Connect with us

National

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

Experts expect final action during summer months

Published

on

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is unlikely to issue certification for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal before his retirement at the end of the month, triggering debate over whether his departure will mean an extended delay for lifting the military’s gay ban.

According to a report in Stars & Stripes, senior defense and military officials have said Gates is unlikely to certify repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before leaving office on June 30, which would leave the responsibility to his successor, CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Eileen Lainez, a Defense Department spokesperson, was unable to confirm whether or not Gates would certify repeal before retirement, but said the Pentagon remains on track to implement open service by mid-summer.

“The secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will certify after careful consideration of the views of the secretaries of the military departments, the military service chiefs and the combatant commanders,” she said. “I don’t have information on whether this will occur before or after Secretary Gates departs.”

Under the repeal law signed in December, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t be off the books until pass 60 days after the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the U.S. military is ready for open service. Gates has said before issuing certification he wants the armed forces to receive training, which has been taking place since February.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the chances of Gates issuing certification before his departure are increasingly slim, but added there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to give the OK before his departure.

“Everything is in place, everything is set, everything is in line with the cautious approach that defense leaders and the administration have taken,” Nicholson said.

Some advocates have said the retirement of Gates before certification could lead to delays if Panetta wants to examine the issue further, but at least one LGBT advocate says certification could happen within weeks regardless of who’s at the helm at the Pentagon.

Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external Affairs at the Center for American Progress, said she expects certification will happen soon, even if Gates isn’t in the position of defense secretary.

“I think it will happen in the next several weeks,” Stachelberg said. “It would have been our hope to have done this under Secretary of Defense Gates, who was secretary of defense while the legislative effort went forward and the survey went forward, but that seems not the way it’s going to end up. But this will happen in a matter of a few weeks after Secretary Gates leaves and Secretary Panetta arrives.”

Nicholson predicted the period for certification would be sometime between Gates’ retirement on June 30 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen’s retirement on Sept. 30.

“[I’ve been hearing] different things from different people — informed sources who expressed skepticism about it happening in the next few weeks,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said the Pentagon could face consequences in manpower if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t lifted because gay service members may decide not to re-enlist if they feel the process is being dragged out.

“People make career decisions every day, every month, based upon projections of how likely it’s going to be for the years to come,” Nicholson said. “If someone has to decide in July whether or not to enlist for another four years, and they expected certification to happen by June, and there’s no concrete information being put out on a timeline, they may opt to not re-enlist.”

Additionally, Nicholson said President Obama could face political pressure from supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal if delays in certification continue.

“I think the consequences accrue on the administration, the political side of the house, because there’s no reason left to give why certification has not happened,” Nicholson said. “There’s no longer any reasonable excuse for why it’s stretching out for this amount of time.”

According to Stars & Stripes, one step that remains on the path to implementing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is an Army assessment on the progress of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal training. As the largest service with around 1.1 million soldiers, the Army is scheduled to be behind the other services in the progress made for repeal training.

Stars & Stripes reported that Army leaders said in a message to commanders that this assessment is due Friday. Those reports will help the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey compile final recommendations on repeal, which Gates and Mullen are set to review before issuing certification.

Stachelberg said the process and training for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal could have moved faster, but maintained the process for training the armed forces isn’t lengthy “because there are problems.”

“It’s taking time because it’s being done in a thorough comprehensive way, and it’s a large force,” Stachelberg said. “[An end to this process] hasn’t happened as soon as some would like, ourselves included, but it isn’t because there are problems and obstacles and issues along the way. It’s because of the sheer size of the military.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Joel

    June 23, 2011 at 7:54 am

    The Army needs to know that its excuse is pathetic. The size of the military has nothing to do with it. One person’s training isn’t contingent on whether someone else received the training. It took FAR less time to prepare the military to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s pretty simple training: treat everyone with respect.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    June 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    It would still be great if this happened before Gates left. He deserves much of the credit for moving it forward. I think that if it doesn’t, Panetta who is a polical person and understands what the President wants will see that it happens quickly. But Gates doing it would still be better.

  3. laurelboy2

    June 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Why the rush? Let’s make sure the processes and procedures are carried out correctly. Time is not of the essence in this matter.

  4. Bruce in Missouri

    June 24, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Has anyone actually seen what the proposed new implementing regulations will be? Is there a procedure in place whereby a service member can report any harassment or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? How will same-sex partners of service members be treated? For example, at a military funeral will the service flag be given to the surviving same-sex partner of the deceased service member the same as a surviving spouse? If a service member is seriously injured in combat, will their same-sex partner be able to make medical decisions in a military hospital? Will a same-sex partner be treated the same as a spouse for on-base housing?

  5. Peter the saint

    June 27, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Half of World’s Refugees are Running From US Wars
    Sarah Bufkin, ThinkProgress: “America’s wars are forcing Afghans and Iraqis to flee their homes in greater numbers. According to a recent U.N. High Commission for Refugees study, nearly one half of the world’s refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq, 3.05 million and 1.68 million, respectively. But neither the United States nor much of the developed world bears the burden of the 10.55 million refugees under the UNHCR’s purview globally. Instead, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria serve as the top host countries. The Economist has charted the numbers.”

    your military tax dollars at work! all praise the great obama/bush/clinton triathlon!

  6. Peter the saint

    June 27, 2011 at 1:20 am

    wow—have i been blocked from leaving comments on the blade website???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

Published

on

Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

Continue Reading

National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

Published

on

Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
Continue Reading

National

‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

Published

on

Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular