TOP 10: Gays began serving openly in U.S. military

DADT

KISSING DADT GOODBYE | Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, kisses her girlfriend, Citlalic Snell, at a Navy base in Virginia Beach, Va., on Dec. 22. According to Navy tradition, one lucky sailor is chosen to be first off the ship for the long-awaited kiss with a loved one. This time, for the first time, the happily reunited couple was gay. (Associated Press)

No 1:

Legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” passed Congress last year and was signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 22, 2010.

But 2011 was the year of implementation.

While other countries that changed policies about gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces recommended a quick implementation, the U.S. chose a slow, methodical approach.

Before repeal went into effect, the defense secretary, chairman of the joint chiefs and president had to certify that the military was ready for implementation.

Among the delays in implementing the repeal was to give the Pentagon time to change regulations and benefits, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Next, training materials had to be prepared and, finally, 2.2 million troops had to be trained. In February, the military announced some of its plans.

The idea of building separate bathroom facilities was rejected and personnel wouldn’t be given the option of refusing to serve with gays and lesbians.

The Navy announced its training schedule to be complete by June 30.

Support for the repeal grew and came from some surprising sources.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld even announced: “We know that gays and lesbians have been serving in the military for decades with honorable service. We know that [repeal] is an idea whose time has
come.”

As implementation progressed, conservative members of Congress continued to try to derail it. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have required all four service chiefs to certify that DADT repeal wouldn’t hurt the military’s readiness.

Another amendment by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss, would require the military to “accommodate” servicemembers who believe that “homosexual or bisexual conduct is immoral and/or an inappropriate expression of human sexuality.”

The Navy previously announced that it would allow same-sex weddings on bases in states where it’s legal.

In May, it reversed course saying that the Defense of Marriage Act precluded it from allowing chaplains to perform marriages for gay and lesbian servicemembers on base.

As certification approached, the Pentagon made it clear that same-sex spouses of military personnel would not be recognized and would receive none of the benefits opposite-sex spouses receive.

On July 22, Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certified that the U.S. military was ready for DADT repeal.

Repeal would be final 60 days from certification.

On Sept. 20 gays and lesbians could serve openly, if not equally, in the military. Members of the military began coming out without fear of expulsion, but those who had same-sex spouses were still not given 40 benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy.

Those benefits include healthcare for the spouse and housing allowances that can be substantial.

Even if the couple has children, the spouse cannot be issued an identification card to get on base with the military member’s child for healthcare and cannot access the base attorney to write wills and other papers normally drawn up before an overseas deployment.

Servicemembers dismissed under DADT began to consider re-enlisting.

Cully Johnson, an owner of Dallas Eagle, said at a Sept. 20 DADT repeal celebration that he would like to return to complete his military career.

Although gays and lesbians can now serve without fear of dismissal or rebuke, the ban on transgenders serving remains in effect.

More than 14,000 men and women were discharged under DADT during its 18-year existence with some estimates of the cost to taxpayers running as high as $700 million.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Ready for the fight

Baldwin says she doesn’t believe anti-gay attacks against her in her U.S. Senate bid would work with Wisconsin voters

 

Baldwin.Polis
Openly gay members of Congress Rep. Tammy Baldwin, center, and Rep. Jared Polis, right, answer questions from Jonathan Capehart, left, at the International Gay Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco in December 2009. Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, has announced she is seeking the seat in the U.S. Senate left vacant by the retirement of Democratic Sen. Herbert Kohl. If she wins the election, Baldwin will become the first openly LGBT person in the U.S. Senate. (Russel A. Daniels/Associated Press)

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin said last week that her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Wisconsin “will not be about me,” but she’s “prepared to respond to any number of likely attacks in this political age,” including ones based on her sexual orientation.

Baldwin, one of only four openly gay members of the U.S. House, announced Sept. 6 that she will seek the Democratic nomination to replace Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat who announced in May that he would not seek re-election in 2012.

Although Baldwin is not the first openly gay person to run for a U.S. Senate seat, her campaign has ignited considerable enthusiasm in the LGBT political community.

Chuck Wolfe, head of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports openly gay candidates for elective office, said in a telephone conference call with LGBT media Sept. 7 that the Victory Fund “believes this will be an important race for our community.”
He predicted the community would “rally around” Baldwin, whom he called a “stellar” representative of the community.

Baldwin, who participated in that call and took questions from the media, said she expects the campaign to be “hotly, hotly contested,” as are all Senate races in recent years.

The partisan balance has been closely divided for years. Democrats currently have 51 seats plus 2 Independents who caucus with them; Republicans have 47.

It takes a majority of 60 to break a filibuster staged by a minority party, and the Republican Party has made the filibuster an almost routine maneuver since 2008, in hopes of thwarting a second term for Democratic President Barack Obama.

Following Obama’s election in 2008, Democrats and Independents held 60 seats.

Baldwin said her first challenge will be to introduce herself to parts of Wisconsin outside her district of Madison, the state capital.

She said current polling suggests between 52 percent and 55 percent of voters in the state recognize her name. And given the potential for a hotly contested Senate race to include an anti-gay attack, said Baldwin, she’s eager to introduce herself to voters around the state before an attacker does.

Baldwin doesn’t necessarily believe an anti-gay attack will be particularly effective in Wisconsin. She noted that the western part of the state has also elected an openly gay member of Congress before: U.S. Rep. Steve Gunderson.

Gunderson ran for re-election twice after he was outed in 1991.

Baldwin noted that she has been openly gay “all my adult life” and she thinks the voters of Wisconsin “appreciate values of honesty and integrity.

“And I have a lifetime commitment to equality for all,” said Baldwin.

But “this campaign,” Baldwin added, “will not be about me. It will be about the middle class, the threats they’re facing, and which candidate is the best fighter for them.”

Meanwhile, two state representatives in Wisconsin announced Sept. 7 that they will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Baldwin’s seat.

One is openly gay Rep. Mark Pocan, who filled in Baldwin’s state assembly seat when she was elected to Congress.

The other is State Rep. Kelda Roys, the youngest member of the Wisconsin assembly and former head of the Wisconsin chapter of NARAL.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Congress raises debt ceiling, avoids default

But agreement on spending cuts without more revenue splits Dems, worries LGBT and AIDS groups

Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

lisakeen@mac.com

The U.S. Senate gave final Congressional approval Tuesday, Aug. 2, to a bill raising the nation’s current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by $2 trillion. But the bill also calls for $2 trillion in federal spending cuts, that worries LGBT and AIDS organizations concerned about the survival of safety nets and programs of specific interest to the LGBT community.

“When I hear these numbers, I worry what it will mean for the social services safety net all over the nation, including LGBT organizations that are serving the most needy in our community,” said Lorri Jean, executive director of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the largest LGBT community center in the country.

“And when I hear talk of striking a deal that includes no new taxes, at a time when taxes are already at their lowest, it seems clear that poor and vulnerable Americans of all sexual orientations and gender identities are being sacrificed,” Jean said.

That has been the reaction of many to the debt ceiling agreement this week, including two of the four openly gay members of Congress.

The final agreement, called the Budget Control Act of 2011, raises the nation’s debt ceiling enough to enable the government to borrow the money it needs to pay its obligations through 2012. But it also requires the government to cut its deficit by that same amount — $2.1 trillion — over the next 10 years.

The legislation also places caps on discretionary spending and allows “adjustments” to those caps only for “emergency appropriations, appropriations for the global war on terrorism and appropriations for major disasters.”

Funding to fight bullying in schools, to prosecute hate-motivated crimes or to increase research to fight breast cancer or AIDS would not seem to fall in the categories allowing for adjustments.

The legislation does not specify where the cuts are to occur but rather sets up a special 12-member bipartisan joint Congressional committee to propose them. If that committee fails to identify cuts of at least $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23, then a “trigger” kicks in and across-the-board cuts are made in all programs to the tune of $1.5 trillion.

Various political analysts say the legislation is addressing the immediate, urgent need to fund the government. The debt ceiling issue has been an urgent focus of Congress and the White House for the past several weeks, with a looming threat that the government might not be able to send out checks to Social Security recipients, military personnel and creditors.

“Our country was literally on the verge of a disaster,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday, just before the Senate voted 74 to 26 on the measure.

The president signed the measure into law within hours.

But many political analysts this week were also saying the agreement’s proposed cuts in spending could stall economic recovery from the three-year-old recession. Among other things, the cuts will likely mean no efforts to relieve the 9.2 percent unemployment rate and it will mean reduced federal funding to already-strapped state and local budgets.

Although treated as a routine procedure by previous administrations — including that of Republican President George W. Bush — raising the ceiling on how much the nation can borrow to pay for its expenses became a volatile political struggle for Democratic President Barack Obama.

Republicans have largely pushed for cuts in spending, while Democrats have largely pushed for increasing revenues. Most analysts say the agreement — which identifies no increased revenues — is largely a political victory for Tea Party Republicans whose mantra is “Taxed Enough Already.”

Sen. Reid criticized Tea Party members, saying their insistence on no new taxes — also referred to as revenues — was “disconcerting.”

“The richest of the rich have contributed nothing to this,” said Reid. “The burden of what has taken place is on the middle class and the poor.”

Even the four openly gay members of the House were split on the agreement this week. Veteran Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., voted no, and newcomer Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., voted yes.

Baldwin issued a statement saying the bill amounts to playing “political games” that “threaten to set back our fragile economic recovery.” While the bill needs to lower the deficit, said Baldwin, it also needs to create jobs and protect the middle class “through shared sacrifice.”

Frank said he opposed the bill primarily because it did not include cuts in war spending. As for harm to funding for LGBT-related concerns, Frank said funding to enforce hate crimes and bullying programs is relatively small and unlikely to be affected, but he said cuts would hurt funding for bigger expenditures, such as research to fight breast cancer.

Cicilline issued a statement following his vote for the agreement, saying he did so “to prevent a first-ever default on our nation’s obligations, and to avoid the very real potential of an economic catastrophe.”
“To be clear,” added Cicilline, “there’s a lot about this bill I don’t like, but my prerequisite for voting in favor of this bill was that we avoid a default and we protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, which this bill does.

“There’s no question that the single biggest job killer for our country would have been a default,” said Cicilline. “In the coming months Congress must build off of this compromise legislation to pursue a balanced approach to reduce our nation’s debt and redouble our focus on putting people back to work.”

AIDS United, a coalition of hundreds of local groups working to help people with HIV and AIDS, says the agreement is not a balanced approach and does “little to remove the cloud of potential, devastating funding cuts to non-defense domestic programs, including HIV-related programs, funding to implement health care reform, and low-income safety net programs.”

AIDS United said it fears programs for people with HIV “could be affected adversely by the harsh spending caps in FY 2012 and following years.”

And groups serving LGBT youth are worried, too.

Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLESN), said she thinks it’s too early to know the specific impact.

But “there is no doubt,” she said, “that the hard spending caps created by the agreement will have a serious impact on K-12 education and youth services, effecting all LGBT youth in this country.

“Advocates for youth, LGBT and otherwise, will need to be extremely vigilant about the emerging details of the initial cuts and the further reductions to spending to be recommended by the Congressional panel,” said Byard. “As a member of the National Collaboration for Youth, the America’s Promise Alliance, and the Whole Child Initiative of ASCD, GLSEN will continue to advocate for LGBT youth in the context of protecting the interests of all children in on-going budget debates.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the national gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans, credited Republican leaders with setting “a clear goal” and refusing to give President Obama “a blank check” for spending.

But he added, “Nobody should believe that this is more than a stopgap measure.”

“The culture of spending in Washington must fundamentally change going forward,” said Cooper. “This is only the first step in a course that will dramatically alter how our government approaches the budget and will provide fiscal stability for Wall Street and Main Street.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force warned last year that deficit reduction measures would almost certainly mean “key safety-net programs [would] be caught in the political crossfire….”

The Human Rights Campaign had no comment on the debt ceiling bill by deadline.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

White House calls for coordinated anti-bullying efforts

Anti-bullying bills introduced in Congress in conjunction with White House conference

DANA RUDOLPH  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The White House held a high-visibility conference on bullying prevention Thursday, March 10, with the president and first lady calling on parents, teachers, students, and communities to address the problem together.

Members of Congress also this week introduced several LGBT-inclusive bills designed to address bullying and harassment of students.

In his opening remarks, President Obama said the one overarching goal of the conference was “to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.” Instead, he said, “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people.”

The president also noted that bullying is “more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have or sexual orientation.”

Attending the event were senior administration officials and approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, advocates and others, including gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, representatives from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Trevor Project.

“No school can be a great school until it is first a safe school,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius asserted, “Bullying is not an education problem or a health problem — it is a community problem.”

Breakout sessions led by other administration officials discussed school policies and programs, campus and community programs, and cyber-bullying. Although there were no sessions or speeches specific to anti-LGBT bullying, the need to address it came up numerous times in breakout sessions and speeches.

Kevin Jennings, the openly gay assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the Department of Education — and the founder of GLSEN — said in a call with reporters that bullying has reached a “tipping point” where it “is no longer tolerable.”

What pushed it to that point, he said, was the media attention surrounding a string of five suicides last fall related to anti-LGBT bullying.

The event also served to launch the Web site StopBullying.gov, which consolidates federal anti-bullying resources for students, parents, educators, and others. On the homepage is a prominent rainbow-colored box titled “LGBT Bullying,” which links to LGBT-specific information and resources.

The conference also highlighted several private, national campaigns to address bullying, including ones from the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National PTA.

MTV said it would launch a new coalition — of which the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation will be part — to fight bullying and intolerance online.

And Facebook said it would soon enhance the anti-bullying resources in its online Safety Center. It will also create a “Social Reporting” system so that, when people report content that violates Facebook policies, harassing content can be removed quickly, and parents or teachers can be notified.

Already, the administration has taken several steps to address bullying:

The Departments of Education, Justice, HHS, Agriculture, Defense and the Interior formed a federal task force on bullying in 2009, and convened the first-ever National Summit on Bullying in August 2010.

• The Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools awarded $38.8 million in grants to 11 states last October as part of a new Safe and Supportive Schools program. The program requires states to survey students, family and staff about school safety issues, including bullying, and direct grant money where there is the greatest need.

• The Department of Education issued guidance to all school officials last  October, reminding them that federal law requires schools to take action against bullying — including gender-based and sexual harassment of LGBT students.

• The Department of Education issued a memo to all chief state school officers last December providing examples of effective state anti-bullying laws as a reference for developing or revising their own.

• HHS launched a Stop Bullying Now! campaign for students 5 to 18 years old, with tool kits to help youth mentor younger children about bullying prevention.

Legislation

Members of Congress also announced several pieces of anti-bullying legislation this week.

Sens. Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.,  reintroduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act on Tuesday, March 8, which would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to implement anti-bullying programs and to report data on incidents of bullying and harassment, including bullying done through electronic communication.

The programs must specifically include bullying and harassment based on the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of students and those with whom they associate, among other attributes.

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Calif., said she will soon introduce a House version of the bill, as she did last session.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J.,  on Thursday March 10 reintroduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, which establishes similar anti-bullying requirements for colleges and universities receiving federal student aid.

The bill is named after a gay Rutgers University student who committed suicide last September after two other students videotaped him in an intimate encounter with another man and broadcast the video online.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduce the Student Non-Discrimination Act on Thursday, which states that elementary and secondary schools must not discriminate against students on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in any program or activity receiving federal funds, or risk losing those funds.

“Discrimination,” under SNDA, includes harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Kevin Thomas

Palin says rhetoric not to blame for Arizona shootings, but recent history suggests otherwise

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, left, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

Within hours of the Saturday, Jan. 8, shooting spree in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and 14 — including the gunman’s apparent primary target, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — wounded, a nationwide discussion — perhaps “argument” is a better word — had begun over the role that extreme political rhetoric had played in the massacre. And one of the first names to pop up in that discussion was that of Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and former vice presidential candidate turned rightwing political pundit and reality TV star.

Giffords was one of the Democratic members of Congress who, in a campaign flyer posted on Palin’s website, had been “targeted” for defeat by Republicans in last November’s elections. The flyer included a graphic of a map with the “targeted’ districts marked by gunsights. That flyer along with Palin’s “don’t retreat, reload” comment, along with Nevada rightwinger Sharon Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” comment, have gotten a lot of play in the days since the shootings.

Palin’s people took the flyer off the website within hours of the shooting, but it wasn’t until today that Palin herself spoke up, releasing a video in which she declares that political rhetoric had nothing to do with the shootings in Arizona  and decrying the “irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame” for the massacre to her and other rightwing pundits. The responsibility, Palin declared, lies solely with the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner.

Since we don’t know yet — and really may never know — what prompted this young man to open fire at Giffords and the others on Saturday, I find myself agreeing with Palin, at least a little. Let’s get our facts straight, so to speak, before we start laying blame.

—  admin

Task Force: GOP majority in House doesn’t necessarily mean ‘blockade on LGBT rights’

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, issued the following statement tonight on the shift in the balance of power in Congress:

“We’ll cut to the chase: The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress. Does this mean a blockade on LGBT rights? Not if we can help it. Fact is, our community has always had to fight — and fight hard — for equality. This is nothing new to us. But here’s another fact: There are Americans, from every part of the country, from every background, from every political leaning and of every faith, who support equality for LGBT people — and those numbers grow bigger every day.

“No matter what the political breakdown is in Washington, the Task Force will continue to identify and work with all fair-minded members of Congress who are willing to support and defend equality for LGBT people. Through our New Beginning Initiative, we will continue to push for the administration and its agencies to make tangible changes that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families — changes that can be done without Congress. We will continue working with local partners in communities across the country to secure equality. Bottom line: While political winds and players may shift, the fundamental needs of the people do not. No matter who is in office, people need jobs, protection from discrimination, a roof over their heads, a way to feed their families, a fair shake. No one should settle for less — we won’t.”

—  John Wright