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U.S. Army Inches Closer to Opening the Door for Out Trans Troops

Army

An All-Army Activity, or ALARACT, notice distributed to U.S. field commanders on Friday stated that the power to initiate and finalize discharges of service members who are transgender has now been transferred from field commanders to the assistant secretary of the Army reports BuzzFeed.

Current Army policies state that transgender people are considered "administratively unfit" for military service. 

RobinsonAllyson Robinson, director of policy for the LGBT military advocacy organization SPARTA, applauded the slight change in direction, but conceded that more changes are needed for transgender service members to serve fully and comfortably without the looming threat of being discharged.

Said Robinson: 

"Today’s action by the Army helps over 6,000 transgender soldiers serving in silence. It also helps their commanders, who are increasingly stymied trying to apply 1970s medical policy to today’s Army.  

"While transgender service members welcome this step, they recognize it is only a stopgap measure aimed at making a failing policy fail less. What they and their commanders need is a comprehensive, Department-level policy review."

This step only affects the Army and doesn’t change the fact that transgender troops will continue to be discharged from the military under current Army policies. Pentagon Spokesperson Nate Christensen confirmed with BuzzFeed News in February that the Defense Department is conducting a "routine, periodic review of the Department’s medical accession policy," which are the medical standards for joining the military. However, Christensen noted that there is no specific review of the Department’s transgender policy, but that the review of the medical policy is broad.

Said Christensen: 

"We routinely review our policies to make sure they are accurate, up-to-date and reflect any necessary changes since the Department’s last policy review. The last review of this (medical policy) was conducted in 2011. The current periodic review is expected to take between 12-18 months; it is not a specific review of the Department’s transgender policy."

Defense Secretary Carter stated over the weekend that he's "very open-minded," with transgender service members openly serving in the military. "They can do what we need them to do for us...I don't think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them," said Carter.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today that President Obama agrees with Carter and endorses his statements regarding the matter.


WATCH LIVE: President Obama Marks 50th Anniversary of Selma-Montgomery March With Call to Action

Selma

President Obama is in Selma, Alabama today to mark the 50th Anniversary of the landmark civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He is expected to lead the tribute at the Edmund Pettus Bridge (the site of the "Bloody Sunday" violence in 1965) with a speech at 12:15pm ET.

The AP reports:

Dozens of charter buses and thousands of people had already poured into the west Alabama town hours before Obama's speech.

The congressional delegation will include U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an Alabama native who was among the marchers seriously injured in the violence 50 years ago. Congressional Republican leaders were to be absent from the event, but House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio released a statement.

"Today, 50 years after the Selma to Montgomery marches began, the House honors the brave foot soldiers who risked their lives to secure the blessings of liberty for all Americans," he said.

Watch the live feed, AFTER THE JUMP...

The Wall Street Journal is also marking the occasion with a look back on photographer Dan Budnik's startling images of Selma and other events documented at the time.

Continue reading "WATCH LIVE: President Obama Marks 50th Anniversary of Selma-Montgomery March With Call to Action" »


Obama Administration Files Supreme Court Brief Backing Nationwide Marriage Equality

Obama

President Barack Obama's administration has filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage nationwide, Bloomberg reports:

The filing Friday sets up the administration to argue alongside gay-rights advocates when the nine justices hear arguments April 28. The court is likely to rule in late June.

The administration’s brief completes a shift on the issue for Obama, who ran for president in 2008 as a supporter of civil unions for gay couples, but not marriage.

Even after Obama backed gay marriage publicly in 2012, his administration took a more nuanced view in court. When the Supreme Court considered the issue in 2013, the administration stopped short of urging nationwide legalization, instead taking a position that would have added eight new gay-marriage states.

The Washington Blade adds that 211 congressional Democrats - 167 House members and 44 Senators - have filed a separate friend-of-the-court brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn bans on same-sex marriage.

Major corporations and veteran GOP officials have also lined up behind nationwide marriage equality. 

Read the brief below via Equality Case Files:

United States Amicus Brief by Equality Case Files


Jon Stewart Rips Rudy Giuliani For Saying Obama Doesn't Love America: VIDEO

Stewart

Jon Stewart ripped into former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and comments he recently made questioning President Obama's patriotism. Giuliani, speaking at a Republican dinner featuring Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at Manhattan's 21 Club said, "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible things to say, but I do not believe that the President loves America." The true measure of how bad Giuliani's comments are, as Stewart points out, is that Giuliani had to preface that he was about to say something horrible about President Obama to a rabid Republican audience that "came to hear" Giuliani spew "horrible Obama stuff."

Attempting to back-track, Giuliani did the rounds on a number of news programs, saying at one point that he was not questioning the President's patriotism. Cue Stewart: "Actually that is literally what you did." 

But maybe what Giuliani is trying to tell us is that Obama is not capable of love of country because he is a robot sent from the future sent to destroy America by giving us healthcare. Or maybe Giuliani thinks that he is the only one who truly loves America because of what he went though on 9/11. Oh wait, we can debunk that too: "You know, you're not the mayor of 9/11, right?" Stewart asks. "You don't own 9/11. You don't own anything but the unique willingness to crassly exploit it." 

Watch Stewart school Giuliani, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Jon Stewart Rips Rudy Giuliani For Saying Obama Doesn't Love America: VIDEO " »


LGBT Members Of Congress Object To Trade Agreement With Anti-Gay Brunei And Malaysia

Lgbt

Five out gay members of Congress have written to President Obama to ask why Malaysia and Brunei - two countries with severe anti-gay laws - have been included in a free trade pact which the administration is currently negotiating and seeking to fast-track, reports Buzzfeed News.

Ddcda4647e4d3900da0f2b57c8fd68bd_400x400Sent yesterday, the letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan, David Cicilline (above left), Sean Patrick Maloney (above middle), Kyrsten Sinema (above right) and Mark Takano, five of the six co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which also includes several other nations in Asia and Latin America, became a serious concern for gay rights groups last year after the sultan of Brunei imposed a version of sharia law that included a punishment of death by stoning for homosexuality. Some states in Malaysia also have criminal sharia codes, and the government is appealing a court ruling striking down a law that criminalizes transgender people.

The five representatives argue in the letter that although Obama’s administration announced in December that it would remove the Gambia from a trade pact for African nations because of a crackdown on gay rights, negotiations continue with Brunei and Malaysia.

The letter reads in part:

“In light of the decision to end trade preferences for Gambia, we write today to ask for clarification on the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

“These two countries are responsible for severe human rights abuses, including adopting penal codes permitting the imprisonment and physical harm of LGBT people. It seems inconsistent for the United States to expand trade privileges to these two countries while taking action against Gambia.”

Jared Polis, the sixth Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair, is the only out member of Congress who did not sign the letter.


Tim Cook to Obama: Cyberprivacy is 'Life and Death' Issue for Gay People, Others — VIDEO

Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke to President Obama on Friday at a White House cybersecurity summit at Stanford University, emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity and touting Apple's efforts at protecting its users.

Said Cook:

"People have entrusted us with their most personal and precious information. We owe them nothing less than the best protections that we can possibly provide...We believe in human rights and human dignity, which is why we put so much thought into how our products are manufactured, not only how they are designed, and we believe deeply that everyone has a right to privacy and security."

He added:

"History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences. We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or express their opinion or love who they choose. Or love who they choose. A world in which that information can make the difference between life and death. If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money – we risk our way of life."

Watch a clip and the full speech, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Tim Cook to Obama: Cyberprivacy is 'Life and Death' Issue for Gay People, Others — VIDEO" »


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