NCLR Praises Obama Administration for Advancing LGBT Health Care Equality

April 1, 2011

(Washington D.C., April 1, 2011)—Today, as part of LGBT Health Awareness Week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced significant efforts it has taken, and several others in development, to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. HHS’ announcement responds to President Obama’s April 2010 memorandum requesting that HHS protect LGBT patients’ hospital visitation rights, and directing HHS to find other ways to improve health care programs for LGBT patients and their families.

The key parts of HHS’ efforts include the implementation of non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in HHS employment and programs; targeting LGBT organizations for specific outreach and making them aware of funding opportunities that are beneficial to the LGBT community; encouraging health profession training programs to include LGBT cultural competency curricula; and continuing to increase federally-funded health and demographic surveys that collect and report sexual orientation and gender identity data. HHS will also provide guidance to healthcare providers in the next few months regarding advanced directives for LGBT patients who want to designate persons to make medical decisions on their behalf.

A Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Attorney Maya Rupert:

“We applaud the Obama Administration and Secretary Sebelius for the significant steps announced today. People and their families are at their most vulnerable when they need to access health care services and programs. HHS made clear today that it will not allow federally-supported health programs to compound that vulnerability by denying access to services and programs because of sexual orientation and gender identity. The government’s efforts today and over the last year illustrate the administration’s genuine commitment to our community’s health and well-being. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to provide equal access to health services to all patients and their families.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |

Make the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a Priority

September 13, 2010

Last Thursday, a federal district court declared the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy unconstitutional, saying it violates both the First and Fifth Amendments. While we celebrate this victory, we know the fight is not over. Join NCLR, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and our allies in making sure that our Senate leaders continue their fight to end this discriminatory policy.

Congress returns to Washington, D.C. this week, and the full Senate has its first opportunity in 17 years to do away with DADT when it votes on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains provisions that would allow for repeal of this law.

Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to make the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a top priority for the week of September 20th. Ask them to urge their joint leadership (Senators Reid and McConnell) to schedule this vote.

A full Senate floor vote is one of the last major legislative hurdles that stands in the way of the repeal. Unfortunately, Senator John McCain has been a vocal opponent of repeal from the start. He has indicated that he, along with other repeal foes, will pull out all the stops in coming weeks—from attempting to strike repeal language from the NDAA to offering weakening amendments, or threatening to filibuster the entire defense budget. We cannot let this happen.

Together we can make it clear to the Senate that repealing DADT should be a top priority this month. Together we can end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In Solidarity,

NCLR Applauds Court Decision Striking Down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

September 9, 2010

Today, a federal district court judge in the Central District of California held that the federal government’s policy of barring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military violates the United States Constitution. In a sweeping decision, Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the government’s policy—popularly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—is unconstitutional on its face, and must be struck down. The decision details the voluminous evidence presented by the plaintiffs about the harm caused by the government’s policy. The court held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell violates the fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members without advancing any important government interest. The court held that the law also violates lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members’ First Amendment rights because it forces them to be silent about the most basic information about their identities, family relationships, and daily activities, and prevents them from seeking protection from harassment and discrimination. The case was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans on behalf of its members and included testimony from a number of service members affected by the policy.

The decision will not take effect immediately. Judge Phillips asked the plaintiffs to submit a proposed judgment, including a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law, by September 16, 2010. If upheld on appeal, the decision would prevent the federal government from enforcing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell against any service member.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“Today’s decision by Judge Phillips—following other recent decisions striking down California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act–is another landmark victory for LGBT Americans. Once again, those who seek to defend discriminatory government policies failed to present a shred of evidence to justify laws that are based entirely on prejudice and fear. After considering the overwhelming evidence presented by the plaintiffs, Judge Phillips held that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell inflicts severe harm on lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members who put their lives on the line to protect and serve our country, while undermining our national security by requiring the discharge of loyal, qualified, and highly trained personnel. This decision puts another nail in the coffin of official government discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is past time for our country to include LGBT Americans as equal citizens, and today’s ruling is a major milestone toward realizing that goal. We congratulate and thank the Log Cabin Republicans for bringing this historic case.”

Michigan Suit against Hate Crime Bill Dismissed

September 8, 2010

by Ed Brayton | Michigan Messenger

Earlier this year a group of plaintiffs from Michigan, represented by the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, passed in 2009, violated their religious freedom and freedom of speech rights. The judge dismissed the case this week.

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Why Bathrooms Are a Civil Rights Issue

September 8, 2010

by Carlos A. Ball | Huffington Post

Although it is not frequently acknowledged, bathrooms have been contested civil rights sites for several decades now. The civil rights movement during the 1950s fought to end the prevailing practice in some parts of the country of prohibiting African Americans from using so-called “white” bathrooms.

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Deal Reached for Ending Law on Gays in Military

May 25, 2010

by Sheryl Gay Stolberg | New York Times

President Obama, the Pentagon and leading lawmakers reached agreement Monday on legislative language and a time frame for repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, clearing the way for Congress to take up the measure as soon as this week.

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White House and Congress Meet on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

May 24, 2010

by Sheryl Gay Stolberg | New York Times

White House and Congressional officials met Monday in a carefully orchestrated effort to discuss a possible repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in advance of a House vote on the issue  this week.

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Admiral’s Opposition to Gay Policy Was Years in the Making

February 4, 2010

by Elisabeth Bumiller | New York Times

As Adm. Mike Mullen had written it, he would tell the Senate committee that “allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

But moments before he surprised even his close friends on Tuesday by voicing his opinion as he called for the end of the 16-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, Admiral Mullen changed “homosexuals,” the word often used by older members of the military, to “gays and lesbians” — opting for a less clinical phrase in what is now the most talked-about sentence of his career.

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Defending the Long Gay Line

February 3, 2010

by Maureen Dowd | New York Times

I’ve had high hopes for Adm. Mike Mullen ever since I learned that his mom was an assistant to Jimmy Durante and his dad was a Hollywood press agent whose clients included Bob Hope, Ann-Margret, Phyllis Diller, Jimmy Stewart, Carol Burnett and Dyan Cannon.

That’s the dream U.S.O. tour.

On Tuesday, the craggy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff showed that a lifetime in the military has not knocked all the showbiz pizazz out of him.

read more

Expected Executive Action Would Change ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Implementation

February 1, 2010

Experts Caution Against Slow Roll of Implementation

from the Palm Center

The Palm Center has announced that President Obama’s executive changes to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, expected to be announced Tuesday, could significantly impact the lives of gay troops. The expected statements from Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen would protect some service members from investigations based on third-party allegations and set a new standard for what constitutes reliable sources and credible information that trigger a “don’t ask, don’t tell” investigation. It is also expected that the military brass will announce changes to the adjudication of potential discharges, whose effect could be to require a flag officer to sign off on any discharge for it to move forward.

“This ‘Obama Rule’ could provide a new standard for ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ investigations,” said Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center. “Depending on how it’s implemented, the executive action taken by the President could be seismic. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has rested on the belief that the presence of openly gay service members is always bad for the military. The new Obama Rule would mean a shift in the military’s focus toward keeping gay troops, reflecting the military’s belief that they are as essential as their heterosexual peers.”

Belkin also said the effectiveness of the changes would depend on what message was sent by top civilian and uniformed leaders to the officers responsible for approving discharges. “If new discretion is being granted to two-stars, then the actual impact of the Obama rule will hinge on whether the President, the Defense Secretary, and the Service Chiefs send a clear signal that discharges are to be minimized,” Belkin said.

Recent media reports have suggested the Pentagon leadership may promote a lengthy process of implementation that would unfold over several years, a prospect that Palm Center experts found problematic. Dr. Nathaniel Frank, Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center and author of “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America,” said the impact of the expected announcement would depend on an operational timeline that emphasizes strong leadership and swift implementation.

“The evidence is overwhelming that a quick turnaround on policy change minimizes disruptions to unit cohesion and morale,” he said. “If this is the goal, there should be no slow-rolling of the implementation process.” Frank pointed to the 1993 Rand Corporation report on implementing gay service that stated that openly gay service was entirely workable, but that a successful new policy must be “decided upon and implemented as quickly as possible” to avoid anxiety and uncertainty in the field. It said it was crucial “to convey a new policy that ends discrimination as simply as possible and to impose the minimum of changes on personnel.” Rand then outlined a Standard of Professional Conduct to guide interpersonal behavior that emphasized a uniform code of behavior for all service members.

“I’m encouraged by the apparent movement on this issue by the President and the military,” Frank said. “I’m also hoping they’ve reviewed the research on implementation and will create a plan that reflects the President’s commitment to ending this policy in 2010.”

In 1995, President Clinton lifted a ban at the CIA, which reversed an Eisenhower policy denying security clearances to gay agents. In 1992, a court ruling in Canada allowed gays to serve openly in the military nearly immediately. And in 1999, a court ruling forced the British military to allow openly gay troops within months. That transition, according to Frank, was implemented quickly and decisively, which is consistent with what is suggested by implementation research.  “The CIA and foreign militaries provide successful models for implementing a new policy to allow openly gay service,” said Frank. “Each of them provided clear conduct rules, strong leadership and change on a short, definite timeline.” A 1993 General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the “Policies and Practices of Foreign Militaries” concluded that the smooth transition was attributed “to the military leadership’s support of the new policy and the military’s ability to keep a low profile on the issue.”

Christopher Neff, Deputy Executive Director at the Palm Center, noted the distinction between the military’s policy on openly gay service and the Congressional law, which remains unchanged. “The statute, 10 U.S.C. 654, remains on the books and Congress is responsible for changes to the law,” Neff stated. He advised service members to consult with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network with any questions they may have about how changes to the policy might affect them.


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