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BREAKING: Obama, Pentagon certify ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

Military’s gay ban will be off the books in 60 days

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President Obama and Pentagon leaders gave the green light on Friday to start the 60-day time period for when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be off the books and openly gay Americans will be entirely free to serve in the U.S. military.

After consultation during a Friday meeting at the White House, Obama — along with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen — issued certification to Congress that the armed forces are ready for open service.

“Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” Obama said in a statement. “In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.”

Under the repeal law signed in December, the military’s gay ban will be lifted once the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify the armed forces are ready for open service. Consequently, now that repeal has been certified, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be off the books on Sept. 20.

“I believe the U.S. armed forces are ready for the implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Mullen said in a statement. “I conveyed that opinion yesterday to the President and to the secretary of defense, and today we certified this to Congress. My opinion is informed by close consultation with the service chiefs and the combatant commanders over the course of six months of thorough preparation and assessment, to include the training of a substantial majority of our troops.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the “final countdown to repeal begins today” as a result of certification.

“Service members celebrate this historic announcement, and they are ready for this change,” Sarvis said. “Our nation’s top military leaders have testified that commanders see no significant challenges ahead, and now the president, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Mullen have certified to Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said certification of repeal means gay service members can “breath a huge sigh of relief.”

“While we still must wait 60 days for this change to formally take effect and for the law to officially be off the books, this step is nothing short of historic,” Nicholson said. “This is the final nail in the coffin for the discriminatory, outdated, and harmful ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law.”

Gay service members who had left the U.S. military because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hailed certification for repeal as an important milestone.

Stacey Vasquez, a former Army recruiter who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2003, said she finds it hard to believe that the long struggle to end the military’s gay ban is finally coming to an end.

“I think it’s hard for me to put into words because there have been so many steps for me,” Vasquez said. “I went through a court battle for seven years and worked on repeal in my job for a year, and then I’ve lobbied Congress for nine years.”

She continued, “I don’t know if you’ve had one of those moments where you say, ‘Is it really done because you’ve had so many steps and you feel like you move forward and then you move back a step? I’m kind of thinking to myself, ‘Is it really done?'”

Still, Vasquez said she’s “happy” that certification has happened and plans to make an attempt to re-enlist in the Army after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is off the books.

Brian Fricke, a gay Iraq war veteran who left the Marine Corps in 2005 because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” also said certification brings him a sense of relief. and vindication that he thinks is shared by other service members.

“For me, personally, there’s a sense of vindication,” he said. “When I left, I had a partner at the time and I was always afraid of being found out. I couldn’t relax when I was on my R&R away from work because I was fearful of that.

Additionally, Fricke said he thinks other service members will share his feelings following the formal lifting of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“I feel like a lot of the gay and lesbian troops are going to feel a lot of relief immediately, even if they’re not going to come out to people,” he said. “They are going to be able to relax when they’re off duty and be able to go in public to the movies and hold hands and not have to worry about retribution.”

Fricke wasn’t discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but opted not to enlist in 2005 because of the burden of serving under the military’s gay ban. He said he doesn’t plan to return to the armed forces.

Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will remain on the books until Sept. 20, discharges under the anti-gay law have already been halted. The Pentagon earlier this month put in place a moratorium on separations in response to a court order imposing an injunction against enforcing the anti-gay law.

As a result, gay service members can already serve openly without fear of discharge, although openly gay people are still barred from enlisting in the armed forces.

The injunction — initially issued last year by a California federal district court — was reinstituted earlier this month by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, pending litigation challenging the constitutionality of the military’s gay ban.

The moratorium on discharges could be lifted — making gay service members vulnerable once again — if the U.S. government succeeds in efforts to convince the court to place a stay on the injunction. On Monday, the Justice Department requested this stay and maintained the Obama administration wants an “orderly process for repealing” the military’s gay ban.

R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director, issued a statement saying his organization’s lawsuit helped lead to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal certification.

“Log Cabin Republicans are proud to have helped put an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” Cooper said. “It is our hope that the clear precedent established in federal court that will ensure an absolute end to this unconstitutional law.”

Even with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on its way to being off the books, supporters of open service say more work is necessary to ensure gay and straight service members stand on equal footing.

One option to address this issue is an executive order from the president that would ensure non-discrimination for gay service members. Currently, gay service members have no recourse outside of their chain of command if they feel they’re experiencing discrimination on the job.

Sarvis, who has called for such a directive since February, renewed his call this week for such an executive order on the basis that “every service member deserves equal respect in the work environment.”

“Signing legislation that allows for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was necessary, but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military,” Sarvis said. “It’s critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and discrimination.”

Other inequities exist between gay service members with partners or spouses and straight service members in marriages on issues such as living expenses and medical care, travel, housing benefits. Much of this inequity is because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

LGBT advocates are also expressing concerns about transgender people still being unable to serve openly in the U.S. military. But openly transgender Americans can’t serve openly not because of law, but by regulation — so the change could be implemented administratively.

An executive order prohibiting discrimination against service members based on sexual orientation and gender identity would also stop the separations of service members who come out as transgender.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, issued a reminder on Friday that transgender Americans are still unable to serve openly in the armed forces.

“NCTE rejoices whenever discriminatory laws end and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a discriminatory law and it needed to go,” Keisling said. “However, as repeal is certified, transgender servicemembers continue serving in silence. NCTE looks forward to the day when the U.S. armed forces ends discrimination in all its forms.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ned_Flaherty

    July 22, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    • 14,317 people were discharged under DADT (November 1993 – July 2011).
    • 78,000 bisexuals, lesbians, and gays are serving in the U.S. military today.
    • Millions served successfully through the 20th and 21st centuries.
    • 41 other nations also allow open military service, regardless of sexual orientation.

    • laurelboy2

      July 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      …and your point is??

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Texas

Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”

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Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.

********************

Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678.

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National

Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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