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
Archive for the ‘Gay Military’ Category
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.
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.”
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Charlie Morgan, a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard who fought to repeal the federal law barring her wife from receiving benefits to help care for their daughter, has died. She was 48.
Morgan died Sunday at a hospice in Dover after a battle with breast cancer, a spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan said.
Morgan, of New Durham, was a nationally recognized advocate in the effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. She was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit in 2011 saying the act violated her constitutional rights.
Under the federal act, the Pentagon is required to ignore same-sex marriages, which are legal in several states including New Hampshire. Morgan, after finding out she had cancer, was worried her spouse and their daughter would be unable to receive military, Social Security and other benefits if she died.
“She deserves the same benefits as any other spouse,” Morgan said in 2011 at the first national convention of gay military personnel on active duty. “She went through the same stress, fear and concern during my deployment as any other spouse.”
Shortly before that, Morgan came out on national television on the day the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed.
On Monday, a Department of Defense memo detailed a number of benefits that will be extended to same-sex partners of service members, including identification cards that will provide access to commissaries and other services but not some housing benefits. It appears the additional benefits don’t apply in Morgan’s case because they would not be retroactive.
In February 2012, Morgan visited Capitol Hill to meet with the staff of House Speaker John Boehner to tell her story.
She said her breast cancer was diagnosed in 2008, and she underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She was declared cancer-free in 2010 and was deployed to Kuwait for one year. She returned home to her wife, Karen Morgan, and then-4-year-old daughter. But she also learned that the cancer had returned and was incurable.
In August 2012, the Morgans traveled to Minneapolis to testify before the Democratic Party’s platform committee in support of the freedom to marry, following a video released by the groups OutServe-SLDN and Freedom to Marry detailing their story.
Morgan led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance at Hassan’s inauguration on Jan. 3. Hassan said Morgan’s fight for equality will outlive her fight against cancer.
“We can and should honor Charlie’s legacy by continuing her fight to ensure that all families are treated equally by the state of New Hampshire and by the federal government,” Hassan said in a statement.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire, said Morgan “epitomized courage in her military service, her fight for LGBT equality and her battle with cancer.”
A service has been scheduled for Thursday at South Church in Portsmouth.
from The Associated Press
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA – A woman who is married to a female Army officer at Fort Bragg and who was recently denied membership in its officers’ spouses club said late Friday that she has been invited to become a full member.
Ashley Broadway told the Associated Press that she received the invitation from the club’s board in an email Friday.
The invitation came on the same day that Broadway also learned she’d been named Fort Bragg’s 2013 “Military Spouse of the Year” by Military Spouse magazine. She is married to Lt. Col. Heather Mack, who gave birth this week to the couple’s second child, a baby girl.
“I’m pleased, I’m happy,” Broadway said by phone Friday night. “As soon as things calm down with the baby, I want to get involved. I hate that it took so long for them to come to this conclusion. But I think things happen for a reason. I’m a very devout Christian. I’ve had faith in God this whole time. I think if anything it’s brought up a larger issue: We have two classes of service members and how they’re… not treated equally.”
“Looking back, it’s been a blessing in disguise because people are talking… in Washington, this is being talked about,” she added.
Last month, Fort Bragg received national attention when Broadway was denied membership in the officers’ spouses club at the North Carolina Army post because she does not have a spouse identification badge issued by the military.
Though she and Mack have been together for 15 years, the only pass post officials would provide to Broadway named her as a caregiver to their 2 1/2-year-old son – the same credential given to nannies.
The club announced it would allow Broadway admittance as a “guest member,” but Broadway said anything less than full membership wasn’t acceptable.
In an email Friday, a copy of which was provided by Broadway to AP, the board of the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses writes that “in order to immediately support all military Officer spouses who are eligible for ABOS membership a more inclusive definition of spouse is needed. Therefore, any Spouse of an active duty commissioned or warrant Officer with a valid marriage certificate from any state or district in the United States is eligible for ABOS membership.”
The email continues, “We would like to offer you to become a full member of ABOS. Our next event is in February, in which we are doing a Murder Mystery event dinner. We welcome both you and LTC Mack to join us.”
Broadway said she’s looking forward to becoming involved in club activities.
“I’m not one to hold grudges or anything,” she said. “I hope to get to know these ladies and we’ll go from there – do activities, so that we can better the lives of people here at Fort Bragg.”
The couple’s case is an example of how nearly a year and half after President Barack Obama and Congress ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” same-sex couples are faced with daily reminders of the conflict inherent in serving openly as gays and lesbians under a government that still refuses to acknowledge their relationships.
Pentagon officials say they are bound by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than that between a man and a woman.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA in June, but advocacy groups say there are numerous steps the Pentagon could take now to treat struggling same-sex military couples more fairly.
Among the steps proposed by such advocacy groups as OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the American Military Partner Association are issuing military IDs to same-sex spouses, ensuring spouses have full access to on-base social programs, and letting same-sex couples qualify for military housing. Pentagon officials say the proposals are under study.
from The Associated Press
Same-Sex Marriage: Army’s Not Budging
Lesbian Wife Denied Membership To Army Wives Group
Last week, the Marines made it clear that its spouses’ clubs could not discriminate against same-sex couples.
Wednesday, the Army said: not so fast.
As things stand now, the Army, backed by the Pentagon, is saying it will not bar recognition of spouses’ clubs that prohibit same-sex couples from membership.
This all began awhile back at Fort Bragg, N.C., after the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses denied Ashley Broadway membership, even though she is married to Army Lieutenant Colonel Heather Mack.
The Marines, sniffing change in the air, issued orders last week saying that such discrimination against same-sex couples would lead the corps to deny such clubs any support from the corps. “We would interpret a spouse’s club’s decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination,” the corps’ top lawyer wrote.
The Army, typically, sees it just the opposite. “The Association of the Bragg Officers’ Spouses, a private organization, is not in violation of current Department of Defense instructions, directives, and laws,” says Ben Abel, a Fort Bragg spokesman.
When Abel is asked to square the Army decision with the Marine’s, he says only that “we are responsible for the welfare of soldiers and their families at Fort Bragg.”
The corps interprets Marine guidance as saying that same-sex couples must be recognized by such clubs if such clubs are to continue to receive corps’ benefits (such as holding meetings on corps’ installations). The corps’ lawyer says the language bars “unlawful discrimination,” which means the corps “would interpret” that language to bar discrimination against same-sex couples.
Here’s the Pentagon’s 2008 guidance the Arny is relying on, which the service says dictates just the reverse:
No person because of race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, or national origin shall be unlawfully denied membership, unlawfully excluded from participation, or otherwise subjected to unlawful discrimination by any non-Federal entity or other private organization covered by this Instruction.
It too has that all-important “otherwise” caveat in there. But the Army says that’s not broad enough to ban spouses’ clubs from barring same-sex couples. The Pentagon, which championed the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military, concurs.
There’s no mention in the guidelines of sexual orientation, which isn’t surprising – they were written three years before the Pentagon lifted its gay ban. Defense officials say they simply are complying with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which says marriage can only be between a woman and a man, and has let the Pentagon deny benefits to same-sex spouses that traditional spouses get.
This all boils down to three things:
– The Marines were the service most opposed to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But once they realized it was going to change, they saluted, got out in front of it, and have pushed hard to turn the same-sex issue into a non-issue in its ranks. They were the more agile – Marines would prefer “expeditionary” – force in dealing with a change that many thought would be significant, but really hasn’t been.
- The Army is the most traditional of the military services, and the one that plods, in ways both good and bad. If it can find a regulation justifying the status quo, it will embrace it tightly. This should come as no surprise: this is how the Army fights, this is how it wages peace, and this is how it lives.
- The key unknown is how prospective defense secretary Chuck Hagel will deal with the matter. He upset gay activists by opposing a gay ambassador a decade ago, and has since apologized. “I fully support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country,” Hagel recently wrote Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. “I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.”
The contrast between the Army and Marines could dissolve overnight if a Defense Secretary Hagel issued orders detailing how all the services should deal with the matter.
Look for it to melt, like winter ice, before summer.
from Time Magazine
Lesbian Wife Denied Membership To Army Wives Group
A military judge refused Tuesday to toss out the case against WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning but ruled that any sentence the Army private receives should be reduced by 112 days because of his mistreatment in confinement.
Manning’s confinement at a military jail in Quantico, Va., was “more rigorous than necessary,” said Army Col. Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the hearing at Fort Meade, Md. Maintaining him in suicide risk over mental health recommendations “became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests.”
Nonetheless, she said, “dismissal of charges is not appropriate” and would be fitting only in the case of “outrageous” conduct.
The prospects for Lind dismissing the case were considered slim. Manning, an Oklahoma native who lived briefly in Potomac, faces a court-martial in March on charges of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive government documents to the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks.
He faces 22 charges, including espionage and aiding the enemy, and could receive a life sentence.
“If Private Manning hoped that the entire case would be dismissed because of the way he was treated at the Quantico Marine brig, he was seriously unrealistic,” said Eugene Fidell, a Yale University law professor and military justice expert.
The government conceded at a pretrial hearing last month that Manning had been improperly held on suicide watch for seven days and should receive seven days off any sentence.
In that sense, Lind’s ruling is “a small victory” for Manning and his defense team, said Michael J. Navarre, a military justice expert and former military lawyer. “They’ve at least shown that the government was mistreating Manning for some period of time” at Quantico.
Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who served in Iraq, was arrested in May 2010 and eventually transferred to Quantico in July 2010. He testified last November that he felt like he was in “a shark-attack environment” at Quantico and that the guards were out to show they were in charge. “Everything I did was wrong,” he said.
Manning was kept alone in a windowless 6-by-8-foot cell 23 hours a day and forced while on suicide watch to sleep in only a “suicide smock,” which military officials said is standard procedure when inmates are believed to pose a risk to their own safety. In March 2011, after eight months of confinement, Manning quipped sarcastically that he could kill himself with the elastic of his underwear if he wanted to.
Manning, 25, has acknowledged contemplating suicide shortly after his arrest but said that he tried to convince guards for month that he was not a threat to himself or anyone else.
At Quantico, he was monitored 24 hours a day, at times growing so bored and starved for companionship that he danced in his cell and played peekaboo with guards and with his image in the mirror — activity his defense attorney attributed to “being treated as a zoo animal.”
He was barred from exercising in his cell and slept on a mattress with a built-in pillow. He had no sheet, only a blanket designed so that it could not be shredded.
Forensic psychiatrists who saw Manning testified last month that there was no medical reason for him to be on suicide watch.
The conditions of his confinement were so controversial that they prompted Juan E. Mendez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, to seek to interview Manning directly and without monitoring, but his request was refused.
In December, the judge accepted terms that could allow Manning to plead guilty to some lesser charges. The private would accept responsibility for providing classified material to WikiLeaks in exchange for a maximum term of 16 years in prison.
Manning, who was 22 when he was arrested, is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He has spent 959 days in pretrial detention, and his defense team has argued that his right to a speedy trial has been violated.
from The Washington Post
Bradley Manning Defers Plea In WikiLeaks Case
Army Orders Court-Martial In WikiLeaks Case
Army Officer Recommends Trial In WikiLeaks Case
Dan Choi Thrown Off Base At Manning Trial
Bradley Manning Had Alter-Ego ‘Breanna’
Dozens of gay and lesbian former military service members who were discharged due to their homosexuality will receive the rest of their severance pay under a settlement approved Monday by a federal court.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the $2.4 million settlement covers more than 180 veterans who received only half of their separation pay under a policy that went into effect in 1991, two years before “don’t ask, don’t tell” became law.
Laura Schauer Ives, the managing attorney for the ACLU of New Mexico, called the settlement a “long-delayed justice.”
“There was absolutely no need to subject these service members to a double dose of discrimination by removing them from the armed forces in the first place, and then denying them this small benefit to ease the transition to civilian life,” she said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, said the Defense Department is aware of the settlement and “will, of course, continue to follow the law, as well as the terms of the agreement.”
The case was filed in 2010 by the ACLU on behalf of former Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Collins of Clovis, N.M. He was honorably discharged in 2006 after two civilians who worked with him at Cannon Air Force Base reported they saw him kiss his boyfriend in a car about 10 miles from the base. The decorated sergeant was off-duty and not in uniform at the time.
Collins said in a statement Monday that the settlement means a lot to him and others who were forced out of the military against their will.
Separation pay is granted to military personnel who serve at least six years but are involuntarily and honorably discharged. The Defense Department had a list of conditions that triggered an automatic reduction in that pay, including homosexuality, unsuccessful drug or alcohol treatment or discharge in the interests of national security.
The lawsuit argued that it was unconstitutional for the department to unilaterally cut the amount for people discharged for homosexuality.
Even though “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed last fall, the pay policy was separate and a federal judge in Washington, D.C., allowed the case to move forward.
At the time, the administration did not defend the merits of the policy but argued that the defense secretary had sole discretion to decide who gets what separation pay and that the court shouldn’t be able to rewrite military regulations.
The settlement covers former military members who were discharged on or after Nov. 10, 2004. They will be notified by the federal government that they’re eligible to opt in to the settlement and receive their full separation pay.
from The Associated Press
Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican who scuttled the GOP’s chances of winning the Senate with his remark about “legitimate rape,” and who predicted that same-sex marriage would lead to the collapse of civilization, has one last task before leaving the House: undercutting the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
In May, the House approved a version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that includes a religious “conscience clause” authored by Akin. The measure purported to protect the religious liberties of service members by preventing them from being punished on the basis of their religious beliefs “concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality.” The provision is broad, and LGBT rights supporters fear it would permit discrimination against gay and lesbian service members. Under Akin’s proposal, a service member could cite his or her religious beliefs on homosexuality for refusing to serve alongside gay and lesbian colleagues, or for treating them differently from everyone else. For example, a service member could object to being housed in the same facility as someone who is gay or lesbian. Akin says this provision is necessary to prevent service members from “being persecuted for their views,” but the language could allow the persecution of service members on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“It carves out a set of special rights for those who would want to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation,” says Allyson Robinson, an Army veteran and executive director of the LGBT rights group Outserve-Service Members Legal Defense Network. “What this language does is make it less clear to that unit commander on the ground how they should implement Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.”
The White House released a statement noting that Akin’s provision, and another measure banning the use of military facilities for ceremonies celebrating same-sex unions, could be “harmful to good order and discipline.”
The Senate passed a version of the 2013 defense spending bill without the Akin proposal in early December. But with both houses of Congress negotiating the final version of the bill, the two main Republican negotiators, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), want Akin’s so-called “conscience clause” to remain in the bill.
“They’re pushing pretty hard,” said a House Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations. McCain and McKeon were both fierce opponents of allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly. McKeon, who donated to the Proposition 8 campaign that banned same-sex marriage in California, previously threatened to scuttle a defense bill unless it contained language banning military chaplains from performing same-sex ceremonies even if they were willing to. LGBT rights supporters view the GOP’s new hard line on the Akin language as a surprise. “Despite a totally open amendment process in which more than 100 amendments were approved, no senator offered a similar amendment to the Akin language,” says Ian Thompson of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The negotiations could be resolved as early as Tuesday evening.
During the debate over repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Republicans and other opponents of the move warned that getting rid of the policy would be harmful to unit readiness and cohesion, and would harm morale. Since repeal was enacted in September 2011, however, both the Defense Department itself and outside studies have found little evidence that ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell had any negative consequences at all. “My view is that the military has kind of moved beyond it,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters in May. And LGBT rights activists now contend that the Akin provision—should it become law—could cause chaos in the military.
“It turns out that after years of saying that repeal of DADT was a threat to unit cohesion a threat to good order and discipline, a threat to morale,” Robinson says, “turns out that it’s those anti-gay Republicans in Congress who are the real threat to unit cohesion, good order and discipline, and morale.”
from Mother Jones
WASHINGTON – U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps made history Saturday at the home of his commander in chief.
The 35-year-old active-duty officer proposed to his boyfriend, Ben Schock, 26, in the Grand Foyer of the White House at the end of a holiday tour.
It’s believed to be the first time two gay men have gotten engaged inside the White House, and a first for an active-duty member of the U.S. military. A transgender man proposed to his partner in the East Room earlier this year.
“Our first date was to the White House, so I wanted to propose to him there,” Phelps told ABC News. “When I got invited to the holiday tour — six months to the day that we had been there on our first date — it was way too much of a coincidence to pass up.”
The moment, which Phelps described as a complete surprise to Schock, was captured on camera by fellow tour-goers. Some of the images have since gone viral online.
The White House declined to comment on the engagement. No word on whether the Obamas knew what happened in their halls.
Phelps said his public engagement — made possible in part because of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — has been well-received among his Marine Corps peers. But he noted that there could be a rocky road ahead for their relationship after the nuptials planned for next spring.
“The one thing that is overshadowing things,” he said, “is the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act is still in effect and the DOD [Defense Department] isn’t going to recognize our marriage.
“I’m expecting to get orders to Japan next summer, but as of right now, because they’re not going to recognize Ben as my spouse, they’re not going to pay for him to accompany me; he’s not going to have any health care coverage; and, he’s not going to have access to the base while I’m gone,” he said.
“I’d have to get permission to live out in town as a ‘single officer,’ so we’ll have to figure that out,” he said.
The Supreme Court will later this year review the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman.
from ABC News
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA – The wife of a ranking officer in the Army was reportedly denied membership to a group for military spouses and is speaking out because she thinks the rejection has more to do with homophobia than any legitimate grievance.
Ashley Broadway has been with her wife for 15 years and married legally after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But Broadway’s struggles relating to her relationship are not over yet.
Broadway penned an open letter to the president of the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses in North Carolina, entreating the organization to reconsider her request.
“Although I have only been a legal spouse since November 10th, I have been in a committed relationship with my spouse since 1997,” Broadway wrote.
Broadway has been at every promotion ceremony for her love – from first lieutenant to lieutenant colonel – and knows what it is like to have her leave for multiple deployments as well as temporary duty assignments, she said.
“When I decided to dedicate myself to my spouse, I knew all too well I was dedicating myself to the Army as well,” Broadway explained.
Broadway lamented that she is not the only same-sex spouse to be denied entry into a military group, leading her to suspect that she was denied on account of her sexuality.
The club comprises “military spouses dedicated to the tradition of the Army, while moving towards its vision of tomorrow,” according to its website.
“We are a part of the face of this country’s future,” Broadway wrote, “and the White House, Pentagon, and many other posts are leaning forward to embrace this progression.”
Broadway is not speaking out about this incident alone.
The American Military Partner Association is a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members. The organization created a petition for LGBT people and their straight allies to show support for Broadway.
“By excluding Ashley from membership in the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, you have turned away the dedicated wife of an Army officer,” the petition reads.
Broadway was heartbroken when she read the words “do not qualify” largely because the organization’s values so closely reflect her own, she said. She sees more similarities between her life and the lives of straight military spouses than she sees differences.
“I am dedicated to my spouse and the country we love,” she said simply.
from The New York Daily News
Marines will react to male and female Marines serving alongside one another in combat as they have reacted to openly gay men and women serving in their ranks: no big deal.
That’s the argument a pair of Marines – married to each other — make in the latest issue of Proceedings, the sea services’ independent journal. Dropping the ban on women serving in combat slots “will most likely have a similar effect” as ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” write Major Chris Haynie, an infantry officer and Major Jeanette Haynie, an AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunship pilot.
The implication that no woman can perform ably in combat, regardless of personal strengths and abilities, bleeds into every corner of the Corps today. If women cannot perform in combat, as the policy clearly declares, what else can’t they do? That is the unanswered question that the policy begs asking. It drags into question the capabilities of female Marines serving in every other MOS, placing an asterisk in boldface type after each “USMC.” This can result in highly negative consequences that damage the unit cohesion that we seek to cultivate, especially in combat. We have experienced this firsthand.
The Pentagon’s current combat-exclusion policy designed to keep women out of infantry, armor and other ground-combat units “institutionalizes the concept that all male Marines, based on gender alone, are capable of performing duties in the combat arms, while all female Marines similarly are not.”
They argue that, like the gay ban, the notion of women in combat doesn’t generate the same concern among today’s Marines — 62% of the force is 25 or younger — as it does for earlier generations of Marines. Besides, they add, a decade of war has shown that the logic of the policy no longer makes sense.
from Time Magazine
The life of computer pioneer Alan Turing has been commemorated in a special edition of Monopoly.
The board’s London landmarks, and its Community and Chance cards, have been swapped for places and events important in Turing’s life.
Players can move their pieces from his birthplace in Maida Vale to Hut 8 at Bletchley Park.
Search giant Google has bought 1,000 of the sets and donated them to Bletchley Park to help raise funds.
The board of the special edition is based on a hand-drawn variant of Monopoly created by William Newman in 1950. William was the son of scientist Max Newman who was a key figure in Turing’s life.
The hand-drawn version was thought to have been lost but was rediscovered in 2011 and donated to the Bletchley Park museum soon after.
“Bringing this board to life has been one of the most exciting and unique projects we’ve been involved with here,” said Iain Standen, head of the Bletchley Park Trust.
The special board has Bletchley Park, the wartime centre of the Allied code-cracking effort, taking the place of Mayfair, swaps houses and hotels for huts and blocks and has Turing’s face on all the banknotes.
The commemorative edition also includes a facsimile of William Newman’s hand-drawn board. Google has helped with the production of the board by buying up the copies of the game. Funds raised by the sale of the game at Bletchley Park will aid the heritage site’s reconstruction project.
from The BBC
Gay Codebreaker Alan Turing Gets Stamp Of Approval
The first academic study of the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) has found that the new policy of open service has had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale, according to a new story on the Huffington Post. Co-authors of the study, whose publication coincides with the anniversary of DADT repeal, include professors at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Marine Corps War College.
According to Dr. Aaron Belkin, the lead author of the study, “The U.S. Military has set an international standard with the smooth transition to openly gay service.” In 2009, more than 1,000 retired generals and admirals signed a statement predicting that DADT repeal would “break the All-Volunteer Force.” Belkin is director of the Palm Center, the research institute that published today’s study.
While the media has reported impressionistic observations about the impact of DADT repeal, today’s study is the first scholarly analysis of the topic. To determine whether repeal has compromised the military, the study’s co-authors pursued multiple research methodologies including in-depth interviews, on-site field observations of military units, and survey analysis. They made extensive efforts to identify evidence that repeal has harmed the armed forces, including soliciting the views of 553 retired generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, of all known expert and activist opponents of repeal, and of major anti-repeal organizations.
Notable findings of the new study include: (1) Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of DADT repeal; (2) A Pentagon spokesperson told the study’s co-authors that she was not aware of a single episode of violence associated with repeal; (3) Pentagon data show that recruitment and retention remained robust after repeal; (4) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of morale after repeal as they did prior to repeal; (5) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of readiness after repeal as they did prior to repeal.
Contrary to expectations, the co-authors found evidence that repeal has improved trust among the troops, and has enabled service members to resolve problems in ways that were not possible while DADT remained law. For example, one soldier told them that in the initial period after repeal, he continued to hear derogatory language by some in his unit. Yet when he spoke with them about leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved. “They don’t agree,” he said, “but they were willing to be professional.” The soldier added that frank discussions are now less risky because of repeal, that honesty helped disabuse his colleagues of preconceived notions about gay people, and that ultimately, problems were “completely resolved.”
from The Sacramento Bee
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Chile’s government is criticizing one of its top generals for discriminating against gays and religious groups in his orders to military recruiters.
Army Commander Cristian Chateau had signed a document asking recruiters to be “especially concerned” about finding soldiers who are “morally and intellectually prepared” for military service. He said they should exclude people with physical, mental or socioeconomic problems, criminal behavior, drug use, homosexuals, conscientious objectors and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Defense Minister Andres Allemand said Friday that such ideas are completely opposed to government policy, and said he’s asked for a full military review of the matter to eliminate any such guidance.
Gay rights leader Rolando Jimenez isn’t satisfied and he wants the general to be forcibly retired.
from The Associated Press
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA — Four Marines arrested for assaulting a man outside a popular local gay bar, and who could face hate crime charges, have been released on bond, authorities said Wednesday.
The Marines were arrested early Monday after Long Beach police were called to the Silver Fox, located on Redondo Avenue just north of Fourth Street on the edge of Belmont Heights, at about 2 a.m. regarding an assault.
The suspects were identified as Pfc. Sean Miller; Lance Cpl. John O’Leary; Pfc. Thomas Penteck and Lance Cpl. Lewis Serna.
The victim’s identity hasn’t been released, but sources say he is a 30-year-old man from Highland.
The preliminary investigation found that the four Marines allegedly attacked a man after they left the bar. Two other men who came to the victim’s aid were also attacked, police said.
Bar Manager John Barnes said the Marines entered the bar not long before closing time and seemed visibly uncomfortable. One of the Marines called the bartender “sweetheart” in a demeaning tone before he and the other Marines allegedly jumped the young victim, Barnes said.
That man was taken to a local hospital with what police referred to as “non-life-threatening injuries.” The other two victims suffered no injury or minor injuries, said Nancy Pratt, a Long Beach Police Department spokeswoman.
Long Beach Police Department Violent Crimes Division detectives are investigating the matter and are looking into whether the attack could be classified as a hate crime, said Nancy Pratt, a Long Beach Police Department spokeswoman.
Detectives had planned to present their case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, she said.
As of Wednesday afternoon the DA’s Long Beach branch hadn’t received the case, officials said.
Suspects who are in custody must be arraigned on a charge within 48 hours and released. Because the Marines were released on bond, that deadline no longer applies and police have more time to investigate the case, authorities explained.
Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Manuel J. Delarosa confirmed Wednesday that the Marines were released on bail and have returned to their units. The Corps is conducting an independent investigation into the matter, and Delarosa said the case was an isolated incident and that hate crimes won’t be tolerated.
from The Long Beach Press Telegram