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Gay Brigham Young University student comes out during commencement speech

Matt Easton says he’s ‘proud to be a gay son of God’

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Matt Easton came out during his commencement speech. (Screenshot via 2KUTV)

Brigham Young University valedictorian Matt Easton came out as gay during his commencement speech to the school’s College of Family, Home and Social Science.

“I have felt another triumph; that of coming to terms, not with who I thought I should be, but who the Lord has made me to be. As such, I stand before the Lord, my family, my graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God,” the 24-year-old political science major said during his speech.

The speech was approved by school officials prior to commencement day.

Later, Easton posted a series of tweets explaining that he had already come out to his friends and family but this was the first time he had publicly come out.

“During my time at BYU, I have slowly come out to my closest family members and friends. However, this is the first time I have publicly declared it. I felt it was important to share both for myself and for the LGBTQ+ community at BYU,” Easton writes. While I don’t speak for everyone—my own experience is all I can vouch for—I hope that people know that we ARE here at BYU, and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”

According to BYU’s Honor Code, gay students are allowed at the school but “homosexual behavior” is prohibited.

“Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code,” the university policy reads. “Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”

In an interview with 2KUTV, Easton says he was nervous to give the speech.

“Not many people are given a platform where they can speak in front of all their peers and these peers’ families,” Easton said. “I was nervous. I’m still a little nervous about it. You know there’s people that are telling me I went too far, people telling me I didn’t go far enough. Ultimately I had to do what felt right to me.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently reversed its policy on not allowing children of same-sex parents to get baptized. Previously, children had to wait until they were 18 years old. Now, they are allowed to be baptized in the church at 8 years old.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Christian lawyers take case of anti-trans athletes to appeals court

Besides campaigning for a national abortion ban, Alliance Defending Freedom aims to ban trans girls competing in girls’ high school sports

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Plaintiffs & ADF attorney in case (Photo by Dawn Ennis)

NEW YORK – A federal appeals judge in New York City on Thursday listened to attorneys arguing for and against a ban on transgender athletes in high school sports, the first federal case challenging a policy of inclusion.

Now it’s up to Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston of the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to decide whether a landmark case should be retried or tossed out. 

The case, brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom in February 2020, was dismissed by a federal judge in Connecticut in April 2021. 

The ADF, a conservative Christian law group labeled an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is appealing the decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny. The ADF claims he was biased in favor of the defendants, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and several Connecticut boards of education. 

Their original lawsuit and this appeal claims that by permitting transgender student-athletes to compete according to their gender identity, the CIAC and the schools discriminated against the plaintiffs: cisgender women who were track and field athletes in high school in Connecticut. They have all gone on to win collegiate sports scholarships: Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell and Alanna Smith. 

“Today we argued that my clients, Selena, Chelsea and Alanna, their records and achievements matter, and we ought to be able to prove our case in court,” said ADF Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer outside court in Manhattan. “And so, we’re asking that the judges here allow the case to continue to move forward.” 

A fourth plaintiff, Ashley Nicoletti, was added to the case last year. The women claim they couldn’t win against trans girls, and because they were forced to compete with trans girls, they were “denied the chance to be champions.” 

They also want the court to order the state to change its track and field records and championship-winning results and erase the names of two transgender athletes: Andraya Yearwood and Terry Miller.

In their appeal, and in their press release following today’s hearing, the ADF attorneys repeatedly misgendered the two young Black women, referring to them as “boys” and “biological males.” Yearwood and Miller are not named in the suit, but American Civil Liberties Union attorneys represented them at the hearing.

The ACLU tweeted what the organization called “the facts” of the case, responding to the ADF’s arguments, including that Mitchell and Smith did in fact beat Yearwood and Miller and that three of the four plaintiffs actually did win championships. 

“Connecticut’s laws preventing discrimination against trans youth in school and sports are consistent with federal law,” said Elana Bildner, ACLU Foundation of Connecticut senior staff attorney, in a statement. “For years now, Andraya and Terry have carried more on their shoulders, as two Black trans youth, than most adults face in a lifetime.”

“The plaintiffs’ argument is filled with hypotheticals about a dystopia where cisgender girls disappear from the podium, but the court must rely on facts,” said ACLU attorney Joshua Block. “The facts are that these plaintiffs repeatedly outperformed Andraya and Terry and won an impressive collection of first place trophies in the process. There is enough room on the victory podium for transgender girls too. Under Title IX, all girls, including transgender girls, should be able to participate fully and equally in athletics, in accordance with who they are.”

Yearwood and Miller’s records and the lawsuit naming them have been cited in several states across the U.S. where legislatures have considered and enacted bans on trans student-athletes. Outside court, Block called this case “sort of Exhibit A,” in that effort. “It’s held up as an example of the dangers that would happen if transgender girls were allowed to participate. And the reality is that that’s based on a completely false premise, because there’s no cisgender girls getting pushed off the victory podium. The plaintiffs in this case have been on the victory podium on multiple occasions.”

Miller and Yearwood did not win any sports scholarships to colleges and are not pursuing track and field following their graduation from their high schools. 
You can read the filing by ADF by clicking here.

The ACLU’s statement is here.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

Think tank shuts down: Study shows little LGBTQ impact on military

After 24 years of researching LGBT military service bans, the Palm Center announced September 19 it was closing its doors on September 25

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Color Guard members from the Navy and Marine Corps march at the 2018 San Diego Pride Parade. (MC3 Nicholas Burgains/Navy)

GOLETA, Ca. – The Palm Center, a think tank founded in 1998 at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which researched military policy concerning LGBTQ service members, most notably during the ongoing policy debates that led to the repeal in 2011 of the Clinton era policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” (DADT) announced it is shutting down.

After 24 years of researching LGBT military service bans, the independent research institute, which worked with numerous partner organizations carving out a research niche that involved conducting and publicizing studies that were leveraged to overturn two longstanding bans on service by openly LGBT troops, announced September 19 it was closing its doors on September 25.

In press statement released the Palm Center listed some of its accomplishments:

  • Spearheading hard-hitting communications campaigns grounded in research, such as uncovering data on Arabic linguists fired for being gay and discovering that the Pentagon was sending gay troops to war, only to fire them upon their return from battle
  • Paving the way for repeal of the military’s transgender ban by dismantling medical arguments that sustained discrimination, and receiving White House recognition for being one of the organizations most responsible for helping the military lift its transgender ban
  • Cultivating support for inclusion from top leaders such as former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former U.S. Surgeons General
  • Conducting 65 research studies, many of which were published in top peer-reviewed as well as military journals

“Few organizations figured out how to move the needle on military opinion so effectively as the Palm Center,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“Its research and policy guidance were invaluable in showing that inclusive service was not complicated and would not harm readiness,” he said. “The Palm Center reframed the national conversation over LGBT military service, using facts and research to conclusively demonstrate that inclusion makes our armed forces, and our country, stronger.”

Navy Admiral. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

Mullen, who became an LGBTQ hero when, as Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in support of repealing the harmful anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy.

“Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said. “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

“For me, personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution,” he said. “I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change,” continued Mullen. “I never underestimate their ability to adapt.”

Earlier this month the Palm Center highlighted a 196-page document, published in 2021 by the Joint History and Research Office, which provides support to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to the Joint Staff, that found that opposition to open service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops was based on overblown fears among both military leadership and the rank and file.

The study also found that found that concerns about combat effectiveness and unit cohesion were basically unfounded.

The study began in 2012, Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Joe Holstead told Military Times this week, in recognition of “the historical significance of the 2010 decision to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” and released ― but not publicized ― in April 2021.

The study, “Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: A Historical Perspective from the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” is a public document that appears to mirror a 2016 classified report with the same title. It is unclear why the report was originally classified. The Palm Center sought comment from the Joint History and Research Office but did not receive a response.

“Time and again, opponents of equality have claimed that inclusion would harm America’s most important institutions and threaten the nation itself,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center. “And time and again, that’s turned out to be false. This official military study makes clear the yawning gap between fearmongering and reality, and should guide dialogue about similar claims in the present, such as fears that inclusion for transgender Americans is somehow a threat to our society.”

The report describes dramatic fears of harm to readiness during the 2009-10 lead-up to the ban’s repeal, and contrasts them with consistent findings of no impact. A section entitled, “A Nonissue,” reports that some of the service chiefs who had opposed repeal or predicted harm to unit cohesion and effectiveness, conceded that their concerns were unfounded, and that readiness concerns were often based on misperceptions and stereotypes.

General James Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and the most vociferous opponent of inclusion in the upper ranks of the military, had told Congress at the time that repeal “has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus on preparing units for combat.”

Yet “two months later, General James Amos told reporters that the policy change had been a ‘non-event’” and that he was “very pleased” with how the policy change had gone. 

Similarly, when the military’s combatant commanders were asked to assess the impact of repeal on readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, recruiting, and retention two months after the ban ended, they “reported no impact on any of these categories.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Mullen, told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013 (two years after repeal) that he agreed with the combatant commanders’ conclusion that the policy change had “no impact” in undermining readiness.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal jury indicts doctor & her spouse: Passing info to Russia

They received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as transgender

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Jamie Lee Henry & their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Los Angeles Blade collage from social media)

BALTIMORE – A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The United States Attorney’s office for Maryland in a press release stated that the indictment charging Anna Gabrielian, age 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, age 39, both of Rockville, Maryland, both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, a Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

In court documents filed Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on August 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore.  During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the United States military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the United States military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Gabrielian’s spouse is U.S. Army Major Jamie Lee Henry, who identifies as a transgender military physician on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as transgender.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving transgender U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement, commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1, located in Baltimore, Maryland.  Henry, a Major in the United States Army, who held a Secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor.  During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the United States Army Special Operations Command, and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson.  Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the United States Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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