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Biden signs historic American Rescue Plan

The legislation was passed without a single vote of support from Republicans in either chamber

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Vice-President Kamala Harris watches as President Biden signs American Rescue Plan into law. (Photo Credit: Screenshot via C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON – In a simple Oval Office event with Vice-President Kamala Harris by his side and also attended by members of the White House press corps, President Joe Biden signed his American Rescue Plan $1.9 trillion relief package into law Thursday afternoon.

The legislation authorizes a massive infusion of federal aid aimed primarily at working families. The president, who originally planned to sign the legislation into law Friday, is set to address the country at 8 p.m. Thursday evening in his first major address.

Prior to signing the bill, President Biden made a few remarks, including a nod to Congressional Republicans although the legislation was passed without a single vote of support from Republicans in either chamber.

“In the weeks that this bill has been discussed and debated, it’s clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people — Democrats, independents, our Republican friends — have made it clear — the people out there have made it clear they strongly support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said.

“And I’m going to have a lot more to say about that tonight and in the next couple of days, and be able to take your questions,” the president continued then added; 
 
“But in the meantime, what I’m going to do is sign this bill, and make the presentation tonight.  And then there’s going to be plenty of opportunities where we’re going to be on the road, not only talking about — what I’m talking about tonight is the impact on the virus and how we’re going to end this pandemic.  And we’re going to talk all the elements of the bill, beginning Friday, Saturday, and through the week.”

In Sacramento, California Governor Gavin Newson reacted in a statement issued by his office saying;

“The American Rescue Plan will help California roar back from this pandemic. With this infusion of federal stimulus, California can make faster progress on responding to COVID, supporting small businesses, putting money in people’s pockets, and bolstering K-12 and higher education. All of these pandemic responses add up to a brighter future for California. President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Schumer have shown what real, compassionate leadership looks like.

I look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to prioritize these critically needed funds, focusing on key shared priorities such as equity, housing affordability, education, and infrastructure, and coming out of this pandemic as a stronger and more inclusive California.”

The White House posted a detailed explanation of the plan on its website: https://www.whitehouse.gov/American-Rescue-Plan/

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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 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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Pennsylvania

Teachers told to deadname or misgender students in Pennsylvania

U.S. Office of Civil Rights recognizes a school’s policy or practice of refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns violates Title IX

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Central Bucks West High School (Photo Credit: Central Bucks West High School/Twitter)

DOYLESTOWN, Pa.  Teachers at Central Bucks West High School in Bucks County say they were told by administrators to not use a student’s preferred name or pronoun if it does not match with the information in the school’s database. 

The new policy known as the “Gender Identification Procedure” introduced at a faculty meeting six days into the school year, prohibits staff and faculty from using a student’s chosen gender identity by administrators who also told them they have to follow parents’ or guardians’ wishes if they differ from a student’s.

Philadelphia’s local PBS and NPR outlet WHYY News reported that the new policy has received pushback from teachers including Becky Cartee-Haring, who has taught English at Central Bucks West for 16 years.

“A lot of us are distraught,” she told WHYY adding, “I physically felt sick in that meeting, listening to an administrator basically argue that we were going to protect ourselves by outing children … it’s heart wrenching … It’s just cruel.”

“What the children wanted was completely irrelevant,” said David Klein, who has been teaching social studies at Central Bucks West for 26 years.

Klein said he’s not going to follow the new procedure.

“There’s no way I’m hurting a kid. Hell no. I cannot be complicit in harming children,” Klein said, raising his voice. “And I said this in the meeting … this is the most at-risk marginalized group of students, they need our support more than anyone else. No! Kid says, ‘Call me Tony,’ I’m calling them Tony!”

Being forced to misgender or deadname a student is unacceptable to some of the teachers including Klein at Central Bucks West.

Klein said even if he faces a parent who does not want their child to be called a name that the child prefers, he will continue to prioritize the student.

“My job is to educate your kids, to prepare them for the future, to make them feel safe, period. That’s my calling. Pardon me,” Klein told WHYY choking up. “I’m calling you Tony because you need to feel safe in my classroom. How else are you going to learn? And if they want to fire me, that’s their business.”

Two Legal groups say this new policy may run the risk of putting the school district ‘legal hot water.’ The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s legal director Vic Walczak warned “That right does not exist, at least not in the way that these parents are trying to claim it does,” referring to the impetus behind the new policy by some parents who had pushed for it.

WHYY also reported that Kristina Moon, senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center, pointed out that federal courts have recognized “a student’s right to privacy in their sexual orientation and gender identity, including with respect to their family members.”

“Persistently and purposely misgendering students … can also be considered harassment that violates both federal anti-discrimination laws and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Walczak added. “It potentially is going to get the school district into legal hot water.”

Moon said the U.S. Office of Civil Rights has also recognized that a school’s policy or practice of refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns violates Title IX and equal protection rights.

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