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A Gay Secret is Discovered in New Clip from Military Drama 'Burning Blue': VIDEO

Burningblue

Last month we reported that the long-in-development feature film adaptation of the 1995 play Burning Blue is headed to the big screen in select theaters and VOD on June 6.

The filmmakers have just released a new clip from the film, about Navy fighter pilots who fall in love under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and are exposed during a government investigation into a series of fatal accidents.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Watch the full trailer HERE if you missed it.

Continue reading "A Gay Secret is Discovered in New Clip from Military Drama 'Burning Blue': VIDEO" »


Embattled Lesbian Military Widow Finally Granted Survivor Benefits By VA

Couple

The lesbian widow of an Army National Guard Staff Sergeant killed in Afghanistan back in October 2012 will finally receive survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Washington Blade reports:

During her speech upon receiving an award at the inaugural dinner in D.C. for the American Military Partners Association, Tracy Johnson said she received a notice in the mail earlier in the month verifying that she would be eligible for survivor benefits. They would be retroactive, she said, to the time of the death of her spouse, Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson, who was killed on patrol in Afghanistan on Oct. 1, 2012. “This decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs is an important step toward our end goal of achieving equal treatment for all military families,” Tracy said. “This would not have been possible without your support.” But Tracy also said her work isn’t done and her “biggest goal,” which has yet to be achieved, is to get the Army to change Donna’s death certificate to recognize their marriage.

Johnson’s announcement came just days before Veterans Affairs Secretary, General Eric Shinseki, and President Obama spoke out about reports of corruption and excessive back-log at the VA.

Johnson first filed for survivor benefits in January of 2013 and again in July of that year after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of DOMA:

She said she was never denied benefits, but was told the administration was evaluating her case and would reach out to her with any questions. Her understanding, she said, was the process for receiving the benefits could take anywhere from two to three months or up to a year if the claim is contested. Tracy refused to disclose the amount of initial money she received with her final notification, but said the monthly entitlement was $1,233 and the payment start-date is retroactive to Nov. 1, 2012.

At stake in the VA’s decision to grant Johnson benefits is a specific provision of Title 38 that has enormous impact on whether military spouses in same-sex marriages can receive benefits. Section 103(c) of that statue “looks to the state of residency, not the state of celebration, when determining whether a couple is married.” Previously, The White House and Attorney General Eric Holder announced they would neither defend nor would they enforce Title 38 of the military code that was then being used to deny gay veterans spousal benefits. In reaching this decision, the DOJ cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, noting that while the court did not directly consider Title 38, its decision on DOMA was enough to make it clear that Title 38 violated the 5th Amendment of the Constitution. 

However, even after this decision from the DOJ, section 103(c) of Title 38 still appeared to be in effect, restricting benefits only to same-sex couples who lived in states where same-sex marriage was legal. This then excluded spouses of LGBT service members from receiving benefits, survivor or otherwise, if they lived in a state where same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized. What’s remarkable about Johnson’s case is that though she was married in Washington, D.C. where same-sex marriage is legal, she resides in North Carolina where it is not. Consequently many have been left wondering whether the VA’s granting of benefits to Johnson signals a shift in VA policy whereby all spouses in same-sex marriages would be eligible to receive benefits regardless of where they reside in the U.S. 

For her part, Johnson hopes that others will follow her in applying for and receiving the benefits they deserve:

“We’re all in this together; it wasn’t just me getting awarded these benefits, and then just turning my cheek and walking away. This isn’t just about me; it’s about all of us fighting the good fight for the right reason.” 


Navy Plebes Mount Greasy Obelisk in Annual Herndon Climb: VIDEO

Herndonclimb

Yesterday was the annual Herndon Climb, the annual Naval Academy tradition in which half-clothed plebes mount a greasy obelisk to see who can plant a cap at the top of it.

The Washington Post was there to document it, and does so in a video you can watch,
AFTER THE JUMP...

Feel free to revisit galleries of past Herndon climbs, here, here, here, and here.

Continue reading "Navy Plebes Mount Greasy Obelisk in Annual Herndon Climb: VIDEO" »


Pentagon Accused Of Transphobic 'Strategic Leak' Over Rumors Of Chelsea Manning's Medical Care

The AP recently reported that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel may transfer convicted Wikileaker  rivate Chelsea Manning from her current incarceration in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to a civilian prison so that she may receive hormone therapy and other necessary transgender medical care.

ManningManning came out as a trans-female after being sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for leaking classified military documents. She currently resides in a male-only U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and it’s unclear whether she would be transferred to a male or female civilian prison, if moved at all.

Manning’s lawyer David E. Coombs expressed skepticism over the validity of the AP report and its sourcing of "unnamed Pentagon officials 'who were not authorized to speak on the matter.'” Coombs even went so far as to accuse the Pentagon of a transphobia and a “strategic leak” in an attempt to frighten Manning into withdrawing her request for medical care:

It is common knowledge that the federal prison system cannot guarantee the safety and security of Chelsea in the way that the military prison system can. Accordingly, Chelsea would face the “choice” between receiving necessary medical treatment but potentially jeopardizing her personal safety, or not receiving necessary medical treatment but ensuring her personal safety.

Coombs is correct in his concern for Manning’s safety. According to Just Detention International, 59 percent of transgender adult inmates get sexually abused, nearly 15 times more often than cisgender inmates.

Even though the army has an agreement with the Bureau of Prisons that results in 15 to 20 military prisoners a year being sent to civilian prisons for different reasons, the army  sends only prisoners who have exhausted their military appeals and been discharged from the service — Manning has done neither. Denying her a baseline of transgender medical care however could be construed as “cruel and unusual punishment” and create a legal headache for the military if they ignore Manning's request for care.

Since the Department of Defense still forbids transgender citizens from openly serving in the military and therefore does not provide transgender medical treatment at all, making an exception in Manning’s case could set a precedent for the care of trans servicemembers in military custody.

Zack Ford of Think Progress — who questions the precedence-setting potential of this case — noted that Manning could still access medical care if the military revises its stance on trans-exclusion, if Manning abandons her conviction appeal or if the military grants her a transfer for medical reasons.


Ronan Farrow Examines the Ban on Transgender Military Service: VIDEO

Transmilitary

MSNBC's Ronan Farrow, who earlier this month blasted efforts to repeal Maryland's transgender rights law, returns to the topic of trans rights with a look at the military's policy banning trans people from serving openly.

Farrow welcomes U.S. Navy veteran Landon Wilson, who was discharged because of the ban on transgender service in the military, and Fiona Dawson, who is producing Transmilitary, a documentary about the military's discriminatory policy.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Ronan Farrow Examines the Ban on Transgender Military Service: VIDEO" »


Tuesday Speed Read: Virginia, Keith Crisco, Clay Aiken, Mike Huckabee, Trans Military, Sam Kiss,

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

BosticAT THE FOURTH CIRCUIT THIS MORNING:

One of the fastest moving cases among the 60 or so lawsuits challenging state bans on same-sex couples marrying is the Bostic v. Schaefer case from Virginia. This morning, that case will be argued before a panel of one of the nation’s most conservative federal appeals courts, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in Richmond, Virginia. The identity of the three-judge panel is to be released this morning. The argument begins at 9:30 and Equality Virginia says it expects to have more than 100 people at a rally outside. The Fourth Circuit says an audio recording of proceedings will be available on its website by 2 this afternoon.

CriscoCLAY AIKEN CHALLENGER DIES:

Businessman Keith Crisco, who was fewer than 400 votes behind openly gay candidate Clay Aiken in the Democratic primary race for North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, died Monday. The News and Observer reported the Crisco family as saying the 71-year-old succumbed from injuries he sustained in a fall at home around midday. He reportedly planned to concede the primary to Aiken on Tuesday. Aiken issued a statement calling Crisco “a gentleman, a good and honorable man, and an extraordinary public servant.” Aiken will now face incumbent Tea Party Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in November.

PiazzaHUCKABEE IMPLORES IMPEACHMENT:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called on current Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat who opposes same-sex marriage, to call a special session of the Arkansas legislature to impeach county circuit Judge Chris Piazza. Huckabee, according to The Hill newspaper, said Piazza usurped the authority of the legislature and the voters when he declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The state attorney general filed a motion with the state supreme court Monday morning, seeking a stay of Piazza’s decision; at deadline, the state high court had yet to respond. Only five out of Arkansas’ 75 counties have issued licenses to same-sex couples.

HagelHAGEL OPEN TO DOD TRANS REVIEW:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on ABC’s This Week program Sunday that he is open to having DOD review its policy banning transgender people from the military, but that it’s a “bit more complicated” than gays because of special medical needs. He made his comment in response to a question from reporter Martha Raddatz, adding “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”

ThekissANALYZING THE KISS:

There was a lot of air time given Monday to talk about a widely seen video of openly gay football player Michael Sam getting the news Saturday that he had just been drafted by the St. Louis Rams and was becoming the first openly gay professional football player. The video shows Sam getting off the phone in tears and turning to his boyfriend Vito Cammisano who gives him a quick kiss on the lips and then they hug for a long time as Sam is clearly overcome with emotion. After viewing the video, a Miami Dolphins player tweeted “OMG” and “Horrible;” but his team general manager quickly released a statement, saying he was “disappointed” in the post and would “handle” the matter. MSNBC political commentator Chuck Todd had this perspective: “That could be the most significant cultural moment in hindsight. We may look back on that moment being sort of THE big moment when same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships as far as pop culture was concerned went mainstream. … That was as significant as a state legalizing, as being the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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