President Barack Obama signs the certification stating the statutory requirements for repeal of DADT have been met, in the Oval Office, July 22, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement; Kathleen Hartnett, Associate Counsel to the President; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen; and Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama signs the certification stating the statutory requirements for repeal of DADT have been met, in the Oval Office, July 22, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement; Kathleen Hartnett, Associate Counsel to the President; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen; and Vice President Joe Biden. CREDIT: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Sunday, August 07 2011 14:38

National News, August 5 - August 18, 2011

By  Rex Wockner

DADT Dies for Good on Sept. 20

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military gay ban, will be fully and permanently dead on Sept. 20. It already can’t be enforced against active-duty troops, courtesy of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But on July 22, the military’s readiness to implement Congress’ repeal of DADT was certified by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and President Barack Obama, setting in motion a 60-day waiting period until the policy is history. The certification confirms that the armed forces’ implementation of the repeal and the transition to open service will not affect “military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces,” Panetta said.

“The final countdown to repeal begins today,” said Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, who urged Obama to now issue an executive order banning anti-gay discrimination and harassment in the military.


“Signing legislation that allows for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was necessary but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military,” Sarvis said. “It’s critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and discrimination.”

SLDN also promised to advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts, and to assist veterans in correcting or upgrading discharge paperwork.


Gays, Lesbians Marry in New York

Marriage line outside the City Clerk's office in Lower Manhattan, July 24.Gay and lesbian couples began marrying in New York state July 24—hundreds upon hundreds the first day the law legalizing same-sex marriage took effect. Dale Getto and Barbara Laven in Albany may have been first. Mayor Gerald Jennings said he spoke the key phrase at 12:00:01 a.m. A minute or so later, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster married Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd at the falls, which were lit with rainbow lights. Later in the day, more than 40 couples got married at the falls. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg officiated at the wedding of his staff members John Feinblatt and Jonathan Mintz on the steps of Gracie Mansion. On July 25, conservative groups sued to stop the marriages, alleging irregularities in the legislative and enactment processes around the law. A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the suit “is without merit.”


Senate OKs Out Gay Man for Federal District Judge

The U.S. Senate approved the nomination of openly gay J. Paul Oetken as a federal District Court judge in the Southern District of New York on July 18. The vote was 80-13. He will be first openly gay male federal district judge. There is one out lesbian federal judge, Deborah Batts in Manhattan. “We commend the Senate for their historic vote today,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Confirmation of Paul Oetken serves as a role model for all LGBT people interested in serving on the judiciary and shows LGBT youth that hard work pays off. The federal bench is greatly lacking LGBT diversity and with thousands of qualified LGBT attorneys in the U.S., there is no reason why the federal bench should not better reflect the composition of our country.”

Senate Holds Hearing on Repealing DOMA Congress’ first-ever hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act took place in the Senate Judiciary Committee July 20. DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing states’ same-sex marriages and purports to give states cover to refuse to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages. The bill to repeal DOMA was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. DOMA prevents same-sex couples from accessing more than 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage, including Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee spousal health coverage, protection against a spouse losing a shared home during a medical emergency, the right to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave, and the ability to file joint tax returns. At a Feinstein press conference July 19, staged with the Courage Campaign, Courage chair Rick Jacobs said: “We are tired of second-class, and in some cases, third-class citizenship in our own country. We pay taxes, we serve our communities and we work hard. We are entitled to the same rights, freedoms and benefits as other Americans. No more, no less.”


Senate Holds Hearing on Repealing DOMA

Rick JacobsCongress’ first-ever hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act took place in the Senate Judiciary Committee July 20. DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing states’ same-sex marriages and purports to give states cover to refuse to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages. The bill to repeal DOMA was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. DOMA prevents same-sex couples from accessing more than 1,100 federal rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage, including Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee spousal health coverage, protection against a spouse losing a shared home during a medical emergency, the right to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration, the guarantee of family and medical leave, and the ability to file joint tax returns. At a Feinstein press conference July 19, staged with the Courage Campaign, Courage chair Rick Jacobs said: “We are tired of second-class, and in some cases, third-class citizenship in our own country. We pay taxes, we serve our communities and we work hard. We are entitled to the same rights, freedoms and benefits as other Americans. No more, no less.”

 


California OKs Push to Repeal LGBT Teaching Law

Roland PalenciaCalifornia officials gave the go-ahead July 25 for anti-gay forces to begin collecting signatures for a voter referendum next June on the new law that requires public schools to teach about LGBT people’s history. Attorney General Kamala Harris titled the proposal, “Referendum to Overturn Non-Discrimination Requirements for School Instruction.”

And she summarized it this way: “If signed by the required number of registered voters and filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and Governor. The law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law would require school instructional materials to recognize societal contributions of various groups; and would prohibit school instructional materials that reflect adversely on persons based on their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics.” Opposition forces now face the arduous task of collecting 504,760 valid signatures from registered California voters and turning them in to county officials by Oct. 12.

 

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