Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Policy Matters - 11/17/10

Front Page Headlines
Sources: Pentagon Group Finds There Is Minimal Risk to Lifting Gay Ban During War. A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members working openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people familiar with a draft of the report, which is due to President Obama on Dec. 1. More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report's authors to conclude that objections to openly lesbian, gay and bisexual colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them. The report will be used by opponents and supporters of repeal legislation to bolster their positions in what is likely to be a heated and partisan congressional debate.

Report: Lesbian Parents Make Good Parents. A study released on Wednesday may dispel the notion that lesbians don't make good parents. The study, conducted by the Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation law and public policy at UCLA School of Law, showed that none of the teens raised by lesbian parents reported any physical or sexual abuses by their parent. This is a direct contrast with the 26 percent of American teens who report physical abuse and 8.3 percent who report sexual abuse from either their parent or legal guardian, according to Williams Institute. According to the authors who conducted the study, "the absence of child abuse in lesbian mother families is particularly noteworthy, because victimization of children is pervasive and its consequences can be devastating. To the extent that our findings are replicated by other researchers, these reports from adolescents with lesbian mothers have implications for healthcare professionals, policymakers, social service agencies, and child protection experts who seek family models in which violence does not occur."

Transgender Teen Wants to Help. Selena Milligan, a 15-year-old transgender girl, appeared this week on the nationally syndicated "Steve Wilkos Show" to discuss anti-LGBT bullying. Milligan: "I really think and hope that I helped some kids out there, because nobody should commit suicide for being themselves. I was scared at first, but once I started talking, so many kids got up and shared stories that they had with their friends, and they understood. There are a lot of kids out here that don't have any inspiration," she said. "If you just look for the right help and the right people to support you, it's there."

Public Policy Watch
Lawsuits Challenge Defense of Marriage Act. LGBT civil rights groups trying to build momentum for a possible Supreme Court marriage equality showdown filed two lawsuits Tuesday that seek to strike down portions of a 1996 law that denies married same-sex couples over 1,100 federal benefits. The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Connecticut and New York and come just months after a federal judge in Boston struck down a key component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The legal actions seek judicial declarations that the law enacted by Congress in 1996, when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional because it prevents the federal government from affording pension and other benefits to same-sex couples. Since 2004, five states — Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts — and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. In Hartford, Conn., the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders sued the federal government on behalf of a Connecticut widower and married couples from Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of a New York woman, Edith Schlain Windsor, who met her late spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, nearly a half century ago at a restaurant.

Department of Justice Asks to Keep DADT. The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to leave the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in place while it appeals a lower court's ruling that declared the policy unconstitutional. The Justice Department filed a legal brief with the high court Wednesday afternoon asking the justices to deny an application by the Log Cabin Republicans which would block discharges and investigations under the 1993 law banning openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces. The move comes as President Barack Obama presses Congress to dismantle the law in an upcoming lame-duck session – before Republicans take control of the House and gain power in the Senate in January. However, the brief contends that the White House's drive to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't support the Log Cabin Republicans' argument that a short-lived injunction against the policy should go forward – such a ruling could wreak havoc within the military, the justice department suggests.

ACLU Challenging Half-Pay for DADT Discharged Servicemembers. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the government on behalf of a gay former Air Force sergeant denied full separation pay after he was forced out under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Former Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Collins says he only wants what is given to other military veterans who leave involuntarily. The Air Force paid Collins, who was stationed at an eastern New Mexico air base, $12,351 instead of the expected $25,702 when he was honorably discharged in March 2006 after nine years. Separation pay is granted to military personnel who served at least six years but were involuntarily discharged, part of an effort ease their transition into civilian life. But the Department of Defense has a list of conditions that trigger an automatic reduction in that pay, including "homosexuality or homosexual conduct." That policy went into effect in 1991, two years before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The ACLU, which filed the suit Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., argues the Department of Defense cannot unilaterally cut the amount for people discharged for their sexual orientation.

A Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,
I'm pretty depressed with the outcomes of the November 2nd elections. With a less friendly Congress ready to take control in January, I'm wondering what my chapter can do now to help ensure that the lame duck Congress repeals "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once-and-for-all?
Thanks so much,
Cara
//
Dear Cara,
Thank you so much for your question. As you know, the Senate begins its lame-duck session this week. During this period, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the defense spending bill — with language to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" — back to the Senate for a vote. The opposition has already stated that they wish to strip this language from the bill. Time is of the essence, and we must continue to work hard in one final push to repeal DADT, which will enable lesbians, gays and bisexuals to serve openly in our military. We can only achieve repeal if we have a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.

We can only succeed with your help! Please be sure to take action today:
Timing is critical, therefore we must work overtime to ensure that this will be the last year where "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is in effect.

• Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard today and ask to be patched through to your Senators' offices. If you don't know who your senators are, please click here to go to our action alert center.

• When you get your two Senators on the line, please be sure to state that it's time to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once and for all, and urge them to pass the defense spending bill – with language repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell – and stand up for all servicemembers to serve openly and authentically. It's just that easy! Please call the switchboard today at 202-224-3121!
If you have additional questions, please be sure to contact Rhodes Perry, Associate Director of Policy and Programs at rperry@pflag.org or (202) 467-8180.

Warmest regards,
Policy Matters

P.S. Have you downloaded your new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2010 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit. www.pflag.org/btmh for more information now.

Please note that Policy Matters will return on November 30, 2010. If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than November 26, 2010.

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