President Joe Biden has issued a statement honoring LGBTQ military service members on the 10th anniversary of the repeal of the anti-LGBTQ policy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Continue reading “Biden Honors LGBTQ Military On 10th Anniversary of DADT Repeal”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued new guidance on Thursday regarding flag displays on military installations effectively banning the display of Confederate flags without actually using the word ‘Confederate.’
In the unclassified memo, Esper writes, “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”
Esper’s memo goes on to list the specific kinds of flags that will be allowed to be displayed in addition to the American flag: flags of the U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia; military flags and those of U.S. allies.
The new guidance applies to “public displays or depictions of flags by service members and civilian employees in all Department of Defense workplaces, common access areas, and public areas.” Those spaces include open-bay barracks, parking lots, schools, individual offices, and break rooms.
According to reports, the new rules are meant to be an indirect approach to banning Confederate flags without raising the ire of Donald Trump, who has made appeasing racist groups a part of his reelection campaign.
However, the new flag guidance also effectively prohibits the display of LGBTQ Pride flags since they aren’t listed among the approved list of flags.
Pentagon spokesman Lisa Lawrence confirmed this on Friday in an official statement: “The memorandum does not authorize public display of unlisted flags in the Department of Defense.”
While many political pundits say the point of the new guidance is to address Confederate flags, it’s well-known that displaying rainbow flags in military settings has irked some anti-LGBTQ conservatives. So, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the prohibition of Pride flags isn’t intentional on some level.
The Modern Military Association of America, the largest LGBTQ military and veteran advocacy group organization in the U.S. responded to the news by demanding Esper reconsider the effects of his vague language.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that Defense Secretary Mark Esper would ban the Pride flag — the very symbol of inclusion and diversity,” wrote MMAA Interim Executive Director Jennifer Dane on the group’s official website. “In what universe is it ok to turn an opportunity to ban a racist symbol like the Confederate flag into an opportunity to ban the symbol of diversity? This decision sends an alarming message to LGBTQ service members, their families, and future recruits.”
“The Pentagon must immediately reconsider and take swift and appropriate action to ensure the Pride flag and LGBTQ Pride Month observances are not threatened. If Secretary Esper refuses to reconsider, we call on Members of Congress to take action.”
The anti-Trump group VoteVets also denounced the idea of equating the Confederate flag with the Pride flag in a statement on Twitter.
“It is patently offensive that Mark Esper has, along with the Confederate flag, declared the Pride flag to be ‘divisive,’” Goodwin said. “The Pride flag celebrates the hard-fought rights of LGBTQ Americans, including many troops. To equate it with a symbol that represented a denial of human rights is disgusting and a slap in the face of those members of the community who serve, or seek to serve, in uniform.”
To equate the Pride flag with a symbol that represented a denial of human rights is disgusting and a slap in the face of those members of the community who serve, or seek to serve, in uniform. (2/2)
— VoteVets (@votevets) July 17, 2020
In August 2017, out musician Wrabel released his powerful music video for “The Village” as a sign of solidarity with the transgender community in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s ‘out of nowhere’ decision to ban trans military service members.
Beginning with this quote, “In nature, a flock will attack any bird that is more colorful than the others because being different is seen as a threat,” the video follows a young transgender man’s journey into self-acceptance.
Wrabel sent this message to the LGBTQ community via social media over the weekend:
“To anyone that feels like an outsider, the problem isn’t you, it’s the village. I don’t know how else to raise my voice than in a song. And so, I wrote a song for you. #transrightsarehumanrights #thevillage”
The mournful tune focuses on issues of isolation that arise with the exploration of one’s sexuality and identity.
The lyrics urge the listener to remember there is nothing wrong with them. The issue is with those who treat them differently.
At the time of the video’s release, Wrabel tweeted:
TRANS PEOPLE ARE JUST THAT . PEOPLE . HUMAN BEINGS . please i beg you do not let his hatred sink into your heads and hearts .
— wrabel. rā-bəl (@wrabel) July 26, 2017
social media is so weird but let’s use it . send love to our trans friends and family . let them know this man does not speak for us .
— wrabel. rā-bəl (@wrabel) July 26, 2017
A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to stop discharging HIV+ members of the U.S. military for the time being.
The order came in the case of Roe and Voe v. Shanahan, filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, with partner law firm Winston & Strawn, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Airmen who were given discharge orders in November of last year.
Both men had tested positive for HIV in 2017 during routine screenings, and after beginning antiretroviral treatment they were deemed asymptomatic and declared physically fit to deploy, according to The Washington Post.
Even though they had the backing of their commanding officers, they were informed in November that the military prohibits personnel with HIV from being deployed to the Middle East, where the majority of Air Force members are expected to go.
In February 2018, the Trump administration announced its “Deploy or Get Out” policy which ordered the Pentagon to identify service members who cannot be deployed to military posts outside the United States for more than 12 consecutive months, and to separate them from military service.
Both men say they can deploy with no issues as long as they take a supply of medication with them.
One of the airmen told The Washington Post he’d already been deployed to the Middle East twice, and both times his duty didn’t require him to leave his base where proper medical facilities were available.
Neither men were given the option of alternative jobs, which they say they would have accepted.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued the preliminary injunction Friday after hearing oral arguments in regarding Lamda Legal and Outserve-SLDN’s motion for a preliminary injunction as well as the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss.
Judge Brinkema granted the injunction after ruling the plaintiffs (who filed pseudonymously as “Richard Roe” and “Victor Voe”) were likely to prevail in stopping their discharge.
Peter Perkowski, OutServe-SLDN’s Legal & Policy Director, issued a statement which read:
“We are thrilled that Judge Brinkema recognized not just that the military’s policies were harming our members who are living and serving with HIV. But also indicated that, at least on the evidence before her, the military’s decisions were based on outdated medical science and are categorically denying people living with HIV the same opportunities as their fellow service members. We look forward to a final decision in the case.”
The Trump administration has quietly begun to discharge HIV+ soldiers from the U.S. military.
Despite the fact that they qualify due to fitness assessments and medical treatment, and strong support from their commanding officers, two airmen were informed shortly before Thanksgiving that they were found “unfit for continued military service.”
They have filed suit against Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after receiving the news they were being discharged.
From The Washington Post:
Both active-duty airmen tested positive for HIV last year during Air Force screenings. After they started antiretroviral treatments, their doctors deemed them asymptomatic and physically fit to deploy, and their commanders backed their continued service. They intended to pursue lengthy Air Force careers after serving for more than half a decade in logistics and maintenance roles.
Last month, however, the two airmen received word that they had been deemed unfit for military service and would be discharged. The stated reason: The U.S. military bans personnel with HIV from deploying to the Middle East, where the majority of Air Force members are expected to go.
“Policies singling out service members living with HIV for starkly different treatment are an unfortunate vestige of a time when HIV was untreatable and invariably fatal,” the airmen argued in the complaint. “These anachronistic policies are no longer justified in light of modern medical science.”
Both airmen maintain they can head to the Middle East with no problem, so long as they take a supply of medication with them. But the ban on HIV positive service members there officially renders them unfit to deploy worldwide, placing them in a category of service members Mattis wants pushed out of the military. They weren’t offered alternative jobs, which both airmen said they would have accepted.
Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit with partner law firm Winston & Strawnon behalf of the two HIV-positive airmen.
Lambda Legal issued a statement today, which read in part:
“It’s disgusting that the Trump Administration is sending some men and women in uniform home for the holidays without jobs simply because of their HIV status,” said Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal.
“These decisions should be based on science, not stigma. Lambda Legal is suing to stop these separations and will not stop fighting until President Trump understands that there’s not a job in the world a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, including the job of soldier.”
It was one year ago today that Donald Trump tweeted his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Now, the Trump administration seems to be turning his attention to HIV positive service members.
A February 14 Department of Defense memo announced a new “Deploy or Get Out!” policy which goes into effect on October 1.
The new policy orders the Pentagon to discharge those service members who are unable to be deployed outside the U.S. for more than a year. According to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the point was to ensure “readiness” within the U.S. military.
But an existing DOD policy dating back to the height of the AIDS epidemic prohibits HIV+ service members from being deployed overseas. Therefore, the new guidance would appear to make it impossible to serve their country.
HIV+ folks are prohibited from enlisting in the Armed Forces. Soldiers who are already serving but later seroconvert are allowed to stay in the military, but cannot be deployed in combat or overseas.
Two soldiers have filed separate lawsuits – Doe v. Mattis and Harrison v. Mattis – hoping to stop the new policy from going into effect.
Forty-one-year old Sgt. Nick Harrison is afraid his life would be dramatically affected by the new policy.
Sgt. Harrison hopes to make a difference for other members of the Armed Forces. He isn’t being secretive about his identity, either. Harrison was deployed to both Afghanistan and Kuwait, but was diagnosed with HIV shortly after returning home from Kuwait in 2012. “This case is not just about me,” Harrison said. “This is about every person living with HIV knowing that they can perform any job in the world, including serving in the military. Together, we must stop the Pentagon from closing its doors to successful and talented service members. I look forward to the day that I can serve my country to the full extent of my abilities, based on my performance and unfettered by unfounded fears and misperceptions about HIV.”
Harrison also claims that the military’s policy wrongfully blocked him from ascending to Judge Advocate General officer of the D.C. National Guard, reports Bloomberg, because members living with HIV also cannot achieve officer status.
Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, issued this statement regarding the discriminatory policy:
“Soldiers, sailors, fighter pilots and marines are seeing their promising careers cut short, their dreams of service shattered and their health jeopardized due to antiquated notions about HIV and the stigma that results. This must end. If the court doesn’t intervene, the Trump administration will continue to discharge more promising service members living with HIV, denying them the ability to continue serving their country. Every day, people living with HIV are suffering professional setbacks and losing out on career advancement opportunities, and we are asking this court to put an end to these harmful actions.”
According to HIVPlusMag, approximately 1,200 service members could be affected by the policy change.
|(image via Instagram)|
Some news items you might have missed:
• Timeout Magazine shares its 2018 round-up of the 20 Hottest Dancers on Broadway including Mr. Adam Perry (above).
• From one lesbian to another: Former New York City council speaker Christine Quinn slammed Cynthia Nixon “as an unqualified lesbian” a day after the actress announced her run for New York governor. Quinn later walked her comments back.
• HUD Secretary Ben Carson told a House Appropriations committee today that transgender people in a homeless shelter make others uncomfortable.
• An openly gay Marine Corps veteran is running for a seat in the Alabama state House.
• Michelangelo Signorile explains why it matters that a gay man helped Trump backers exploit Facebook data.
• Justin Timberlake and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser welcome the thousands of protesters who are expected to descend on the District for the “March for Our Lives” rally Saturday.
I’m so inspired by the #MarchForOurLives students out there owning their voices. We need to demand action. Get out there and join the march this Saturday — more info here: https://t.co/PviopFKjAo pic.twitter.com/7sQxjLUyQX
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) March 19, 2018
Some news items you might have missed:
• The weather is definitely getting a bit cooler here in Las Vegas. You might need this (above) to help keep you warm, although I’m torn between the fur hat or the furry hunk 😉
• For #GivingTuesday – Facebook & The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching up to $2 million in donations to non-profits including the It Gets Better Project. Click here to donate on the official Facebook page and look for the “Donate” button.
• The Warwick Rowers are back with their 2018 charity calendar! Click here to order and you’ll be helping the hunky student rowers to end homophobia in sports and work for more LGBT inclusion. Watch the teaser video below.
• England, Wales and Scotland have changed blood donation rules for sexually active gay men as of today. The “abstain from sex for a year” waiting period will now be reduced to a shorter three-month pause, which is still ridiculous.
• A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s request to delay enlistment of new trans troops beyond January 1.
• My longtime friend, Obie Award winner David Drake, has been named the new artistic director of the Provincetown Theater. David is one of the most talented people I’ve worked with in the theater (The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me; Pageant). Period. This is terrific news for the P-Town Theater. Congrats, David.
• The Shirtless Violinist, Matthew Olshefski, gives us the gay Star Wars love story we’ve been waiting for. Watch below.
In a statement sent to the Palm Center today, 56 retired General and Flag Officers said President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender military service members would cause “significant disruptions.”
The statement read, in part:
“The Commander in Chief has tweeted a total ban of honorably serving transgender troops. This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.
“As a result, the proposed ban would degrade readiness even more than the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving— and who want to serve—must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity.
“President Trump seeks to ban transgender service members because of the financial cost and disruption associated with transgender military service. We respectfully disagree and consider these claims to be without merit.
“The RAND Corporation, as well as research in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the financial cost of providing health care to transgender troops would be, at most, $8.4 million per year. This amounts to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual health care budget. As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year, and have been widely praised by commanders. Eighteen foreign nations, including the UK and Israel, allow transgender troops to serve, and none has reported any detriment to readiness.
In this week’s podcast:
• A new study shows hiv+ men who take antiretroviral medication on a regular basis have pretty much zero chance of spreading the infection to others
• President Trump gets plenty of pushback on his proposed transgender military service ban
• Out singer/songwriter Wrabel releases powerful anthem of personal empowerment and community, “The Village,” in response to Trump’s trans military ban
• Convicted Philly gay basher Kathryn Knott now says she was acting in self-defense when she shattered the jaw of a gay man in 2014
All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report.