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Follow Me: Military LGBT Will Lead Marriage Equality Implementation



Bridget Wilson, one of America’s top civilian lawyers practicing military law, argues that LGBT military activists have earned a place at the leadership table of the LGBT civil rights movement and now will  lead through implementation of marriage equality in a post-DOMA world

LGBT service members and veterans, who now, after many years of being the “poor stepchildren” of the gay civil rights movement, in a post-DOMA world, are likely to lead the country on implementation of marriage equality rights and benefits.

And after years of working to reverse state sanctioned discrimination in the uniformed services, LGBT military activists can proudly take their rightful place in leadership of the movement, as they are now ideally situated to to be leaders in the efforts to implement marriage equality implementation in a post-DOMA world  and to also advance new territories of LGBT civil rights in America.

For decades, small numbers of individuals who fought for the rights of LGBT service members, were often ignored and ridiculed by those in the movement (who should have known better).   As time has passed, the hard work of service members, veterans and their families and allies, has paid off.

Many of those in leadership positions of LGBT community organizations around the country, finally realized during the efforts to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) law that discrimination against gays in the military, was and is, a fundamental issue of citizenship and therefore, equal rights, especially during the course of fighting two wars simultaneously.

Two major problems remain for LGBT service members–currently, no legal redress or remedies exist for discrimination based upon sexual orientation and transgender candidates are barred to military service by medical disqualification.

Despite these decided disadvantages, the plight of service members moved the marriage equality battle forward following the repeal of DADT.  And because almost every aspect of a service member’s life is controlled by federal regulations and statutes, the burden of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) upon their daily lives was immediately apparent to the families, the public, as well as within military commands.

Now, because DOMA has been struck down, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and members of the Coast Guard, can designate his or her spouse as next-of-kin for death notification purposes.

And now, in a post-DOMA world, when a service member dies in the line of duty and pays the ultimate sacrifice, their spouse will be recognized as the rightful survivor, entitled to all legal benefits, privileges, that had  been previously available only to heterosexual spouses and their children.

Now, the surviving gay spouse will be honored with the customary presentation of the nation’s flag at the graveside ceremony, with the gratitude of the nation directly expressed to them by the officer leading the burial honor guard.

Ironically, the military services became allies in marriage equality fight because commanders  readily recognize that in order to maintain unit cohesion, morale and discipline,  soldiers must be treated  equally and because today’s military is a “married” one, commanders prioritize family support programs to relieve pressure on the  service member during overseas deployments.

Gay families were formally excluded from these programs under the onerous discrimination of the DOMA statute.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor did not come in time for the spouses/partners of Chief Warrant Officer Two Charlie Morgan, Staff Sergent Donna Johnson and Captain Reid Nishizuka.   When Donna Johnson was killed in action, because of DOMA, her spouse was not notified of her death.  But rather, she received a call from her mother-in-law, who told her that soldiers had arrived at their house [who notified her of Donna’s death]. She was not presented an American flag at the gravesite. Fortunately, in this case, the in-laws were loving people who included her in these processes that are routinely extended to the legal next-of-kin.

But not all families of gay partners are as kind or inclusive in death. Now, with the legal ability to be designated as the next of kin and military dependent, the post-DOMA world enables the availability and right to access these important practical benefits of military life.

Now, gay spouses will be issued military dependent identification cards that provide access to subsidized stores, such as the post exchange, gymnasiums, healthcare and base housing. Military gay families will now have access to family support services and childcare. Gay service members and their families will be able to live with access to the same benefits afforded to heterosexual families in a military environment, a challenging place for any family.

Following the Supreme Court decisions rendered in Windsor and Perry, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a statement on behalf of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who said that the Pentagon will immediately implement the benefits available to all military spouses, “because it is the law and the right thing to do.”

The statement continues:

Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment. All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country and their qualifications to do so. Today’s ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve.

This formal DoD statement reflects an amazing turn around in just two years.  If this approach toward gay service members is pursued and implemented, it will ease the burdens that must be borne by service members and their families in military life.  Attempting to take care of a gay service member’s  family with the frequently ineffective “work arounds” has been brutal. It was even more burdensome when DADT forced LGB service members to hide. The decisions in Windsor and Perry open the door to equal treatment in the federal realm, including military members and civilian employees of the military.

Because many states will  continue to not recognize the marriages of service members, there will be corners of contradiction. An example is documenting the birth of children born to a same sex couple in a state that does not recognize their marriage. Birth certificates are in the control of the states.   Many states will not place a same sex spouse on a birth certificate. Service members have little choice about where they will live.  If the service member and spouse are assigned to serve in Texas or Nevada, the couple may not be able to obtain a birth certificate that reflects the names of both parents.

Overseas assignments will also be a challenge. There may be locations where a same sex couple would be unacceptable to the national population. How will these issues be addressed in the agreements made with host countries of American military bases?  Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) which control the legal status of service members and those dependents accompanying them can be a difficult negotiation. What if a country demands a SOFA that prohibits individuals in same sex relationships? What about the criminal liability of civilian dependents in a foreign nation with strongly anti-gay laws? How will these considerations affect command sponsorship of a spouse for an overseas tour? The DoD news release mentions only that the Pentagon will be “reviewing” these issues.

Of course, the battle is not over.  Only 12 states, including the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages. For example, there is a patchwork quilt of veterans’ benefits that may not be available to those spouses living in states that don’t recognize same sex marriages. The devil will be in the details.

If the Pentagon moves to adopt these administrative benefits for gay service members and their families within 6 to 12 weeks, as formally stated this week, it would set the bench mark as the most efficient of all government agencies to implement equality. Perhaps the old infantry phrase “follow me” will prove to be true.  Progress on marriage equality in America could very well be led by the armed forces.

The image of the Pentagon is courtesy via Wikimedia Commons.

Bridget 150Bridget Wilson is an attorney in private practice in San Diego, California, where she practices military law, including boards, courts-martial and appeals.  She has assisted thousands of service members in fighting the U.S. military’s anti-LGBT policies for more than three decades. 


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Experts Call on Trump to Release Search Warrant and Inventory List as His Supporters Talk of ‘Civil War’



Legal experts and other experts are urging – or in some cases, daring – Donald Trump to publish a copy of the FBI’s search warrant and the inventory list of the ten cartons of classified documents removed from Mar-a-Lago’s basement Monday, as his supporters openly call for civil war in response to what the former president called a “raid.”

“After the search, the federal agents hauled away roughly 10 more boxes,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

That makes the total number of cartons the former president was storing at his Florida home approximately 25, based on reports that 15 cartons had to be retrieved by the National Archives earlier this year.

READ MORE: ‘He Was Going to Sacrifice You’: Pence Mocked for Rushing to Support Trump After FBI Mar-a-Lago Raid

Almost immediately upon news breaking that the FBI had executed a search warrant, Trump supporters went wild. They formed a convoy outside Mar-a-Lago, and online countless threats of violence and “civil war” have been made.

Tuesday morning CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan posted a graph, noting the “big spike in tweets referencing ‘civil war’ right after the news of the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago broke last night.”

Dr. Caroline Orr Bueno posted an image of a large number of tweets that call for civil war and other related threats of violence, including: “I already bought my ammo,” “Civil war! Pick up arms, people!” “Civil War 2.0 just kicked off,” “Let’s do the war,” and “One step closer to a kinetic civil war.”

And Tuesday afternoon NBC News reported, “After Mar-a-Lago search, users on pro-Trump forums agitate for ‘civil war’ — including a Jan. 6 rioter.”

READ MORE: ‘God Anointed Him’: Christian Right Expert Explains Conservative Outrage After FBI Raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Legal experts have made clear they believe FBI’s execution of a lawful federal search warrant is most likely in connection with a national security and counterintelligence operation, not a casual stroll into the private estate of a former U.S. president – and certainly not a political move, like Trump supporters are falsely claiming.

Former Dept. of Justice Inspector General Michael Bromwich, who is also a former Asst. U.S. Attorney at the Southern District of New York (SDNY) notes that “Trump has the search warrant, specifying the crimes being investigated, and the inventory of the items seized.”

READ MORE: ‘Sitting President Asking for Civil War’: Parscale Blames Trump for Insurrection – Says His ‘Rhetoric Killed Someone’

“He has chosen not to share those items publicly although he is free to do so,” Bromwich adds.

Former U.S. Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal on MSNBC Tuesday morning:

“Donald Trump, you have a copy of the warrant. It explains what they were looking for, what statutes they think were violated, what judge signed off on that…If you believe this is such an abuse, release the warrant and let us decide for ourselves.”

“By the way,” noted Richard Stengel, a former U.S. Under Secretary of State, “Trump now has the search warrant and the inventory of what was taken in his possession. If this raid was so egregious and unjustified, why not release them?”

“Trump can release the search warrant and the inventory of what the FBI took. Why hasn’t he?” asked Marc Elias, the DNC’s top attorney who successfully fought more than 60 cases of alleged election fraud brought by the Trump team and his supporters.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, responding to a Fox News tweet with video of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that reads, “‘WE DESERVE ANSWERS NOW'” wrote: “Some of those questions could be answered if Trump released the search warrant as well as the inventory of items seized, which his team presumably has.”

Politico’s Kyle Cheney tweeting his article titled, “Why the Trump search warrant is nothing like Hillary’s emails,” wrote: “One person who could clear most of it up? Trump. He has access to the inventory of records at Mar-a-Lago and likely received a copy of the search warrant. He would also know the nature of the classified documents at issue.”





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‘He Was Going to Sacrifice You’: Pence Mocked for Rushing to Support Trump After FBI Mar-a-Lago Raid



Former Vice President Mike Pence, who was by Donald Trump‘s side constantly promoting and defending him when he was President, and who was subjected to Trump’s support of rioters and insurrectionists calling to “hang Mike Pence,” is being highly criticized and mocked for again rushing to defend Trump in the wake of the FBI’s raid at Mar-a-Lago.

Experts have made clear they believe FBI’s execution of a lawful federal search warrant is most likely in connection with a national security and counterintelligence operation, not a casual stroll into the private estate of a former U.S. president.

But not according to Pence, who is strongly believed to be organizing a 2024 presidential run.

READ MORE: ‘God Anointed Him’: Christian Right Expert Explains Conservative Outrage After FBI Raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

“I share the deep concern of millions of Americans over the unprecedented search of the personal residence of President Trump. No former President of the United States has ever been subject to a raid of their personal residence in American history,” he writes.

“After years where FBI agents were found to be acting on political motivation during our administration, the appearance of continued partisanship by the Justice Department must be addressed,” he claims, which is at best a twisting of facts. No FBI agent was found to have taken official action based on personal political beliefs.

“Yesterday’s action undermines public confidence in our system of justice and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately,” Pence demanded.

READ MORE: ‘This Is a National Security Issue’: Former FBI Agents Note Key Details About ‘Raid’ on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Pence could have made the exact same demand of Donald Trump, who has a copy of the lawfully executed search warrant and inventory of the likely hundreds or thousands of documents that are the rightful property of the U.S. government, and recovered by the FBI from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

Meanwhile, Pence was singing a very different tune int he weeks before he was elected Vice President.

We call on the FBI to immediately release all emails pertinent to their investigation,” he tweeted about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on October 28, 2016. “Americans have the right to know before Election Day.”

Trump “and I commend the FBI for reopening an investigation into Clinton’s personal email server because no one is above the law,” Pence added just hours later.

Responses to Pence’s remarks on Tuesday were strong.

“Mike he was going to sacrifice you,” tweeted Daily Kos staff writer Gabe Ortíz.

“No President has ever attempted to have an armed mob assassinate his Vice President either,” wrote journalist Marcy Wheeler.

Trump sent a “violent mob to murder you so he could end [the] republic,” tweeted economist David Rothschild. “Trump took boxes of classified documents from White House & is known to destroy documents.”

“Trump won in 2016 because FBI intervened on his behalf over ‘concern’ about Clinton’s document retention & security,” he continued. “Not investigating & prosecuting former president who flaunts breaking law, including leading coup against US, undermines rule-of-law for all of US.”

“You don’t know what the FBI’s warrant said or what evidence was presented to the judge who authorized it,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “Your suggestion that Trump should be beyond accountability to the law, like your silence when Trump called for imprisonment of his opponents as president, harms our country.”

Talking Points memo editor and founder Josh Marshall writes, “this is a good reminder of who Mike Pence is. None of this happened. The FBI never plotted against Trump. To the extent it has org bias it’s toward the right. Everyone knows this. Pence is just repeating anti-‘deep state’ propaganda invented to give Trump cover for his crimes.”

“The pervasive rightwing lie and conspiracy theory that the FBI is controlled by Biden for political purposes is based on the assumption that everyone in the Biden admin, the FBI, the department of justice, the media and secret service is corrupt and abusing power—and trump is not,” wrote Condé Nast legal affairs editor Luke Zaleski.

Vox’s legal expert, Ian Millhiser asks, “Is there anyone on earth more pathetic than Mike Pence? Donald Trump egged on a lynch mob that wanted Pence hanged, and Pence is still Trump’s toady.”



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‘Pledging to Sue’: Christian Nationalist GOP Nominee Subpoenaed by J6 Committee ‘Didn’t Answer a Single Question’



Christian nationalist Doug Mastriano, the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee for Pennsylvania who was at the US Capitol on January 6 and is seen as a central figure in the plot to overturn the election, complied with a subpoena to appear before the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack but didn’t answer any questions.

“Trump ally Doug Mastriano’s virtual appearance Tuesday before the House January 6 committee only lasted about 15 minutes,” CNN reports, adding that “‘he didn’t answer a single question,’ according to a source familiar with the matter.”

New York Times reporter Luke Broadwater confirms, adding that Mastriano is “pledging to sue the committee,” although it is unclear on what grounds.

READ MORE: Mastriano’s Consultant Just Posted Video Declaring ‘We Have Multiple Candidates…Who Are Christian Nationalists’

Mastriano is a conspiracy theorist with strong ties to far right wing extremists including antisemitic Gab found Andrew Torba.

CNN adds that “Mastriano’s attorney cut off the virtual appearance soon after it began, the source said. His lawyer, Tim Parlatore, took issue with several procedural matters related to the deposition, and raised questions about the legality of the subpoena that Mastriano received from the panel, the source added.”

As of May the Committee had already interviewed over 1000 people and it appears few, if any, have made these claims.

The New Yorker in May called Mastriano “a leader of the Stop the Steal campaign, and claims that he spoke to Donald Trump at least fifteen times between the 2020 election and the insurrection at the Capitol, on January 6th.”

“He urged his followers to attend the rally at the Capitol that led to the riots, saying, ‘I’m really praying that God will pour His Spirit upon Washington, D.C., like we’ve never seen before.’ Throughout this time, he has cast the fight against both lockdowns and Trump’s electoral loss as a religious battle against the forces of evil. He has come to embody a set of beliefs characterized as Christian nationalism, which center on the idea that God intended America to be a Christian nation, and which, when mingled with conspiracy theory and white nationalism, helped to fuel the insurrection.”

The founders repeatedly made clear the U.S. is not nor was created as a Christian nation.




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