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Lambda Legal Sues Veterans Affairs Over Marriage Recognition

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Department of Veteran's Affairs logoLambda Legal has brought a new lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking to force the agency to recognize same sex marriages in all 50 states.

The Washington Blade reports:

Lambda Legal, along with Morrison and Foerster LLP, filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of the LGBT military group known as the American Military Partner Association. The defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert MacDonald. The litigation alleges the Obama administration’s decision to withhold certain spousal benefits to married same-sex couples in states without marriage equality runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. “Having weathered the federal government’s past, longstanding discrimination against them, lesbian and gay veterans and their families find themselves once again deprived of equal rights and earned benefits by the government they served and the nation for which they sacrificed,” the complaint says.

One more piece of the Federal benefits puzzle…

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Gay Soldiers Living Openly in Wake of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Don't Ask Don't TellWhile the military policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the overturning of part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act opened doors more widely to gay people serving openly in the military, it didn’t mark radical changes to the way the fighting force looked or behaved. Instead, it brought the possibility of marriage and spousal benefits to soldiers that were previously denied. And, an opportunity to live more freely.

“When you come out and you’ve been out so long, it’s hard to just go back in,” said Spc. Corderra Dews, 24, who was living in Austin, Texas, and openly gay before he joined the Army in 2011.

While there are no solid statistics on the number of gay and lesbian soldiers currently in the military, a group of soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, spoke with The Leaf-Chronicle about life in the military before and after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the Army’s decision to extend benefits to same-sex spouses, furthering the full inclusion of gay and lesbian soldiers in the military.

See the Full Story at LGBTQ Nation

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USA, Idaho: Fellow Veteran Offers Plot to Lesbian Soldier

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Madelynn TaylorA straight veteran is offering up his own plot to a lesbian veteran who wants to be buried alongside her wife in a Veterans cemetery.

Think Progress reports:

But now a fellow veteran is stepping up and offering a chance for Taylor and Mixner to reside beside each other forever. U.S. Army Col. Barry Johnson (ret.) wrote in an open letter to the Idaho Statesman that he believes that Taylor had served her country and deserves the same rights as everyone else. I’ll tell you what,” Barry wrote. “I will donate the plot I earned in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to you and Jean. I am happy to give my fellow veteran that small peace of mind. And I do it to honor all the great Americans I’ve served with along the way – gay, straight, whatever. I honestly couldn’t care less if somebody is gay, or ‘straight’ for that matter, just as I couldn’t care less about somebody’s anti-LGBT views,” Johnson wrote. “People seem to want you to be uptight one way or another about it, and I am content to simply respect somebody’s differences without a lot of fuss as long as there’s no harm done. Unfortunately, harm often is done, though, to people like Madelynn, and then I do care.”

How amazing is that? Hopefully the cemetery will gracefully accept Mr. Johnson’s offer.

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Transgender Rights Update 4/29/14

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Transgender FlagWe have a few new stories for you this morning on the transgender rights front.

Brazil: Huffington Post Live put together a great video of what it’s like to be gay or transgender in Brazil. full story

USA: A new book, entitled “Queerly Beloved”, discusses what happens when a woman comes out to her female partner as transgender. full story

USA: The Pentagon released its new declaration of goals for human rights, but omitted any reference to transgender citizens. full story

USA: In a related story, the Washington Post reports that the military continues to dismiss transgender servicemembers. full story

USA, NJ: Two transgender citizens have filed lawsuits against state police departments alleging discrimination because of their gender identity. full story

Idaho Won’t Let This Veteran Be Buried With Her Wife

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Madelynn TaylorA Veteran’s cemetary in Idaho is blocking a woman’s request to be buried with her wife when she dies.

Gay Star News reports:

74-year-old US Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor wants to be buried with her wife Jean Mixner’s ashes but Idaho’s state military cemetery won’t let her while that state retains its ban on same-sex marriage. Taylor had been in a relationship with Mixner beginning in 1995 but she died of emphysema in 2012 and was cremated – leaving Taylor to think about what she would like to have done when she died. She decided she wanted to be interred with Mixner’s ashes but when she contacted Idaho Veterans Cemetery in November to reserve a plot she was told that they could not be buried together… the Idaho state constitution bans any recognition of same-sex marriage so the couple’s 2008 California marriage cannot be recognized by the cemetery.

Imagine if your husband or wife died, and the state then told you that you couldn’t be buried with them when your time came.

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A Marine Speaks Out on Marriage Equality

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Don't Ask Don't TellI slept with a gay man for six months in Afghanistan.

No one asked. He did not tell.

In 2005, I and 200 Marines in my squadron deployed to Afghanistan to support the global war on terrorism. We were stationed at Bagram air base, a deep bowl surrounded by snowcapped mountains, where it rained and snowed while the sun beamed, prompting one Marine to remark, “Welcome to Afghanistan, the only place on Earth where you get all four seasons and a rocket in the same day.”

We lived in “B-huts,” wooden houses with no internal structure, subdivided into “rooms” by flimsy plywood boards. Every moment was spent in close quarters: working in small offices, eating meals in the chow hall, sleeping in our racks, exercising. We saw each other at our best and our worst, shared secrets and fears, lost patience with and supported one another through the duration of deployment.

Sgt. Santiago and I spoke often, if casually. He routinely had one of the highest physical fitness test scores in our unit and never missed a chance to go salsa dancing stateside with fellow Marines, including our senior enlisted Marine and his wife, whom he persuaded to join a few times. He also proudly displayed his Puerto Rican flag in his barracks. Nevertheless, he was a reserved man, quiet, private. I assumed these were inherent personality traits. I didn’t realize that he was hiding something.

Authored By Roger Dean Huffstetler – See the Full Story at The Washington Post

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Meet Transgender Soldier Jacob Eleazer

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Jacob EleazerJacob Eleazer, a 28-year-old TAC (Teach, Assess, Council) officer, learned he was up for promotion this December. For seven years, he’d been an exemplary soldier, rising to the rank of first lieutenant, and now on his way to captain. But there was a problem. Within the confines of his military training center, in western Kentucky, Eleazer still went by his birth name, which was female.

Outside his Army base, Eleazer lived as a man, one of 15,450 military personnel who consider themselves transgender, according to a recently released study, but don’t dare come out to their fellow soldiers and risk jeopardizing their careers. “My colleagues just assumed I was a really butch lesbian,” says Eleazer, who has broad shoulders, close-cropped hair and a jutting chin.

Like Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who gave classified documents to WikiLeaks when she was known as Bradley Manning, Eleazer hadn’t identified with his gender since puberty. Yet he believed that undergoing any kind of anatomical change was unrealistic–too many complications–and so for years he lived as a lesbian. But in 2011 he decided he couldn’t abide the dissonance any longer. He soon came out to his friends and family, who were supportive, and for the last two years, he has lived as Jacob. But he only recently resolved to surgically modify his gender.

Authored By Mike Spies – See the Full Story at Vocativ

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Awesome New Marriage Equality Commercial From Empowered Products

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Empowered Products AdIt’s not often we get excited about a TV ad, but this one caught our eye.

LGBT Weekly reports:

Empowered Products, Inc., an emerging leader in the high-growth sexual wellness sector through its award-winning PINK(R) and Gun Oil(R) brands, has aired its first-ever television commercial. The 60-second spot aired on the Bravo and E! networks in seven major U.S. markets. Empowered Products stated that it believes its commercial is the first by a major U.S. manufacturer or publicly-traded company to utilize an authentic portrayal of marriage equality and service by gays in the U.S. military. The commercial tells the story of a husband wistfully going through the motions of daily life in the family home awaiting the return of his partner and the joy of his homecoming from service.

I got a lump in my throat at the end. It’s truly amazing how far we have come in just the last four years.

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USA: All 50 States Now Processing Benefits for Same-Sex National Guard Couples

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Chuck HagelIt looks like US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has won the standoff with the rogue states who had vowed not to process benefits for same-sex couples in the National Guard.

Think Progress reports:

A statement made Friday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirms that all states are now providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of National Guard service members:

HAGEL: On Oct. 31, I called on the chief of the National Guard Bureau to work with several states to fully implement Department of Defense policy by providing DoD identification cards to all eligible military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation. Following consultations between the National Guard Bureau and the adjutants general of the states, all eligible service members, dependents and retirees — including same-sex spouses — are now able to obtain ID cards in every state. All military spouses and families sacrifice on behalf of our country. They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law. All of DoD is committed to pursuing equal opportunities for all who serve this nation, and I will continue to work to ensure our men and women in uniform as well as their families have full and equal access to the benefits they deserve.

Mississippi was the last holdout. The key to the change? Using federal employees, even at state facilities, to process the benefit claims.

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USA, Georgia: State Agrees to Process Benefits for National Guard Same-Sex Couples

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Georgia mapAnother state has caved on processing benefits for same-sex couples who are part of the state’s National Guard.

The Washington Blade reports:

The Georgia National Guard has become the latest state to agree to process spousal benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages, according to two sources familiar with the decision. Maj. Jon Craig, a National Guard Bureau spokesperson, said Georgia had agreed to process applications to grant same-sex spouses military IDs last week in a decision along the lines of Texas and Louisiana. “With Georgia, what it came down to was the authorization to put some state employees on temporary federal status,” Craig said.

That means that Mississippi is the only state still standing on the issue.

SDGLN reports:

Mississippi is now the only state in the union to violate Pentagon policy to provide spousal benefits to same-gender couples… Mississippi is expected to comply with the policy, and the Pentagon is putting pressure on the state’s National Guard to provide the benefits to same-gender military couples as they do opposite-gender couples.

One by one like dominoes they fall…

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