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 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.
Manning 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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.”
ANALYZING 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.”
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In an interview that aired on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he’s open to reviewing the military’s ban on transgender service members, but cautioned that trans issues are logistically “a bit more complicated” than issues surrounding openly gay service members.
“[Trans] issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women, in many cases, don’t always provide that kind of opportunity…again, I go back to the bottom line – every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.”
Watch the interview, AFTER THE JUMP…
The very first gay wedding at the US Naval Academy took place yesterday afternoon in the school's famed chapel. The couple, David Bucher and Bruce Moats, were wed in front of 100 guests, including their own two children. Bucher graduated from the Maryland Academy over 20 years ago.
According to NBC News, even though the Academy did not oppose the ceremony, the two still faced some challenges.
But Academy Chaplain Lt. John Connolly, who officiated the ceremony, said the run-up to the memorable day wasn’t all smooth sailing.
“Not everyone agrees that this should be happening and it took a significant amount of discernment on my own part as well as this couple’s as they were preparing for the day,” Connolly said.
But as he got to know Bucher and Moats, he understood how in love they were. “The more I met with this couple, the happier I was to be presiding today,” he added.
Said Moats about their decision to marry at the Academy: "The question was; should we do it, are we advocating, are we here to make a political message? We're not. We're here to break political barriers for sure, but it's also about taking advantage of the rights that we have."
Watch video of the ceremony and interviews with the happy new couple, AFTER THE JUMP.