Showing posts with label Gay Military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Military. Show all posts

September 2, 2017

Trump Military Ban Challenged on Lawsuit Asking for a Halting of the Military Ban

 "I will be the best Friend of LGBTQ"

Human rights groups asked a federal judge Thursday to block President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military, producing statements by three former Obama administration U.S. service branch chiefs and a senior Pentagon official that a ban would harm readiness, staffing, recruitment, and morale.
The move to stop the Trump administration edict came two days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis formally responded to Trump’s official directive ordering the Pentagon chief to determine how to implement the policy.
In a statement, Shannon Minter, legal director for one of two gay rights organizations representing eight transgender U.S. service members, said their opposition to the “reckless” ban was joined by military experts “who know that ripping trained, experienced service members out of our armed forces — for no reason other than who they are — will leave gaping holes in our defense, compromise national security, and inhibit recruitment during a critical time.”
The groups said they sought an injunction now because even though Mattis has not taken action against current service members as the Pentagon reviews its options, he committed to carrying out the Trump policy by March 23. As a result, service members face the imminent prospect of being denied re-enlistment, promotions, deployments and even medical care, the groups said.
Mattis also suspended prior plans to permit new transgender enlistees, threatening the careers of transgender students enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy or in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Minter said.
After completing Plebe Summer training, Regan Kibby, right, hugs his younger sister Elena Kibby during Plebe Parents Weekend, August 2015. () (Photo by Tawnia Kibby)
Transgender service members’ “lives have been thrown into utter chaos, and they need an order protecting them from further discrimination and harms right now,” Minter said.
The filing in the lawsuit, by Minter’s group, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), came in federal court in the nation’s capital, and was the first of several similar moves expected in lawsuits filed across the country by civil rights groups and transgender people in the armed services.
Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman said, “We are examining the claims in the motion and conferring within the Government.”
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly could issue a ruling or set a hearing next week. 
Also Thursday, the groups added two named individuals and one unnamed “John Doe” to five original plaintiffs identified by pseudonyms as “Jane Does.” They include Regan Kibby, a Naval Academy midshipman, and Dylan Kohere, a ROTC student.
Their participation at the academy and in ROTC is contingent on their eligibility to enlist in the military, now in doubt, they alleged. Each said their initial decision to declare their transgender status was based on the Obama administration’s decision to allow their service in 2016.
“A big part of the reason I was comfortable coming out as transgender in the ROTC was the announcement in the summer of 2016 that transgender people would be able to serve openly in the military,” Kohere said in an affidavit. “I was so excited that I would be able to achieve my goal of serving while remaining true to who I am.” 
Kibby said he came out as transgender during his first year when the Obama announcement was made. Kibby competed successfully for a congressional nomination and admission to the Academy inspired by his Navy veteran father and upbringing in San Diego, home to the Pacific fleet. Kibby’s enrollment was threatened in July when Trump caught many by surprise with tweets to countermand his predecessor’s action.
“After a lifetime of feeling a sense of duty and preparing to serve, reading Trump’s tweets was painful, and I saw my future crumbling,” Kibby said.
Trump on July 26 tweeted, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
He elaborated, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The ban would reverse an Obama decision to allow transgender people to serve openly. The armed forces were set to begin enlisting transgender people July 1, but Mattis suspended that move while announcing Tuesday that current enlistees will continue to be allowed to serve pending the results of a study and recommendations by a panel of experts.
“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield,” Mattis said. “To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction.”
Before the Obama policy change, the Pentagon had concluded that there was no basis for the military to exclude transgender people, as long as they could meet the same fitness requirements as other service members. The review examined medical care, military readiness, and other factors.  
There is no official tally of transgender military members, and estimates vary widely. One recent study by the Rand Corp. put the number on active duty at about 2,500, while another from the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School estimated that there were 15,500 on active duty, in the National Guard, and in the reserves.
In affidavits filed Thursday, Obama Pentagon appointees Ray Mabus Jr., Navy secretary from 2009 to 2017; Eric Fanning, who held a series of posts from 2013 to 2017 ending as Army secretary; and Deborah Lee James, Air Force secretary from 2013 to 2017; and Brad Carson, acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, criticized the Trump proposal.
The officials said the change would cause “unexpected losses” of skilled personnel in operational units that will be difficult to fill while reducing the size of the military’s recruiting pool.
“President Trump’s stated rationales for reversing the policy and banning military service by transgender people make no sense,” said Mabus, who oversaw the Navy and Marines through the surge in Afghanistan. “They have no basis in fact and are refuted by the comprehensive analysis of relevant data and information.”
James said the move “would harm both the military and the broader public interest,” lower morale, erode trust in military commanders, and create a damaging distraction.
Spencer S. Hsu is an investigative reporter, two-time Pulitzer finalist and national Emmy award nominee.

November 11, 2013

The Military Reaches Out to Gay Vets through Veteran Affairs


The federal government is reaching out around the nation to gay and lesbian military veterans - most of whom had to spend their military careers in the closet - in its most concerted effort yet to let them know its doors are open to them.
Under a pilot program that began Oct. 1 in six metropolitan areas, including the Bay Area, the Department of Veterans Affairs has dispatched teams of psychologists to community meetings and brought in trainers to work with VA employees. The training deals with everything from how to appropriately ask about relationship status to being more alert about detecting post-traumatic stress caused by antigay discrimination.
The goal, said VA psychologist Stephen Rao, who is helping to oversee the effort in San Francisco, is to "really branch out to the LGBT community, to let them know we are a safe place for them."
So far, Rao's team has run information tables at a half-dozen events in the city and conducted a number of sensitivity seminars for VA staff.
"We're getting several new clients a week coming in, and we anticipate that will really grow in the coming months," Rao said. "The VA is blazing a trail. ... We are all very excited about this."
A starvation-thin, middle-aged gay Army veteran who went only by George notched himself a little place in military history last month in San Francisco because of the outreach program, without even knowing it.
At the nation's first Project Homeless Connect event held specifically for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, George gingerly approached a table at the LGBT Community Center marked "Veterans Services" and asked, "Are you for real?"
Rao's answer was a welcoming laugh.
"I mean, really, it wasn't that long ago you guys threw us out for being gay, right?" George pressed on.
"Yes, we're real, and no, we weren't throwing people out of veteran hospitals for being gay," Rao explained. Then he held out a brochure of VA medical services - and with that, George became the first homeless gay man to be drawn in by the new outreach effort.
San Francisco's VA operations already had well-established open-door policies toward LGBT people before the national effort began. But even here - as George's query demonstrated - some people can still use some convincing.
It's all part of a new era for all things military, gay and lesbian in the United States.
Just two years ago, the military was tossing people out for being gay or lesbian. Transgender people are still barred from the services, but all other sexual orientations became accepted with the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2011 - and the transformation has constituted a rapid deployment of sensitivity.
Now there are public support organizations such as OutServe-SLDN for gays and lesbians who are still in the military, and dozens of veterans have had dishonorable discharges changed to honorable. The VA, being a separate department from the active forces, hasn't barred gays and lesbians from receiving care for many years, but the repeal of the ban on gays in the services has prompted it to expand its outreach.
The VA maintains a national crisis phone line for gay and lesbian veterans and a website offering advice on specialized care, including a section detailing benefits that is titled, "I am a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual Veteran." Over the past two years it also began offering hormone therapy and specialized counseling for transgender people, despite their continued exclusion from the military.
In September, President Obama ordered the VA to give same-sex spouses of veterans the same access to federal benefits as straight spouses - an outgrowth of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. 
The VA estimates that about 1 million of the nation's 21 million veterans are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Considering that theVeterans Health Administration runs the biggest integrated health system in the world, "it is likely the largest single provider of health care for sexual and gender minority individuals in the United States," the agency's LGBT program coordinator, Jillian Shipherd, wrote in a June issue of the research journal LGBT Health.
"It's incredibly important that we get the word out that veterans are welcome at the VA no matter what their sexual identity is," Shipherd said in an interview. "We have always provided good care for LGBT veterans, but we are now formalizing our policies and procedures in ways we haven't before."
Discrimination is at the root of many of the problems specific to gay and lesbian veterans, Shipherd and Rao said. VA research shows that the strain from being stigmatized and the target of bigoted hostility can produce higher rates of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse in LGBT vets, as well as a greater risk of anxiety and depression.
"A lot of the LGBT patients I see have experienced severe post-traumatic stress disorder because of discrimination, and how one makes sense of that kind of PTSD is different from having had a mortar explode next to you," Shipherd said. "You need to be sensitive to that as a provider."
LGBT vets also are at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and some cancers.

Putting people at ease

Putting a patient at ease while handling these challenges can involve anything from being extra-vigilant for certain conditions to simply not asking veterans if they have a "husband or wife."
"We tell people to instead ask in gender-neutral ways, such as asking if they have a partner," Rao said. "You want them to know you are sensitive to various kinds of relationships."
In addition to the Bay Area, the VA is making its push in Boston, Honolulu, Houston, Milwaukee and New Haven County, Conn. Next year, it will be extended to Chicago and San Diego.
For LGBT vets still barely used to the idea that their lifestyle is not conduct unbecoming, this new VA push is like fresh wind.
"It's tremendous," said John Caldera, 59, who kept his orientation secret enough to be honorably discharged as a Navy corpsman in 1987. "The most famous quote by Harvey Milk was, 'You gotta give 'em hope,' and this gives our vets more hope than ever."
He said that with society becoming more accepting of LGBT people, the VA should have an easier time connecting with younger vets.
"Bigotry, to some extent, is generational, and there were more good ol' boys in my generation than in this one," said Caldera, who serves on the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission. "I'd say the next big step for the military and even for vets is to reach out and include the transgender community.
“We've still got a long way to go."
 Kevin Fagan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:

June 12, 2013

The Lynching of Bradley Manning

The military trial of Bradley Manning is a judicial lynching. The government has effectively muzzled the defense team. The Army private first class is not permitted to argue that he had a moral and legal obligation under international law to make public the war crimes he uncovered. The documents that detail the crimes, torture and killing Manning revealed, because they are classified, have been barred from discussion in court, effectively removing the fundamental issue of war crimes from the trial. Manning is forbidden by the court to challenge the government’s unverified assertion that he harmed national security. Lead defense attorney David E. Coombs said during pretrial proceedings that the judge’s refusal to permit information on the lack of actual damage from the leaks would “eliminate a viable defense, and cut defense off at the knees.” And this is what has happened. 

Manning is also barred from presenting to the court his motives for giving the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, and videos. The issues of his motives and potentially harming national security can be raised only at the time of sentencing, but by then it will be too late.
The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience. Our email and phone records, it is now confirmed, are swept up and stored in perpetuity on government computers. Those who attempt to disclose government crimes can be easily traced and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Whistle-blowers have no privacy and no legal protection. This is why Edward Snowden—a former CIA technical assistant who worked for a defense contractor with ties to the National Security Agency and who leaked to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian the information about the National Security Council’s top-secret program to collect Americans’ cellphone metadata, e-mail and other personal data—has fled the United States. The First Amendment is dead. There is no legal mechanism left to challenge the crimes of the power elite. We are bound and shackled. And those individuals who dare to resist face the prospect, if they remain in the country, of joining Manning in prison, perhaps the last refuge for the honest and the brave. Coombs opened the trial last week by pleading with the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, for leniency based on Manning’s youth and sincerity. Coombs is permitted by Lind to present only circumstantial evidence concerning Manning’s motives or state of mind. He can argue, for example, that Manning did not know al-Qaida might see the information he leaked. Coombs is also permitted to argue, as he did last week, that Manning was selective in his leak, intending no harm to national interests. But these are minor concessions by the court to the defense. Manning’s most impassioned pleas for freedom of information, especially regarding email exchanges with the confidential government informant Adrian Lamo, as well as his right under international law to defy military orders in exposing war crimes, are barred as evidence.
Manning is unable to appeal to the Nuremberg principles, a set of guidelines created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations after World War II to determine what constitutes a war crime. The principles make political leaders, commanders and combatants responsible for war crimes, even if domestic or internal laws allow such actions. The Nuremberg principles are designed to protect those, like Manning, who expose these crimes. Orders do not, under the Nuremberg principles, offer an excuse for committing war crimes. And the Nuremberg laws would clearly condemn the pilots in the “Collateral Murder” video and their commanders and exonerate Manning. But this is an argument we will not be allowed to hear in the Manning trial.

Manning has admitted to 10 lesser offenses surrounding his leaking of classified and unclassified military and State Department files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, which shows a U.S. Apache attack helicopter in 2007 killing 12 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children on an Iraqi street. His current plea exposes him to penalties that could see him locked away for two decades. But for the government that is not enough. Military prosecutors are pursuing all 22 charges against him. These charges include aiding the enemy, wanton publication, espionage, stealing U.S. government property, exceeding authorized access and failures to obey lawful general orders—charges that can bring with them 149 years plus life.
“He knew that the video depicted a 2007 attack,” Coombs said of the “Collateral Murder” recording. “He knew that it [the attack] resulted in the death of two journalists. And because it resulted in the death of two journalists it had received worldwide attention. He knew that the organization Reuters had requested a copy of the video in FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] because it was their two journalists that were killed, and they wanted to have that copy in order to find out what had happened and to ensure that it didn’t happen again. He knew that the United States had responded to that FOIA request almost two years later indicating what they could find and, notably, not the video.
“He knew that David Finkel, an author, had written a book called ‘The Good Soldiers,’ and when he read through David Finkel’s account and he talked about this incident that’s depicted in the video, he saw that David Finkel’s account and the actual video were verbatim, that David Finkel was quoting the Apache air crew. And so at that point he knew that David Finkel had a copy of the video. And when he decided to release this information, he believed that this information showed how [little] we valued human life in Iraq. He was troubled by that. And he believed that if the American public saw it, they too would be troubled and maybe things would change.”
“He was 22 years old,” Coombs said last Monday as he stood near the bench, speaking softly to the judge at the close of his opening statement. “He was young. He was a little naive in believing that the information that he selected could actually make a difference. But he was good-intentioned in that he was selecting information that he hoped would make a difference.”
“He wasn’t selecting information because it was wanted by WikiLeaks,” Coombs concluded. “He wasn’t selecting information because of some 2009 most wanted list. He was selecting information because he believed that this information needed to be public. At the time that he released the information he was concentrating on what the American public would think about that information, not whether or not the enemy would get access to it, and he had absolutely no actual knowledge of whether the enemy would gain access to it. Young, naive, but good-intentioned.”
The moral order is inverted. The criminal class is in power. We are the prey. Manning, in a just society, would be a prosecution witness against war criminals. Those who committed these crimes should be facing prison. But we do not live in a just society.
The Afghans, the Iraqis, the Yemenis, the Pakistanis and the Somalis know what American military forces do. They do not need to read WikiLeaks. They have seen the bodies, including the bodies of their children, left behind by drone strikes and other attacks from the air. They have buried the corpses of those gunned down by coalition forces. With fury, they hear our government tell lies, accounts that are discredited by the reality they endure. Our wanton violence and hypocrisy make us hated and despised, fueling the rage of jihadists and amassing legions of new enemies against the United States. Manning, by providing a window into the truth, opened up the possibility of redemption. He offered hope for a new relationship with the Muslim world, one based on compassion and honesty, on the rule of law, rather than the cold brutality of industrial warfare. But by refusing to heed the truth that Manning laid before us, by ignoring the crimes committed daily in our name, we not only continue to swell the ranks of our enemies but put the lives of our citizens in greater and greater danger. Manning did not endanger us. He sought to thwart the peril that is daily exacerbated by our political and military elite. Manning showed us through the documents he released that Iraqis have endured hundreds of rapes and murders, along with systematic torture by the military and police of the puppet government we installed. He let us know that none of these atrocities were investigated. He provided the data that showed us that between 2004 and 2009 there were at least 109,032 “violent deaths” in Iraq, including those of 66,081 civilians, and that coalition troops were responsible for at least 195 civilian deaths in unreported events. He allowed us to see in the video “Collateral Murder” the helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad. It was because of Manning that we could listen to the callous banter between pilots as the Americans nonchalantly fired on civilian rescuers. Manning let us see a U.S. Army tank crush one of the wounded lying on the street after the helicopter attack. The actions of the U.S. military in this one video alone, as law professor Marjorie Cohn has pointed out, violate Article 85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the targeting of civilians, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which requires that wounded be treated, and Article 17 of the First Protocol, which permits civilians to rescue and care for wounded without being harmed. We know of this war crime and many others because of Manning. And the decision to punish the soldier who reported these war crimes rather than the soldiers responsible for these crimes mocks our pretense of being a nation ruled by law.

“I believed if the public, particularly the American public, could see this, it could spark a debate on the military and our foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Manning said Feb. 28 when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges. He said he hoped the release of the information to WikiLeaks “might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in counterterrorism while ignoring the situation of the people we engaged with every day.”
But it has not. Our mechanical drones still circle the skies delivering death. Our attack jets still blast civilians. Our soldiers and Marines still pump bullets into mud-walled villages. Our artillery and missiles still raze homes. Our torturers still torture. Our politicians and generals still lie. And the man who tried to stop it all is still in prison.
Read Chris Hedges’ Dig about Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning here.
Trial transcripts used for this report came from the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation, which, because the government refused to make transcripts publicly available, is raising money to have its own stenographer at the trial. Transcripts from the pretrial hearing came from journalist Alexa O’Brien.

December 2, 2012

Gay Pfc, Bradley Manning Testifies He Was ‘Tortured'

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Pfc. Bradley Manning, testifying on Thursday for the first time, stepped into a taped-off 6-by-8 foot section of a military courtroom representing the prison cell where he says he was abused. The dramatic presentation came on day three of hearings to investigate possible "unlawful pre-trial punishment."
     While rarely granted in courts-martial, such a finding could result in a dismissal of all charges, or a reduced sentence for offenses that carry a potential life sentence.
     The 24-year-old soldier was arrested in May 2010 at Forward Base Hammer in Iraq, as the suspected source of the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
     His attorney, David Coombs, told his client Thursday, "I know this is a little nerve-wracking," as he called him to take the stand for the first time.
     Manning, 5 feet 2 inches tall with a slim build, has a diagnosed history of anxiety and appeared nervous when he took the stand.
     As he eased into recounting his story, he spoke in a precise, controlled, clear and rapid-fire tone. The detached, analytical tone seemed to reflect his former rank: intelligence specialist, until he was demoted to private first class.
     He punctuated several of answers to his lawyer with, "Yes, sir."
     His 5-hour direct examination delved into the period dating from his arrest until roughly one year later.
     Manning said he was escorted days after his arrest to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, where he was placed in a tent with an 8-by-8-by-8-foot cube he called an "animal cage."
     He said he felt no connection to the world outside of his cell.
     "My nights were my days, and my days were my nights," Manning said.
     During this time, he said, he "started to really deteriorate" and "fall apart."
     This period became such a blur in his mind, he said, that he forgot he had created nooses from his bed sheets, though he remembered seeing them later.
     He said his suicidal ideations began to lift after staff on the base treated him with anti-anxiety medications such as Zoloft.
     His jailors in Kuwait transferred him out roughly two months later because they did not have the resources to treat him adequately.
     Manning said he did not know where he was going when they put in him on a plane, and he worried that he was headed to Guantanamo or Djibouti.
     Though he now calls that thought "silly," he said he was not as familiar then with how the military justice system looked from the inside.
     He said he could not sleep on the plane because he was shackled to a coach seat in a "body cuff."
     His face lit up when he described how it felt when he learned he was heading back to Maryland, where he once lived.
     "I was grateful to be back into the familiar surroundings. American soil. BWI!" he exclaimed, referring to the Baltimore-area airport.
     He said he appreciated the familiarity in the architecture of the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, a "brick-and-mortar" building with air-conditioning, which he lacked in his tent in Kuwait.
     During what he called his "indoctrination," or intake process, he said the staff barraged him with a verbal "shark attack," which he described as a common tactic to acclimatize detainees to the culture of the Marines.
     The prison's intake form had a field on suicide, where he wrote, "Always planning, never acting."
     Manning said he regretted writing the "sarcastic" remark.
     High-ranking Quantico officials have testified that they wanted to avoid a repeat of an incident in which a detainee, Capt. Michael Webb, suffocated himself with his clothing, a plastic bag and a rubber band.
     The brig's chief, Col. Carl Coffman, said that tragedy lay heavy on their minds when they read about Manning's nooses in Kuwait.
     Manning said the staff refused to accept any signs that his suicidal thoughts had passed, even after multiple prison psychologists found he did not pose a harm to anybody.
     Attorney Coombs called him down from the witness stand to act out an average day on suicide watch in a mock cell, represented by white gaffers tape on the floor.
     As he stepped into this space, the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, stood up to watch.
     Spectators shuffled in their pews to get a better view, or stretched furtively higher in their seats to avoid glares from sergeants-at-arms and contractors enforcing court regulations.
     Manning said the tape representing the sink and toilet showed that they were attached to each other.
     The guards watched him directly across from this space, he said, giving him no privacy when he used the bathroom.
     He said he would have to say, "Detainee Manning, request permission to use toilet paper" or soap, to use these items.
     He said he could step outside the tiny space, while shacked, only during 20-minute "sunshine calls," standing under a hole in the ceiling.
     He said the conditions became more restrictive when officials designated him a suicide risk, or SR. Then he was forced to wear a smock during the day, strip naked at night, and sleep with a rash-inducing mattress and blanket.
     Demonstrating these items, Manning took off his service jacket, cracked open the Velcro of a suicide-prevention smock and put it on. He said the one he was wearing was less rough and more flexible than the one he wore in prison, which came "straight out of the box."
     Later in the hearing, a video was shown depicting conversations between Manning and two of his jailers, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Papakie and Master Sgt. Blenis.
     In the video, Manning is standing in his boxers, asking how he can get out of prevention of injury, or POI, status.
     Through the white noise of the recording, Blenis can be heard telling Manning that his treatment was "not a punitive thing," and said, "I wish I had 100 Mannings."
     Manning called Blenis an "exemplary Marine" whom he initially trusted, until the master sergeant told him that his psychologist recommended his POI status.
     That doctor, Col. William Hocter , testified this week that he actually had been urging officials to give Manning more freedom inside the brig.
     Manning said he grew distrustful of other people during this period.
     He said that he removed his father, Brian Manning, and his acquaintance, David House, from his visitation list because they spoke about their meetings with the press.
     Manning said his father spoke to PBS Frontline the day he visited his son in the brig, and promised him that he would not talk to journalists.
     When Manning was transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., he said he found it "awkward" that he was not in shackles, and wondered when he would be forced to wear them again.
     He said he realized that conditions had changed for him after a "couple of days."
     As direct examination ended, Coombs told him, "Thank you, Pfc. Manning."
     Though his supporters shouted, "Stay strong," and "You did a great job," his testimony is far from over, as cross-examination begins today (Friday).

March 8, 2012

The Military Takes Up The Fight For Gay Rights

Posted by Mary Kate McCormick  Military  Embraces the Debate of Gay Rights

They say that a picture says a thousand words, but in the case of US Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan and his boyfriend Dalan Wells, one homecoming image represents even more.
While photos of military homecoming kisses are not uncommon, the image of Morgan in the arms of his boyfriend is more than a picture of one couple sharing an embrace.
Morgan and Wells’ homecoming photo initially spread over Facebook and has received national media attention because it speaks to the larger debate over gay rights in the U.S. and especially within the military.
With the repeal of the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) this past September and the recent movements to legalize same-sex marriage on a state level, this image confirms that strides for equal rights for gay Americans are happening.
Although the U.S. military is known for its conservative view on same-sex relationships, this picture proves that times are changing.
Parker Pierson, a second year student at the U.S. Naval Academy, had mixed emotions after seeing this image.
He said, “I am for gays in the military. I think everyone deserves the right to serve their country. That being said, I do not like this picture.”
Pierson was conflicted with the professionalism of a sergeant in uniform expressing joy at seeing a loved one after a tour of duty. “My first impression was that it wasn’t ‘professional’ … Everyone has a different opinion about gays in the military, but I think most people in the military would find this picture a little unprofessional.”  He continued to say that homecoming kisses are usually more subdued and do not draw excessive attention from onlookers.
After searching online for other homecoming photos, Pierson concluded that it is not the fact that the couple in the picture is gay that made him object, but the unprofessional display of public affection that gained so much attention.
Here at Fairfield University, faculty and students seem to welcome a more progressive view on same-sex relationships.
Fairfield University’s expert in Catholicism, Dr. Elizabeth Dreyer, stated that “all genuine love is a gift from God and should be celebrated,” a statement that may seem contrary to the Catholic Church’s conservative view against gay marriage.
Sophomore Astrid Quinones ‘14, co-founder of Fairfield University’s Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Commons (GSSC), an  LGBTQ advocacy group on campus, similarly remarked, “This photo speaks to how we should not underestimate the power of love, all love. These men, who may not be accepted in society, have accepted each other and have supported each other.”
According to Quinones, “The fact that one has returned from his tour of duty and his partner has waited for his safe return demonstrates that they both are just as strong and just as proud to be Americans as anyone,” a message that resonates with GSSC’s goals for awareness and same-sex advocacy here at Fairfield.
Sophomore Jesus Nunez, another GSSC member, stated that he did not even think about the conflict or situation surrounding the image when he first saw it. “Seeing two people show affection after a long distance and time apart seemed like a normal reaction to me. And then I realized he was trying to point out that it was two men kissing; I guess my work with Alliance has made me … desensitized to these sort of images.”
“As I thought about it, I realized how this picture is a great way to expose others who don’t have my experience as a gay youth about LGBTQ people,” continued Nunez. “How we too are serving in the military for our country and how we have loved ones waiting for us back home when we arrive.”
Nunez did not see the lack of professionalism in the image that Pierson pointed out. “Now, moments like this don’t have to be hidden,” he said. “With the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, showing affection upon the return of a tour won’t cause one to be discharged.”

February 24, 2012

Gay Soldier Manning is Formally Charged With 22 Counts

Bradley Manning sat through most of the proceedings at Ford Meade military base with his hands clasped. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP
Bradley Manning, the American soldier accused of being the source of the biggest leak of US state secrets in history, was on Thursday formally charged with aiding the enemy, during the first day of his court martial. If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole.
Manning, 24, deferred his plea to the 22 charges against him, and deferred a decision over whether he wanted a military judge or a jury to hear his case. A plea can be deferred right up until the beginning of his military trial, which is unlikely to take place before August.
The charges against the former army intelligence analyst include: aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defence information; and fraud and related activity in connection with computers.
The documents he is alleged to have dumped on Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website set up by Julian Assange, included Afghan and Iraqi war logs, more than 250,000 diplomatic cables from around the world, and a classified military video of a US helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq that killed 11 people, including two Reuters employees.
Wearing his green army dress uniform and heavy, dark-rimmed glasses, Manning sat though most of the 45-minute hearing at the Fort Meade military base in Maryland with his hands clasped. He was flanked by three lawyers, two military – Major Matthew Kemkes and Captain Paul Bouchard – and one civilian, David Coombs, his defence lawyer.
Manning spoke in a clear voice, to answer "Yes, your honour" when asked if he understood proceedings.
Coombs brought up his client's due process rights and told the military judge, Colonel Denise Lind, that he would object to any delay in the trial past June.
Coombs argued that the government had said it would be ready by April, but was now saying "it won't be until 3 August."
Coombs said his client, who has been in custody since his arrest on 25 May 2010, had been in solitary confinement for "635 days". He said: "If the government had its way, it would be over 800 days before the trial actually begins."
Manning was held at Quantico marine base in Virginia and then at Fort Leavenworth. He is currently being held locally.
Coombs said that, while the government had cited the complexity of the case and the difficulty in co-ordinating agencies, "the defence would argue that due process rights of my client" had not been satisfied.
Under the US constitution, a court martial must be brought within 120 days of charges being preferred.
Manning's 120 days, known as his "speedy trial clock", began in May 2010, when he was arrested in Iraq, according to the military.
The military insisted that the extra time taken to come to trial owed to requests by Manning's own defence team, and the period in which classified documents were being handled.
A military legal expert said that the delay of a plea and forum decision was usually a strategic one, while lawyers wait to see how the motions they have filed are dealt with.
During the hearing, Manning's defence filed six motions, which included pre-trial publicity; how classified documents would be reviewed; and compelling disclosure. The government filed one motion, concerning the protection of government documents in the hands of the defence team.
The next court hearing was set for 15-16 March, when the motions would be heard.
At one point, Captain Ashden Fein said there had been an "inadvertent spillage" of classified material by the defence team.
Later, a military legal spokesman explained that this was because of material containing classified information being sent over an unclassified system of email.
The defence denied that a spillage had taken place.
Security at the hearing in Fort Meade was slightly more relaxed than the pre-trial hearing in December, although journalists at an annexe to the court were not allowed to disseminate information via social media while the hearing was in progress.
At a preliminary hearing in December, military prosecutors produced evidence which they said showed Manning downloaded material and electronically transferred it to WikiLeaks. They said his computer logs were littered with material related to the leak, and that he had been in direct contact with Assange.
Coombs, Manning's lawyer, said that others had access to the soldier's work computers in Iraq. Coombs said Manning was emotionally troubled, had confused sexual and gender identities at a time when the US army had a "don't ask don't tell" policy barring gay personnel from openly serving in the military. Manning's defence team also said he should not have have access to classified material because of his erratic behaviour and increasingly violent outbursts witnessed by his superiors.
It also argued that the material published through Wikileaks did little harm to national security.

February 18, 2012

Obama Administration Wont Defend Statue That Discriminates Against Gay Military

The Obama Justice Department has concluded that legislation banning same-sex couples from receiving military and veterans benefits violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment and will no longer defend the statute in court, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday.
“The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans,” Holder wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”
Holder said DOJ would no longer defend the provisions in Title 38 which prevent same-sex couples who are legally married from obtaining benefits. He said that Congress would be provided a “full and fair opportunity” to defend the statues in theMcLaughlin v. Panetta case if they wished to do so.
As Holder writes, the benefits in question “include medical and dental benefits, basic housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, family separation benefits, military identification cards, visitation rights in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and the right to be buried together in military cemetaries.”


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