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Pentagon to allow trans enlistments Jan. 1 after latest court order

Trump administration continues with plans to implement ban

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James Mattis, gay news, Washington Blade

The Pentagon under Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will allow transgender service members to enlist starting Jan. 1. (Photo courtesy Department of Defense)

The Pentagon has affirmed it will allow transgender enlistments starting Jan. 1 on the same day a federal judge asserted her order against President Trump’s ban on their service means they can accede into the military on that target date.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee, issued the order Monday in response to a request from the U.S. Justice Department for a temporary stay on the portion of her order requiring the Pentagon to admit transgender service members starting Jan. 1.

“For more than a year preceding the summer of 2017, it was the policy and intention of the military that transgender individuals would soon begin to accede,” Kollar-Kotelly said. “Moreover, the court issued the preliminary injunction in this case approximately six weeks ago, and since then defendants have been on notice that they would be required to implement the previously established policy of beginning to accept transgender individuals on January 1, 2018. In other words, with only a brief hiatus, defendants have had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one and a half years.”

Kollar-Kotelly also takes a jab at the Justice Department over the process in which it requested a stay, saying the “portrayal of their situation as an emergency is belied by their litigation tactics.” She notes the appeal of her initial decision didn’t come until weeks later and the request for a partial stay didn’t come until December.

“If complying with the military’s previously established January 1, 2018 deadline to begin accession was as unmanageable as defendants now suggest, one would have expected defendants to act with more alacrity,” Kollar-Kotelly writes.

The judge had already clarified in response to a request from the U.S. government that her order against Trump’s transgender military ban, issued in response to a lawsuit filed by GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, means transgender enlistments must begin Jan. 1.

That was the target date Defense Secretary James Mattis established for transgender enlistment in a memo he issued in June delaying that change in policy for another six months in response to a joint request from military service chiefs. Transgender enlistments were initially scheduled to begin June 30 as a result of a change initiated in the Obama era under former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement the Trump administration’s assertion “our highly sophisticated military is unprepared to implement a minor policy change after more than a year of preparation are simply not credible.”

“The military has studied this issue extensively and determined that permitting qualified transgender people to enlist and serve will only strengthen our nation’s armed forces,” Minter writes. “This administration’s claim that allowing transgender people to enlist will lessen military preparedness is contradicted by the military’s own conclusions.”

The Justice Department has already appealed Kollar-Kotelly’s decision against Trump’s transgender ban as well as her clarification it means transgender enlistments must begin Jan. 1 to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has also appealed an order against the transgender ban issued by a federal judge in Maryland as a result of a separate lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lauren Ehrsam, a Justice Department spokesperson, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying the department disagrees with the ruling and is “currently evaluating the next steps.”

“Plaintiffs’ lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the president ordered, and because none of the plaintiffs have established they they will be impacted by current policies on military service,” Ehrsam reportedly added.

Prior to the ruling, as reported by the Associated Press, the Pentagon announced Monday it’s preparing to admit transgender people into the armed forces starting Jan. 1 despite the Justice Department’s continued efforts to fight the  court orders.

Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the Washington Blade the U.S. military “will begin processing transgender applicants for military service on January 1, 2018” as legal opportunities to challenging the court orders are evaluated.

Eastburn said the Pentagon will still disqualify potential recruits with “gender dysphoria, a history of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent reconstruction.”

However, those recruits, Eastburn said, will be allowed into the military if a medical provider certifies they’ve been clinically stable in their gender identity for 18 months and “are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, questioned on the Pentagon announcement by NBC News during the daily briefing, said the change reflects the requirements of court orders against Trump’s transgender military ban.

“As of right now, they’re simply complying with a court order and preparing to implement a previous policy to remain in compliance,” Sanders said.

Sanders added, however, the Justice Department is “currently reviewing the legal options to ensure that the president’s directive can be implemented,” deferring additional questions to the department.

Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, said his organization is “very pleased” the Pentagon is preparing to admit transgender enlistments on Jan. 1 as required by court order.

“The lawsuits filed by all organizations and the injunction by Judge Koller-Kotley should definitively be a sign to this administration that discrimination will not be tolerated in our armed forces,” Thorn added. “The Pentagon never wanted this ban, it was moving ahead with this policy until Trump irrationally tweeted his bigotry about trans service members. We are eager to get back on track with the policy and with the Department of Defense complying with this court order we hope to do that.”

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Florida

Black & LGBTQ+ inclusive wall mural cited for multiple code violations

The idea was to make a mural that addressed pending legislation in Tallahassee that would affect the rights of minorities & the LGBTQ+ people

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Photograph courtesy of United Teachers of Dade

MIAMI SPRINGS, Fl. – A colourful wall mural in Dade County has attracted the ire of municipal authorities who say the mural, which includes a child of color reading a book, a verse from a Maya Angelo poem, and an LGBTQ Pride rainbow symbol, violates building codes.

The United Teachers of Dade union has been cited by Miami Springs for code violations after it unveiled the mural on its office building the Miami Herald reported this past week.

“If you do not see the word mural on an ordinance this does not mean it’s allowed, means you should make an inquiry with the Building & Zoning department first and present your mural,” Miami Springs Councilwoman Jacky Bravo said in an email to the Herald. “We are not talking about a small stamp on the wall. Seems like they took a blind eye on this one, and unfortunately has caused an issue to be dealt with.”

The Herald reported that was it unveiled last March, and was titled ‘Rise’ to send a message to lawmakers in Florida’s capitol in Tallahassee as a series of laws were being introduced that negatively impacted the minority and LGBTQ+ communities in the state.

Luis Valle, a Miami-based artist who was commissioned by the United Teachers of Dade union to paint the mural told the paper, “The idea was to make a mural that addressed pending legislation in Tallahassee, at the time, that would affect public schools, as well as the rights of minorities and those in the LGBTQ+ community. It is about inclusivity for all people and all cultures.”

Although the UTD Union had submitted and paid for a permit, the Miami Springs City Code Compliance Department, which requires permits be obtained before work commences, had already issued a “notice of violation” on March 25 to the union site’s property owner, UTD Building Corp., for violations that included:

–improper size of wall sign

–improper placement and/or width of wall sign

–improper construction of sign

–failure to comply with applicable color palette

“Failure to correct the violations by the time due shall cause this case to be set for hearing before the code compliance board and may result in fines, costs and/or a lien levied against you and the property,” the notice said. “Fines imposed shall not exceed $250 per day for a first-time violation.”

The city gave UTD until April 24 to correct the violations, according to the notice. Potential fines, as of Oct. 13, could run as high as $43,000 the Herald noted.

Currently discussions are ongoing. “UTD reviewed all the codes before contracting our mural artist in order to perform our due diligence,” United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said in an emailed statement to the Herald on Oct. 11. “Additionally, we spoke to a former council member to double check our findings and that individual also concluded that the Miami Springs City Codes did not address this topic.”

“The art piece is not a sign for the building or our organization; it has no logo or company name on it because it is an artistic expression in the form of a mural with no other intent,” Hernandez-Mats’ added.

Attempts by the Miami Herald to reach Miami Springs Mayor Maria Mitchell, and City Council members had been unsuccessful by this past Thursday afternoon, however the next Miami Springs City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25.

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Vermont

Vermont high school homecoming halftime show turns into a ‘drag show’

“The crowd was decked out in LGBTQ+ affirming clothing- the stands were completely packed. It was just so heartwarming to see”

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Burlington High School, Burlington Vermont homecoming game October 2021 (Screenshot via YouTube)

BURLINGTON, Vt. – A quintessential annual Fall time-honored tradition held across America’s on high school football fields are homecoming games. This year a mix of students and faculty members Burlington High School, along with some participants from South Burlington High School, added a touch of ‘drag’ to the halftime show.

“Things went amazing,” Ezra Totten, student leader of the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Burlington High School, told the Associated Press, speaking about Friday night’s event. “The stands were completely packed. It was just so heartwarming to see.”

The school’s principal, its Athletic Director, and other staff were fully supportive with Andrew LeValley, an English teacher and GSA adviser, the faculty member who created the idea along with a boost from Burlington High Athletic Director Quaron Pinckney suggested that the show be held at the homecoming game’s halftime.

Pinckney, who is Black, told the AP that the school gave him the space to “uplift my voice” and that he was able to reciprocate and “uplift the voices of another marginalized group and share a space in the athletics realm that doesn’t normally get shared.”

The crowd was decked out in LGBTQ+ affirming clothing, costumes and waving Pride flags raucously cheering as the ‘drag ball’s’ performers paraded and danced to show support for LGBTQ+ students and the larger LGBTQ+ community. They commenced the halftime show with a runway-style event while they lip-synced to singer Todrick Hall’s “Rainbow Reign.”

Burlington High School’s halftime drag show

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Utah

LGBTQ+ Non-profit will build 8 homes for LGBTQ youth in Western states

Encircle is a non-profit organization with the mission to bring the family and community together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive

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LGBTQ Youth, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Dwayne Wade & other donors (Photo: Tim Cook Twitter)

SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah-based non-profit announced Wednesday that the organization has raised more than $8 million dollars to build eight new homes in four Western states to provide services for LGBTQ youth.

Encircle, which provides mental health services for LGBTQ youth, will build the new homes with locations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. The new homes are dedicated for providing safe spaces, resources and preventing teen suicide. The organization currently has locations in Salt Lake City, Provo and St. George, Utah, and recently construction has begun on locations in Heber, Logan and Ogden, as well as in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The fundraising efforts had kicked off this past February with donations from NBA Basketball’s Utah Jazz team owners Ryan and Ashley Smith and Apple CEO Tim Cook, the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 firm. The lead singer of Imagine Dragons Dan Reynolds and his wife, recording artist Aja Volkman, and retired NBA superstar and Jazz part-owner Dwayne Wade, whose 14-year-old daughter Zaya is Trans, all partnered together to give a total of $4 million.

In a press conference Wednesday, “Encircle’s mission is very personal to me because I see myself in so many of these young people,” Apple CEO Cook told reporters. “It’s not easy when you’re made to feel different or less than because of who you are or who you love. It’s a feeling that so many LGBTQ people know far too well.”

Encircle executives and the group of celebrities were joined by Utah Republican Governor Spencer Cox who praised Encircle’s efforts.

“What Encircle has done is provided that piece of acceptance, even if — especially if — there is no acceptance anywhere else,” the governor said. “There is a place where they can go where they can feel loved.”

Wade, reflecting on being the parent of a Trans child, “I stand here as a proud parent of a beautiful daughter that’s a part of the LGBT-plus community,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to listen.”

Encircle is a non-profit organization with the mission to bring the family and community together to enable LGBTQ+ youth to thrive.

On its website the non-profit lists its current support services including its new café which is open “Monday through Friday between 3-8 PM folks ages 12-25 are welcome to just drop-in, hang out and enjoy our safe space. Friendship Circles, its weekly groups [which] allow you to tell your story and connect with peers in a safer space facilitated by our community, and LGBTQ affirming therapy.”

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