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Advocate ‘confident’ Boy Scouts will end ban on gay youth

BSA prez calls for approval of pro-gay resol’n

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Scouts, Boy Scouts, gay news, Washington Blade
boy scouts, gay news, Washington Blade

The Boy Scouts to set to vote on a resolution today to end its ban on gay youth (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An LGBT group working to end the gay ban for the Boy Scouts of America is striking an optimistic tone on the day leaders are set to vote on a resolution to partially lift it.

Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he expects the 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts National Council to approve a measure allowing gay youths to participate.

“I’m confident, especially now that the BSA leadership is behind the resolution,” Ferraro said. “I think it’s because of the stories that BSA voting members and Americans have heard over the past years from moms from Ohio and teenagers from California who shouldn’t be discriminated against.”

The vote is taking place in Grapevine, Texas, during the organization’s 2013 National Annual Meeting. An announcement on the vote is expected around 6 pm. The Washington Blade will provide updates as warranted.

Currently, openly gay people are unable to participate in the Boy Scouts in any capacity. The proposal would alter the policy so gay youths can take part in the organization. Even if the resolution is approved, gay adults would still be unable to serve as scoutmasters.

Ferraro based his optimism on work activists have done to draw attention to the gay ban as well as statements from Boy Scouts’ leadership in opposition to current policy.

Wayne Perry, president of the Boy Scouts of America, called on the organization to approve the resolution in an op-ed in USA Today published on Thursday.

“The BSA’s executive committee unanimously presented this resolution because it stays true to Scouting’s mission and remains focused on kids,” Perry writes. “No matter what your opinion is on this issue, America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation’s children.”

According to GLAAD, thousands of people on both sides of the issue are at the hotel to make their views heard — many of them clad in their Boy Scouts’ uniform.

“I think it shows just what I’ve seen over the past year running this campaign how dedicated people are to the institution of scouting,” Ferraro said. “The message that we’re trying to send is that including gay adults and gay teenagers will only strengthen the institution of scouting.”

Members of Congress have also weighed in. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), along with 20 other House members, delivered to the Boy Scouts earlier this week a letter asking the group to change its policy.

“Today, BSA has a policy that excludes gay Scouts and Scout leaders from participating,” the letter states. “This is counter to BSA’s mission to teach our youth to combat discrimination. … We strongly urge the BSA to pass the proposed resolution to end discrimination against gay youth. Furthermore, we believe that BSA should implement a full non-discrimination policy.”

Zach Wahls, a 21-year-old activist and Eagle Scout, said the time is right for the Boy Scouts to change during an event in Grapevine called the Equal Scouting Summit.

“It is clear that if Scouting is not willing to move forward on this issue, it will be left behind by an America that supports our LGBT friends, neighbors, family members and even our fellow Scouts who made it through the program,” Wahls said. “America needs the values that Scouting has to offer now more than ever, and we cannot afford to lose this great cultural icon.”

In February, President Obama voiced support during an interview that aired before the Super Bowl for lifting the gay ban in the Boy Scouts.

But anti-gay groups are also at work to urge the Boy Scouts to keep the ban on gay youth in place. On Thursday, the Family Research Council ran a half-page advertisement in the Dallas Morning News. The ad identifies five reasons to support the current policy, including saying the change “forces all scouting units to accept openly gay youth.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a freshman U.S. House member, took to the House floor this week to criticize what he called the “intolerant left” for efforts such as repealing the gay ban in the Boy Scouts.

“The left’s agenda is not about tolerance, and it’s not about diversity of thought,” Bridenstine said. “It’s about presenting a worldview of relativism, where there is no right and wrong, then using the full force of the government to silence opposition and reshape organizations like the Boy Scouts into instruments for social change.”

Bridenstine concluded,”To my friends on the left, this is not tolerance. But here’s the good news about true tolerance: the most tolerant one of all has the ability to redeem us all.”

But Ferraro dismissed efforts from anti-gay groups, saying they won’t have significant impact and are only an effort to spread hate against LGBT people.

“People like Tony Perkins and the FRC are continuing to paint themselves not as scouting supporters, but as anti-gay activists, and that’s going to make the difference,” Ferraro said. “Their messages are clouded by anti-gay hate, especially when you consider faith leaders and so many officials in the BSA pushing for change.”

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity

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Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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Florida

Prominent LGBTQ+ activist found dead in Florida landfill

Diaz-Johnston was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz & he led the fight for marriage equality

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Photo courtesy of Don Diaz Johnston

Police in Florida’s capital city confirmed that the body of Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, who had been reported missing was found in a Jackson County landfill Saturday morning.

Diaz-Johnston was last seen alive Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, more than an hour from where his body was found, according to a missing person notice released by police. Detectives are investigating his death as a homicide, a police spokesperson said.

Diaz-Johnston, was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz. As an LGBTQ advocate he led the fight for marriage equality, he and his husband were plaintiffs in an historic 2014 lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County.

ABC News reported at the time that a South Florida circuit court judge sided with Diaz-Johnston and five couples suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida dropped its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

His husband wrote in a poignant Facebook post; “There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston. I can’t stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Jorge. He and his husband Don were two of the brave plaintiffs who took on Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban and helped win marriage equality for all Floridians,” Equality Florida said adding, “Our deepest condolences to Don and Jorge’s extended family.”

Detectives urge anyone who may have information to call 850-891-4200, or make an anonymous tip to Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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National

Bill prohibiting ‘gay panic defense’ clears New Hampshire House

New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of ‘gay panic’ as a defense

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New Hampshire State House (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Legislation prohibiting defendants accused of manslaughter from using the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense, which had died in committee during the 2021 regular session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, was reintroduced this session and passed with a 223-118 vote last week.

House Bill 238, stirred up controversary from opponents who claimed that state statues already covered murder and manslaughter. During a Criminal Justice committee hearing last Spring, Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, voiced opposition, saying that the laws already cover murder and manslaughter and that “there’s no way in heck that you’re going to be able to say ‘Well because he or she was some deviant sexuality that I’m not–‘”

Marston was cut off by committee chairman Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, who gaveled him down and rebuked him for the derogatory language the Concord-Monitor reported

Later, the committee Republicans blocked an effort to move the bill out of committee alleging it needed more work and was not necessary because a jury could already strike down a similar attempted defense. The bill was then stalled in the committee, effectively killing it from being pushed further in last year’s session.

As the measure now heads to the state Senate, New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of the ‘gay panic’ as a defense.

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