Tuesday, as the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault showed an alarming increase in cases, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013. In an effort to reduce sexual assaults within the military and help the victims of this crime, the Combating MSA Act would address a number of gaps within current law and policy and build upon the positive steps the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has taken in recent years. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2011 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported.
“When our best and our brightest put on a uniform and join the United States Armed Forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people. However, it’s unconscionable to think that entertaining unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks is now part of that equation,” said Murray.
“Not only are we subjecting our men and women to this disgusting epidemic, but we’re also failing to provide the victims with any meaningful support system once they have fallen victim to these attacks. And while I applaud recent efforts by the Department of Defense to turn the tide on this mounting crisis, we must do more to root out the culture that fosters this behavior and provide substantive assistance to those who face these tragedies alone,” Murray said, adding: “I am proud to join Senator Ayotte in introducing the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, to reverse this trend and establish the necessary means for victims to take action against their attackers. It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad this bipartisan legislation is taking meaningful steps to do right by our nation’s heroes.”
Ayotte said, “The United States continues to have the best military in the world—primarily because of the character, quality, and courage of our men and women in uniform. But when a service member fails to live up to our values and commits sexual assault, we must ensure the victims have the support they need and the perpetrators face justice.”
“Sexual assault presents a serious threat to the morale, discipline, and readiness of our armed forces. I look forward to working with DoD, Senator Murray, and my Senate colleagues to strengthen existing laws and policies so that all victims can come forward without fear of retribution and with confidence that they will receive the support, care, and justice they deserve,” Ayotte added.
The Combating MSA Act would:
- Provide victims of sexual assault with Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process.
- Enhance the responsibilities and authority of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat MSA across the Armed Forces and regularly track and report on a range of MSA statistics, including assault rate, number of cases brought to trial, and compliance with appropriate laws and regulations within each of the individual services.
- Refer cases to the general court martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.
- Bar sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent.
- Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARC) are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.
Last month, Murray questioned the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, and General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, about the alarming rate of reported sexual assaults within the Marine Corps. In the coming weeks, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) will introduce companion legislation to the Combating MSA Act in the House of Representatives.
During a Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing in March, Ayotte questioned DoD officials about a January report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified problems in ensuring proper care for service members who are victims of sexual assault.
Ayotte is a former prosecutor who has worked extensively with victims. During her time as New Hampshire’s Attorney General, she chaired the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Jason Collins took a huge step in major American sports by coming out today. ”If I had my way, somebody would have already done this…I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport but since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”
The support has been pouring in.
Kobe Bryant “Don’t suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others”
Bill Clinton “I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend”
Nick Swisher “I will always support people for being who they are”
The Rock “Being real and authentic is very powerful”
By Kelly Rummelhart
For years I have been an ally to the gay community. I can’t really even put a date on it but I remember always thinking that gay men and women should have the same rights as everyone else. I remember not understanding, back in 2000, why people would vote yes for Prop 22. Even back then, the year I was able to get legally married in the state of California, I remember thinking how could voters single out one group for discrimination? It made no sense to me.
Years later it would be Prop 8 and I then had to explain to my three children why some people, including several family friends, could not get legally married simply because who they loved just happened to be the same gender. It still didn’t make sense and it certainly didn’t make sense to my children.
You see, my children have been raised since Day One with the knowledge that everyone is equal. I made it one of my missions as a parent to educate my children on the fact that we are all different, but that is what makes us great. We are a world full of different religions, cultures, races, sexual orientations, genders, abilities, etc. but that we are all capable of love and respect and should be celebrated. The fact that my young children don’t understand why some of their friends’ parents can’t get married because they are both men or both women, is proof that I succeeded.
When I took my first NOH8 picture back in 2010, while I was a gestational surrogate for a set of twins for two men, I was protesting a few things. Mainly, the fact that the fathers of the babies I was carrying, who loved each other greatly, who decided to create a family, couldn’t get legally married if they wanted . . . and that is a problem.
In the summer of 2012, NOH8 was in Sacramento and I had just given birth to my final surrogate baby weeks early (for another gay couple), so I took my children with me to pose. Even though I wasn’t OUT to them yet, we were protesting the fact that their friends’ parents STILL couldn’t get married (unbeknownst to them, their own mom wouldn’t be able to either). A few friends of mine, gay and straight, posed with their children too and when the pictures were ready, we posted them on Facebook and got a lot of positive feedback. However, I also heard from one person that they (and others apparently) thought I was using my children for my own political agenda. I laughed knowing that if they asked my kids, “Do you want Katie and Brandon’s mom to be able to marry her girlfriend? Do you want George and Sanj’s marriage to be honored here? Do you want Caitlyn and Wilma’s marriage to be “real”?” They would answer yes, because they do. They want those things for their friends and family members and I bet, in the future, they would want that for themselves too, if they ended up not being straight.
It’s such a simple concept to teach to a child and they get it; how do adults not? That’s the funny thing about inequality, unless it’s your rights being violated, it’s easy not to care. I think to myself, years from now, when the LGBT community can get married everywhere, will those who fought so furiously to stop it, see themselves like the racists of the past that fought interracial marriage? Will it be their photo in a textbook holding up their Hateful sign that children will scoff at and not even be able to imagine a time when that type of inequality was possible?
Sometimes I wonder if I have fought so hard for years for the LGBT community because deep down I knew I was apart of it? At the same time I am a bit saddened thinking that maybe I wasn’t an awesome ally for the same reason . . . but then I think, regardless, even before I figured out my own sexuality, that I have always thought people should be able to marry whom they love, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, etc.
And so here we are in March, with a big decision about to be handed down. And I hope with all my heart, that the few adults that make up the Supreme Court will understand what my three young children have had no problem accepting . . . that all people should be created equal, including their mother.
By: Laurenne Sala
“What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” That’s what they say. I think they should amend this to “What you don’t know won’t hurt you until you find out what it is that you haven’t been knowing.”
Because sometimes it can be really embarrassing when you find out you’ve been believing the wrong truth.
The first time I learned this was in fourth grade on a bus full of Girl Scouts. Singing Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ at the top of our lungs, I realized that their truth was that the lyrics were: We are a part of a Rhythm Nation. My truth was that the lyrics were: We are a part of a big erection.
I’d seen the cassette cover (it said Rhythm Nation) but my ears heard what they heard. I knew my truth. I didn’t actually understand everything about erections at that point. I thought they grew out of rocks because I accidentaly snuck in a porn movie once and saw some lady bent over a rock with a penis growing out of it. Just as she put it in her mouth, which I thought was weird, my mom heard the familiar ‘bom chicka bom bom’ and ran so fast she slid into the VCR like it was home plate. For YEARS after that, I would have died on my sword to persuade you that erections grow from rocks. And that Janet Jackson had something to do with it.
At that time, I also thought that everyone got divorced. I couldn’t wait to grow up, have a big wedding, and then enjoy a pretty amicable separation while I raised my daughter alone. It’s what was normal and true for me.
Even though it went against my divorceé dreams, I was pretty excited when my dad got me a brand new family: A whole big one, complete with Victorian house, a new brother AND a sister! At my mom’s house, I was an only child. My friends were my fingers, my black Cabbage Patch Kid, Ralph, who I rescued from the sale bin because nobody in my racist town wanted the black Cabbage Patch Kid (I was the Harriet Tubman of that K-Mart), and the carpet. I sat behind the couch and talked to the carpet while I gave it haircuts. So, when I got this new brother and sister, I ran to tell the carpet all about them. They were so cool. And they were older. And they had puzzles. And we ate the best best dinners because my dad’s new roommate was so much better of a cook than my mom.
I made sure to tell my mom this every time I came home from the big new Victorian house. Mom! Bruce makes the best grilled cheeses! Mom! They’re so much better than the ones you make.
And my mom just smiled and nodded, surely devastated that her husband had just left her for another man. Bruce. Bruce with the grilled cheeses.
My dad left my mom for another man when I was three. And I had no idea until I was ten. Even though I saw my father and Bruce living together, it never entered my mind that they were gay. Even though his name was Bruce, I still had no idea. I didn’t know what gay was, so to me it wasn’t a possibility.Yes, they shared a bedroom. Yes, they cooked together. Yes, their hands occasionally brushed over one another at the dinner table. But they were just friends because I was little and had NO idea that the truth I learned about love wasn’t the only one. And that there wasn’t a cock growing out of a rock in the backyard.
Many say that gay people shouldn’t raise families because ‘What will it do to the children?’ But I never felt more part of a loving group than I did at Bruce’s house. We broke gourmet bread together. On a tablecloth. It was like Leave it to Beaver (If June Cleaver peed standing up). Bruce even wore an apron. And when I went home to my straight, hardworking mother, I hung out with the carpet.
It was with my gay dads that I shared conversation over dinner. It was with my gay dads that I saw how siblings can be such a calming presence. It was with my gay dads and the whole family that I lazed around the living room, drinking glasses of milk and taking turns playing the piano. It was with my gay dads that I truly felt part of a family.
Unfortunately, Bruce eventually kicked my pops to the curb. And for the next few years, my dad introduced me to boyfriend after boyfriend. And I still had no idea he was gay.
One day when I was ten, my mom took me to a Holiday Inn. I should have known something was up because it wasn’t every day I got to swim in such beauteous waters as were those at the indoor Holiday Inn pavilion. As soon as we put on dresses that evening and ordered Shirley Temples at the fancy hotel restaurant, she laid it on me:
Your dad is gay.
She explained that, for seven years, all the men I had seen my dad with were most likely his boyfriends. I was pissed. And hurt. I knew that my dad was my dad. And I loved him. And I’d loved Bruce and all the other dudes who had given me stuffed animals along the way.
But I could not believe my own parents had perpetuated this fake truth for me all those years. They could have just told me, and I would have been fine. Just like my mom might have corrected me when she heard me singing about erections at the top of my lungs.
I got back at them by being accepting and offering to be my father’s wing man. And I was. I got him a few numbers.
But I think if there’s a lesson here to learn, it’s that gay men make the best grilled cheeses.
By: Carol Rood
We are all born a certain way. With a certain genetic code that decides what color hair we will have, how tall we will be, how stout. It tells us what color eyes we will have -hazel, green, brown or blue. Or in the case of my friend Tanja, one blue and one brown. Actually, Tanja has one blue eye and her other eye is half brown and half blue. Our DNA decides if we will be born with all of our body parts and brains fully functioning, or if we are missing a chromosome, or piece of DNA, it decides if we will have Down’s Syndrome, or autism, or any number of other genetic birth defects.
That being said, what about gender and sex? Of course we know our gender and sex are determined by our DNA. But what about sexual orientation?
Many will say that people CHOOSE to be gay or straight. Others say they are born gay or straight. I am not a scholar and I have not done enough research to determine if the scientific data supports either theory. All I can tell you is what people have told me.
I wrote last week about how I was a guest on a panel of LGBT people for a class at church. Our church teaches sexuality classes using a curriculum called Our Whole Lives. It is a wonderful curriculum that is age appropriate and divided into age groups such as 4-5 grade, 7-9 grade, 10-12 grade as well as adult classes. We are currently teaching a 7-9 grade class, and there is a session that is a guest panel of LGBT people. This is the final session of those discussing sexual orientation, gender, and stereotypes. I invited a young man who is 19 and came out as a gay male the summer before his senior year of high school, a young lady who came out a few weeks ago (she is a senior in high school) and a young man who is a senior and who has not completely come out yet, just to some friends. I decided I would put myself on the panel as a “back up” in case any of the young people didn’t show up. I prefer to have young people on the panel because they relate well to 7-9 grade kids.
It was prior to that class that I had the discussion about exactly what my sexuality is and one of the people I was talking to told me about Pansexuality.
I was very intrigued by what one of the guests on the panel had to say when he told his story. I am going to call him “GQ Dude”. If you have ever seen the handsome men on the cover of that magazine, you will get the picture. GQ Dude is 19 years old. He is very handsome and is NOTHING like a stereotypical gay male. He is athletic. He is not flamboyant at all. As a matter of fact he is not someone I would ever guess is gay if I were to meet him for the first time. I actually knew who this young man was, because he dated my best friend’s daughter for a short time a few years ago. His family lives in my neighborhood. I had never met him personally, but I knew his mom and dad.
GQ Dude was kind enough to come to the GLBT panel for my 7-9 graders, and he told us his story. He told us that after years of trying to fool himself by dating lots of young ladies, he came out the summer before his senior year. He said his friends all but abandoned him, and the church where his family had been worshiping for years turned their backs on him. He was told he was “going to hell”, and that they could “love him, but not his sin.”
He told us about how he spent weeks inside the house because his friends would not speak to him or answer his calls. He felt alone, betrayed, and abandoned. All because he decided to be honest about who he is.
It was at that point that he stopped himself, and said, “You know, I hear people say that gay people choose to be gay, but I am here to tell you that is not true. Why would I choose this lifestyle? Choose being discriminated against? Choose a lifestyle that made my friends and church family abandon me? Choose an orientation where I can’t even walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand? Who would choose that? Nobody would.”
GQ Dude articulated the thoughts that I believe MANY GLBT people have had. Why in the world would we CHOOSE to be born that way? A life of discrimination, ridicule, and being treated differently? A life where you can’t have a legally binding civil union or marriage (or whatever term you prefer to use) in most of the 50 states in this country. A lifestyle where you get bullied and picked on in school.
These are questions that anyone who believes that being gay is a choice should ask themselves. It would be much easier to be heterosexual. I think GQ Dude is absolutely right! You go dude!
Or, as my friend Lady GaGa says,
NO MATTER GAY, STRAIGHT, OR BI,
LESBIAN, TRANSGENDERED LIFE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO SURVIVE
NO MATTER BLACK, WHITE OR BEIGE
CHOLA OR ORIENT MADE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO BE BRAVE
By: Ted Peterson
At 3 o’clock in the morning on the last day of 2011, I woke up with Ian screaming with pain, doubled over. We were in a hotel we had checked into in Laguna Beach the day before; we had treated ourselves to a junior suite, so Mikey was in the next room. I saw him start up in bed, going instantly from horizontal to vertical.
“Don’t scream, Papa!” he called into our room. “You’ll be all right!”
These, of course, are the kinds of things we say to him all the time.
Ian could only groan, “I’m sorry.”
“Papa has a hurt,” I offered, and instantly Mikey burst into terrified, hysterical tears.
I couldn’t blame him. None of us knew what was happening, but we knew as parents we had to remain calm for Mikey. I got my clothes on, helped Mikey into his clothes, and Ian slowly got into his. The extreme pain had ebbed enough that he was able to describe the symptoms so we knew we were probably either dealing with food poisoning – we had sushi six hours before – or kidney stones. In typical fashion, Ian suggested that we didn’t need to go to the emergency room, worrying about insurance and money. He said he was feeling a little better, though he couldn’t walk without help.
I drove, and Ian sat in the back with Mikey, who held his hand and gave him kisses to make him feel better. The doctors at Mission Hospital brought Ian in right away, and later told him that if this had happened 24 hours later, in the middle of New Years Eve celebrations, the calm, quiet atmosphere would have been very different. They put him on a saline drip to hydrate him after he told them he had been vomiting, and they told us they would give him a catscan and we should go back to the hotel for a couple hours.
“We’ll need your cell phone number,” said the doctor, scribbling the number I gave him on a piece of paper, next to the descriptor: “Ted. Next of kin.”
Hard to imagine three more fatalistic words than Next Of Kin.
On the drive back to the hotel, Mikey and I talked about how the doctors were going to take care of Papa. He was curiously calm, but wide-awake, considering that it was still the middle of the night. I don’t know how we slept when we got back to the hotel, but we woke up three hours later with a phone call from Ian, saying he was ready to be picked up.
It was kidney stones, and while he was under a narcotic cloud, they had passed mercifully out. There is something wonderfully symbolic about expelling junk from your body, however painfully, on the last day of the year.
Talk about “out with the old.”
We are lucky. Scary nights like this are a rarity worth noting. My and Mikey’s fears for Ian were short-lived: 12 hours later, we were on the beach, laughing and chasing waves. Between his job and mine, we are doubled-up on insurance, so four hours in the emergency room cost us nothing out of pocket. Lots of people have no insurance, and lots of gay couples don’t work at jobs which cover the partner.
Like I said, we’re lucky.
But we’re not so lucky that we’re going to miss out on some kinds of trauma in the future. We’re growing older, and neither of us is immortal. We don’t know what 2012 and the rest of the future holds, but we know at least this much: our legacy will include a son whose first inclination on being woken up at 3 o’clock in the morning is to comfort and give healing kisses.
By: Shannon Ralph
In a televised Republican presidential candidate debate on Thursday, a gay soldier was booed by the crowd after asking a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). In a response that is both incredibly sad and a telling testament to their character, not one candidate on the stage came to the soldier’s defense. Not a single candidate said a word to the crowd about booing this man. Not a single candidate took a stand to defend a man putting his life on the line in service to the country they hope to one day lead.
“In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job,” said Stephen Hill, whose image was projected on a large TV screen in the debate hall. “My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”
Members of the crowd booed loudly at the question. Rather than first thanking Hill for his service or acknowledging his tour in Iraq in any way, Rick Santorum answered the soldier’s question by launching into an impassioned diatribe about reinstating DADT.
“I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military,” he said. “And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to — to — and removing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.”
The audience began to applaud as Santorum added, “We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform. And I believe this undermines that ability.”
Since the debate, a few candidates, John Huntsman and Gary Johnson, have gone on record saying that they thought the booing was inappropriate, though neither of them spoke up to defend the soldier. Others like Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney have dodged questions about the controversy. Rick Santorum, in a brilliant display of absolute wussiness, stated that he simply did not hear the booing. Booing? What booing?
“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear the boos,” Santorum told ABC News. “I heard the question and answered the question, so I’ve heard subsequently that happened. I’ve heard varied reports about whether they were booing the soldier or the policy.”
“I don’t know what they were booing,” he said. “If you can, go out and find the people who were booing and find out if they were booing because a man was gay or because of a policy they don’t agree with.”
Courtesy of CNN
Washington (CNN) – The Senate voted Saturday to proceed to a final vote to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bans openly gay people from serving in the armed forces.
The lame-duck Senate session invoked cloture, meaning it cut off or limited debate on the socially historic and controversial legislation, by a vote of 63 to 33 – setting it up for a final vote at 3 p.m. ET.
Name: Matthew Nathan
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
As a 14-year-old, I had it all figured out. Married by 26. A dad by 28. Archaeologist. A trip from Point Barrow to Tierra del Fuego in the SUV my parents would naturally buy me on my graduation from high school. Oh, and a horse. And a sailboat in there somewhere so I could sail around the world when I wasn’t digging in Egypt or Israel and, you know, stuff.
Life is a lot more mundane for most of us than what I imagined, with a lot I hadn’t bargained for: most archaeologists spend more time teaching than digging. Horses and sailboats? Too much time and money. Tierra del Fuego? Yeah, right. And married people were heterosexual. So were dads. While that little voice in my head was trying to tell me I was gay, I spent my adolescence with imaginary fingers plugging my figurative ears, yelling back “lalalalalalalalalCAN’THEARYOU!!!” even though I had never had the slightest interest in girls and discovered at 15 that sex with guys interested me very much indeed.
I stopped pretending in college, and thus 26 and 28 passed, single and childless. I decided to be a TV reporter, though my parents still wanted me to be an archaeology professor (I should have listened). I moved from L.A. to Florida to Vermont, two-year stints at near-poverty wages that ruled out any long-term relationship with anyone remotely appropriate. When my dad died of lung cancer in 2000, I quit my job in Burlington and moved back to California to be closer to my mom. (Conveniently, my boyfriend at the time had just had two affairs and kicked me out of the house.) I already wanted out of news; bad pay, bad bosses and too many scare-the-viewer stories didn’t compensate for the floods, forest fires, and other moments of pure adrenaline. I made a deal with the higher power I don’t believe in: give me a travel reporting job in San Francisco and I will stay a reporter.
And that’s exactly what happened. I was hired by a production company to produce two nationally syndicated reports a week. For a blissful year, I was amply paid and was sent to the Santa Barbara Wine Country, to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and a few not-so-sexy places like Orlando. And then the dot.com maelstrom sucked my employer down into oblivion (dot.coms = ad revenue for TV stations = extras like travel reports) and, after 14 months living at the generosity of the State of California, I took a job at a local station in Sacramento. Back in local TV news. Crap.
But it turns out life is sort of an adventure, a butterfly-effect of small decisions and uncontrollable circumstances with big consequences. And so, in my mid-40s, I find myself married and contemplating fatherhood – which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t met Adrián, which wouldn’t have happened if the dot.com crash hadn’t forced me back into local news in Sacramento, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t moved to San Francisco, and so on back through two decades of semi-conscious living. Along the way, I got to ride in the scoop of a bulldozer through a tropical storm, duck bullets, dodge forest fires, and once in a while, even feel like the stories I told made a difference. Damned if things didn’t turn out the way I wanted after all.
By: Brandy Black
Our shower and tub are clogged again; this happened to us a couple months ago. We spent $750 on new pipes the last time so you can imagine our dismay when yet again there is 2 feet of “I don’t want to describe it” floating around the tile. At 11:00 at night I went to Vons to buy Draino in hopes that it may allow me to take a shower in the morning. While I was there, the friendly clerk told me that we should buy a snake for only $5 at Home Depot. He went on to brag that they hadn’t seen a plumber for 8 years. Finally a solution to our twice yearly visits from Mario our, I must admit it, amazing plumber.
Today, we went out for burgers and then…
“We’re off to Home Depot Sophia,” I say, tilting my head up to my daughter as she sits on my shoulders.
“Home Depot!” Sophia yells loudly through the parking lot.
I quickly duck my head down. “Shhh Sophia, you don’t want to stereotype us do you? Say it quietly” I say, jokingly.
Sophia yells “Home! (and then whispers softly) Depot”
We bought the snake, Susan tried it, couldn’t figure it out, I tried it, couldn’t figure it out and we are returning it tomorrow. I guess I was right; try as we may, we really aren’t Home Depot lesbians.