The brand new issue of OUTSERVE, which is distributed to U.S. military bases across the world, debuts today. The cover is former U.S. Army Lt. Anthony Woods, the Harvard and West Point graduate who was discharged once his sexuality was discovered. Woods led an 81-soldier combat unit in Iraq, earned a Bronze Star and later launched an historic campaign to become the first openly gay Black man elected to Congress.
The issue features a special multimedia exhibit photographed by Jo Ann Santangelo that features LGBT service members who served their country in silence or were discharged under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." The issue also features "101 Faces of Courage", the names and faces of troops now serving openly. OUTSERVE founder "JD Smith" also comes out as U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, a USAF Academy cadet and a 25-year-old finance officer.
Although he expects only a fraction of the 65,000 gay men and lesbians estimated to be serving in the armed forces to reveal themselves at first, Seefried will not be alone. On Tuesday, his organization's magazine will publish an issue featuring photographs and biographies of him and 100 other gay service members. It will be available online and at Army and Air Force commissaries.
OutServe, which has grown to 4,300 members in more than 40 chapters from Alaska to Iraq, has had an exceptionally aggressive rise since its February 2010 launch. From the start, Seefried and a tech-savvy civilian friend, Ty Walrod, saw its mission as two-fold: to ease the isolation of gay service members and to educate the public about the price of requiring them to serve in silence.
They set up a private Facebook group for gay personnel, starting with a handful of Seefried's friends. Each new recruit was allowed to nominate others for membership — and the group grew. The organization also seized the chance to exercise a unique niche as the voice of gays in the military after Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed a working group to study the ramifications of a potential repeal.
OUTSERVE says: "The following 101 photos represent the approximately 70,000 currently serving LGBT military personnel. We serve in every country, in every conflict, and in every career field. We serve because we are committed to our country. We serve to protect those we love. We serve because we are dedicated to this self-evident truth — that all men are created equal. This is who we are."
In late September, a federal court ordered the United States Air Force to reinstate retired Maj. Margaret Witt, a highly skilled and decorated flight nurse who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Tonight, the Department of Justice has appealed that ruling, reports MetroWeekly.
In a brief filing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice filed the formal documents to announce that it plans to appeal the trial judge's order in Witt v. U.S. Department of the Air Force. On Sept. 24, U.S. District Court Ronald Leighton ruled that the Air Force's discharge of Major Margaret Witt under DADT violated her constitutional rights. He wrote: "[T]he Court concludes that DADT, when applied to Major Margaret Witt, does not further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion. ... Application of DADT therefore violates Major Witt’s substantive due process rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. She should be reinstated at the earliest possible moment."
The Justice Department "did not seek a stay" of the lower court ruling, which suggests Maj. Witt could possibly serve during the appeal, reports the AP.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released this statement:
"Today, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal in a case involving a legal challenge to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy, as the Department traditionally does when acts of Congress have been held unconstitutional," Gibbs wrote. "This filing in no way diminishes the President’s -- and his Administration’s -- firm commitment to achieving a legislative repeal of DADT this year. Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy. In recent weeks, the President and other Administration officials have been working with the Senate to move forward with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of DADT, during the lame duck."
"Given the city of Rapid City's unwillingness to acknowledge the
wrongful and unlawful acts done by ... members of the police department,
we have no choice but to file a lawsuit against the city of Rapid City
in federal court," says attorney Jeffrey Fransen.
Newsome's case first came to light in March, when the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota sent a letter to Mayor Alan Hanks alleging the police department had violated Newsome's privacy and constitutional rights by sharing information about her sexual orientation with Air Force officials. In the March 19 letter, ACLU executive director Robert Doody asked the police department to pay damages and issue an apology to Newsome, along with reprimanding the officers involved in the incident and changing department policy to ban the release of information about military members' sexuality.
The incident in question occurred Nov. 20, 2009, when officers, in the course of serving an out-of-state felony arrest warrant on charges of grand theft for Cheryl Hutson, noticed an Iowa marriage certificate with Hutson and Newsome's names on it at their home. That detail was included in the police report, a document that Garinger later shared with the Office of Special Investigation at Ellsworth. Stauffacher was also involved in the arrest.
The Rapid City Police
the officer was not being spiteful and followed department
told KOTA-TV the detective told her "he
knew how the military worked" and implied she would be discharged.
"I played by 'don't ask, don't tell,' " Newsome says. "I just don't
agree with what the Rapid
City Police Department did. ... They violated a lot of internal policies
end, and I feel like my privacy was violated."
Yet another win for equality. A federal judge in Tacoma, Washington has ordered the United States Air Force to reinstate retired Maj. Margaret Witt, a highly skilled and decorated flight nurse who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton marks the first time since Congress approved the policy in 1993 that a federal judge has ordered the military to allow an openly gay service member to serve in the armed forces. 'Good flight nurses are hard to find,' said Leighton, who found that the evidence presented at the trial showed Witt's reinstatement '... would not adversely affect unit morale or cohesion' in her unit. Witt, after the ruling said, 'I can't wait to just do my job. Go back to my unit and do what I'm supposed to do.'"
U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton was appointed by the conservative Republican President George W. Bush in 2002.
Maj. Margaret Witt joined the Air Force in 1987, served in the Persian Gulf and received multiple decorations. The Air Force used her photo in recruitment materials for more than a decade. Witt received a medal from President George W. Bush, commending her "outstanding medical care" to injured troops, reports The Advocate.
In July 2004, the Air Force Force suspended Witt under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy after her commanders discovered she was in a lesbian relationship with a civilian. Witt was discharged in 2006 and the action "left her less than a year short of the 20-year service requirement" to obtain a full Air Force pension. In 2008, Witt's legal challenge to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resulted in a significant ruling that said the military should establish an important government interest in dismissing outed servicemembers.
Witt was represented by the ACLU. "We hope that they will just let this go because it’s clear, as the judge said, she’s a valued member of society," ACLU LGBT Project Director James Esseks told The Advocate. "The wounded soldiers she was helping didn’t care about her sexual orientation. If they do [appeal], I’m confident that this ruling will be affirmed by the appeals court."
The Witt decision marks this month's second federal court victory in the fight against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." On September 9, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips ruled in the federal challenge brought by the Log Cabin Republicans and declared DADT is unconstitutional. The Obama Administration is expected to appeal.
The House of Representatives passed the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" path to repeal as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. You'll recall that lawmakers also defied the threat of a presidential veto by voting to fund a second engine for the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Over the Memorial Day weekend the President issued a veto threat. And appearing this morning on Fox News Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it remains a possibility. "As I told the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Defense Subcommittee it would be a serious mistake to believe the President would not veto a bill that has the C-17
or the alternative engine, just because it had other provisions that the President or the Administration wanted."
When asked if he believed the President would veto the bill "even with" DADT repeal, Gates said, "I think so."
Gates also reiterated the Administration's desire to finish its year-long implementation study and allowing the "military to weigh in" before voting on repeal. Watch it AFTER THE JUMP ...
The House of Representatives passed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. As reported on Friday, lawmakers defied the threat of a presidential veto by voting to fund a second engine for the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"As the Congress continues its work on funding bills for the Department of Defense, I want to reiterate my strong support for the reforms Secretary Gates is advancing at the Pentagon. He has kept me fully apprised of his efforts to reform how our military operates and bring needed efficiencies to the Department of Defense. I stand squarely behind Secretary Gates' position on the JSF second engine and C-17 programs. As the Statement of Administration Policy made clear, our military does not want or need these programs being pushed by the Congress, and should Congress ignore this fact, I will veto any such legislation so that it can be returned to me without those provisions."
The Office of Management
and Budget first issued the veto threat on
Thursday over the F-35, reports The
The House of Representatives passed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. Lawmakers also defied the threat of a presidential veto by voting to fund a second engine for the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, explains Politico.
"The defense authorization bill typically passes with wide margins, but last year was an exception, as many Republicans voted against the bill because it included a hate-crimes provision.
The inclusion of don’t ask don’t tell could set up a similar dynamic this year.
And because the House defied President Obama's veto threat to hang onto funding for two Joint Strike Fighter engines, the situation is even stickier. With the engine money and don't ask don't tell, Obama is situated between a promise he's made to his most powerful Cabinet member and his liberal base of support on a landmark civil rights issue.
"The Pentagon is aggressively pushing for a veto. 'We don't want nor need the extra engine, but this is just one step in a long journey and Secretary Gates is committed to staying engaged in this process the whole way, including if necessary ultimately recommending President Obama veto this legislation,' said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell after the vote.
"So too is Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who supports don’t ask don’t tell repeal but who fought to strip funding for the General Electric engine but who said he was encouraged by a strong vote on the amendment and the fact that the Senate Armed Services Committee did not include funding for the engine in its bill. 'I fully expect the President to follow through with his threatened veto of the Defense Authorization Act if the F-35 Extra Engine Program is in the final legislation,' Larson aid."
The Office of Management and Budget issued the veto threat on
Thursday over the F-35, reports The Hill.
Another day, another gay or lesbian servicemember is discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Reversing an earlier decision, the United States Air Force will separate lesbian Lt. Robin R. Chaurasiya who was allowed to remain in uniform despite declaring her sexuality. In February, an Air Force general ruled Chaurasiya should not be discharged because she declared her sexual to avoiding military service.
Chaurasiya left active duty in 2007 after serving one year. She was
recalled to active duty in 2009 because of Iraq and Afghanistan. That's when she was outed, reports the Los Angeles Times.
"Chaurasiya's case began in July after a male former officer
she once dated had provided her commanding officer with evidence that
she was a lesbian. The Air Force dismissed that complaint. But
afterward, Chaurasiya, feeling slighted, decided to declare that she was
a lesbian. In December, she and her partner were joined in a civil
union in New Hampshire. A subsequent Air Force investigation
found credible evidence she was a lesbian, but determined she had
declared her sexual orientation in an attempt to get out of military
service. The general in charge refused to remove her. The Air
Force on Monday suggested the decision to discharge her resulted from
new evidence. Chaurasiya said her partner was interviewed to determine
if their civil union was real. Chaurasiya said she does not
regret publicizing her situation. "Part of repealing the policy is
demonstrating how arbitrarily it is implemented," she said. "As long as
we are raising awareness about problems in the policy, it was worth it."
You may recall that earlier this year another lesbian Air Force officer, Sgt. Jene Newsome, was also forcibly outed by a third party.