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

SECDEF set to leave position at June’s end



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.


Real Estate

Spring market readiness: buyer’s edition

Get ready for more inventory and faster sales



The spring market technically gets underway next month.

Here in the D.C. metro area there are historically two cyclical “busy” times in the market. Spring market, which falls between February through June/July, and fall market, which is around August until about November. Honestly, the D.C. metro market is historically always pretty active, however the spring and fall markets are those times where we see an increase in inventory, open houses attendance, open house traffic and properties selling quicker. As we are heading into the spring market time (historically begins after the Super Bowl, aka the Rihanna concert for my non-sports folks that is Feb. 12) I wanted to go over a few tips to do NOW in order to make sure you are ready to go.


It is vital to work with a real estate agent that you can trust. I often tell my clients that we are about to get real intimate and basically start dating. The home buying process involves many late night phone calls, weekends spent driving around looking at properties and learning truly what a client wants. For this very reason you should feel comfortable with your agent. You need someone who will speak your language as well as speak the language of negotiating and get you into a home.

Where do you start looking for a real estate professional? For starters, I am sure you know one real estate agent in D.C., but if you don’t, look to friends and family. Ask if they know of a great Realtor and then go from there. It’s not always the agents that are plastered all over bus stops or grocery carts that you should gravitate to; do some homework and seek an agent who writes for the Washington Blade, was voted Best DC Realtor by the Washington Blade readers (aka me – and this is totally a joke – maybe).


This is almost more important than selecting a real estate agent. Find a lender who will fight for you. One thing as a listing agent that I love to see is when a buyer’s lender calls me when a purchase offer is submitted to tell me how wonderfully well qualified their clients (aka you) are and that they will fight to keep the transaction on the estimated timeline. This illustrates that you have a team behind you that supports you and your goal of purchasing a home. When I get a call from a buyer’s agent that they have submitted an offer for their clients and this is why they are the most well-qualified buyers and love the home right before I get a call from a lender who speaks highly of their buyer clients and the buyer’s agent — chef’s kiss — it truly does make a difference.

Where do you start looking for a lender? Well once you meet an amazing real estate agent, ask who they would recommend. Please note that we as real estate professionals are not allowed to receive any kickbacks from lenders or service providers. I always provide a list of lenders that I have worked with in the past that have performed well – it’s your duty to research and speak to those lenders, and more, in order to select the one that is best suited for you.


This is one that is often overlooked. You should have a look over your current lease. Reviewing your lease will give you timeline info as to when you can start your search and what timeframes you are working with. For example, if you are on a month-to-month lease currently then you can begin your home search now. You will need to give your current landlord a 30-day notice that will likely line up with a 30-day closing period, which is pretty standard here in the D.C. metro market. If you have a lease with a few months left, it’s important to understand what a possible lease break would look like from a financial perspective or if you are not willing to break your lease then it will give you a timeframe of when you can start the home buying process.


This is super important. While the market has changed in the past few months, we are still not out of the water completely. The ripple effect of COVID and the constraints on the housing market will be seen for a while longer. While you might not have 15 offers on a home it’s likely you could still expect two or three. Even though we are heading into the spring market where there is historically an increase in inventory, we are in such a shortage currently that it’s even more vital now than ever before to ensure you are ready to rock and roll.

The home buying process can truly be a fun process. By following the steps above and ensuring that you are well equipped and positioned to start off the spring real estate market there is little doubt that you will meet your goal of becoming a homeowner this year.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,   [email protected] or

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Real Estate

Affordable home renovations for successful selling

From paint to floors, a few simple fixes to boost value



Refreshing your home’s paint job can add instant value.

Without question, the 2023 housing market is off to a slow start, particularly in comparison to the red-hot market that existed during the pandemic. This can understandably be discouraging for those who need to sell their home and hope to obtain a favorable offer. The good news is that one constant truth about the housing market is that it will change – eventually. In the meantime, there are steps that hopeful sellers can take to increase the value of their homes and their chances of obtaining the offer that they want. 

One step that some sellers consider is making minor upgrades or renovations that will increase the sale value of their home. This leads to the question – what are some fairly easy upgrades a homeowner can make without breaking the bank that may be appealing to potential buyers? Let’s take a look at a few options together.

Refresh the paint: This is a simple and very cost-effective option for giving your home a new, fresh look. A quick coat of paint can truly work wonders. It helps the home look brighter, cleaner, and newer, and can be appealing to the eye of many potential buyers. When considering which colors to choose, it’s important to keep in mind that selecting more traditional, neutral colors is often advisable. After all, you don’t know what a potential buyer may like, so choosing colors that appeal to many and are more subdued may be a wise choice. You may want to also consider repainting the trim and the ceilings to complete the fresh new look.

Make some easy kitchen upgrades: Many have heard that upgrading the kitchen is one of the most popular renovations to a home and one with the best return on investment. As the kitchen is often the hub of the house, this is certainly true. The good news is that homeowners often need not do a complete and expensive kitchen renovation to get some bang for their buck. Some more simple tasks like upgrading older appliances to newer ones, changing out light fixtures, or repainting cabinets and adding new hardware may go a long way toward increasing your kitchen’s appeal to potential buyers.

Landscaping: Landscaping is the literal “curb appeal” that many homeowners need to give their house that extra sparkle to attract potential buyers. Upgrading your landscaping may sound intimidating at first, but it can truly be a cost-effective option for increasing the value of your home. It may be worthwhile to pay for a consultation with a landscaper regarding some steps you can take to increase your home’s appeal from the outside. Often these options can be very simple – things like removing debris, planting a few shrubs here and there, pruning trees, and other similar tasks. After all, the first step to getting a buyer to appreciate the inside of your home is to draw them in from the outside.

Refinish hardwood floors: While replacing your flooring entirely is an expensive and time-consuming process, the good news is that refinishing your floors is a fairly simple and cost-effective option for increasing your home’s appeal. It can add extra shine and a little bit of wow factor, without breaking the bank. 

These are only a few options of many for cost-effectively updating your home. Regardless of the market conditions, there are always steps that potential sellers can take to add to the appeal of their home and hopefully catch the eye of potentially interested buyers. Another important step that sellers can always take is consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent who knows their particular community and what attracts buyers in that community.  At, we are here to help you find the perfect agent to achieve your real estate goals.

At We’re Here for You

The current real estate market may seem intimidating to those hoping to sell their home for the best possible price – and that’s understandable. While it may be intimidating, however, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By marketing your home well, investing wisely in renovations and staging, and finding the right real estate agent, you can greatly increase your chances of obtaining a favorable offer, even in a difficult market. 

At, we’re here to help you find that real estate agent. You need and deserve an agent who understands the unique needs of LGBTQ home buyers and sellers, and who understands the market in your local community. If you’re ready to get started, get in touch with us today. We look forward to learning how we can help. 

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Mod makeovers: Kia Niro EV, Nissan Z

Carmakers add pizzazz without compromising function



Kia Niro EV

I love New Year’s resolutions. There’s that anticipation of a fresh start — just like a first date, where everything is possible. Same for vehicle makeovers, where automakers must strike a tricky balance: Add plenty of pizzazz to an existing model, yet don’t alienate diehard purists who love their cars just the way they are. For 2023, two rides receive some spicy updates but without losing any of their old-school cool. 

MPGe: 126 city/101 highway
Range: up to 253 miles on a full charge
0 to 60 mph: 7.1 seconds

For some time, Kia has been all charged up about electric vehicles. There’s the EV6 crossover, cousin of the award-winning Hyundai Ioniq 5. Both of these mid-priced, midsize rides debuted last year, and they look, whir, and pretty much drive like earthbound spaceships. Coming later this year is the EV9, based on the popular Telluride full-size SUV but with a boxy-yet-bold design straight out of “Transformers.” 

By 2027, Kia plans to offer a whopping 14 electric vehicles. Yet I still remember the thrill of driving a Niro EV— Kia’s first all-electric contender—three years ago when it arrived in showrooms. This compact four-door hatchback was fun, feature-laden and affordable. For 2023, the Niro EV gets a full redesign, with sassier styling and the same spunky performance that initially was so impressive. Battery range, which already was better than the competition, is now 14 miles more than the previous model. Using a DC fast charger, the updated Niro EV takes about 25% less time —or some 60 minutes — to charge up to 80 percent. Inside, the cockpit-like interior has been smartly revamped, with a sculpted center console, angled digital display panels and two-tone color scheme that’s vintage chic. 

Another plus: a slightly longer wheelbase means more cargo space and rear legroom. The original Niro EV offered an insanely long list of standard amenities, but this redo boasts even more goodies: smartphone integration, wireless charging, voice command functionality, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and other creature comforts. Choice of two groovy-sounding trim levels: base-model Wind and more upscale Wave, which adds a sunroof, ventilated seats and power take-off. There’s also Kia’s impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. “Niro” means “to rise” in Korean, and with so many splendid upgrades here, this latest EV does just that. 

Nissan Z

Mpg: 19 city/28 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds

For just $28 million, you can own the most expensive car in production today. That would be the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail coupe, with a tapered rear that looks like, well, the back end of a 1930s yacht. This two-door beauty can be ordered with a pair of bespoke Bovet wristwatches, which can be used as pocket watches, desk clocks, or even the car’s dashboard clock — as well as a chic Montblanc pen in a hand-crafted case for the glovebox. 

Or you could ignore such extravagance and opt for a reasonably priced coupe that oozes sex appeal. That would be the redesigned Nissan Z, resurrected this year with a retro vibe that harkens back to the 1970s. Few cars stir your loins each time you slip behind the wheel (well, it certainly stirred mine aplenty). Perhaps the Jaguar E-Type—built from 1961 to 1975—is the only other two-door classic to evoke such nostalgic passion. 

With the latest Z, the dramatic design carries through to the interior, with its swooping dashboard, thickly padded steering wheel and bolstered sport seats. There’s a nice blend of old and new here, with conventional knobs mixed with a high-tech digital instrument cluster. And yes, for all you gearheads out there, the Z is available in a six-speed manual transmission. Alas, the nine-speed automatic actually shifts faster than any human being. Either way, stomp on the accelerator and this sports car thunders down the road. The suspension is extremely taut, as my keister can attest. Yet handling and cornering are so smooth it’s easy to be zipping along much faster than you realize. Standard features include keyless entry, 8-inch touchscreen, smartphone integration, Bluetooth and voice recognition. There also are some nice options, such as eight-speaker Bose stereo, user-friendly nav system and Wi-Fi hot spot. But if you’re expecting to find swanky wristwatches or a pricey writing pen, I’m afraid you’ll have to bring your own.  

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