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04/19/2007


Pentagon to Offer 10 Days Paid Leave for Gay Service Members to Travel to States Where They Can Marry

According to a Defense Department memo obtained by the Associated Press, the Pentagon is ready to extend benefits including housing and health care to the same-sex spouses of service members. However, rather than providing benefits to declared gay partners who are not married (which was in an earlier plan) the new plan would offer up to 10 days of leave to gay service members so they can travel to states where they may marry legally.

HagelThe AP reports:

While no final decisions have been made, the memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to top defense leaders would reverse an earlier plan that would allow the same-sex partners of military members to sign a declaration form in order to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs.

"As the Supreme Court's ruling has made it possible for same-sex couples to marry and be afforded all benefits available to any military spouse and family, I have determined, consistent with the unanimous advice of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the spousal and family benefits far outweigh the benefits that could be extended under a declaration system," Hagel wrote.

The plan is scheduled to take effect by the end of August.


Pentagon to Extend Benefits to Gay Service Spouses ASAP

HagelDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon will extend health care, housing, and additional federal benefits to the gay spouses of service members as soon as possible, the AP reports:

Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves. It's unclear how many of those are married. The court ruling also could allow same-sex spouses to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. The Pentagon has said that by Oct. 1, it would extend a variety of benefits to same-sex partners, including access to on-base commissaries and some health and welfare programs.


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Addresses Pentagon LGBT Pride Event in Historic First: VIDEO

Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed LGBT service members at the Pentagon's LGBT Pride event yesterday in the first appearance at such an event by a sitting Defense Secretary.

Said Hagel in his remarks:

Our nation has always benefited from the service of gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsmen, and Marines. Now they can serve openly, with full honor, integrity and respect. This makes our military and our nation stronger, much stronger. The Department of Defense is very proud of its contributions to our nation's security. We're very proud of everything the gay and lesbian community have contributed and continue to contribute. With their service, we are moving closer to fulfilling the country's founding vision, that all of us are created equal.

It has never been easy to square the words of our forefathers with the stark realities of history. But what makes America unique, what gives us strength is our ability to correct our course. Over more than two centuries, our democracy has shown that while it is imperfect, it can change, and it can change for the better.

All of us should take pride in the role the U.S. military has played in this endeavor and continues to play. The military continues to fulfill this country's promise. Our commitment to equality requires us to continue building a culture of respect for every member of the military, our society, and for all human beings.

In his second inaugural address, President Obama reminded us that, quote, "While freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on Earth." Securing those freedoms has required generations of patriots to fight for their fellow citizens, and it has demanded courageous leaders be willing to stand up for what they believe.

Also speaking at the event, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, the highest-ranking openly gay civilian official at the Pentagon.

Said Fanning:

"It was hard to imagine we’d ever be where we are today, but during these 20 years, the military’s gone through the difficult process of opening itself up by providing opportunities to those for whom it was previously denied or constrained, to women, to immigrants looking to prove their loyalty to this country and earn their citizenship, to gays and lesbians."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Defense Secretary Hagel May Attend LGBT Pride Celebration as Trans Service Members Make Headlines

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may attend a DoD Pride event at the Pentagon, which would be the first time a sitting defense secretary has done so, the Washington Blade reports:

Chuck_hagelOn Tuesday, sources told the Washington Blade that Hagel has expressed interest in attending the event to honor LGB service members and LGBT members of the civilian workforce, but he hasn’t yet expressed a firm commitment because his schedule at that time isn’t yet clear.

Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a DOD spokesperson, confirmed that a Pentagon Pride event is set to take place later this month, but offered few details.

“The DoD Pride Organization is in the process of organizing an event at the Pentagon later this month,” Christensen said. “No firm date has yet been set. DOD Pride is a private organization which is comprised of DOD civilians and service members whose charter is to represent LGB service members, LGBT civilian employees, contractors, and families throughout the Department of Defense.”

MemorandumThe Department of Defense acknowledged LGBT Pride Month in a memorandum sent out this week (see inset), and was both praised and criticized by military LGBT rights group Outserve-SLDN for what the memo contained:

“It is appropriate and gratifying that Secretary Hagel and his leadership team would follow the historic precedent set last year by then-Secretary Leon Panetta by honoring LGBT Pride Month at the Department of Defense. Acknowledging the accomplishments and contributions of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members sends an important message all the way down the chain of command: that our military is stronger, and our nation safer, because it includes them,” said Robinson.

While acknowledging transgender civilian DOD employees, the memorandum notably omits any mention of the contributions of transgender people in uniform – presumably because transgender people remain barred from service by outdated and obsolete medical regulations. Robinson called out the omission.

“Transgender people have served this nation with pride, honor, and distinction – and continue to do so in the hundreds, if not thousands. It’s past time to honor them for their service and sacrifice, and past time to end the discredited and obsolete practice of forcing them to serve in silence and fear,” said Robinson.

The issue of transgender people in the military is getting renewed focus as of late. Just this week, Kristin Beck, a former U.S. Navy Seal published a new biography about her gender transition called Warrior Princess. Beck was a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and served in the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, though retired shortly before that raid.

Just last month, the Department of Defense recognized for the first time officially that transgender veterans have served in a uniformed capacity when they reflected the gender identification of activist and veteran Autumn Sandeen.


Chuck Hagel Confirmed as Secretary of Defense in 58-41 Vote

Former Senator Chuck Hagel has been confirmed as Secretary of Defense in a 58-41 vote four hours after the Senate invoked cloture in a 71-27 to end debate on his nomination.

Chuck_hagelThe Washington Blade reports:

Among those casting a vote in favor of Hagel was lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who previously told Washington Blade she had a “very good conversation” with him and would support his nomination. Last month, Baldwin said she had “tough questions” about his view of the post-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military.

Hagel’s nomination was controversial in the LGBT community because of remarks he made in 1998, when he said the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, Jim Hormel, shouldn’t be confirmed to the post because he’s “openly aggressively gay.” Hagel also had a dismal voting record on LGBT issues during his tenure in the U.S. Senate. Just prior to his nomination as defense secretary, Hagel apologized for the anti-gay remarks.

Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson praised the Senate in a press release:

"We congratulate Senator Hagel for enduring an incredibly arduous confirmation process to become our next Secretary of Defense – this is a win for all service members, and for LGBT service members and their families especially. We thank the Senator for his commitment to equal treatment and equal opportunity, and we urge him to take swift action to include our service members in non-discrimination and anti-harassment protections. It has been reassuring to see Senator Hagel show the kind of clear, unambiguous leadership in support of our service members and their families he has demonstrated in recent months. Now he has the opportunity to turn his commitments into action, and we look forward to working with him to ensure our military embodies the same values of fairness and equality it protects."

According to Outserve-SLDN:

Unlike other minority groups, LGBT service members are not currently protected with an avenue of recourse outside their chain of command should they experience harassment or discrimination. Such protections are common elsewhere in the federal government and throughout the private sector, with 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


Jon Stewart Demolishes 'Hypocrite' John McCain and His 'Junior High School-Level Pettiness': VIDEO

Mccain

Senator John McCain has had this lashing from Jon Stewart over his Hagel hypocrisy coming to him for months, and last night he finally got it.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Jon Stewart Demolishes 'Hypocrite' John McCain and His 'Junior High School-Level Pettiness': VIDEO" »


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