the books.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said certification is essential this month before Gates leaves his duties at the Pentagon.

“I think that we need to get certification this month before Secretary Gates leaves,” Sarvis said. “My fear is we’re seeing an overabundance of caution here. If it doesn’t happen this month on Secretary Gates’ watch, I think we could easily be looking at another month or two before certification.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the passing the opportunity for implementing repeal would be a “very unwise” move for Gates and predicted that certification would happen this month.

“I find it hard to believe that it’s not going to be [Gates],” Nicholson said. “I believe it’s going to happen this month. Everybody all along has always said — with maybe 90 percent certainty that if you had to make a prediction, it would come in mid to late June. If it doesn’t you’re certainly going to see us get very worried and get very vocal.”

Under the repeal law that President Obama signed in December, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t be off the books until 60 days pass after the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the military is ready for open service. Gates has said he won’t issue certification until the armed forces have been trained in handling open service and the military service chiefs say they’re comfortable moving forward.

Waiting for certification after Gates retires, advocates said, could further delay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal because Leon Panetta, the incoming defense secretary who currently serves as CIA director, may want to examine the issue further before signaling the military is ready for open service.

Sarvis said a scenario in which Panetta would assume his position as defense secretary and within matter of weeks say the armed forces are ready for certification is “highly unlikely.”

“I think that he would want to spend some time with the chiefs and with the troops to make a thorough analysis of the situation,” Sarvis said. “I don’t think that’s something you can do in a matter of days.”

Nicholson echoed concerns that Panetta may want to hold off on certifying repeal to get his bearings straight in Pentagon upon taking office as defense secretary.

“I could imagine a scenario in which Panetta wouldn’t do it immediately — not because he sees it as as problem and wants to delay it  — but because he’s just sort of taking the lay of the land in and getting updates and briefings and trying to wrap his mind around everything, not just [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’],” Nicholson said.

Spokespersons for the White House and the Joint Staff gave assurances the process toward certification is moving ahead, but didn’t commit to pledging it would happen this month.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said President Obama is working with Gates and Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen as they prepare and gave reassurances the president would make it happen this year.

“He’s been in close contact with the Pentagon to ensure that certification occurs as soon as possible, consistent with the standards set forth in the bill,” Inouye said. “Certification and implementation will happen whomever serves as secretary of defense. As you heard him say in the State of the Union, it’s going to happen this year.”

Capt. John Kirby, a Mullen spokesperson, said his boss will consult the military service chiefs before moving forward with repeal.

“He plans on certifying only when the chiefs have assured them they are ready,” Kirby said.

Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokesperson, noted that defense officials previously testified before Congress that the Pentagon is “looking at mid-summer for certification,” but didn’t have further information on an expected time.

But Sarvis underscored the urgency of repealing of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by saying service members are still facing discharge under the law — even though new rules have been implemented making expulsion under the law difficult.

In October, the the Defense Department raised the authority for executing discharges to the civilian secretaries of the military branches “in coordination” with the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and the Pentagon’s general counsel.

But Sarvis said SLDN has several clients under investigation under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and knows of two service members this month who are going before administrative board hearings which in likelihood will result in recommendation for discharge. Others service members may also be in danger of separation, Sarvis said, because not all troops facing expulsion under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” come to SLDN.

Last week, Metro Weekly broke news that a member of the Air Force was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” although the airman was apparently seeking expulsion from the military because he wrote a letter to the Air Force secretary asking for separation.

“We’re talking about the reality that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is still the law and service members are still being investigated,” Sarvis said. “I think it’s fine for the services to be measured in planning for certification but it also has to be in the context of service members are being investigated and discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

Despite calls for certification, training for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the armed forces is still underway for some services. The briefings for service members on open service have been taking place since February after the leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps issued guidance on the preparation for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

But even with the training underway, Sarvis said defense leaders have no reasons to put off certification because all the services — with the exception of the Army — have made sufficient progress in their training goals to implement “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. Notably, the Marine Corps was set to complete the training for the entire service by June 1.

The Army is made up of nearly 548,000 service members and the largest service in the armed forces, so training for this service is expected to take longer than either the Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps. Training for the active component of the Army isn’t set for completion until July 15 and for the reserve component isn’t set for Aug. 15.

However, Sarvis said the Army has made sufficient progress in training to allow for the implementation of open service in the service because more than half of the service has already been trained in implementing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“It’s very hard to make the case for additional month or two before certification takes place,” Sarvis said. “We’re in ‘Month Six.’ Most of the troops have received their training. This culture change has been discussed in varying stages of planning for over a year now, so it’s time to get on with it.”

Nicholson also said training in the armed forces will “be overwhelming done” by the end of June, which he said should enable the president and defense leaders to give the OK for open service.

“Given that the overwhelming majority of people are going to be trained by the point, I just can’t see any rationale for extending it out,” Nicholson said.

Although repeal advocates fear waiting certification after this month could cause unnecessary delays, supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” predict Panetta would be amenable to the change even though he may take more time to sign off on open service.

The Washington Blade was unable to find recent public statements Panetta made on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or gays in the military.

However, Sarvis said he thinks Panetta would support open service based on what he’s heard from people who’ve worked with him at the CIA, in Congress or the private sector.

“What we’ve seen and what we’ve heard is that new secretary will be welcoming of gay and lesbian service members,” Sarvis said. “There will be effective and smooth implementation on his watch.”

It’s also possible that Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen could step down from his position before he issues certification for repeal. However, Mullen isn’t set to leave his role until his term expires on Sept. 30, so certification would be delayed significantly beyond expectations if it hasn’t happened by that time.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Real Estate

Rental housing discrimination and you

There are many ways landlords can disadvantage LGBTQ renters

Published

on

Housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression is illegal in the District of Columbia. This means that housing providers cannot refuse to rent to someone or treat them differently in their housing-related decisions because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. 

But what might housing discrimination against LGBTQ home seekers look like?

Discriminatory treatment can occur at a number of stages in the home rental or purchase process, including when scheduling rental (or sales) showings, during a tour of the property, or during the application or post-application process. 

But discrimination may also occur while you are living in a rental home. Today’s discrimination may not be as blatant as an outright rejection or a snide remark about a protected category. There have been incidents of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression discrimination cited in rental housing disputes and lawsuits.

Some of these include landlords refusing to rent or renew leases to LGBTQ tenants; harassment of LGBTQ tenants by landlords or from other tenants; imposing different rental terms and conditions; failing to provide necessary repairs or maintenance to a rental unit where LGBTQ individuals reside (while other non-LGBTQ tenants receive prompt service); as well as failing to take action against other parties who engage in discriminatory behavior toward the LGBTQ tenants.

But there is good news.

Housing industry leaders are actively working to eliminate these instances of discrimination in housing. Both at the national level through the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and at the local level through the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) association leaders are working with real estate professionals such as licensed sales agents, brokers, and property managers to improve understanding and sensitivity. Their overall promotion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) includes a substantial component surrounding sexual orientation and gender expression.

Christine Barnhart, Vice President of Strategic Communications at GCAAR told us, “We are doing our part to identify opportunities for diversity and inclusion conversation and education, and to promote the practice of inclusion and equity among our leadership, members, staff and within the industry.” GCAAR seeks to drive a larger conversation around DEI In addition to their “DEI Champions” program, providing a summary of their larger DEI initiatives can be found on their website.  

That education of the key industry players is being delivered through a variety of initiatives and updates to codes and policies. Barnhart points out that the programmatic elements of the training being done keep their members up to date, GCCAR’s ‘DEI Champions’ program features three key diversity training elements:

  1. “Completion of the six-hour ‘At Home With Diversity’ (AHWD) certification course
  2. “The National Association of Realtors (NAR) ‘Fairhaven fair housing simulation,’ and
  3. NAR’s Bias Override: Overcoming Barriers to Fair Housing video.”

I took this certification course and found it very helpful. My original inspiration to become a GCAAR DEI Champion was to augment my service to the community. Now having been through the course, I’m better enabled to “put myself into others’ shoes.” I gained a stronger awareness of how each of us possesses inherent biases. And the program made me more authentically aware of the impact of my comments, my decisions, and my actions on others.

Similarly, the District of Columbia provides ethical codes and regulations for housing providers here in the city to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression. For example, D.C.’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) has implemented guidelines and training programs for landlords and property owners to ensure they are aware of their obligations under anti-discrimination laws.

These regulations, industry guidelines, ethic codes, and best practices all help to make the D.C. rental housing market more inclusive and welcoming than other jurisdictions for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression,. However, if you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination, there are many agencies to turn to.

  1. Equal Rights Center – a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in Greater Washington, D.C. and nationwide.
  2. D.C. Office of Human Rights – The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the D.C. Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against.
  3. Whitman-Walker Health – A non-profit organization that provides legal services, including assistance with housing discrimination cases, to the LGBTQ community in D.C.
  4. National Center for Transgender Equality – A national advocacy organization that works to advance the rights of transgender people, including those experiencing discrimination in housing.
  5. The DC Trans Coalition – A community-based organization that works to advance the rights and well-being of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the District of Columbia.
  6. Pride Center of the Capitol Region– A community center that offers a variety of resources and support for the LGBTQ+ community in D.C., including assistance with housing discrimination cases.

As a gay-owned business and long-term member of the Equality Chamber of Commerce, it is important to me that all who interact with me and my companies feel welcomed and taken care of, particularly the LGBTQ community.  Building on the foundation of the DEI courses, our firm will work to educate our staff and reinforce a culture of understanding and acceptance.  How about yours?

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, go to ColumbiaPM.com.

Continue Reading

Autos

All charged up: Ford Mustang Mach-E, Mercedes EQB

Move over, Tesla!

Published

on

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Move over, Tesla! Elon Musk may have delivered a record number of electric vehicles last year, but rivals are certainly nipping at his heels. Robust demand for the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, for example, has helped make Ford the second-best EV producer in the U.S. And global EV sales for Mercedes more than doubled in 2022, thanks in part to the automaker’s all-electric crossover: the EQB. Motorheads like me are all charged about such electrifying rides, and for good reason.

FORD MUSTANG MACH-E
$46,000
Battery range: 270-312 miles
0 to 60 mph: 5.1 seconds

OK, fine, Ford sold fewer than 62,000 EVs in the U.S. last year compared with over 522,000 cars sold by Tesla. Yet while Tesla sales were up 40%, Ford EV sales skyrocketed a whopping 126%. Yes, Tesla sold an impressive 1.3 million-plus vehicles worldwide in 2022, but Ford expects to sell 2 million EVs by 2026. The Mustang Mach-E—first introduced as a 2021 model—shows you one way Ford expects to get there. 

For 2023, Ford knew better than to mess with the winning design of the Mach-E, which is at once futuristic and timeless. My fave styling cue is the clever use of flush-mounted buttons on the outside door frames instead of clunky conventional door handles. 

Inside, with the battery placed under the floor, there’s oodles of room for passengers and cargo—including 60 cubic feet of stowage with the rear seats folded. Beneath the center console, there’s enough space for a handbag or small computer case. 

The wide dashboard has a built-in soundbar, as well as large vertical touchscreen for the infotainment system. An active-safety system—with forward-collision alert, emergency braking, evasive steering and such—is now standard across the lineup.

This year the battery range can reach up to 312 miles, which outpaces much of the competition—including the Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen ID.4 and Volvo C40 Recharge. Another plus: Mach-E sticker prices have been reduced between $400 and $5,700, depending on trim level. Pricing also has been slashed for the extended-range battery, from $8,600 to $7,000. 

Sure, there’s still a big difference between the $46,000 base model and $65,000 high-test GT. But trust me, the thrill of that GT is hard to resist. Stomp on the accelerator, enjoy the excitement as your body is thrust back against the driver’s seat, and be prepared to achieve warp speed. Rocketing from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds took my breath away—literally. Many auto aficionados were skeptical when Ford first gave this EV the seemingly bait-and-switch moniker of a “Mustang,” but the GT version of the Mach-E comes closest to feeling like a true pony car. 

One side note: With so much emphasis on EVs today, it’s easy to forget how much of a gamble it was for Ford to create the Mach-E. After all, this was not the automaker’s first electric-car rodeo. Henry Ford built a prototype for a low-cost battery-powered vehicle in 1913, then opted for the internal combustion engine. Other experimental EVs came and went, including the quirky 1966 Ford Comuta minicar and an all-electric 1998 Ford Ranger pickup, which lasted only four years.

Lucky for Ford, it looks like the Mustang Mach-E is a keeper. 

(For more on the Ford Mustang Mach-E, read “One Lean, Mean Green Machine.”)


MERCEDES EQB
$54,000
Battery range: 205-243 miles
0 to 60 mph: 5.6 seconds

Mercedes EQB

My, how time changes things. As recently as 2020, Mercedes said that its diesel-powered cars were here to stay. But within a year, Mercedes announced it would go all-electric by 2030. 

Enter the Mercedes EQS. This flagship sedan debuted last spring in the U.S. and was followed by the seven-passenger EQS SUV. Both EVs are exquisite, oozing luxury and overflowing with techno gadgetry. But—ouch!—pricing for these beauties starts at $105,000 and tops out at close to $170,000. 

Fortunately, for those of us on a plebian budget, there’s the new Mercedes EQB. At half the price of its larger EQS siblings, the all-electric EQB is built on the same platform as the gas-powered GLB compact crossover. And except for minor styling tweaks and a bit quicker acceleration, the EQB looks and handles like the GLB. That’s a good thing for anyone needing some reassurance when making the leap to their first EV. 

Despite the low price on a base-model EQB, standard features include power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, automated parking, ambient interior lighting and other niceties. There’s also the MBUX infotainment system, which comes with 10.25-inch touchscreen, voice-recognition technology, smartphone integration and a navigation system.

While the EQB does seat seven, third-row legroom is extremely tight. Best to leave those seats folded flat, unless carting around kids—and only for short distances. 

Comparing the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Mercedes EQB is easy: Both have similar pricing and amenities. The Mach-E is certainly faster and has more of a space-age ambiance, but the traditional driving experience of the EQB is comforting on long drives. And, well, the EQB also has that coveted three-point star found only on a Mercedes. 

Continue Reading

Real Estate

The art beneath your feet

Select rugs that reflect your personal style

Published

on

Let the art under your feet reflect your personality and style, and enjoy it for years to come.

Buying art for your new home can be both fun and an investment for the future. You can scour local galleries, visit antique stores, or buy paintings and posters online. Sometimes, you’ll even find local artisans displaying their work on the walls of real estate offices.

When it comes to a budget for art, the sky’s the limit. From original oil or acrylic paintings to clay or marble sculpture, to lighting of Chihuly glass, there is much to choose from. Even street art and painted murals can bring joy to accent walls.

Personally, I have a fondness for contemporary lithographs in primary colors and Blenko glass, but no matter what your taste, you may find art you love right beneath your feet in carpets and rugs that enhance your décor. Before you choose a rug to anchor your furnishings, determine what it’s made of and how it will work in your space.

Near the top of your budget, you’ll find pure wool rugs. They stand up well to high-traffic areas like living rooms and feel cozy beneath your feet. Good at repelling water and dirt, they can be hand-knotted or loomed and may have fringed edges.

Natural fiber rugs made of jute, seagrass, and sisal work well on their own or as an underlayment for other rugs. While inexpensive, you may find that they shed fibers, so using a rug pad under them will keep those fibers from scratching your floor.

An animal hide rug often serves as a statement piece, with each being as unique as the animal from which it came. Thankfully, you can now obtain the same look with synthetic hides with natural coloring or even dyed in bright hues.

Cotton rugs, braided or hooked, provide a more casual look for less. Many are machine washable, but they fade easily, especially if used in areas of direct sunlight or high traffic. They are also slippery when used on hard floors, so be sure to place a rug pad beneath them.

Most wall-to-wall carpet and bound area rugs today are made of synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon. Since these machine-woven beauties often mimic real wool and there are plenty to choose from, they are generally the most affordable.

Silk rugs are best in low traffic areas where there is little chance of pet accidents or spills. You may also see them hung on walls in lieu of paintings. These rugs will require professional cleaning and are among the most expensive offerings. In addition to the Persian and Oriental styles, you can now find more modern designs made of silk.

Another thing to consider is whether you want an eco-friendly or non-toxic rug. Determining which is which can sometimes be confusing. While eco-friendly refers to a product that is healthy for the environment, a non-toxic rug made without potentially harmful chemicals focuses on the health of people.

Always read the label of a rug that you are considering purchasing. Rugs made of olefin, polyester and nylon are created through chemical processes. Flame retardant and water repellant coatings can be toxic. Natural materials may have been sprayed with pesticides. Even dyes and rubber backings may contribute to an unhealthy home.

Several rug manufacturers advertise their products as non-toxic, including FLOR, Safavieh, Lorena Canals, and Hook & Loom. If you can’t find a non-toxic rug you like, you can minimize the effect of chemical treatments and odors by allowing your rug to off-gas outside or by leaving a light coating of baking soda on it overnight before vacuuming.

Next, think about the size and shape of your new rug. Will there be at least 3 inches of rug behind the front legs of your furniture as suggested by Martha Stewart? Do you have an apartment or condominium that requires a certain percentage of hard flooring be covered? Do you want to soften the edges of a room by using a round or oval rug or will you need a runner for hall or stairs?

The style, pattern, and texture of your rug will determine whether it simply muffles noise or becomes a favorite piece of art. Try a modern shag or an antique dhurrie. Layer several silk rugs on top of each other. Select a bold chevron, an Ikat pattern, or a mid-century Mondrian vibe.

Embrace color with an abstract Bohemian or choose a floral, stripe, or sculptured, tone-on-tone rug. You can also let your creative juices flow by designing a custom piece.
Whatever you choose, let the art under your feet reflect your personality and style, and enjoy it for years to come.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed associate broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular