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 Â 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 Â 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). Â 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. Â And because almost every aspect of a service memberâ€™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 hadÂ 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 Â readily recognize that in order to maintain unit cohesion, morale and discipline, Â soldiers must be treated Â equally and because today’s military is a “married” one, commanders prioritize family support programs to relieve pressure on the Â service member during overseas deployments.
Gay families were formally excluded from these programs under the onerous discrimination of the DOMA statute.
The Supreme Courtâ€™s decision in Windsor did not come in time for the spouses/partners of Chief Warrant Officer TwoÂ Charlie Morgan, Staff SergentÂ Donna JohnsonÂ and CaptainÂ Reid Nishizuka. Â Â WhenÂ Donna JohnsonÂ was killed in action, because of DOMA, her spouse was not notified of her death.Â 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 Donnaâ€™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 inÂ WindsorÂ andÂ 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, â€œbecause it is the law and the right thing to do.â€
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. Â 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.Â Attempting to take care of a gay service member’s Â family with the frequently ineffective â€œwork aroundsâ€ has been brutal. It was even more burdensome when DADT forced LGB service members to hide. The decisions inÂ WindsorÂ andÂ PerryÂ open the door to equal treatment in the federal realm, including military members and civilian employees of the military.
Because many states will Â 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.Â Â Many states will not place a same sex spouse on a birth certificate. Service members have little choice about where they will live. Â 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?Â 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 â€œreviewingâ€ these issues.
Of course, the battle is not over. Â Only 12 states, including the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages. For example, there is a patchwork quilt of veteransâ€™ benefits that may not be available to those spouses living in states that donâ€™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 â€œfollow meâ€ will prove to be true.Â 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 Wilson is an attorney in private practice in San Diego, California, where she practices military law, including boards, courts-martial and appeals.Â She has assisted thousands of service members in fighting the U.S. militaryâ€™s anti-LGBT policies for more than three decades.Â
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Santos Campaign Can No Longer Raise or Spend Money After Treasurer Officially Calls It Quits: NYT
Enmeshed in a web of deceit and possibly under federal criminal investigation, U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is now apparently unable to lawfully spend money or accept donations via his political campaign, which reportedly now may also be in violation of FEC rules.
On Tuesday the embattled freshman Republican announced he was temporarily stepping down from his committee assignments, reportedly after a conversation with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Before the end of the day his campaign treasurer filed official paperwork notifying the Federal Election Commission she had resigned.
“Nancy Marks’s resignation effectively leaves the Santos campaign unable to raise or spend money and in seeming violation of federal rules,” The New York Times reports, calling her his “longtime campaign treasurer and trusted aide.”
“Mr. Santos’s financial operations, which are the subject of several complaints filed with the F.E.C. and are being investigated by local, state and federal law enforcement,” The Times adds. “It also leaves the Santos campaign in disarray, effectively rendering it unable to raise or spend money and placing it in seeming violation of F.E.C. rules.”
In fact, FEC rules state: “If a committee’s treasurer is absent, the committee cannot make expenditures or accept contributions unless it has designated an assistant treasurer or designated agent on the committee’s Statement of Organization.”
The resignation comes after last week’s stunning report revealing that Santos, or his campaign, amended FEC filings to indicate the $700,000 he had claimed to have personally loaned his campaign had not actually come from his personal funds.
Unlike political candidates, campaign treasurers are held to an actual standard of truth, and can be personally – and legally – liable if they report false information.
FEC rules also state, “the treasurer can be named and found liable in his or her personal capacity if he or she knowingly and willfully violates the Act, recklessly fails to fulfill duties imposed by the law, or intentionally deprives himself or herself of the operative facts giving rise to the violation.”
Santos may find it difficult to hire a new treasurer: “Even when an enforcement action alleges violations that occurred during the term of a previous treasurer, the Commission usually names the current treasurer as a respondent in the action.”
The Times adds, “The lack of clarity over who, if anyone, is operating as Mr. Santos’s treasurer has already caused confusion. On Tuesday, a joint fund-raising committee associated with Mr. Santos filed paperwork to end its operations. Ms. Marks’s signature was on the paperwork, even though she had resigned as the committee’s treasurer the week before.”
Marks’ resignation also comes after someone affiliated with the Santos campaign falsely listed a well-known Republican treasurer on the official FEC forms as the treasurer for his campaign. As one expert put it, that’s a “big no-no,” and “completely illegal.”
Another SCOTUS Scandal: Chief Justice’s Spouse Makes Millions Placing Attorneys at Top Law Firms That Argue Before the Court
The highly controversial and highly unpopular U.S. Supreme Court isn’t just facing a historic loss of confidence, it’s now facing yet another ethics scandal that is likely to lower even further public opinion of the far-right institution that in under two decades has seen its approval rating slashed.
Although it will not hear arguments, the issue before the Supreme Court and the American people’s view of it, is, should a Justice’s spouse – in this case the spouse of Chief Justice John Roberts – be able to make millions of dollars recruiting attorneys who are placed into top law firms that argue cases before it?
That’s the latest allegation, and already a spokesperson for the Court has issued a statement denying any ethical violations.
The New York Times reports that “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.”
Jane Sullivan Roberts left a law firm where she was a partner after her spouse was confirmed as Chief Justice.
“Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition,” The Times reports, “said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.”
Documents in that case “list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.”
That case involves “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts,” Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, who “has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice.”
“According to the letter,” sent by Price to DOJ and Congress, which the Times reports it obtained, “Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.”
The Times cites two legal experts, one who sees no ethical concerns with the situation, and one who does.
But critics are expressing great concern over this latest ethics issue, as they have been for years.
Doug Lindner, Advocacy Director for Judiciary & Democracy for the League of Conservation Voters, pointing to the Times’ report, remarked: “Another day, another ethics concern about another life-tenured conservative justice on the most powerful court in the world, which has no binding ethics rules.”
Indeed, the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics has been repeatedly condemned for years, including by some of the nation’s top critics.
On Sept. 1, 2022, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tweeted out her opinion piece: “Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory .. just another insurrectionist.”
Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, responded:
“Another reminder of how unethical is Justice Clarence Thomas, while Chief Justice Roberts turns a blind eye and continues to resist a code of ethics for a Supreme Court now distrusted by a majority of Americans. This defines the Roberts Court.”
The following month Ornstein slammed the Roberts Court once again.
“It is a stain on the Supreme Court that Chief Justice Roberts refuses to support a Judicial Code of Ethics, and stands by silently while Clarence Thomas flouts ethical standards over and over and over,” Ornstein charged.
Less than one month later he again unleashed on Roberts.
“Roberts is culpable,” he tweeted. “He has resisted over and over applying the Judicial Code of Ethics to the Supreme Court. This is Alito’s court, and it is partisan and corrupt.”
Ornstein is far from the Court’s only critic.
“If Chief Justice Roberts really wanted to address Supreme Court ethics, he would have immediately worked to implement a Code of Conduct after Clarence Thomas failed to recuse from cases involving January 6th despite having a clear conflict of interest,” the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted a year ago in May. The following month CREW published an analysis titled: “Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong: the American judicial system is facing a major ethics crisis.”
Meanwhile, in late November Politico reported that Democrats in Congress were outraged at the Roberts Court.
“Two senior Democrats in Congress are demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the Supreme Court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the high court considered several years ago,” PoliticoJosh Bernstein reported, referring to the leak of the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision – itself a massive ethics crisis for the Court.
“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They wrote to Roberts on Sunday, making clear that if the court won’t investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.”
Whitehouse and Johnson “also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent Roberts in September, seeking information about the court’s reaction to reports in POLITICO and Rolling Stone about a yearslong campaign to encourage favorable decisions from the justices by bolstering their religiosity.”
Nothing has changed.
When the Roberts Court earlier this month announced its lengthy investigation did not find the draft Dobbs decision leaker but also did not include the Justices themselves, Stokes Prof. of Law at NYU Law School Melissa Murray, an MSNBC host, tweeted, “This is a Roberts Court leitmotif–The Chief loves to handle things–even big things–in-house. Ethics issues? No need to get involved, Congress. We’ll sort it out ourselves. Leak needs investigating? No need to call in an actual investigative body, the Marshal will handle it.”
Pulitzer prize winning New York Times investigative reporter Jodi Kantor, pointing to how the Justices were not thoroughly investigated during the leak probe, in earlier this month said: “Last week the court released statements that confirmed the gap between how the justices and everyone else were treated.”
“The whole situation amplifies a major question about the court: are these nine people, making decisions that affect all of us, accountable to anyone?”
‘Can Be Used Against You’: Trump Took Big Risk Pleading the Fifth 400 Times in Deposition Says Legal Expert
A newly released video shows Donald Trump pleading the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times in a deposition, and a legal expert explained how that could be used against him in court.
The former president was finally hauled in to testify last year in the $25 million fraud lawsuit filed against the Trump Organization by New York attorney Letitia James, and he exercised his constitutional right against self-incrimination nearly 450 times — but MSNBC legal analyst Andrew Weissmann said the move carried potential risk in a civil case.
“I agree with him on the point of taking the Fifth,” Weissmann said. “It’s important to remember everyone has a right to the Fifth if a truthful answer would tend to incriminate you. In a civil case, it can be used against you, unlike in a criminal case.”
“One other thing I would disagree is when he is saying there’s this witch hunt, he left out jurors,” Weissmann added. “The Trump Organizations went to trial, they had their day in court. They could present all of their evidence, [and] 12 jurors, that’s everyday citizens, found beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a multi-year tax conspiracy that his organizations were involved in, and there was evidence he knew about it as would make sense. That’s one more reason for him to be asserting the Fifth Amendment.”
Image via Shutterstock
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