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Trump fires all members of HIV/AIDS council without explanation

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Trump Pence, gay news, Washington Blade

President Trump has fired all members of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

With no explanation, the White House has terminated members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS amid widespread discontent with President Trump’s approach to the epidemic.

After six members of PACHA resigned in June, the White House on Wednesday terminated the remaining 16 members without explanation via a letter from FedEx.

Scott Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Legal, was one of the six who resigned in June over Trump’s inaction on HIV/AIDS and said on Twitter the remaining members were fired.

“No respect for their service,” Schoettes said. “Dangerous that #Trump and Co. (Pence esp.) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.”

Sources with knowledge of PACHA said many council members were fired even though additional time remained on their terms as advisers. The terminated members, sources said, were given the option to reapply after Tuesday.

Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the Riverside, Calif.,-based LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution, was a remaining member of PACHA and confirmed they were fired, but said the “explanation is still unclear.”

“I can only speculate,” Maldonado said. “Like any administration, they want their own people there. Many of us were Obama appointees. I was an Obama appointee and my term was continuing until 2018.”

Maldonado said “ideological and philosophical differences” with the administration are a potential reason for the terminations.

As an example, Maldonado cited a recent Washington Post report the Centers for Disease Control is banned from using words like “diversity” and “transgender” in budget documents. The CDC director has denied those words are banned.

“I was co-chair of the disparities committee, so much of my advocacy and policy references surrounded vulnerable populations, addressing issues of diverse communities, specifically looking at the impacts of the LGBT community, namely, the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS to people of color, gay men, transgender women,” Maldonado said. “And a lot of those key vulnerable populations are not being prioritized in this administration.”

Maldonado added he intends to publish an open letter to the community about his termination on Friday.

Also among the terminated members was Patrick Sullivan, a professor of epidemiology at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

“My reaction is that our focus should be on the policies that PACHA addresses,” Sullivan said. “These issues are critical to people’s health, and are critical to making new HIV infections rare. At PACHA’s last meeting in August, the Council urged the Administration to affirm the National HIV/AIDS Strategy through 2020. Doing this would be a great way for the administration to set the tone and lay out national roadmap of priorities for a new PACHA.”

Created in 1995, PACHA has provided advice starting in the Clinton administration and into the George W. Bush and Obama administrations on policy and research to promote effective treatment and prevention for HIV — maintaining the goal of finding a cure.

In September, Trump signed an executive order that renewed PACHA along with 31 other presidential bodies for an additional year.

Trump’s termination of council members isn’t the first time an administration cleaned house on PACHA. The Obama administration eliminated all of George W. Bush’s appointees before making new appointments.

Kaye Hayes, executive director of PACHA, affirmed the council members were terminated on Wednesday, but said there’s more to the story.

“They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort,” Hayes said. “Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during Administration changes. The Obama administration dismissed the George W. Bush administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices. All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018.”

Jim Driscoll, a gay Nevada-based HIV/AIDS activist who supported Trump in 2016, said replacement of PACHA members “is standard practice” for a new administration.

“Now they need to find bonafide community people with appropriate expertise and the ability to adapt to the changed political circumstances,” Driscoll said. “It is fully understandable why a president would not want people who oppose his policies and might be happy to see him impeached serving as his HIV advisors. That would serve the needs of neither the president nor of people living with HIV-AIDS.”

But Maldonado said the termination of PACHA members during the Trump administration is only partially consistent with the Obama years.

“It is common for appointees to be terminated and for folks to kind of want their own people in,” Maldonado said. “I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1? Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on nearly four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council.”

In June, six members of PACHA resigned their posts in protest over what they called inaction from Trump on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. An estimated 1.2 million people have HIV/AIDS in the United States and 37 million have the disease worldwide.

Chief among the reasons was the absence of leadership at the White House on HIV/AIDS. To date, the White House has yet to appoint a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, which was one of the reasons the six members of PACHA resigned in June.

Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal also sought massive cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, including $150 million on HIV/AIDS programs at the Centers for Disease Control and more than $1 billion in cuts from global programs like the PEPFAR Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria. The Republican-controlled Congress has thus far continued to fund these programs at previous levels.

Maldonado noted the PACHA terminations are taking place at the year’s end after the June resignations, which he said is “a little too coincidental.”

“The timing is a little bit unorthodox compared to what the Obama administration’s approach was,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado said he represented a younger demographic on PACHA as the only member under the age of 30, which he said is where the majority of new HIV infections are occurring, and as a young, black gay man.

“I just am coming to the acknowledgment that the traditional tactics of politicking and policy and strategy and negotiation, the kind of standard tools that we’re trying to use, that the status quo is no longer acceptable,” Maldonado said. “The tactics that we had are kind of obsolete, and now we need to craft new strategy to address the troubling and unsettling revelations, particularly around the silence and inaction that have taken place around HIV and AIDS.”

Since the resignations in June, Trump has made public statements on HIV/AIDS consisting of proclamations on National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day. Neither statement included an explicit mention of LGBT people, who have faced the brunt of the disease.

The White House deferred comment to the Department of Health & Human Services, which provided the statement from the PACHA executive director.

New appointments may be coming soon. The Blade reported in October gay Republicans familiar with HIV/AIDS issues and LGBT issues have been among those contacted by a Trump administration official for possible appointments to PACHA.

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59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. BobSF_94117

    December 29, 2017 at 8:38 am

    I don’t find any notice or news article about Obama summarily firing the entire membership of PACHA with no explanation, no notice, no new appointees announced. When a journalist makes a statement that Trump’s actions have precedent, the journalist is obligated to explain how and why, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Neil Baker

      December 29, 2017 at 8:51 am

      “It is common for appointees to be terminated and for folks to kind of want their own people in,” Maldonado said. “I think where the discrepancy comes in is why a year later, No. 1? Two, many of us, our terms were over earlier this year and we were sworn back in, and three were stayed on nearly four months after an executive order was signed continuing the council.”

      • Thisoldspouse

        December 29, 2017 at 6:14 pm

        Sounds like they should count their blessings, then.

    • Mark Hatchett

      December 29, 2017 at 9:36 am

      `You can’t expect an agenda driven “journalist” like Chris to be fair to President Trump.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:33 pm

        Trump is fair to no one but his special interest! If you don’t like what you read no one obligates you to troll here! Stick to your right-wing news sites that regurgitate the lies and BS your fake potus peddles!

      • Thisoldspouse

        December 29, 2017 at 6:13 pm

        It’s “rules for thee but not for me” with this bunch.

        • Mark Hatchett

          December 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm

          Everyone is entitled to an opinion however the Washington Blade should change its masthead to America’s LGBT Opinion Source. It’s way past time the B and T were dropped as well.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 7:37 pm

            How about dropping you instead since you do nothing for the community! The N for NAMLBA was dropped decades ago so why do you hang on?

            Further everything you say is opinion so who are you to whine? You hate the blade’s NEWS yet are glued to it and keep returning! What a joke you are!

    • Simon Dibley

      December 29, 2017 at 10:46 am

      “Gabriel Maldonado, CEO of the Riverside, Calif.,-based LGBT and HIV/AIDS group Truevolution, was a remaining member of PACHA and confirmed they were fired.”
      That’s the named source. Another un-named source was quoted. This is in addition to the tweet by Scott Schoettes. Chris Johnson also approached the White House for comment, but so far has not received any.

      Did you read this article?

      • BobSF_94117

        December 29, 2017 at 11:20 am

        I don’t know what you’re talking about (nor do you, it appears). Maldonado confirmed the firing of HIS OWN group, today, by Trump.

        I was looking for notice that OBAMA did anything similar or in a similar fashion, or with similar timing, and found nothing.

  2. obelus

    December 29, 2017 at 11:54 am

    It makes no sense to swear members back in upon expiration of their terms if you are cleaning house for patronage sake. This is likely more an attempt to gut the council’s effectiveness, and is entirely consistent with the Trump administration’s effort to dismantle government. In my opinion, this is further verification that Putin’s interest in our elections is entirely hostile, and Trump a malignancy on our nation.

    • Mendota2

      December 29, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      These people have different ideology from Trump administration. Can you explain what goals these people want to achieve other than collecting paychecks from taxpayers?

      If they have any decency, these Obama leftovers should have resigned long time ago.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        people don’t work for nothing! Most people need a paycheck! Meanwhile you have trump cronies wasting tax payer funds to take lavish plane trips they can pay for themselves yet you don’t want them fired because they push your agenda!

        • Mendota2

          December 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm

          That person was fired. These Obama leftovers should resign and find a new job in Dumbcrazy field to making a living. Stealing taxpayers money isn’t decent.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 6:21 pm

            Trump should resign! He’s toxic as his supporters are crazy!

      • obelus

        December 29, 2017 at 7:21 pm

        That is not how government agencies work. Let’s discuss now the People’s business as it takes precedent above all else. That means it comes before an officials party affiliation, their campaign funders, their own careerism or well being. It is the proverbial elephant in the room. There are a number of laws that specifically forbid government agency personnel from front running their own interests ahead of the People’s. Similarly, unless you are entirely self employed, your ability to front your own interests ahead of your bosses is curtailed or soon will be. We are not all entirely free agents in our dealings. Sometimes you are the agent for other interests and you have to serve them with fidelity. It is undermining for any organization with ongoing work to experience a sea change sweeping everyone out with each election. The effectiveness of organizations that serve the People’s interest is considered paramount to what an election outcome may be. Real world stuff still needs to get done in an orderly way —

      • icposse2k

        December 29, 2017 at 7:31 pm

        I can absolutely explain what goals they have. They want to reduce the spread of HIV and the development of AIDS through education and proven interventions such as condoms and needle exchange programs. These programs save lives, period. They want to expand pre-exposure prophylaxis and get people treated so that they don’t develop AIDS and we treat their infection through once-a-day pills rather than expensive hospital stays. It’s really not that complicated.

      • Allegra

        December 29, 2017 at 8:11 pm

        PACHA members are not paid–a fact you could have easily looked up. https://files.hiv.gov/s3fs-public/pacha-charter.pdf

        PACHA members receive travel allowances and per diem which are strictly controlled by the General Services Administration–but this is standard for ALL Federal Advisory Committees. That is not “collecting paychecks from taxpayers” or “stealing taxpayers’ money.” Federal Advisory Committee Members donate their time and expertise to help guide government policy in many critically important areas. You really should get your facts straight before you go mouthing off in public….

    • BigGaySteve

      December 29, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      Obama removing the HIV travel ban let in drug resistant AIDS from Africa last year. Hopefully Trump fills the positions with people who want less AIDS in the US. Maybe he will even get a Murse that says that, and will rattle the cages of those who jack up HIV drug prices from $13 a pill to over $700 a pill.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:53 pm

        We have a global pandemic because of the failures of the GOP. Reagan and social conservatives to act and show compassion during the onset of the disease because it was labeled a gay disease! Stop trying to distort history with revisionist lies to push your agenda!

        Worry instead about the size of your waistline and butt and maybe you won’t be “big”!

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      Oh, please. They’re a money-sucking bureaucracy set up to create an appearance of “caring,” nothing more. The money can be better spent elsewhere, like fighting breast cancer.

    • Zaidi

      December 29, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      The “counsil’s effectiveness” is measure by the Republican House’s support and funding of it!!!

  3. Pizza!

    December 29, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    “Gays For Trump” are the Trumpette section for anti-gay action.

  4. notyetagm

    December 29, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Best. President. For. LGBT. Ever!

    /s

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Only if you’ve been labotomized!

    • BigGaySteve

      December 29, 2017 at 5:48 pm

      If he reinstates the HIV travel ban & stops importing moslems at taxpayer expense to shoot up gay bars, he might be.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 5:57 pm

        The fake potus will NEVER be great only obese! Your Muslim hysteria tactics will never change that! He’s failed to prevent terrorism repeatedly since Las Vegas! He’s a fraud!

  5. Danny Douglas

    December 29, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    LORD help the USA, because you have allowed the most despicable man alive to attain the office of president. He may, or may not have performed this disservice, but the very fact of his statements and actions lead one to easily believe so. And from the sources, we can only believe it.

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      I thought that Scott Lively was the most despicable man alive.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 7:24 pm

        Thinking and you are an oxymoron and YES because I said so and I’m sure many would agree!

  6. wil9000

    December 29, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Terrifyingly enough, this may be one more attempt to make him “Reaganesque”. Reagan ignored the epidemic completely.

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      Lie. He did not ignore the epidemic completely. But that sounds so convenient for your agenda.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 7:01 pm

        You’re the liar trying to revise history! It’s you pushing the agenda!!

        Reagan ignored the epidemic encouraged by Christian conservatives pushing their anti-gay agenda! All Reagan did was unrealistically tell people to practice abstinence!

        • Thisoldspouse

          December 29, 2017 at 7:02 pm

          LOL! I’m a liar because you say so? What a maroon.

          From Wikipedia:
          President Reagan issued Executive Order 12601 creating the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic on June 24, 1987.[1] On June 26, he appointed Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, to chair the commission. Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force objected to the appointment of someone with no experience with the disease, but others praised Mayberry’s experience in both medical research and clinical services.

          • lnm3921

            December 29, 2017 at 7:14 pm

            The disease emerged on the community in 1982 so you’re telling me it took Reagan FIVE years to appoint a commission! That’s a failure in leadership after millions had been infected and many died!

            The only reason Reagan did that was that children in particular babies were being born with it! The lives of gay men did not matter to him and I defy you to show me something that proves he did this for them!

          • icposse2k

            December 29, 2017 at 7:34 pm

            1987. Do you know when Reagan took office? Do you have any idea how many Americans were dead of AIDS by 1987? No, of course you don’t. It was tens of thousands before Reagan even uttered the words HIV or AIDS.

          • obelus

            December 29, 2017 at 7:50 pm

            As you pursue you little Wikipedia scholarship, please be aware that there may be people on this thread who knew people that died while the Reagan administration carefully steered their inaction into a corner where it could do no good. We will patiently wait for you to acquaint yourself with meatier research and come up with a cogent point. We have time.

          • Count Dracula

            December 29, 2017 at 10:01 pm

            Actually your AIDS will probably kill you soon…so you don’t have time.

  7. Thomas Cassel

    December 29, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Not since Reagan’s days has HIV been this political. HIV doesn’t know political party. It doesn’t know sexual orientation.

    This is about bringing new transmissions down to zero and curing those who have it. Anything short of that increases long term health care costs for everyone. That is what everyone doesn’t realize.

  8. Terje Anderson

    December 29, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    It is not “standard practice” to prematurely terminate members’ terms on these councils — I was a member of President Clinton’s PACHA and I continued to serve out the remember of my appointment for the first year+ of the George W Bush administration.

  9. Gaius Octavius

    December 29, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Without explanation? Seriously? What rock have you been hiding under these past 12 + months, Mr. Johnson? This is what Trump promised to do; whether you like it or not he is keeping his word to “drain the swamp”.

    …and yes, this useless committee is part of the muddy, stinking swamp that needs to be drained.

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      Trump is the creature from the black lagoon and only fills the swamp! You’re distortions can’t change the reality people see and hear themselves from your fake potus and his evil administration!

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      Drain the Swamp? Woo-Hoo! I’d say it’s getting drained! Walsh, Bharara, Yates, Flynn, Comey, Shaub, Dubke, Spicer, Priebus, Scaramucci, Bannon, Gorka, Price, and Manigault.

      Who’s next? Drain that Swamp, baby!

  10. Helen Wallace

    December 29, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Donald Trump is a great man like King Cyrus of the Torah who will be used as God’s instrument to lead the nation back to him and punish the sodomites with death

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      La Honnie soit qui mal y Pense! Sanctimonious s”trump”ette!

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      Well, your god certainly has punished a lot of babies with death. Like, the millions, perhaps billions, he drowned in Genesis. Or the forty-two he had mauled to death by two she-bears in 2 Kings. Or (and this is soooo special to you Christians), the time he threatened to kill a baby in 2 Samuel…first he made it sick after it was born, then he tortured it for seven days…then he killed it.

      I’d say your god has a lot for which to answer, HW. And according to our secular laws, he should be locked up and the key thrown away.

    • icposse2k

      December 29, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

  11. Chaim Green

    December 29, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    The president have a right and obligation to his supporters to purge the goverment of all employees who effectively are commiting treason by working against the presidents agenda

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      Right On, bro! Can’t wait to watch Eric and Donnie, Jr. do the perp walk. Yay! Go, President Moron!

  12. Frank Roper

    December 29, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    The president is doing what should of been did 30 years ago, let natural law extingish the homosexuals and the aids virys

    • sTv0

      December 29, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      “should of” ≠ “should have”. Go to the back.

    • icposse2k

      December 29, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      Learn to spell virus and maybe someone will listen to you, ignorant thought you are.

  13. Rick Boxer

    December 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    I’m just going to “guess” that, since Trump is certainly no friend to the LGBTQ community, that this mass firing is simply another one of his ways to hit back at Obama, anything or anyone else who gets in the way of THAT agenda be damned. Lastly, I eagerly await the day Mueller can develop enough investigative material to force the impeachment of Trump.

    • Thisoldspouse

      December 29, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Were Obama’s mass firings his way to “hit back” at GW Bush?

      Don’t be consistent or anything like that.

      • lnm3921

        December 29, 2017 at 7:33 pm

        Obama was open to hiring people from both parties!

      • icposse2k

        December 29, 2017 at 10:38 pm

        Obama’s firings were to replace people who thought ‘abstinence only’ was a realistic method for controlling the spreading HIV/AIDS epidemic. He replaced them with people who supported interventions that actually work, like condoms, needle exchange programs, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), etc. In other words people who evaluate interventions based on scientific evidence (can I say that in the CDC now?) as opposed to ideology.

  14. Thisoldspouse

    December 29, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Isn’t it strange that on the whole homosexuals were never healthier than when their behavior was universally condemned by society?

    • lnm3921

      December 29, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Are you homosexual? Frank roper’s comment is typical of what can be expected from social conservatives in regards to gay men! A reason why the community cannot trust them and never support them!

  15. sapience

    December 29, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    If Pence has any input don’t be surprised if these positions remain vacant or this council completely disappears.

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World

Jamaica man attacked after using gay dating app

Victim’s penis partially severed before he was set on fire

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A Jamaican and Pride flag fly on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Oct. 15, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson's Facebook page)

An 18-year-old man in Jamaica remains hospitalized in critical condition after he was targeted on a gay dating app.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports the victim on Oct. 11 went to a neighborhood in Montego Bay, a resort city that is the capital of Jamaica’s St. James Parish, to meet the man with whom he was speaking.

The newspaper reports the man and two other men abducted the victim, robbed him and partially severed his penis before they set him on fire. Officials said the three men took his cell phone and used his bank card to withdraw money from his account.

“He is a very lucky young man because although they left him in a critical condition, he managed to make his way to a security checkpoint in the community where they assisted him to the hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition,” a local police officer told the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported a 43-year-old man in St. James Parish disappeared in January 2020 after he went to meet someone with whom he had spoken on a gay dating website. Authorities later found the man’s body, and two men have been charged with his murder.

Violence against LGBTQ Jamaicans remains commonplace. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in the country.

J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBTQ rights group, has condemned the latest attack.

“Like all well-thinking Jamaicans at this time, JFLAG is outraged at the recent attack on an 18-year-old man in St. James,” tweeted J-FLAG on Sunday. “His attackers must be brought to justice.”

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National

Colin Powell, leaving mixed legacy on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ dies at 84

Key figure once opposed gays in military, then backed review

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gay news, Washington Blade, Colin Powell, gay marriage
Colin Powell leaves behind a mixed legacy on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Colin Powell, the first ever Black secretary of state who served in top diplomatic and military roles in U.S. administrations, died Monday of coronavirus at age 84, leaving behind a mixed record on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The world continues to grapple with the pandemic and the public grows increasingly frustrated with its persistence as many remain unvaccinated despite the wide availability of vaccines. Powell was fully vaccinated, according to a statement released upon his death. Powell reportedly suffered from multiple myeloma, a condition that hampers an individual’s ability to combat blood infections.

Rising to the top of the military as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell supported in 1993 Congress moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that barred openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

During a key moment congressional testimony, Powell and other top military officials were asked whether or not allowing gay people in the military would be compatible with military readiness. Each official, including Powell,” responded “incompatible.” Congress would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that year.

Things changed when President Obama took office 15 years later and advocates for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were eager to claim Powell’s voice among their ranks. After all, Powell was highly respected as a bipartisan voice after having served as secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush and endorsing Obama in the 2008 election.

After the Obama administration in 2010 announced it would conduct a review of the idea of allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, Powell came out in support of that process. Advocates of repeal called that a declaration of reversal, although the statement fell short of a full support for gay people serving openly in the military.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office, adding, “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

Congress acted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the policy was lifted in 2011. At the time, Powell was widely considered a supporter of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and publicly counted among supporters of repeal, although the Blade couldn’t immediately find any statements from him to that effect.

In 2012, Powell had similar vaguely supportive words on same-sex marriage, saying he had “no problem with it” when asked about the issue.

“As I’ve thought about gay marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay but are in partnerships with loved ones, and they are as stable a family as my family is, and they raise children,” Powell said. “And so I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married.”

The Blade also couldn’t immediately find any statement from Powell on transgender people serving in the military. After the Obama administration in 2016 lifted decades-old regulations against transgender service, former President Trump issued a ban by tweet the following year. President Biden reversed that ban and allowed transgender people to serve and enlist in the military in his first year in office.

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World

Botswana attorney general seeks to recriminalize homosexuality

High Court heard case on Oct. 12

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(Public domain photo)

GABORONE, Botswana — On June 11, 2019, Botswana moved toward being a state that no longer held some of its citizens (and, by extension, visitors) as criminals if they identified within the LGBTQ spectrum. However, the government didn’t take too long before it declared its intention to appeal the High Court judgment that asserted that consensual same-sex sexual activity in private was not to be a criminal act.

The appeal hearing took place on Oct. 12.

There are some key things to understand about what the High Court did for people in Botswana. The judgment, written and delivered by Justice Leburu, not only put a clear delineation between the state’s powers to intrude in people’s private sexual lives, but it also stated that laws that served no purpose in the governance of the people they oversaw were most likely worthy of “a museum peg” more than being active laws of the land.

In the hearing on Oct. 9, a full bench of five judges of the Court of Appeal was treated to the government’s case—as presented by advocate Sydney Pilane of the Attorney General’s Chambers—along with hearing the rebuttals from the legal counsel representing Letsweletse Motshidiemang, who brought the original case against the government, and LEGABIBO, an NGO admitted as amicus curiae, a friend of the court. The appeal, two years in the making, would have been expected to be based on facts rather than opinions of what could and could not be accepted by hypothetical Batswana. Pilane even went so far as to contest that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s utterances about how people in same-sex relationships were “suffering in silence” were taken out of context as he was talking about gender-based violence and not endorsing their relationships.

The 2019 ruling of the High Court, the most supreme court of incidence in the country, not only declared people who were or had interest in engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity not criminals, but it also allowed non-queer people to engage in sex acts that would otherwise be considered “against the order of nature” freely. The latter clause had often been interpreted as being solely about non-heterosexuals but on greater interrogation one realizes that any sex act that doesn’t result in the creation of a child was considered against this ‘order of nature’ and that nullified much of heterosexual sexual exploration—further painting these clauses as out of touch with contemporary Botswana as Leburu expressed.

In some of his appeal arguments, Pilane stated that Batswana “do not have a problem with gay people”, yet he based his contention on the fact that Batswana “respect the courts’ decisions;” as such they would not take up arms at the court’s decision to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Pilane maintained that the decision to decriminalize should be left to the Parliament on the recommendation of the courts. The bench was swift to query whether a body of politicians elected by a majority would be the best representatives of a minority that was oppressed by laws that the very politicians benefitted from.

Botswana’s legal system allows for the High Court ruling to remain the law of the land until such a point as it’s struck down. The Court of Appeal ruling in favor of Batswana’s sexual liberties will be a nail in the proverbial coffin of residual colonial sex-related laws plaguing Botswana. This will not be the end by any means though. Where the attorney general can form a case stating that decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations could be likened to people locking themselves in their houses with animals and having their way with them, we know that mindset changes need to be prioritized to ensure that all Batswana understand their constitutionally protected rights to privacy, expression, and freedom of association as relates to their personal and sexual lives.

The 2010 Employment Act of Botswana already protects people from being discriminated against based on their sex or gender identity. The nation’s sexual violence laws were made gender neutral, thus covering non-consensual sex (rape) in all its possibilities. In upholding the ruling of the High Court, the Court of Appeal will allow the LGBTQ and SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics) movements in Botswana some respite as attention is then channeled toward other pressing matters such as name changes, access to healthcare, and other culturally pertinent issues.

The Court of Appeal is expected to hand down a judgement following their deliberations in 4-6 weeks (mid to late November), however, this remains at their discretion. As it stands, since the High Court ruling in 2019, Botswana has experienced increased social accommodation for LGBTQ matters and figures—however, this is not to say there have not been any negative instances. With the continued sensitization, the expectation is that the courts, the government and NGO players will all contribute to a broad, national, culturing of LGBTQ rights in Botswana devoid of colonial residues.

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