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House GOP seeks to delay end to ‘Don’t Ask’

Letter condemned as last-ditch effort to block open service

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Rep. Buck McKeon (Blade file photo by Joey Diguglielmo)

Senior Republicans on a House defense committee are seeking to delay the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on the basis that Congress hasn’t had an adequate opportunity to review the regulatory changes resulting from the end of the policy — a request the Pentagon has rebuffed.

House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chair Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) write in a Sept. 12 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — which is set for Tuesday — should be placed on hold because information on the new policy hasn’t been sufficiently available to Congress and the public.

Panetta — along with President Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen — certified the U.S. military was ready for open service on July 22, starting the 60-day period for when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be removed from the books.

McKeon and Wilson contend they have requested, but not obtained, copies of the revised regulations that will take effect upon the end of the military’s gay ban.

“This failure to meet the committee’s requests leads us to conclude that decisions on the policies and regulations to implement repeal are not complete and that your certification and those of the others were inaccurate,” the Republicans write.

Additionally, McKeon and Wilson decry what they say is the lack of public availability of the new regulations resulting from the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Republicans contend this lack of availability harms service members, including gay and lesbian troops.

“We find it unconscionable that the policies and regulations that provide the guidelines and procedures to be used by service members and their leaders to implement repeal, as well as to protect the interests of all service members, including gay and lesbian members, remain unpublished,” the Republicans write.

Finally, McKeon and Wilson also say the time isn’t now for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal because certain regulatory changes needed for implementation will have to undergo a review and comment period before they can be effective and this period is not scheduled to begin until Tuesday.

“The need for review and comment before these regulations and policies can be effective directly contravenes the July 22 certifications,” the Republicans write. “The Department is not ready to implement the repeal because all the policies and regulations necessary for the transition are not yet final.”

Consequently, the Republicans urge Panetta to hold off on ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until after Tuesday and these issues are addressed.

“We believe it is essential that you take immediate action to delay the implementation of repeal until such time that the review and comment period is completed, that DOD has incorporated the changes suggested during that comment period, and that the appropriate regulations needed to implement repeal have been distributed to and are understood by the leaders and key personnel in the field,” McKeon and Wilson write.

But the Defense Department is disputing these assertions and says an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will take place as planned on Tuesday.

“The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will occur, in accordance with the law and after a rigorous certification process, on Sept. 20,” a Pentagon spokesperson said. “Senior Department of Defense officials have advised Congress of changes to regulations and policies associated with repeal. We take that obligation seriously.”

The spokesperson said top Defense Department officials, including the Pentagon’s general counsel, have already met with House Armed Services Committee staff and shared the proposed revisions to the regulations and new policies that will be issued.

Since legislation was signed in December to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” more than 2 million troops have participated in training to prepare for open service and what is expected in a post-repeal environment.

A senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the military service secretaries, service chiefs, and combatant commanders submitted their recommendations months ago, and none suggested repeal be postponed.

LGBT advocates were quick to condemn the Republican letter as a last-ditch attempt to stall the inevitable end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the GOP letter is “another example of the hardcore opposition attempting to delay or undo ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal.”

“I expect they will continue to look for openings to deny gay and lesbian service members the same rights and dignity as their straight counterparts,” Sarvis said.

Further, Sarvis said McKeon and Wilson are “simply wrong” in their assertion that new regulations haven’t been prepared within an appropriate manner.

“The statute only requires that the new regulations be prepared – not issued – before certification,” Sarvis said.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called the letter a “desperate move by extremist House members” to continue discrimination against gay service members.

“Wide majorities of Americans support allowing gay and lesbians to serve openly,” Solmonese said. “It is time to finally end this discriminatory law, and moves to stall will be seen by Americans for what they are – homophobic attempts to prevent the military from continuing down the path of full equality.”

NOTE: This article has been updated.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Peter Rosenstein

    September 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    This faction of the Republican Party will continue to fight any civil and human right granted to the LGBT community. They continue to insist on being on the wrong side of history and will be judged accordingly.

  2. JJ

    September 15, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Why do Republicans continue to persecute American citizens??

  3. Derek Williams

    September 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Do Ask, Do Tell

  4. Jake Koboi

    September 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    We’ve won the battle, thank god. 4 more days, then we can get on to winning the war: equality and freedom. Though the Republicans are ignorant, my god loves everyone; I love a good competition and can’t wait until I can contribute more to the LGBT Community. April 20, 2012, everyone; Celebrate DOS (Day of Silence). That’s my project at our school this year, getting us to be able to hold something special for DOS.

    Just remember, love your neighbor, no matter who they are, where they came from, or what they believe. <3

  5. Dakotahgeo

    September 17, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I celebrate the end of DADT, the coming end of DOMA and fully support equality for the GLBT community and all people. The conservatives have … lost. The TEA-publicans and American christian Taliban are crying in their beer. All for the best, lolol.
    Dakotahgeo, Pastor/Chaplain

  6. Jerry

    September 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    The reason McKeon hasn’t gotten copies of the regulatory changes is because the Pentagon knows that good old Butch can’t understand the differences between “a”, “an”, and “the”.

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National

Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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