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Check Out This Video of LGBT Service Members and Allies at Travis Air Force Base: WATCH

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With the military still settling into a post-DADT landscape, it’s a welcome sight to see some of the on-the-grounds efforts to promote LGBT visibility in the armed forces ranks.

The LGBT Alliance at Travis Air Force base in California is one such effort – and is actually the first official LGBT “private organization” sanctioned by the U.S. Air Force.

A video has been made to introduce you to some of the members of this organization and why they decided to join. Sure makes you wonder why these heroes were banned from serving their country in the first place...

Check it out, AFTER THEY JUMP

Continue reading "Check Out This Video of LGBT Service Members and Allies at Travis Air Force Base: WATCH" »


U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard to March in DC Pride Parade in Nationwide First

The Department of Defense has approved, for the first time, a color guard presenting the American flag as well as each flag of the military, to march in the Capital Pride parade in Washington DC on Saturday, the Washington Post reports:

ColorguardThe eight-member team is scheduled to help lead off the 11 / 2-mile parade, immediately preceding the Capital Pride lead banner and grand marshal Chris Kluwe, a former National Football League punter and the author of the book “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.”

While no policy has precluded a U.S. Armed Forces color guard from participating in gay rights events since the 2011 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay rights organizations from D.C. to Hawaii say they have routinely faced rejection from local military offices, saying the color guards were otherwise occupied on the days of pride parades.


Taliban Releases Video Showing Release of Bowe Bergdahl: WATCH

Bergdahl

The Taliban released a video to media on Wednesday showing the handover of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to Special Forces in eastern Afghanistan.

NPR reports:

President Obama today [Tuesday] defended the deal under which Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed in exchange for high-level Taliban prisoners, saying his administration had consulted with Congress over a possible trade. And, he dismissed questions about how Bergdahl was captured by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan in June 2009.

"Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity," Obama said at a news conference. "We don't condition that."

He said the U.S. has a "sacred" obligation to not leave service members behind.

Some members of Congress have expressed concerns over the details and the secrecy behind the exchange while some members of the military have deemed Bergdahl a hero, some a deserter.

Watch the exchange, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Friday Speed Read: LGBT History, GetEQUAL, Wisconsin, Mark Herring, Hawaii, HIV, Trans Soldiers

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

StonewallPRESERVING HISTORY:

Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is scheduled to announce this morning a new National Park Service study to identify places and events associated with the LGBT civil rights struggle movement “and ensure that the agency is telling a complete story of America’s heritage and history.” Currently, only New York City’s Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 riots against police harassment, has the designation as a national historic landmark by the National Park Service. Jewell will make the announcement at the Stonewall Inn, accompanied by gay philanthropist Tim Gill and New York City Councilman Corey Johnson.

DEMANDING MORE:

The LGBT activist group GetEQUAL said it will stage a demonstration outside today’s event at the Stonewall “to demand more from the White House than simply a study of our history.”

HATE VIOLENCE STEADY:

An annual report on LGBT-related hate violence, released Thursday, indicates the number of incidents reported in 2013 “stayed relatively consistent” with the number reported in 2012. Only 45 percent of survivors reported the attacks to police, notes the report, published by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

WisconsinDEMANDING SHORTCUT FAILS:

A lesbian couple who took their challenge to Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex couples marrying directly to the state supreme court, without first going through lower courts, got an answer last week: The court won’t take the case.

IMPEACH HERRING EFFORT OFF:

A resolution seeking to impeach Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring because he refused to defend the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying was killed within minutes of its introduction, according to an NBC affiliate in Richmond. According to the station, a spokesperson for House Speaker Bill Howell said late last week that Howell “does not believe impeachment is an appropriate or practical recourse at the moment.”

AbercrombieHAWAII FIGHT HANGS ON:

The Hawaii Family Forum filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday seeking to keep alive a case, Jackson v. Abercrombie, testing the constitutionality of that state’s former ban on same-sex couples marrying. Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie and same-sex couple plaintiffs have argued the Ninth Circuit should dismiss the appeal because the Hawaiian legislature passed a law last year allowing same-sex couples to marry. The Forum, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, says new lawsuits challenging the new marriage equality law could succeed. If they do, says the Forum, then the plaintiffs in Jackson would almost certainly want to re-litigate the issue.

15,500 TRANS SOLDIERS:

The Williams Institute, an LGBT-oriented think tank, issued a report this month estimating there are 15,500 transgender or non-gender conforming people serving in active duty and another 134,300 retired from the U.S. military.  Current military medical policy prohibits transgender people from serving in the military. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told 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.

TalkingGETTING BEYOND ‘AWKWARD’:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a new website last week to give gay men some tips on how and when to talk with their sexual partners about their HIV status. Among other things, the campaign suggests it’s better to talk “early” –early in the relationship and early in the evening. The talk about HIV status doesn’t have to be face to face; it can also take place through texting or email. The bottom line is to talk about HIV status so both parties can take precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


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.” 


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