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Perry ‘would be comfortable’ reinstating ‘Don’t Ask’

GOP hopeful says Obama repealed ban to please political base

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Tuesday he “would be comfortable” reinstating the ban openly gay military service known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if elected president.

The three-term Texas governor and GOP presidential hopeful made the remarks during a morning interview with ABC News’ Christine Amanpour when asked if he would have been uncomfortable serving alongside openly gay troops in his capacity as an airman.

“If an individual, in their private life, makes a decision about their sexuality from the standpoint of how they’re going to practice it, that’s their business,” Perry said. “I don’t think that question needs to be asked. That’s the reason ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was, in fact, a workable policy, and that’s where I would be comfortable with our country going back to that.”

Despite Perry’s characterization of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” many gay service members were involuntarily outed by a third-party and discharged from service under the law without making any statements about their sexual orientation. For example, Maj. Mike Almy, a former Air Force communications officer, said he never made a statement that was gay while in military service, but was nonetheless expelled from the armed forces in 2006 after his superior obtained private emails revealing his sexual orientation.

Perry said he would “comfortable” reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after Amanpour asked him several times whether he would put the gay ban back in place.

The first time he was asked about it, Perry suggested he would discuss the matter with military leaders, saying “you go back and sit down with your commanders in the field and have that conversation,” and maintained the gay ban “worked very well.”

The 18-year-old law prohibiting openly gay service in the military, enacted by Congress in 1993, was lifted from the books on Sept. 20 after President Obama signed repeal legislation in December.

Perry said Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to “make a political statement” and chided the president for “using our men and women in the military as a tool” for that end.

“What I agree with is that the president of the United States [was] changing policy that was working well — and to do it while we were at war in two different theaters, I think, was irresponsible,” Perry said. “And I truly believe he did it to respond to his political base.”

Other Republican presidential hopefuls who’ve said they would reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Perry’s remarks in the interview mark the first time he’s weighed in on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since he’s sought election to the White House.

LGBT advocates pounced on Perry for being open to bringing back “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and said the candidate’s views represent a misunderstanding of the military and the American public.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said Perry “sidesteps the importance of individual liberty” by backing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and for asserting it was a “workable uniform policy.”

“As a veteran of the Iraq campaign and current Army reserve officer, I can attest [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] was a hindrance to servicemember integrity, readiness, security and was a tremendous waste of tax dollars,” Cooper said.

Cooper noted a bipartisan majority in Congress legislatively ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” last year and said suggesting that law should be restored “is a no-go and demonstrates a lack of understanding key national security issues.”

“We must have a president who will lead our military in the 21st century, not cling to a failed relic of the last,” Cooper said. “Gov. Perry should remain battle focused on the economy if he wants Republicans to a win in 2012.”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, called Perry’s remarks “nothing more than red meat for Republican primary voters.”

“Gov. Perry knows better which is what makes his statement so appalling,” Sainz said. “Over 70 percent of the American public favors open service and military brass have said the integration of gay and lesbian service members has been a non-issue. Why would he want to mess with those two facts?  The answer is simple. Because a return to discrimination appeals to a very narrow cross-section of voters that he’s going after.”

Once the GOP front-runner, Perry has fallen in the polls and remains unpopular with the Republican electorate with which he’s seeking support. A USA Today/Gallup published Tuesday found former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain tied with 21 percent of support, followed by U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 12 percent and Perry with 11 percent.

A transcript of the exchange between Amanpour and Perry follows:

Christine Amanpour: As president, would you reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — even if commanders, as they have done, have said that openly serving gays and lesbians have not many any difference to operational security or any kind of morale?

Rick Perry: I think you go back and sit down with your commanders in the field and have that conversation. I think “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” worked very well, and —

Amanpour: So you would reinstate it?

Perry: I think it worked very well.

Amanpour: But would you reinstate it?

Perry: I think the idea the president of the United States wanted to make a political statement using our men and women in the military as the tool for that was irresponsible.

Amanpour: Do you think it was a political statement?

Perry: Absolutely.

Amanpour: So many allied governments — whether it’s Israel, whether it’s England or France — have done that and they say they have strengthened their armed forces, and you remember, during the Iraq war, there were so many gay people who couldn’t serve in desperately needed positions and that harmed national security. You would really reinstate it?

Perry: I don’t necessarily agree with your premise. What I agree with is that the president of the United States [was] changing policy that was working well — and to do it while we were at war in two different theaters, I think, was irresponsible. And I truly believe he did it to respond to his political base.

Amanpour: You were in the Air Force. Would you have been uncomfortable serving with openly gay members of the Air Force?

Perry: I don’t ask that question. I think that’s the issue right there. If an individual, in their private life, makes a decision about their sexuality from the standpoint of how they’re going to practice it, that’s their business. I don’t think that question needs to be asked. That’s the reason “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was, in fact, a workable policy, and that’s where I would be comfortable with our country going back to that.

Watch the video here (via Think Progress)

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. David in Houston

    November 9, 2011 at 8:51 am

    “If an individual, in their private life, makes a decision about their sexuality from the standpoint of how they’re going to practice it, that’s their business.”

    That sums up the stupidity that personifies Rick Perry (and the GOP). People don’t decide their sexual orientation. Straight people don’t suddenly wake up one day and decide to be gay. But in the case of Perry, perhaps it is a choice for him. Gay people have been known to pretend to be straight; and closeted gay politicians have been known to be virulently anti-gay in their rhetoric. Just a thought. But chances are he’s simply another ignorant bigoted homophobic politician. Unfortunately, they’re a dime a dozen in our country.

  2. percy

    November 9, 2011 at 11:44 am

    “I don’t necessarily agree with your premise.”

    What premise? She said that allied governments such as Israel and the UK have stated that allowing gays strengthened their armed forces, and she said that people had been kicked out under DADT who were sorely needed, such as Arabic translators. Those are facts, Mr. Perry. You don’t necessarily agree with facts?

    “I don’t ask that question.”

    This is my favorite ridiculous anti-DADT line. Sure, Mr. Perry – at no point during your Air Force service did you EVER discuss girlfriends, wives, or sex with your fellow soldiers.

  3. Joel

    November 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    What do you expect from a talking douche bag?

  4. Diarhea of the mouth itself, Rick Perry!

    November 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    This comes from the guy that put an innocent man to death KNOWING he was convicted using evidence that had been refuted by nationally renowned forensic experts. Mr. Texas “I sleep with cattle” Rick Perry. No more ignorant of a human has been born. And of course in Texas that means he a shoe in for governor.

    I hope they bring back Lee Harvey from the grave if he wins the election.

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National

Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1

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Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

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Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service

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For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

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Colin Powell, leaving mixed legacy on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ dies at 84

Key figure once opposed gays in military, then backed review

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gay news, Washington Blade, Colin Powell, gay marriage
Colin Powell leaves behind a mixed legacy on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Colin Powell, the first ever Black secretary of state who served in top diplomatic and military roles in U.S. administrations, died Monday of coronavirus at age 84, leaving behind a mixed record on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The world continues to grapple with the pandemic and the public grows increasingly frustrated with its persistence as many remain unvaccinated despite the wide availability of vaccines. Powell was fully vaccinated, according to a statement released upon his death. Powell reportedly suffered from multiple myeloma, a condition that hampers an individual’s ability to combat blood infections.

Rising to the top of the military as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell supported in 1993 Congress moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that barred openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

During a key moment congressional testimony, Powell and other top military officials were asked whether or not allowing gay people in the military would be compatible with military readiness. Each official, including Powell,” responded “incompatible.” Congress would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that year.

Things changed when President Obama took office 15 years later and advocates for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were eager to claim Powell’s voice among their ranks. After all, Powell was highly respected as a bipartisan voice after having served as secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush and endorsing Obama in the 2008 election.

After the Obama administration in 2010 announced it would conduct a review of the idea of allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, Powell came out in support of that process. Advocates of repeal called that a declaration of reversal, although the statement fell short of a full support for gay people serving openly in the military.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office, adding, “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

Congress acted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the policy was lifted in 2011. At the time, Powell was widely considered a supporter of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and publicly counted among supporters of repeal, although the Blade couldn’t immediately find any statements from him to that effect.

In 2012, Powell had similar vaguely supportive words on same-sex marriage, saying he had “no problem with it” when asked about the issue.

“As I’ve thought about gay marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay but are in partnerships with loved ones, and they are as stable a family as my family is, and they raise children,” Powell said. “And so I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married.”

The Blade also couldn’t immediately find any statement from Powell on transgender people serving in the military. After the Obama administration in 2016 lifted decades-old regulations against transgender service, former President Trump issued a ban by tweet the following year. President Biden reversed that ban and allowed transgender people to serve and enlist in the military in his first year in office.

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