The U.S. Navy will provide military benefits to gay couples stationed in Japan after previously denying dependent status to same-sex spouses there, according to defense officials.
The change came after U.S. and Japanese officials agreed to an interpretation of the status of forces agreement between the two nations, concluding that the term “spouses” applied to all individuals who are legally married to Department of Defense personnel.
“We are thankful for the support of the Japanese government as we worked through this review, and in supporting our efforts to meet the DOD guidance,” said Lt. Col. David Honchul, a spokesman for U.S. armed forces in Japan.
The Navy announced its decision this week, saying in a notice to personnel that it had added Japan to its list of overseas assignments for same-sex couples. The move came less than four months after the Washington Post published an article examining how gay service members and their spouses often miss out on U.S. benefits while living abroad.
“It’s good news that everyone else won’t have to go through what I went through,” said Austin Watkins, a gay civilian defense worker profiled in the story. “There are so many people who are going to benefit from this policy change, and I’m so glad to see it.”
Watkins said he transferred from Japan to Washington two weeks before the Navy made its announcement. “I feel bad about leaving early and would love to continue to support [the service members in Japan], but I don’t have a desire to work overseas for DOD ever again in my life after this experience.”
The Navy did not provide its usual spousal benefits to Watkins’s husband, Joseph Marcey, after Watkins was stationed in Japan shortly after the couple’s wedding.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a directive in August ordering the military to treat all legally married couples equally for purposes of federal benefits, ensuring that the Pentagon complied with a Supreme Court ruling this year that overturned a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The American Military Partners Association, a gay-rights group, described the Navy’s decision as “welcome news” but noted that the armed forces still do not treat same-sex spouses equally at many duty stations abroad.
“We urgently await for other locations to be added to the list so that our families no longer must worry about the difficult circumstances and decisions they currently face,” association president Stephen Peters said in a statement.
To date, the U.S. Navy has only made Japan and Guantanamo Bay available as overseas assignments for gay couples.
from The Washington Post
Archive for the ‘Gay Military’ Category
The U.S. Navy will provide military benefits to gay couples stationed in Japan after previously denying dependent status to same-sex spouses there, according to defense officials.
The Texas National Guard has moved a step further in its defiance of a Pentagon policy toward gay service members by refusing to process military housing allowances for same-sex couples, according to a gay-rights group.
The Texas Military Force, which includes the state’s guard forces, acknowledged on Monday that it was requiring all same-sex couples wanting to apply for a housing allowance at a “with dependent” rate must do so at a federal installation.
The American Military Partner Association, which represents gay military spouses, said the Texas National Guard has already turned away at least one couple that applied for the benefit at a state facility.
The group said the affected service member had chosen to remain anonymous with the public due to concerns about retaliation affecting her career and because of a “clear absence of protection under the Department of Defense or Texas Military Forces non-discrimination policy.”
“By refusing to treat same-gender military couples equally, the Texas Military Forces, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, is creating a hostile climate of discrimination and has sent a strong message that Department of Defense policies and direct orders by the secretary of defense will not be followed,” said AMPA president Stephen Peters.
In August, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the military to treat all legally married couples equally. That directive complied with an earlier Supreme Court decision that required the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex spouses for the purpose of benefits.
The Texas National Guard on Monday insisted that it is not denying benefits to same-sex couples, despite its requirement that gays must apply for the housing rate at federal installations.
“We want every gay National Guard member entitled to benefits to obtain those benefits,” said Texas Military Forces spokeswoman Laura Lopez. “We are not denying any benefits for people who are entitled to them, to include housing.”
Lopez added that gay couples who have been approved for the “with dependent” housing allowance will “absolutely get that rate.”
Texas is one of nine states that have refused to issue military IDs to gay spouses, telling same-sex couples they must apply for benefits at federal installations because their laws or constitutions prohibit the recognition of gay marriage. ‘The other states include Mississippi, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Indiana, South Carolina and West Virginia.
National Guard units fall under the jurisdiction of both the federal government and their respective states, giving them a unique status among military forces.
Earlier this month, Hagel directed the head of the National Guard Bureau, which acts as a liaison between the states and federal government, to meet with the adjutants general of the noncompliant states to resolve the issue. Indiana reversed its position on the matter soon thereafter.
from The Washington Post
Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney touched off a family feud by speaking out against gay marriage — even though her sister Mary is married to a woman.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, believes marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples only, despite the fact that her sister Mary married Heather Poe in 2012.
“I love Mary very much, I love her family very much,” Cheney said on Fox News Sunday. “This is just an issue on which we disagree.”
The would-be senator’s sister fired back with a Facebook post Sunday night. “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree — you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history,” wrote Mary Cheney.
Poe ripped the wannabe senator on her own Facebook post, saying her position is “offensive to say the least.”
from The New York Daily News
Two West Point graduates were married Saturday in the military academy’s first wedding between two men.
Larry Choate III, class of 2009, married Daniel Lennox, class of 2007, before about 20 guests.
Choate, 27, taught Sunday school at the U.S. Military Academy’s Cadet Chapel and said he always thought of it as the place he would get married if he could.
West Point hosted two same-sex weddings of women in late 2012, more than a year after New York legalized same-sex marriage. But Saturday’s wedding was the first time two men wed at West Point.
“It’s maybe one more barrier that’s pushed over a little bit, or maybe one more glass ceiling that’s shattered that makes it easier for the next couple,” Choate said Friday.
Choate and Lennox are out of the military and wore tuxedos for the ceremony. Some of their guests were in uniform.
The 28-year-old Lennox is getting his master’s degree in business administration at Harvard University. Choate is applying to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The pair did not know each other as cadets but met later through a friend.
Chaplain Cynthia Lindenmeyer officiated the ceremony.
from The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday sharply criticized U.S. states that are defying the Pentagon by refusing to allow National Guard facilities to issue ID cards that enable same-sex spouses of military members to claim benefits.
“This is wrong,” Hagel said in a speech in New York.
“Not only does this violate the states’ obligation under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they’re entitled to,” he said.
Hagel said this is causing division among the military ranks.
In his remarks to an Anti-Defamation League centennial dinner speech, Hagel did not name the states that are defying Pentagon policy on this issue. But the Pentagon has cited nine: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
The Pentagon says there are 114 Army and Air National Guard sites in those nine states that are not providing ID cards to eligible same-sex spouses.
Hagel also used his speech to announce that he has directed the Marine Corps to expedite the manufacture and delivery to Israel of V-22 Osprey aircraft, hybrids that take off and land like a helicopter and cruise like an airplane. It is to be the first overseas sale of the Osprey.
Hagel also offered assurances that the Obama administration’s interest in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program is a way of testing Iranian intentions for a diplomatic solution to a matter that has been in dispute for years.
“If we can find ways to resolve disputes peacefully, we are wise to explore them,” he said. Israel is skeptical of any negotiation with Iran.
Convinced Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons to threaten his country, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Iranians are trying to trick the West into easing economic sanctions while still pushing forward with their nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.
Hagel focused much of his dinner speech on the gay rights matter, which was a central issue during the tenure of his predecessor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta. Panetta, who retired in February, was honored at the dinner for his long career in public service.
Under Pentagon policy that took effect Sept. 3, same-sex spouses of military members are eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses. That decision followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Some states, however, have refused to allow issuance of the necessary Pentagon ID cards on National Guard facilities.
In Oklahoma, for example, Gov. Mary Fallin ordered her state’s National Guard to stop processing requests, making legally married gay couples apply for benefits on federal facilities like Tinker Air Force Base. Oklahoma in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting giving benefits of marriage to gay couples.
Hagel said these states’ policies are unfair. He said he ordered the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to “take immediate action to remedy this situation.”
It was not immediately clear what legal authority Grass has to force the states to change course.
Hagel said he instructed Grass to meet with the adjutants general from the nine states where the ID cards are being denied at state facilities. He said those adjutants general, who work for their states’ governor, “will be expected to comply” with Pentagon policy on this issue.
The American Military Partner Association, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian military members, praised Hagel’s remarks.
“Secretary Hagel has made it clear the National Guard in these few rogue states are failing to live up to their obligations to military families under federal law,” said Stephen Peters, the association’s president. “We applaud him in showing strong leadership by ordering the National Guard in these states to comply and follow lawful direction and DoD policy.”
Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active-duty military, National Guard and Reserves and among military retirees. It’s unclear how many of those are married. The Pentagon policy on equal access to benefits does not apply to unmarried gay partners of military members.
A Pentagon ban on gays serving openly in the military was dropped in September 2011.
from The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Spouses of veterans in same-sex marriages will be allowed to collect federal benefits, the Obama administration announced Wednesday in a move following the Supreme Court decision that struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act in June.
President Obama directed the executive branch to stop enforcing two provisions that restricted the U.S. from awarding spousal benefits to veterans in legal gay marriages. The provisions define “spouse” as a “person of the opposite sex,” Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. wrote Wednesday in a letter to Congress, adding that the Supreme Court’s decision in United States vs. Windsor “strongly supports the conclusion that those provisions are unconstitutional under the 5th Amendment.”
The Obama administration has made a series of policy decisions since the Windsor decision to extend federal benefits to legally married gay couples. Wednesday’s announcement went further in that it declared unconstitutional and therefore invalid an existing statute that was not considered by the Supreme Court.
“The continued unwinding of discrimination against legally married couples in the aftermath of the Windsor decision is a welcome development,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project, said in a statement. “The federal government is right to ensure that legally married couples, where a spouse has served valiantly in the military, are treated equally.”
Spouses of veterans in same-sex marriages that are recognized under state law can now receive the federal benefits. Thirteen states, including California, and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case overturned a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for various purposes.
Last week, the Internal Revenue Service announced that couples in same-sex marriages could file federal taxes jointly. The Office of Personnel Management has allowed same-sex spouses of federal employees to receive insurance benefits regardless of where they live. And in regard to immigration law, same-sex marriages are now treated the same as opposite-sex marriages.
The provision in the veterans law defining a spouse as a member of the opposite sex was declared unconstitutional last week by U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in Los Angeles.
from The Los Angeles Times
PITTSFORD, NEW YORK – Darren Manzella, a gay combat medic discharged from the Army after criticizing the military’s `don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in a 2007 television interview, has died in a traffic accident in western New York. He was 36.
His aunt, Robin Mahoney, on Friday confirmed his death. Manzella lived in the Chautauqua County town of Portland; he and his partner were married in July.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said Manzella was driving on Interstate 490 in suburban Rochester about 8:30 p.m. Thursday when his vehicle sideswiped a car. Deputies said he stopped his vehicle, got out and began pushing the car from behind. He was then hit by an SUV, pinning him between the two vehicles. He died at the scene.
Manzella’s December 2007 appearance on “60 Minutes” from the combat zone in Iraq was followed by his discharge in June 2008 for “homosexual admission,” a violation of the since-rescinded policy prohibiting service members from openly acknowledging they are gay.
After the television appearance and his return from Iraq, Manzella did media interviews, each a potential violation of the policy.
“This is who I am. This is my life,” Manzella said at a Washington news conference before his discharge. “It has never affected my job performance before. I don’t think it will make a difference now. And to be honest since then, I don’t see a difference because of my homosexuality.”
Manzella said he first told a military supervisor about his sexual orientation in August 2006, while working in a division headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas. Three weeks later, his battalion commander told him an investigation had been closed without finding “proof of homosexuality.” A month later, he was sent to Iraq.
His supporters said the overseas assignment demonstrated how the military was arbitrarily enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during the war.
Manzella enlisted in the Army in 2002. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge for service in Iraq. When he was discharged, he was a sergeant serving at Fort Hood with the 1st Cavalry Division.
from The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – A judge in Los Angeles ruled Thursday that a lesbian Army veteran and her spouse should be entitled to disability benefits given the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall said that a federal code defining a spouse as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional “under rational basis scrutiny” since the high court’s decision allowing legally married gay couples the right to health care benefits.
“The court finds that the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from veterans’ benefits is not rationally related to the goal of gender equality,” in the code, Marshall wrote in her four-page ruling.
The Department of Veterans Affairs denied an application from veteran Tracey Cooper-Harris and her spouse seeking additional money and benefits that married veterans are entitled to receive. Cooper-Harris suffers from multiple sclerosis and receives disability benefits.
She and Maggie Cooper-Harris got married in California during the brief period in 2008 when same-sex unions were legal in the state. The plaintiffs’ attorneys had said previously the couple would receive about $150 more a month in disability payments, and Maggie Cooper-Harris would be eligible for about $1,200 a month in survivor’s benefits if her wife died.
The Justice Department had asked for Cooper-Harris’ case to be tossed out on the grounds that veterans’ claims can only be heard by an administrative Board of Veterans’ Appeals. But Marshall said the case could move forward.
The law on VA benefits specifically defines spouse and surviving spouse as someone of the opposite sex, which has prevented same-sex married couples from accessing such benefits as enhanced disability or pension payments.
In a letter to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. earlier this month, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said no court had deemed the provision unconstitutional, nor has Congress taken up a bill to change the definition of spouse. He noted, however, that if spousal definitions were determined to be unconstitutional, the agency would be prepared to update its policies.
The Defense Department has said that same-sex spouses of military members will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses starting Sept. 3.
from The Associated Press
Lesbian Veteran Sues Government Over Denial Of Full Benefits
The Army analyst, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, made the disclosure via his attorney.
NBC’s Today revealed that Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning wants to live as a woman named Chelsea.
Manning’s news was delivered via his lawyer David Coombs, who spoke to host Savannah Guthrie.
Coombs said Manning plans to begin hormone therapy.
The Army analyst was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. His struggle with gender identity disorder, feeling that he was a man trapped in a woman’s body, was a key part of his defense.
Manning’s Full Statement:
Subject: The Next Stage of My Life
I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Chelsea E. Manning
GROTON, CONNECTICUT – A Navy sailor returning from a six-month deployment emerged from his submarine, dropped to one knee and proposed to his boyfriend during the homecoming celebration in Connecticut for USS New Mexico.
About 200 people were gathered at the dock of the Naval Submarine Base New London where Machinist’s Mate Jerrel Revels proposed to Dylan Kirchner. Kirchner said he had thought about getting married but the proposal Monday came as a surprise.
“I didn’t really care everybody was around. It felt just like the two of us,” Kirchner told The Day of New London.
The couple has not set a wedding date.
The repeal of the ban on openly gay military service took effect in 2011.
Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active-duty military, National Guard and Reserves. It’s unclear how many of those are married.
The attack submarine traveled more than 34,000 miles over six months and stopped at ports in Norway, Scotland and Spain. It marked the first deployment for more than 70 percent of the crew. The sub was commissioned in 2010 and is the second Navy vessel to be named for New Mexico.
from The Associated Press
U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan are using Craigslist to meet and have sex with each other on bases across the war-torn country, leading to concerns about a breakdown in discipline overseas.
Military commanders have forbade any service members who are not married to each other from having sex while deployed to the combat zone. As a result, each of the covert meetings is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The vast majority of the posts on Craigslist involve male soldiers seeking sex with other men – a practice that could have resulted in the discharge of both parities from the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which barred gays in the armed forces.
After the policy was repealed by Congress and President Barack Obama in 2010, the penalties for a gay rendezvous aren’t as steep.
A U.S. Marine lance corporal who was caught and arrested after making an illicit meeting with a male undercover Naval Criminal Investigation Service officer, told the Marine Corps Times that he was busted down to private first class, gave up $1,600 in pay and got 45 days of extra duties and 45 days of restrictions.
The soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan use the Iraq Craigslist page – a holdover from a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans were stationed throughout Iraq.
The ‘casual encounters’ section of the site features about two dozen posts a day, mostly from soldiers and civilians working with the military looking for hookups on bases and forward operating posts.
The posts often include sexually explicit photos of the poster’s genitals and sometimes even show sex acts.
‘Looking for a workout buddy or someone to hang out with, see where it goes. Let’s be honest, we all have our times and if it comes down to it, I want someone for clean, sane, safe and drama free fun,’ one serviceman who said he was at Kandahar Air Field wrote.
He posted the message along with a picture of his genitals hanging out of his military fatigues.
‘Like the title says I’m looking for someone to have some DL discreet safe regular fun with. Deployment drags and gets boring here fast!’ said another soldier, who posted a picture of himself in his underwear, his uniform hanging in the background.
That soldier said he was posted at Camp Eggers in Kabul.
Retired Colonel Dr Elspeth Cameron ‘Cam’ Ritchie, a former Army psychiatrist, told the Marine Corps Times that soldiers have long solicited sex while overseas – both from local prostitutes and from each other.
However, online sites like Criagslist make finding hookups faster and easier than ever before, she said.
‘When detached from home, without the ability to openly exercise relationships in a combat environment and with a fatalistic attitude, military members would be inclined to embrace risk-taking,’ she said.
‘These young men have high testosterone and, with the inability to quietly have a relationship, it is not surprising that they are willing to put themselves into that situation.’
from The Daily Mail
Court-martial prosecutors wrapped up their case on Tuesday against the soldier charged with providing a trove of secret material to WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified files in U.S. history.
Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, faces 21 charges, including espionage, computer fraud and, most seriously, aiding the enemy. Manning could face life in prison without parole if convicted.
Judge Colonel Denise Lind allowed the final prosecution witness, Daniel Lewis, a counterintelligence adviser at the Defense Intelligence Agency, to testify in a closed session. An unclassified summary of his testimony – largely about the value of the material Manning provided to WikiLeaks – will be read into the record.
Lewis was the government’s 28th in-person witness since the trial started on June 3. More than 50 written statements from witnesses have also been submitted by prosecutors.
Lind set a court recess from Wednesday to Monday, when “we will proceed with the defense case,” she said.
The defense has listed 46 potential witnesses and the trial is scheduled to run to August 23.
Lawyers for Manning have described him as naive but well-intentioned in wanting to show the American public the reality of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Army prosecutors contend U.S. security was damaged when the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website published classified information supplied by Manning. They say Manning obtained more than 700,000 classified files, combat videos and diplomatic cables while he was a junior intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
Among the accusations of harm to the United States, the former head of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba has testified that the leaking of details of prisoners held there threatened “serious” damage to national security.
Military prosecutors have sought to portray Manning as a loner who boasted of his expertise with computers and ability to crack passwords. They contend that arrogance drove Manning to leak the information.
Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, has said the soldier from Crescent, Oklahoma, believed the leaked material would not harm U.S. interests since it lacked operational value.
Coombs contends Manning, who is gay, was struggling with his sexual identity when he arrived in Iraq and was conflicted by his exposure to war and a trove of military data.
Dressed in a dark uniform, the slightly built Manning has sat silently throughout the trial so far, dwarfed by his taller defense attorneys and listening with a chin on his fist or slumped in his chair.
As the case has ground on, the onlookers that filled the small courtroom in the early days dwindled to about a half dozen by Tuesday. About a dozen reporters were following the trial through closed-circuit television, far fewer than the crowds when the case opened.
The testimony at Fort Meade outside Washington, home of the ultra-secret National Security Agency, has portrayed a laid-back atmosphere at the outpost east of Baghdad where Manning worked.
He and other analysts often listened to music, played video games or watched movies while they were on duty, supposed to be tracking insurgents and al Qaeda, witnesses have said.
WikiLeaks returned to headlines last month when it helped organize the departure of fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow.
Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for the past year to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Assange, an Australian, says the charges are reprisal for WikiLeaks’ publication of information embarrassing to the U.S. and other governments.
It’s a first in the history of the military, as the Pentagon officially recognized a local Navy veteran’s change of gender.
Born a male, Autumn Sandeen said as a teen, she identified as a female.
She joined the Navy, lived as male and kept her secret for two decades before retiring.
“If I would have been myself, I would have been kicked out,” said Sandeen.
According to military guidelines, gender identity issues are a mental disorder and detrimental to good order and discipline.
In 2011, as the ban on gays and lesbians was lifted, the transgender ban remained.
“The best way to explain it is I felt like a bridesmaid, never a bride,” said Sandeen.
Twenty months later, a step down the aisle toward acceptance.
“I felt tremendous, like I accomplished something, not just himself, but for the broader transgender community,” said Sandeen.
It’s a process that began in 2011. She appealed to the VA, then the Pentagon. It ended with the Pentagon granting her an official change of gender on all military documents.
She submitted a mountain of paperwork, including a revised birth certificate.
It’s the first documented case of a gender change in the military.
“They’re acknowledging that transgender people exist and not completely off their rockers,” Sandeen told 10News.
Sandeen said the recognition of a veteran’s gender change forces the question: why shouldn’t an active service member be able to change as well?
One thing suddenly helping her cause: as of mid-May 2013, psychiatric manuals no longer classify gender identity issues as a mental disorder.
“I feel like we should able to serve openly because we are physically able to serve openly. It’s not a disorder,” said Sandeen.
Sandeen hopes the U.S. will join seven other countries in allowing transgender troops.
There is no word from the Pentagon on whether the change in the psychiatric manuals could prompt a change in policy.
Transgender Vets Want Military Access Too
A lawsuit brought by a lesbian Army veteran and her wife over the denial of disability benefits can move forward over the objections of the Department of Justice, a federal judge in California ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall refused to dismiss Tracey Cooper-Harris’ challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and to two other laws that make same-sex spouses of military veterans ineligible for benefits available to straight spouses. Marshall did not explain her reasoning in court, but said she would issue a written ruling at a later date.
The Justice Department under President Obama has refused to defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should strike it down as unconstitutional when it hears arguments in another lawsuit next month.
But the department had asked for Cooper-Harris’ case to be tossed out on the grounds that veterans’ claims can only be heard by an administrative Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Cooper-Harris suffers from multiple sclerosis and receives disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. She and her wife, Maggie Cooper-Harris, got married in California during the brief period in 2008 when same-sex unions were legal in the state.
Citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and veterans’ benefits laws that define a spouse as a person of the opposite sex, the VA denied the couple’s application for additional money and benefits that married veterans are entitled to receive.
In the case of the couple, they would receive about $150 more a month in disability payments, and Maggie Cooper-Harris would be eligible for about $1,200 a month in survivor’s benefits if her wife died, said Southern Poverty Law Center deputy legal director Christine Sun, who is representing the couple.
Even though the Supreme Court is set to examine the Defense of Marriage Act, the justices could end up issuing a narrow decision that does not settle the question of whether the act is constitutional, in which case it would remain important for Cooper-Harris’ case to remain active, Sun said. Marshall has scheduled the next hearing for April 1.
“The significance of the court’s ruling today is it vindicates the right of Tracie and Maggie Cooper-Harris to go forward to have their day in court,” she said.
from The Associated Press
FORT MEADE, MARYLAND – Pfc. Bradley Manning testified Thursday that he started the largest intelligence disclosure in U.S. history from a Barnes & Noble in Maryland, after the Washington Post and New York Times turned him down.
“I did believe, and still believe, that these documents are some of the most significant documents of our time,” Manning said, echoing a note he wrote to WikiLeaks.
During a daylong hearing for his so-called “naked plea,” the 25-year-old soldier spoke for the first time about how and why he started leaking. The admission bypasses prosecutors and goes directly to the judge.
Although he admitted to sending almost every file on his charge sheet, he pleaded guilty only to 10 of the 22 specifications against him, amending most to get a reduced sentence.
As pleaded, the charges carry a 20-year maximum, plus forfeiture, fine and dishonorable discharge.
Prosecutors still intend to pursue all charges against him, including “aiding the enemy,” which carries a possible life sentence.
In the morning, Manning delivered a prepared speech that meticulously recounted his transmission of hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic files to WikiLeaks. A military judge grilled him about his statement in the afternoon.
When he entered Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., Manning said he felt neither “physically or mentally prepared” for basic training, but he found his niche upon his transfer to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to train as an intelligence specialist.
He brought these skills to Forward Operation Base Hammer, where he was deployed as an intelligence specialist.
It was here that he first accessed incident reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, known as SigActs, short for significant actions.
“As an analyst, I viewed the SigActs as historical data,” Manning said.
He added that these files can be sensitive when first produced, but that status wears off after the military’s public affairs department reports the incidents to the press and public. This process usually takes three days, he said.
Although prosecutors claim that Manning “exceeded authorized access” by downloading these in bulk, Manning said analysts openly back up the files because the military server was prone to crashing.
At the time, he said he had no intention of sending the files to WikiLeaks or anyone else.
Manning acknowledged that he installed WinRar, a free software-compression program, on his computer to download the files in bulk, but he said that he openly did it because it was not a violation.
WikiLeaks allegedly first came on Manning’s radar around Thanksgiving 2009, when the website published “purported SMS messages” sent by cellphones near the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Manning said he concluded that the messages were “very likely real based on the detail.”
Around that time, he said that he began to “routinely monitor” WikiLeaks as well as various news wires and reports by private intelligence firms like Strategic Forecasting, or StratFor.
Such research was “what good analysts were expected to do,” he said.
Manning added that he had even used a WikiLeaks-published document about weapons trafficking to perform his duties as an intelligence specialist.
He said started to enter WikiLeaks chat rooms out of “curiosity” and found the discussions there to be “almost academic in nature” – and not only WikiLeaks-related.
Manning said he believes he met Julian Assange in those chat rooms, though the WikiLeaks founder allegedly wrote to Manning under the pseudonym of Nathaniel Frank, in keeping with a staff policy of not sharing real names with sources. In his testimony, Manning mispronounced the Australian editor’s last name as “uh-SONN-ghee.”
Though Manning said he has his doubts about the authenticity of that friendship, he noted that, “in real life, I lacked a close personal friendship with the people in my section.”
The soldier mentioned that his “perceived sexual orientation” might be to blame for a chilly relationhip with his roommate.
Also around this time, a superior officer allegedly ordered Manning to produce the Iraqi Federal Police with “bad guys” who had no ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorism.
Manning said these detainees were distributing a scholarly critique of the financial corruption of then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, and that an interpreter he retained deemed the literature “benign.”
When Manning pointed out the discrepancy, he said his superiors told him to “drop it,” and ordered him to turn over prisoners who would be “very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time, if ever.”
“I couldn’t believe what I heard and I complained to the other analysts,” he said. “I am the type of person who wants to figure out how things work. … I was not satisfied with producing canned or cookie-cutter assessments.”
Disillusioned, Manning said he started talking to the people closest to him about whether to start leaking during his mid-tour leave in January 2010.
Manning explained that the leaks had nothing to do with any mental health issues.
“It’s not attached to depression as a mental issue because I am not raising that,” Manning said.
He said his boyfriend at the time, Tyler Watkins, seemed uninterested and their relationship was falling apart during his visit.
When he visited his aunt’s house in Maryland, a “blizzard bombarded the mid-Atlantic,” and he said that he was left to weigh his moral dilemma.
“At this point, it made sense to disclose,” he said.
He said that a Washington Post reporter, whom he did not name, “did not take me seriously,” and The New York Times did not respond to a news tip he left on its answering machine.
He added that he considered dropping by the office of Politico, but the weather made that impossible.
By sending to WikiLeaks, Manning allegedly worried that the files “might not be noticed by the American media.” He said he concluded nevertheless that the website “seemed like the best medium for sharing this information with the world within my reach.”