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Dems seek answers from Mattis on anti-trans military recommendations

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is among the Democrats seeking answers from Defense Secretary James Mattis over his anti-trans military recommendations. (Image courtesy of YouTube)

The top congressional Democrats on defense issues are seeking answers from Defense Secretary James Mattis on his recommendations to President Trump against allowing transgender people in the military, which seemed to be based on junk science and were used by the administration to reaffirm its ban on their service.

In a joint letter to Mattis dated April 11, the quartet of Democrats say they were “surprised and disappointed” by Mattis’ conclusions against transgender service, which the White House made public late last month in an announcement renewing Trump’s ban.

“In our view, these recommendations contradict previous findings from the Department of Defense and the professional medical community,” the letter says. “As the president has empowered you to implement appropriate policies governing service by transgender individuals, we feel it imperative that we explore the factual bases behind your recommendations.”

The letter is signed by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Both Speier and Gillibrand introduced bills in their respective chambers of Congress against Trump’s transgender military ban, but those measures also sought to codify Mattis’ review before it was completed.

“There are currently thousands of transgender individuals openly serving in the military with bravery and distinction,” the letter says. “There has been no indication that this has had an impact on overall readiness. All individuals who are willing and qualified should be able to volunteer to serve, regardless of their gender identity.”

The letter comes on the heels of objections to Mattis’ recommendations and Trump’s transgender ban from the American Medical Associations, which asserted the Pentagon “mischaracterized and rejected” medical research in its conclusions, as well as the American Psychological Association and two former U.S. surgeons general.

The conclusions Mattis reached are different from those during the Obama era under then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who declared transgender people should be able to serve in the U.S. military after his own year-long review. Trump would later reverse this action.

Observing Mattis made his recommendations after he convened a “panel of experts” on transgender military service, the lawmakers pose six questions to the Pentagon about this review process.

1. Who was on the Panel of Experts?
2. Who did the Panel consult with?
3. Did the Panel consult with the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association or American Medical Association or any other medical professionals with expertise in gender dysphoria?
4. In your view, what are the substantial risks associated with the accessions and retention of transgender persons? Can you please provide any examples that since June 30, 2016 these issues have arisen within the military and describe how the DOD or services handled these situations?
5. In your view, what are the specific issues that could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military? Can you please provide any examples that since June 30, 2016 these issues have arisen within the military and describe how the DOD or services handled these situations?
6. Were any government officials outside of DOD or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) involved in the Report or your Memorandum to the president? If so, who were these officials and what was the basis for their involvement?

Additionally, the letter requests “the specific medical and scientific data that supported the conclusions contained in your memorandum.”

The administration has made conflicting statements on whether or not officials outside the Pentagon influenced the panel of experts. The White House told the Washington Blade the Pentagon made the conclusions “without regard to any external factors,” but Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said “it was a coordinated effort with the White House as well as the Department of Justice.”

Sources have told the Blade the military joint chiefs weren’t briefed before the Trump went public with the reaffirmation of his ban last month. A Pentagon spokesperson nonetheless said their representatives had input on the process leading to the Mattis recommendation.

Despite Mattis’ recommendations and Trump’s reaffirming of his transgender ban, the courts have banned the administration from enforcing it as a result of litigation from LGBT legal groups filed after Trump first announced via Twitter in July he’d ban transgender people from the military “in any capacity.”

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Blade receipt of the letter from congressional Democrats, but had no immediate comment.

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Maryland

Protests interrupt Moms for Liberty meeting about removing books in Howard County schools

Guest speaker led book-removal campaign in Carroll County

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Gabriella Monroe holds a poster that says 'Ban Bigotry Not Books' outside Howard County’s Central Branch library in Columbia on Feb. 26, 2024 (Photo by Sam Mallon for the Baltimore Banner)

BY KRISTEN GRIFFITH | When a Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wanted to learn how to remove books from schools, they were met with a swarm of protesters sporting rainbow colors and signs looking to send the message that such actions are not welcome in their district.

The conservative parents’ group met Monday night at Howard’s Central Branch library in Columbia to brainstorm how they could get books they deemed inappropriate out of their children’s school libraries. Their guest speaker for the evening was Jessica Garland, who led a successful book-removal campaign in Carroll County. The Howard chapter wanted the playbook.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official pleads guilty to felony theft

Salvatore Seeley faces possible jail time, agrees to reimburse $176,000

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Salvatore “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official at the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Theft In Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling  funds from the organization for at least a two-and-a-half-year period, according to a Sussex County, Del., Superior Court indictment and a spokesperson for the Delaware Office of the Attorney General.

The spokesperson, Mat Marshall, sent the Blade a copy of the indictment, which he said was handed down against Seeley on Feb. 27 and which provides the only specific court information that the Washington Blade could immediately obtain.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to Camp Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate same,” the indictment states.

“I can further confirm that the Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of Theft in Excess of $50,000,” spokesperson Marshall told the Blade in an email message. “Mr. Seeley also agrees to make restitution of $176,199.78 to CAMP Rehoboth,” Marshall said. “He will be sentenced on April 5 and does face the possibility of prison time.”

Marshall declined to provide additional information on the findings of the law enforcement investigation into Seeley’s alleged theft. The restitution figure of $176,199.79 suggests investigators believe Seeley embezzled at least that amount from CAMP Rehoboth during the time he worked for the organization.

Seeley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment

CAMP Rehoboth describes itself as a nonprofit LGBTQ community service organization and the largest organization of its type “serving the needs of LGBTQ+ people in Rehoboth, greater Sussex County, and throughout the state of Delaware.” The statement adds that the organization “is dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth and its related communities.”

Kim Leisey, who began her job as executive director of CAMP Rehoboth in July of 2023, said it was her understanding that officials with the organization discovered funds were missing and opened an investigation in September of 2021, a short time before Seeley left the organization. Leisey said that at the time of his departure, Seeley served as CAMP Rehoboth’s director of health and wellness programs. 

At that time, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community director David Mariner was serving as CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director and reportedly took steps to open an investigation into missing funds. Wesley Combs, CAMP Rehoboth’s current board president, said Seeley resigned from his job around that time in 2021.

“I know that I took this job knowing there was a concern and a problem and an investigation,” Leisey told the Blade. “And I also know that the board of CAMP Rehoboth has done everything it needs to do to ensure that we were compliant, cooperative and that things are going really well here at CAMP Rehoboth.”

Leisey said CAMP Rehoboth currently has a staff of six full-time employees and several contract employees. She said the organization has a current annual budget of $1.4 million.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s

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Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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