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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implement repeal, as well as to protect the interests of all service members, including gay and lesbian members, remain unpublished,” the Republicans write.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

NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated

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(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor

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First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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