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Lawmakers planning ways to block Trump’s trans military ban

Senate could act on amendment to defense bill as soon as next week

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John McCain, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade, United States Senate, Republican Party, Arizona
John McCain, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is seen as key to an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Now that Congress has returned from August recess, lawmakers are in discussions about a legislative response to thwart President Trump’s ban on transgender military service, according to Capitol Hill sources and LGBT advocates who spoke to the Washington Blade on condition of anonymity.

Action could come in the U.S. Senate as soon as next week when the chamber begins debate on the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill, a major defense policy bill that could be a vehicle for overriding Trump’s directive to the Pentagon to ban transgender people from the armed forces.

As the Washington Post reported, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who championed efforts in 2010 for the legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” are planning an amendment to the defense authorization bill targeting the transgender ban. Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.) are crafting standalone legislation along the same lines.

The plan in the Senate could work despite Republican control. If Collins and the entire Democratic caucus support the measure, 11 more Republicans would be needed to obtain the 60-vote threshold to overcome a likely filibuster. Any number of the Republicans who objected to Trump’s transgender military ban — either the substance or the process — could be candidates, such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) or Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

But one LGBT advocate said even a vote that falls short of the 60-vote requirement would still be helpful from a political standpoint if at least a majority of senators were on the record in opposition to Trump’s transgender military policy.

“At a minimum, we want a majority of the Senate, or a supermajority of the Senate, to say they disagree with the president’s approach, they disagree with a ban on trans service, and so that’s the minimal we’re going to try to get, and if we can get a little more, that’s what we want,” the LGBT advocate said.

One lingering issue about the plan is the scope of the amendment. One option, a non-discrimination measure that would require the U.S. military to accept transgender troops, may not obtain as much support among lawmakers in a Republican-controlled Senate compared to an amendment that would more modestly roll back Trump’s directive.

The extent of the rollback would also be an issue. Overriding the portion of Trump’s policy barring funding for gender reassignment surgeries, for example, may not be palatable to Ernst, who said she opposed U.S. military funds for that treatment.

“When you look at some of the statements of the conservative Republicans like Joni Ernst, for example, she didn’t wholly endorse trans service and I don’t think they are ready to sort of say we’re going to tell the Pentagon to have trans service,” one LGBT advocate said. “Hopefully, we can get to a point where the Pentagon is sort of given a free hand to look at what is best from a military readiness standpoint.”

One Capitol Hill source said as of the end of this week a determination on content of the amendment hasn’t been made final, although the more modest proposal to reverse the Trump ban seems more likely as opposed to a military civil rights bill.

Neither Gillibrand nor Collins’ office responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on their plan for an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban.

Key to the success of the amendment and whether it will even be allowed for consideration is McCain, who as Senate Armed Services Committee chair will have considerable sway over whether an amendment on transgender military service will be permitted on the floor. Recently diagnosed with brain cancer, McCain may be ending his time in the Senate and working on his final authorization bill.

“We’re going back and forth in discussions with McCain staff and other Republicans to see what will be consistent with their statements when the ban was announced and be substantively helpful in keeping the ban from being fully implemented,” one LGBT advocate said.

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has authority on determining whether legislation will have amendments, he’d give McCain significant deference, the LGBT advocate said.

“If we have his support on an amendment, I think there’s a high likelihood it gets a vote regardless of what Mitch McConnell wants,” one LGBT advocate said.

McCain’s office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether he’d support — or at least favor allowing to come up — an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban.

Concurrent with a legislative process is litigation seeking to overturn Trump’s transgender military ban. In one of the lawsuits filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders, the legal team has sought a preliminary injunction, which could come down at any time and effectively lift Trump’s policy.

The impact of a preliminary injunction, one LGBT advocate said, could go either way on legislation, either taking “the wind of out of the sails” for that course or giving more space to lawmakers to vote against the policy after the judiciary repudiated it.

“Generally, I think it might be less helpful, but it’s hard to say, and we could see a preliminary injunction at any time, but there’s no guarantee we see one at all,” the advocate said.

Even if the Senate approved an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban as part of the defense authorization bill, many obstacles could prevent it from becoming law.

For starters, the provision could be stripped out in conference committee when House and Senate lawmakers agree to a final version of the defense bill. The House already approved its version of the legislation, which contains no provision on transgender service. (The House voted down an amendment proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) to bar funding in the U.S. military for transition-related care, including gender reassignment surgery).

If the amendment survives the entire process in Congress, Trump would then be in a position of having to sign a defense bill into law that includes a measure overriding his directive to ban transgender military service, which the president would likely not be keen to do.

One LGBT advocate said he wouldn’t sugar coat the difficulties in making an amendment against Trump’s transgender military ban a success because there’s no strategy for “a guaranteed win.”

“I do think House Republicans are going to be resistant to it,” the LGBT advocate said. “We don’t know what the final NDAA process is going to be. There are a lot of issues around the bill unrelated to any of our issues as far as what the DOD funding level is going to be. There are other issues around specific weapons. It is very possible that the final bill is going to need Democratic votes in the House, which will give us tremendous leverage at that point, but those are sort of unknowables at this point”

One Capitol Hill source was nonetheless optimistic about the potential to override Trump’s anti-trans directive through the legislative process — at least in the House — based on rejection of the Hartzler amendment.

“I think people recognize that this is a ridiculous overreach by the president that literally no one asked for,” the source said. “Even Vicky Hartzler, her floor amendment was on health care, and in committee she pulled the amendment that would have been an outright ban. Even Vicky Hartzler was not asking for this in her amendment. I would feel pretty good about how this would go if it comes back over to the House, but obviously I can’t speak to what the count is like in the Senate.”

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Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s

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(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’

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(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
 
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
 
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
 
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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Miscellaneous

Emma Corin becomes first nonbinary person featured on cover of American Vogue

The star of The Crown opened up about their identity.

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Emma Corrin Jamie Hawkesworth/Vogue

Emma Corin was announced as the cover star of the August edition of Vogue. It’s the first time a nonbinary person is featured on the cover of American Vogue.

Corin posted the cover photo and wrote, “My grin really says it all! A huge honour to be your August cover.”

In early 2021, Corin quietly came out as a queer and nonbinary, changing pronouns to “she/they” in their instagram bio. Currently Corin sticks to pronouns “they/them.”

“I feel much more seen when I’m referred to as ‘they,’ but my closest friends, they will call me ‘she,’ and I don’t mind, because I know they know me,” Corin explained during the interview with Vogue.

Corin stated that they’ve still gone on dates with various kinds of people and set no limit on who they date. “I like people,” they simply said and shrugged.

Corin also shared some of their dating experiences. “My first date with a girl, they were like, Oh! You’re a baby queer!” Corin said, “It was amazing. We actually didn’t end up seeing each other again, but she really gave me the lowdown.”

Besides, Corin was frank about their conflicting feelings towards gender and sexuality issues. “I’m working out all this complex gender and sexuality stuff. And yet, I’m seeing a guy? That feels very juxtaposed, even if I’m very happy.”

Corin is known for playing Diana on the Netflix series The Crown.

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