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Manning found guilty of lesser charges

LGBT advocates say gay soldier’s actions unrelated to his sexual orientation



Bradley Manning, wikileaks, gay news, Washington Blade
Bradley Manning, wikileaks, gay news, Washington Blade

Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of aiding-the-enemy, the most serious charge brought against him. (Public domain photo)

A military judge on Tuesday found gay U.S. Army private Bradley Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge lodged against him following allegations in 2010 that he leaked hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.

At the conclusion of a court martial proceeding that began in June at Fort Meade, Md., Army Col. Denise Lind found Manning guilty of nearly all of the other charges filed against him, including six counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act. All of the charges stemmed from his alleged transmittal of the classified documents to the dissident, whistleblower group Wikileaks.

The verdict came after Manning pleaded guilty earlier this year to 10 of the 22 counts filed against him. Experts in military law said the charges on which he was convicted carry a combined maximum sentence of 136 years of confinement in a military prison, although they expect the judge to hand down a much shorter sentence.

Had he been convicted on the aiding-the-enemy charge, he could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole.

LGBT activists following the Manning case dispute press reports that surfaced at the time of his arrest in 2010 that his motive for leaking the classified information was related, in part, to his anger over the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, which banned gays from serving openly in the armed forces.

Transgender advocates have also expressed skepticism of a claim by one of Manning’s defense attorneys that his action was due, in part, to his personal struggle over his gender identity. The attorney and others who know Manning noted that he referred to himself for a short period of time with a female name and downloaded information over the internet about gender identity disorder.

“I don’t see that his identity has anything to do with what he did,” said Maryland transgender advocate Dana Beyer. “His sexual identity, however you want to define it, is completely irrelevant.”

Beyer’s assessment appears to be shared by virtually all of the national LGBT advocacy organizations, which have either remained silent on the Manning case or have said Manning’s actions should not be condoned and don’t reflect the views of the LGBT rights movement.

That view surfaced in the news in the spring of this year when the San Francisco LGBT Pride committee rejected a proposal to name Manning as a grand marshal for the city’s Pride parade.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT political organization, told the Blade this week that HRC would have no comment on the Manning verdict.

Spokespersons for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which monitors media coverage of the LGBT community, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

D.C. gay attorney Philip Fornaci is among the small corps of LGBT activists who have joined opponents of U.S. policies in the Middle East and elsewhere that have supported Manning and helped raise money for his legal defense.

Supporters argue that Manning is a whistle blower who courageously released information showing a flawed and illegal U.S. foreign policy to enable the American public to pressure the government to change those policies.

“While the national LGBT advocacy organizations shamelessly shower President Obama with praise for allowing openly gay men and women to enlist in the military, their complete silence on the Manning case is indefensible,” Fornaci said in an Aug. 6, 2012 commentary in the Blade. “If Manning did in fact leak information to Wikileaks as he is accused, he has displayed enormous courage.”

Presenting a far different perspective on Manning was R. Clarke Cooper, former executive director of the national gay group Log Cabin Republicans. Cooper, a combat veteran of the Iraq War and current civilian intelligence officer in the Army Reserves, penned a Blade commentary in December 2011 calling Manning “a traitor to the United States of America.”

Responding to early reports, which have since been disputed — that Manning might seek to use his opposition to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a defense for leaking classified documents — Cooper called such a defense a “betrayal of all gay and lesbian service members past and present.”

He added, “Whatever his reasons or excuses, Bradley Manning does not deserve the sympathy of the LGBT community.”

Peter Rosenstein, a gay Democratic activist and supporter of the Obama administration, expressed a similar view opposing LGBT support for Manning.

“I don’t believe the fact that Manning is gay has anything to do with his case,” Rosenstein told the Blade. “What he did was wrong, maybe even treasonous. Making him a gay hero as they tried to do in San Francisco is absurd.”

Shortly after his 2010 arrest, the publicly viewable part of Manning’s Facebook profile listed the Washington Blade as among his ‘favorite’ pages along with several other LGBT-related websites, including the Human Rights Campaign, gay then U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and a site pushing for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The anti-gay Family Research Council cited reports of Manning’s backing of gay rights causes to support its strong opposition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.

D.C. gay blogger John Aravosis reported that no evidence was found to show Manning leaked classified information because he was upset over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or supported gay rights.

A national group called the Bradley Manning Support Network, whose members have corresponded with Manning and members of Manning’s family, has said Manning’s motive for releasing classified documents was a desire to correct what he believed to be a harmful U.S. foreign policy.


The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke



President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’



J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions



U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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