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Log Cabin to have say in GOP platform process

Seeks to purge anti-gay language from Republican document

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LGBT political groups are preparing for the upcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions as one gay GOP organization announced its involvement in the party’s platform drafting process for the first time.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said Tuesday a team from his organization will be credentialed to attend the platform committee meeting, which will take place the week of Aug. 20 in Tampa, Fla., prior to the start of the convention.

“Just looking at the 2008 document, Log Cabin has gone through and we’ve noted language in there that’s either directly unhelpful, or seen as anti-gay, and have marked it for deletion,” Cooper said. “We’ve also found language that could be strengthened to be more inclusive. That said, there’s going to be a completely new document. It’s not as if they’re taking the ’08 document and just updating it.”

Cooper said the group has already identified language in the 2008 platform that it will push to remove in the 2012 document, including language related to marriage. Under the heading “Preserving Traditional Marriage,” the 2008 platform endorses the Federal Marriage Amendment and affirms passing same-sex marriage bans through state initiatives.

Gary Howard, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, confirmed Log Cabin’s involvement in the platform process, but also said other organizations, including social conservative groups, will take part.

“As has been the practice in previous years, the Platform Committee Staff maintains an open door policy and welcomes input and suggestions from outside groups,” Howard said. “This year the staff has heard from hundreds of different groups as they presented their views on the Platform, this includes suggestions submitted by the public at-large at the gopplatform2012.com website. The Log Cabin Republicans reached out to the RNC to share their ideas as well. Additionally, the Platform Staff hosted meetings with dozens of social conservative groups to emphasize the importance of keeping the GOP’s commitment to traditional marriage.”

Log Cabin’s four-member delegation to the platform committee consists of Cooper; Casey Pick, Log Cabin’s program director; James Abbott, a trustee for Log Cabin; and Kathryn Lehman, another Log Cabin trustee. Cooper said it’s the first time Log Cabin has been directly involved in the platform drafting process.

The organization’s team will likely have its work cut out for them. The Republican Party has longstanding ties to social conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council, which will likely be advocating for anti-gay language as well as opposition to marriage equality.

Cooper’s announcement that Log Cabin will be involved in the platform drafting process comes on the heels of news — first reported by the Washington Blade — that the Democratic Party has adopted a marriage equality plank as part of its platform. The Democratic platform is still in a draft phase; the full platform drafting committee will meet this weekend in Detroit to hammer out a final version of the platform that will be sent to delegates at the Charlotte convention. The exact language of the marriage equality plank wasn’t immediately available.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said the language for the Democratic platform won’t likely be made public until after the meeting in Detroit.

“The reason they’re doing that is because the platform drafting committee vote wasn’t on specific language, as I understand it, it was on just the idea of having some certain language, then they would finalize the language and it would be approved in Detroit,” Davis said. “Once it’s approved in Detroit as the official draft of the platform, it will then be adopted by the full committee at the convention. So they’ll release it once it’s an official draft. We should see it shortly after the Detroit meeting.”

Davis said he was told the LGBT language will be “relatively strong, but relatively short” and the platform itself will be relatively short — possibly just a list of bullet points. A Democratic National Committee staffer had previously told the Blade the language not only endorses marriage equality, but rejects the Defense of Marriage Act and has positive words about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Cooper said the process for drafting the Republican platform is different from the Democrats’ process. There have already been early meetings in the past few weeks in which constituent groups, including Log Cabin, have talked with the drafting team. The actual process of resolutions, amendments and language consideration happens the week of the 20th with most work happening on Aug. 20 and 21.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, predicted he’ll “disagree” with elements of the Republican platform once it’s made public, but dismissed its significance.

“The truth of the matter is, the platform is a piece of paper,” LaSalvia said. “The platform conveys no rights and responsibilities, the platform does not have the force of law, and routinely the day after the platform is written candidates all over the country say they don’t agree with everything in the platform.”

Asked about his own political goals for the Republican convention, LaSalvia said his group has a singular focus that is shared with the other groups attending the convention: the election of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“We’re the national gay organization who’s endorsed Mitt Romney, and our goal is the goal of every organization who will be in Tampa, and that is to elect Mitt Romney as president: that’s our political goal,” LaSalvia said. “That’s the reason for this convention. The reason for this convention is nominate Mitt Romney and to help elect him president of the United States. There is no other goal.”

For the Democratic National Convention, which will take place in Charlotte, N.C., the expectations are significantly higher because the party has a tradition of LGBT-inclusivness, although some goals remain unrealized.

Jerame Davis Executive Director Stonewall Democrats, gay news, gay politics DC

National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jerame Davis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stonewall’s Davis said one of the goals is having the most openly LGBT delegates ever at the Democratic convention. His organization has identified more than 350 LGBT delegates to the convention, but said the DNC hasn’t released its final count. The official goal for the Democrats is 410. The Republicans don’t keep track of whether their delegates identify as LGBT.

“We’re expecting that goal to be exceeded,” Davis said. “Even if they only break the 410 mark that is the goal, it will still be a record number of delegates.”

In 2008, the total number of LGBT delegates at the convention was 277. At the time, Stonewall also counted other LGBT participants at the convention to reach an “LGBT participation” number of 359. In addition to the 277 delegates, the group counted 42 alternate delegates, 34 standing committee members and six convention pages.

This year, Stonewall is planning a presence at the two LGBT caucus meetings involving LGBT delegates on Sept. 4 and 6, but it’s not yet clear what the group’s involvement will be because the final details on the caucus meetings aren’t ironed out.

Having openly LGBT speakers is a goal that both Republicans and Democrats share, although none have been announced so far.

For the Democratic convention, Davis said he’s personally requested LGBT speakers and would like to see retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) be given a slot because “it’s his last year in office and I think it would be an excellent send off.”

Frank’s office said the lawmaker has no comment on whether he’d like to address the convention during his final year in office. Other announced speakers at the convention include San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who’ll deliver the keynote address. As a U.S. Senate candidate, President Obama’s 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic convention propelled him into the national spotlight.

Openly gay speakers were given slots at the 2008 convention, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who’s now a U.S. Senate candidate, and Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andy Tobias.

Cooper said he’d also like to see openly gay speakers at the Republican convention, suggesting as possibilities Mary Cheney, former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and former U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe. It’s not unprecedented for a gay speaker to address the Republicans; Kolbe addressed the 2000 convention, although many in the audience bowed their heads in prayer.

Already announced speakers at the Republican convention include former Sen. Rick Santorum, who continued his record of anti-gay hostility while campaigning unsuccessfully for president.

In addition to having political goals for the conventions, these groups are also hosting parties for LGBT attendees coming to rally with their respective parties.

Stonewall has two official events during the week of the Democratic convention: a luncheon with the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign for LGBT delegates and elected officials on Sept. 5 and another reception with Netroots Nation for which a date hasn’t yet been set, but will likely be Sept. 4.

At the Republican convention, Log Cabin is hosting four events throughout the week along with other LGBT groups: a welcome reception with the local Log Cabin on Aug. 26; an event for openly LGBT Republicans seeking political office with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund on Aug. 27; a brunch for “Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry” with the organization Freedom to Marry on Aug. 29; and a closed press event honoring congressional Republican allies of the LGBT community on Aug. 30.

GOProud will host its annual “Homocon” party on Aug. 28 at The Honey Pot.

LaSalvia said Homocon “will be a ‘who’s who’ of the conservative movement,” including pundits and political figures, although he declined to announce any names. In 2010, GOProud made headlines when it announced conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who has sometimes expressed anti-gay views, would headline its inaugural Homocon event.

The Democratic National Committee didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on plans for making the conventions more LGBT inclusive by deadline.

 

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge blocks White House from ending Title 42

Advocacy groups say policy further endangered LGBTQ asylum seekers

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The Mexico-U.S. border in Mexicali, Mexico, on July 22, 2018. A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration from terminating Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. The previous White House's policy was to have ended on May 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic was to have ended Monday, but it remains in place after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s plans to end it.

The White House last month announced it would terminate Title 42, a policy the previous administration implemented in March 2020.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays in Louisiana on May 20 issued a ruling that prevented the Biden administration from terminating the Trump-era policy. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement announced the Justice Department will appeal the decision, while adding the administration “will continue to enforce the CDC’s 2020 Title 42 public health authority pending the appeal.”

“This means that migrants who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will be subject to expulsion under Title 42, as well as immigration consequences such as removal under Title 8 (of the U.S. Code),” said Jean-Pierre.

Advocacy groups and members of Congress with whom the Washington Blade has spoken since Title 42 took effect say it continues to place LGBTQ asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups who seek refuge in the U.S. at even more risk.

Oluchi Omeoga, co-director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, last month described Title 42 as a “racist and harmful policy.” ORAM (Organization of Refuge, Asylum and Migration) Executive Director Steve Roth said Title 42 “put asylum seekers in harm’s way in border towns and prevented them from seeking safety in the United States.”

Title 42 was to have ended less than a month after five members of Congress from California visited two LGBTQ shelters for asylum seekers in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

The Council for Global Equality, which organized the trip, in a tweet after Summerhays issued his ruling described Title 42 as a “catastrophe.”

“The Biden administration cannot breathe a sign of relief until it’s a matter of the past,” said the Council for Global Equality on Saturday. “We remain committed to end Title 42.”

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considers allowing LGBTQ troops to transfer from hostile states

Proposed guidance remains in draft form

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army secretary or the office of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring soldiers and families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City-based RAND Corporation had published a study on sexual orientation, gender identity and health among active duty servicemembers in 2015 that listed approximate six percent of LGBTQ troops are gay or bisexual and one percent are trans or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Washington Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than four years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and prior to when the Trump administration enacted the trans servicemember ban in 2017, which has had a chilling effect on open service.

The Biden administration repealed the Trump ban.

Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as “Gen Z” are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v. Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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National

How a pro-transgender memo sneaked through the Trump administration

2020 memo an outlier amid otherwise hostile policy

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By the time the Trump administration ended, it had solidified a reputation for being hostile to transgender people — barring them from military service and reversing regulations aimed at ensuring non-discrimination protections regardless of gender identity — but one minor policy decision managed to sneak through affirming the acceptance of employees going through gender transition.

Top officials at the Defense Intelligence Agency, a company support agency for the U.S. government, outlined in a memo dated June 15, 2020 the process for employees and supervisors to “navigate transitioning while employed at the DIA.” The document, which was not previously made available to the public, was obtained earlier this month by the Washington Blade through an appeal of a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Transitioning in the workplace is a personal decision,” the memo says. “DIA encourages transitioning employees to openly communicate during the transitioning process; discuss plans for workplace transition with their supervisor or manager; and, as appropriate, include any steps that will prompt workplace changes (e.g., transitioning employees may begin using a different name or pronoun).”

Because the fundamental nature of a memo outlining steps to help employees in the workplace transition is contrary to the overwhelming anti-transgender outlook of the Trump administration, the DIA memo appears to have been an internal effort shielded from the White House at the time as opposed to a government-wide initiative.

The DIA guidance for transgender employees runs contrary to other sweeping Trump administration policies that sought to enable discrimination against transgender people, including the military policy former President Trump issued via Twitter in 2017 outright banning them from service “in any capacity.”

Other anti-trans actions include the Department of Health & Human Services rescinding an Obama-era regulation that barred health care providers and insurers from discriminating against transgender patients, including the denial of transition-related care, which was orchestrated by then-director of Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino and came just days before the DIA memo.

Both the military ban and the health care rollback have since been reversed under the Biden administration.

Another Trump-era policy at a comparable scope to the DIA memo to employees, however, was the U.S. Office of Personal Management deleting on a page on its website outlining the guidance for accommodating federal workers going through the transition process. The DIA memo, which facilitates those transitions within that one agency, contradicts the message sent by the deletion of the OPM resource.

Although two sources familiar with the document told the Washington Blade it was timed for Pride month (which would be consistent with the June publication date), it would also be consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of illegal sex discrimination. After all, the Bostock decision came out on the same day as the date on the DIA memo.

A defense insider familiar with the DIA memo, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was among those who said the memo went out in recognition of Pride month and said it was intended to ensure there was guidance for transition at the agency.

“We had a number of different individuals who were going through the transition process and management needed to understand what the policy as they dealt with the individuals who were going through transition,” the insider said.

The insider said production of the memo “wasn’t part of any government wide effort” and completely within DIA. The memo, the insider said, wasn’t creating any new policy for the agency, but “looking at existing policy, and then providing our manager and our workforce clear guidance.”

Asked whether there was any backlash to the memo, the insider said, “No, I would say absolutely not.” Once the guidance went out, the insider said, he “didn’t hear anything from outside the organization” about it.

In response to a follow-up question on whether the White House or Pentagon under Trump expressed any objections to the guidance, the insider denied that was the case: “No one said anything to me about it.”

Other highlights of the memo include options for diversity training to better understand transition-related issues; instructions to refer to employees by the name and pronoun of their choice; a reminder the Defense Intelligence Agency has no dress code, therefore employees are allowed to wear attire in the manner they choose; and a guarantee employees shall have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Employees may transition without prior coordination, the memo says, or may do so while creating a transition plan that includes the date the transition will begin, whether time off is needed and how to discuss the situation with colleagues.

“Employees can use the restroom and other facilities that best align with their gender identity and are not restricted to use of a single-user restroom,” the memo says. “Employees are not required to undergo or provide proof of any medical procedures to use restroom facilities designed for use by a specific gender.”

Additionally, the document outlines the process for administrative record updates, including making a request for a gender marker changer through human resources, updating personnel files, and changing DIA and intelligence community badges and identification cards.

A DIA spokesperson, in response to email inquiries from the Washington Blade on the document, confirmed the memo was issued to coincide with Pride month and remains in effect to this day.

“Released jointly to the DIA civilian workforce by the DIA Chief of Staff, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Office, and Office of Human Resources, the memo titled ‘Gender Transition in the Workplace for Civilian Employees’ serves to notify DIA civilian employees of the Agency’s position on supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) employees, including those taking steps to align themselves more fully with their gender identities,” the DIA spokesperson said. “The memo was released in June 2020 to coincide with Pride Month and serves as active guidance.”

In many cases, regulations and guidance would have to go through the White House Office of Management & Budget or Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, but not necessarily, especially an internal memo to supervisors and employees to reinforce policy that purportedly was already in place.

A Trump White House official said he was unaware of the document until the Blade brought it to his attention and said it would not have come to the White House because it was never published in the Federal Register. The Office of Management & Budget didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to comment on whether it ever was brought to the attention of the White House at the time of its publication in 2020.

While regulations within U.S. agencies go to the White House for review and consultations, government agencies as well as businesses often consult transgender groups for assistance in developing guidance for transitioning in the workforce, such as the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Mara Keisling, a transgender advocate who served as executive director of the advocacy group during the Trump administration, said she was completely unaware of the memo until the Blade brought it to her attention, although DIA would have been “required by law” to have such a policy for transgender workers after the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock.

“We would have been happy to see it, but this was not the Trump administration doing something good,” Keisling said. “This was HR bureaucrats, I don’t mean bureaucrat in a bad way at all. This is HR bureaucrats following the law, and it clearly didn’t rise to the level of the White House.”

Keisling said she was unaware of any similar guidance for gender transition coming from a U.S. agency during the Trump administration. However, she disclosed her organization was able to work with federal workers to get “a couple of sneaky things done the White House didn’t know about” consistent with the DIA memo, although she didn’t elaborate.

“And super importantly, it’s the intelligence community and defense and intelligence, which Defense Intelligence Agency obviously is both,” Keisling said. “They have a little more autonomy than others anyway, so … if you told me there was something surprising from somewhere on a personnel issue, I would have guessed that it was somewhere in the intelligence report or Foreign Service community.”

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