Tag Archives: DADT

An Ally’s Guide to LGBT Issues

Ally's GuideTomorrow the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is scheduled to take up — and expected to send on to the full Senate — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a long-pending bill that would outlaw employment discrimination against LGBT people.

In honor of this new ENDA push, we dusted off our copy of “An Ally’s Guide to Issues Facing LGBT Americans,” a guide that was collaboratively produced by a number of LGBT organizations.  It addresses what some would call “The Gay Agenda,” giving data and background on the following LGBT wish list: Continue reading

The End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

There are both practical and symbolic aspects to today’s end of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy requiring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to not come out in the military, or face discharge. 

From an aging standpoint, the most important reason to applaud the policy change is that LGBT people are far more likely to be veterans than are heterosexual, non-transgender people.  Although about 13% of adult Americans served in the military, unpublished data from the Caring and Aging with Pride national LGBT aging survey indicate that more than one-quarter of LGBT older adults are veterans.  Although LGBT veterans are not denied Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, the existence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell surely made it more difficult for them to push for benefits, services, or respect.  The change should make their lives easier.

It is absolutely critical to note, however, that transgender service members are still not protected.  Transgender people in the military who disclose their gender identity can still be discharged.  Lest you think this can’t affect very many people, surveys are showing that high numbers of transgender people are military veterans.  For instance, the Caring and Aging with Pride survey mentioned above found that 41% of transgender respondents were veterans, a rate 61% higher than the LGB respondents.  The National Center on Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Injustice as Every Turn survey found that 54% of transgender respondents age 65 and up were veterans.  Luckily, transgender veterans recently received a major assist from the Obama Administration, which issued new guidance requiring the VA to treat such veterans with respect.  (To learn more, see the GrayPrideParade post of June 14, “New Transgender Veterans’ Health Care Guidelines.”)

Lesbian and Gay Veterans

Only one of the featured veterans is over 60 (70, to be specific), but advocates may still find of interest a recent OutFront article, “Home of the Brave: LGBT Veterans share their stories for Pride.”

Available at http://outfrontcolorado.com/ofcblog/news/home-of-the-brave-honoring-lgbt-veterans/, the simple but powerful article features black-and-white portraits and one-paragraph descriptions of five Colorado veterans.  (It is important to note that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not protect transgender veterans.)

A More Perfect Union, A More Perfect World

That’s the phrase that begins the “Report of the United States of America Submitted to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Conjunction with the Universal Periodic Review,” (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/146379.pdf) submitted by the Obama Administration for a 2010-2011 United Nations review.  

It deserves mention here because its prominent inclusion of LGBT issues has been underpublicized in the LGBT world.  This, after all, is a document that is supposed to represent the United States to the rest of the world. 

In the first paragraph under Fairness and Equality, the Obama Administration notes that it has appointed “several LGBT individuals to senior positions in the Executive Branch.”  (I’m intrigued by the sentence that follows:  “And while individual stories do not prove the absence of enduring challenges, they demonstrate the presence of possibilities.”)

More substantially, the section on “Fairness, equality, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons,” is preceded only by the section on persons with disabilities (the sections that follow are on Muslims, Arab-Americans, and South Asian American persons; women; Native Americans; work; housing; education; and law enforcement).  Here’s the complete text of the LGBT section:

In each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build a more fair society.  In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.  In 2003, reversing a prior decision, the Supreme Court struck down a state criminal law against sodomy, holding that criminalizing consensual private sexual practices between adults violates their rights under the Constitution.  With the recent passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the United States has bolstered its authority to prosecute hate crimes, including those motivated by animus based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  Since 1998, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has been prohibited in federal employment.  Earlier this year, the Administration extended many benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, and supports the pending Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, a law that would extend additional benefits currently accorded to married couples to same-sex partners.  Furthermore, President Obama is committed to the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute, which prevents  gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, and both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense have testified at congressional hearings in support of its repeal.  The President has also supported passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Debate continues over equal rights to marriage for LGBT Americans at the federal and state levels, and several states have reformed their laws to provide for same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.  At the federal level, the President supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.