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HRC denies NOM’s claim on DOMA repeal in defense bill

NOM claims Senate Dems plan amendment on floor

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The Human Rights Campaign is disputing an assertion by an anti-gay group that Senate Democrats plan on amending major defense budget legislation with a measure to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

In an action alert e-mail sent to followers on Wednesday, the National Organization for Marriage warns opponents of same-sex marriage that Senate Democratic leadership intends to alter the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization on the floor to include language that would repeal DOMA.

“Reports out of Washington are now indicating that — just a week after forcing a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote —Senator [Dianne] Feinstein, Senate Judiciary Chair Pat[rick] Leahy (D-VT) and Majority Leader Harry Reid may now attach the DOMA repeal bill to the 2012 Defense Authorization bill, a bill that must be passed in order to fund our servicemen and women through the next year,” the email states.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved legislation to repeal DOMA. All 10 Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, while all 8 Republicans voted against it. But no plans were announced to bring the legislation to the floor.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization has no knowledge of any intention to amend the defense bill with DOMA repeal. The largest LGBT organization, HRC is responsible for lobbying on Capitol Hill and would likely be looped in on any such plans.

Sainz said the mailing is a “red herring” and an attempt to trick NOM’s supporters into thinking the organization is working on something after suffering a series of defeats.

Among the recent failures, Sainz said, is the legalization of marriage equality in New York and high-level court decisions against NOM on the non-disclosure of their donors.

“Their members and their donors are, obviously, upset at their very poor performance,” Sainz said. “NOM needs to give them a red herring that equals hope or shows that they are working on something no matter how big of a lie it is. They’re trying to raise money with this is what they’re trying to do. They are trying to give the sense that something is going on when this is not something that is in the works.”

A spokesperson for NOM didn’t respond on short notice to the Washington Blade’s request to provide additional information on the mailing. Reid’s office also didn’t immediately respond.

Brian Weiss, a Feinstein spokesperson, said the NOM email is “not true.”

Passing DOMA repeal in any event on the Senate floor would difficult. In addition to Feinstein, the bill has support from only 30 co-sponsors — far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

The assertion from NOM comes on the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee completed for a second time its markup of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill. The panel unanimously reported out legislation that differs from the previous version by making an additional $21 billion in cuts from the defense budget and addressing issues related to terrorist detainees.

The defense bill, as it previously did after the earlier markup, contains a provision that would repeal the sodomy ban in the U.S. military in addition to leaving out the language found in the House bill reaffirming DOMA and barring military bases and chaplains from being involved in same-sex weddings, according to HRC.

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National

LGBTQ media ‘excited’ about Press Forward national media funds

Coalition of donors pledges $500 million for local news

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Members of News Is Out, a collaborative of six leading LGBTQ media organizations across the country, have expressed support and excitement about the newly announced national Press Forward effort to support local media in the United States. News Is Out members represent more than 200 years of LGBTQ news and culture coverage, with two member papers starting more than 50 years ago.

“This new effort from foundations, including MacArthur Foundation and Knight Foundation, truly will be a game-changer in the local media space,” said Tracy Baim, co-founder of Windy City Times, which is part of a Chicago collaborative that is also advocating for local funding in that city. “Local media are critical to covering issues across the country, from LGBTQ+ and environmental issues to education and criminal justice reform. Philanthropy can provide an important complement to other needed revenues to help local media survive and thrive.”

In the U.S., 7.1 percent of adults, or 18 million people, identify as LGBTQ, according to Gallup. About 21 percent of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ. The media serving this community has been life-saving, resource sharing and an integral part of the movement for LGBTQ equality, News Is Out members said, adding that this media continues to fill a vital information need.

According to the Press Forward announcement, “A coalition of 22 donors announced Press Forward, a national initiative to strengthen communities and democracy by supporting local news and information with an infusion of more than a half-billion dollars over the next five years.

“Press Forward will enhance local journalism at an unprecedented level to re-center local news as a force for community cohesion; support new models and solutions that are ready to scale; and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.”

The Knight Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation have been leading the Press Forward effort.

News Is Out is supported in part by a technology grant from the Knight Foundation. The program is called the Queer Media Sustainability Lab

News Is Out is a nearly two-year-old alliance created launched by the Local Media Association, with initial funding from Google News Initiative. The members are Bay Area Reporter, Dallas Voice, Philadelphia Gay News, Washington Blade, Windy City Times and TAGG, a national queer women’s magazine.

News Is Out members have collaborated on editorial, business and fundraising opportunities.

“LGBTQ media have always played a critical role in covering and informing our communities,” said Lynne Brown, publisher of the Washington Blade. “While we have lost dozens of LGBTQ news media outlets in recent years, those of us who have survived are thriving in 2023. We have done so because we have innovated and sought new forms of revenue. The News Is Out Collaborative has assisted with support that propels us forward.”

“LGBTQ+ media is needed now more than ever, as our communities face a backlash across this country,” said Leo Cusimano, publisher of the Dallas Voice. “By working together in News Is Out, we have formed a strong alliance to help our members in technology training, editorial collaborations and much more. New funds into this ecosystem will be vital to strengthening the network of local LGBTQ+ media in this country.”

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Federal Government

Census Bureau asks White House to test questions on sexual orientation, gender identity

Data would be included in annual American Community Survey

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U.S. Census Bureau (Photo credit: GSA)

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday asked the Biden administration to sign off on plans to test questions on sexual orientation and gender identity for respondents aged 15 and older on the agency’s annual American Community Survey.

Data on these metrics will help inform civil rights and equal employment enforcement, the Census Bureau said in a notice published on the Federal Register.

Testing will help the agency determine wording, response categories and placement of the questions on the survey — its most comprehensive, covering 3.5 million households each year.

A key unknown will be how answers will be provided by proxies such as parents, spouses or others in a household who isn’t the person about whom the question is asked.

“Younger LGBT people might not yet be out to their parents or others who are answering these questions as a proxy reporter, so the quality of the data might not be as good for younger people,” M. V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told PBS News.

Currently, the Census Bureau and its annual American Community Survey only ask questions about same-sex couples who are married or cohabitating.

“We anticipate having much more info about the LGBT people than is currently available — including about the demographic and socioeconomic status of LGBT people who aren’t in same-sex couple households, including occupational status, industry and wages, and about LGBT people who were born outside the U.S. and LGBT people with disabilities, and their families,” Kerith Conron, research director of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, told the Associated Press.

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Federal Government

Pentagon to restore honor to veterans kicked out over their sexual orientation

Legislation seeks accountability for DoD

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (screen capture/YouTube/CNN)

The U.S. Department of Defense announced plans to restore honor to service members who were kicked out of the military over their sexual orientation, the agency announced on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Over the past decade, we’ve tried to make it easier for service members discharged based on their sexual orientation to obtain corrective relief,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“While this process can be difficult to navigate, we are working to make it more accessible and efficient,” he said, adding, “in the coming weeks, we will be initiating new outreach campaigns to encourage all service members and veterans who believe they have suffered an error or injustice to seek correction to their military records.”

The move follows a class action lawsuit filed last month by LGBTQ veterans against the Pentagon for allegedly failing to remedy “ongoing discrimination,” including biased language in the discharge papers of LGBTQ veterans.

CBS News has investigated the Pentagon’s handling of service records of veterans who were kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation, revealing the broad scope of discrimination experienced by these LGBTQ veterans — finding, for instance, that more than 29,000 were denied honorable discharges.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), along with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) re-introduced a bill that would establish “a commission to investigate the historic and ongoing impacts of discriminatory military policies on LGBTQ service members and veterans.”

“This commission would study the impact of these bigoted rules” barring LGBTQ troops from serving “and forge a more welcoming future in the military and at the VA,” said Takano, who serves as ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“Our country has never made amends for official discriminatory policies like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the transgender military ban – and that failure still haunts today’s service members and veterans,” said Jacobs.

“That’s why I’m so proud to co-lead this bicameral legislation that will right these historic wrongs, investigate the past and present impact of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, and help us move forward to build and sustain a diverse, inclusive, strong, and welcoming military.”  

“This commission would be an important step to understand the full scope of the harms caused by policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to ensure a more equitable future for all who serve our country in uniform,” Blumenthal said.

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