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Federal judge in Seattle extends injunction on trans military ban

Will the trial include deposing VP Mike Pence?

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A U.S. Army sergeant flies the American flag from the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over southern Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The pilots and crew chiefs fly American flags to present with certificates to service members as part of aviation tradition. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis)

The timing of US District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman’s ruling on the ban against open transgender military service could not have been more poignant.

As the order circulated late Friday, April 13 among lawyers and plaintiffs in the OutServe-SLDN and Lambda Legal lawsuit against the Trump Administration, President Trump announced that he had ordered “precision strikes” in response to the chemical attack in a suburb of Damascus last weekend that killed at least 40 people.

It was the second military attack ordered without the consent of Congress and was contrary to Trump’s previous announcement of his intention to withdraw troops from Syria. Some pundits wondered if the strikes were a predictable, distracting response to the anger the president has expressed over the FBI’s ongoing investigation into his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Against this backdrop of war, an unpredictable commander-in-chief and a Defense Secretary who seems to be trying to appease him, the patriotic call of duty expressed by trans servicemembers in their lawsuits asking for the right to fight and die for their country seems even more courageous.

Pechman, ruling from her federal court in Seattle, Washington, seems to get that, delivering some precision strikes of her own. She ordered that her earlier preliminary injunction against the ban remain in effect. In that Dec. 11, 2017 ruling, she wrote “The Court finds that the policy prohibiting openly transgender individuals from serving in the military is likely unconstitutional,” adding that ban irreparably harms the state of Washington’s interest in “maintaining and enforcing its anti-discrimination laws, protecting its residents from discrimination, and ensuring that employment and advancement opportunities are not unlawfully restricted based on transgender status.”

In her April 13, 2018 decision, Pechman rejected the Justice Department’s argument that the “new” trans ban implementation policy derived from Sec. of Defense Mattis’ recommendations in late March was not a new policy at all since it violated the same constitutional protections. She said the OutServe-SLDN and Lambda Legal case could proceed to trial with Trump still a defendant. And, stunningly, Pechman wrote:

“The Court also rules that, because transgender people have long been subjected to systemic oppression and forced to live in silence, they are a protected class. Therefore, any attempt to exclude them from military service will be looked at with the highest level of care, and will be subject to the Court’s “strict scrutiny.” This means that before Defendants can implement the Ban, they must show that it was sincerely motivated by compelling interests, rather than by prejudice or stereotype, and that it is narrowly tailored to achieve those interests.”

“The entire decision, which is 31 pages, is choke full of great discussions that really indicate that this judge just gets it,” Peter E. Perkowski, Legal director for OutServe-SLDN, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “She understands the issues. She’s not falling for the government’s kind of shell game, if you will, of moving a whack-a-mole—keep changing the policy to try to get out of court. But she’s not falling for that. She’s definitely interested in reaching the merits of this case.”

The judge did not grant the all the LGBT legal groups’ requests. She denied permanent injunction and the request for a ruling on the merits without a trial.

“She said she’s not willing to do that now because she wants to hear specifically how the 2018 recommendations from Sec. Mattis and the panel of experts, as it’s been called—how much deference she needs to give to those results of that proceeding,” Perkowski says, “And whether she gives any deference at all or some or a lot – whether the ban, as it exists now, still has to meet constitutional revue, as she set forth in her decision.”

Going to trial means the legal groups would have a discovery process, which could finally reveal how, exactly the ban on transgender service members wound up as a Trump Tweet last year. Using very reliable sources, the LA Blade reported on Aug. 9, 2017 that the origin story lead from the Air Force Academy to religious Republican conservatives in the House — led by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Rep. Vicki Hartzler from Missouri — to evangelical lobbyist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, along with his colleagues Ken Blackwell and Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (ret), to Vice President Mike Pence, who agreed to help. Since then, others have reported similar accounts, including Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern and Think Progress’ Zack Ford. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade, reported on Thursday, April 12, that Army Secretary Mark Esper has had no problems with unit cohesion, which goes against a trans ban talking point.

Would OutServe-SLDN and Lambda Legal use the trial discovery process to get to the truth of how, who and why the ban was created?

Peter Perkowski is Legal Director for OutServe-SLDN, which assists the LGBT military community—including active-duty servicemembers, veterans, and Department of Defense civilians—and those living with HIV primarily with legal needs pertaining to equal access, equal treatment, and equal service.

Perkowski said he would not disclose trial strategy but added: “Yes, we are looking into all avenues to prove that this policy is not motivated by legitimate government objective but rather is motivated by bias— and that would include developing evidence that people like people in the [anti-LGBT] religious community had input into how this policy was made and how it was announced. That would be very critical evidence or at least powerful evidence about what deference the court would owe to the ban, for example and whether it survives constitutional review.”

Perkowski says he’s heard the same stories and rumors about what happened behind the scene but he can’t comment because he doesn’t know. “To the extent that we can develop that evidence as part of this trial, that would be very powerful evidence indicating that the government simply cannot meet its burden in justifying this policy under the constitutional standards. I think it would be useful to try to develop that evidence, as well. It would be great to find out who had their hands in the cookie jar, so to speak.”

Perkowski says there are different teams working on different aspects of the case. But, he says, “I’m sure everything is on table.”

When asked if that included deposing Pence, he says: “I’m not going to confirm any discovery effort we’re going to make.” But, he adds, it’s fair to suggest that Pence’s connection to the trans ban is something the teams will look at in the discovery process.

HERE”S THE RULING:

[pdf-embedder url=”http://www.losangelesblade.com/content/files/2018/04/04_13_LAB_Wash_court.pdf”]

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California

California expands culturally competent Program for LGBTQ Foster Youth

The services will be designed to address the barriers LGBTQ youth encounter in their interpersonal, familial, and community relationships

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LGBTQ+ youth (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES — Governor Gavin Newsom’s final 2022-23 fiscal year budget included $5 million for LGBTQ+ foster youth programming. The pilot program will require the California Department of Social Services (DPSS) to improve the child welfare system by providing affirming services designed specifically for LGBTQ+ foster youth.

The services will be designed to address the barriers LGBTQ+ youth encounter in their interpersonal, familial, and community relationships due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE).

“We are delighted that Governor Newsom has taken this important step towards creating an equitable foster care system for California’s LGBTQ+ youth,” said LA LGBT Center CEO, Joe Hollendoner. “This funding will improve capacity, training, and culturally responsive care that addresses the unique needs of—and offers meaningful protections for—LGBTQ+ youth. The Center has been a pioneer in LGBTQ+-inclusive programming for youth, and we will continue working with our partners to help protect LGBTQ+ foster youth from hate, violence, and discrimination. Every youth deserves a loving home with a caring family and culturally affirming support systems.”

LGBTQ foster youth are over-represented in the foster care system, and youth of color are disproportionately represented among those LGBTQ+ youth. A Williams Institute report finds that one in five foster care youth are LGBTQ+; of those youth, 90% are youth of color. Additionally, LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ youth to end up in a congregate care setting.

LGBTQ+ foster youth also face greater challenges when in custody with non-affirming foster families as they are disproportionately at risk for physical, sexual, emotional, and mental abuse. On average, 56% of LGBTQ+ youth report that they have felt safer living on the streets than with foster parents. For these reasons and others, robust continuums of care that are culturally responsive for supporting LGBTQ+ youth are critical.

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Missouri

Out Missouri candidate for local office campaign banner defaced with slur

If elected, Justice would become the first openly Out Jackson County Legislator, as well as the first Black representative of the district

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Photo Credit: Justice Horn/Twitter

KANSAS CITY – Over the July 4 holiday weekend an oversized campaign banner for community activist Justice Horn, who is running for the Jackson County Legislature, District 1, was vandalised with the homophobic slur ‘FAG.’

Horn, who announced his candidacy for Jackson County’s first district in May last year, tweeted Saturday about the vandalism:

Horn did not file a police report. In an interview with the Kansas City Star on Monday he said:

“I don’t know how much more blatantly that this was a hate crime. It was specifically targeted at me because of my sexual orientation.

“What bothers me the most is that it happened in broad daylight. They were so emboldened to do this. It was specifically a defacing to attack me not based on my policy or my candidacy but on me personally. It was the same as calling me the N-word.”

Horn was set to hold a press conference on Tuesday morning but prior to its scheduled time the banner was ripped down and stolen. Horn then tweeted:

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a Washington D.C.-based group that supports LGBTQ+ candidates reacted in a statement sent out from its president & CEO Mayor Annise Parker:

“Recent anti-LGBTQ attacks from officials serving at the highest levels of government empower bigots across the country to espouse hate openly. The reality is that out LGBTQ candidates of color bear the brunt of much of this animus. We stand firmly with Justice and unequivocally condemn this homophobic attack. Hateful acts like this make it abundantly clear that progress is not linear and should never be taken for granted. This is a reminder for the LGBTQ community and our allies that the fight for equality is far from over and that we must enter this election with urgency and strength. The stakes could not be higher.”

If elected, Justice would become the first openly LGBTQ+ Jackson County Legislator, as well as the first Black representative of the first district. Justice is also of Pacific Islander and Native Blackfoot heritage.

Justice is a former Student Body President of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he recently graduated with his Bachelors of Business Administration. He rose to notoriety after his role in the Black Lives Matter movement in Kansas City as a lead organizer, which concluded with a list of demands recommitting the City to the safety of the public through police reform, signed by Mayor Quinton Lucas. This resulted in body cams for police officers, which has recently been put into practice, as well as elevating the issue of local control to a top state legislative priority.

Throughout the past year, Justice has been the author behind multiple pieces of legislation to pass out of city council, including the creation of the first LGBTQ+ Commission in the state. Subsequently, he authored the Trans Inclusive Healthcare resolution, which directs the City Manager to ensure health insurance contracts initiated by the City are inclusive of all gender identities to prevent discrimination.

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Southeast Asia

Singapore government will not prosecute ‘people engaging in gay sex’

BBC asked Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam about sodomy law

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Singapore Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam (Screen capture via CNA YouTube)

SINGAPORE — A Singapore government minister last week said his country will not prosecute anyone under a colonial-era law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“People engaging in gay sex will not be prosecuted, even though there is this old piece of law which makes gay sex among males an offense,” said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on June 29 during an interview on BBC’s “HARDtalk” program. “The attorney general has confirmed that position and the Supreme Court has said that the government’s position is legal for us.”

Singapore is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The country’s Court of Appeal in February upheld a lower court decision that dismissed three lawsuits against Section 377A of Singapore’s penal code. Shanmugam acknowledged a “significant proportion of our population — the middle ground as it were — don’t want that law repealed.”

“Attitudes are shifting somewhat, but still Singapore government can’t ignore those views, so we have arrived at this sort of messy compromise the last 15 years and we have taken this path because these issues are difficult,” he said. “They are not easily settled and we have made clear that LGBTQ+ individuals are entitled to live peacefully without being attacked or threatened.”

“This is a compromise that we have arrived at because of where our society is and if you believe in a democracy you’ve got to take into account where your main ground is,” added Shanmugam.

Shanmugam spoke with the BBC less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Shanmugam during the interview specifically referenced Justice Clarence Thomas and his assertion the U.S. Supreme Court should reconsider its rulings in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.

“Our approach: Deal with these issues in Parliament,” said Shanmugam. “I’ve said earlier this year that we are relooking at our laws and our laws have to change and keep pace with the times and the Singaporean way we are engaging in a wide set of consultations to try and arrive at some set of landing.”

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