October 11 is National Coming Out Day. I know this does not mean a lot to most of you, nor should it.
You have been able to take for granted that you could be who you are, and you have been able to take that for granted your entire life. Sure, you have had secrets and have revealed or kept them, some of them big harsh secrets. The majority of you have not had the world tell you to take the core of your dreams, your hopes, your every truly romantic feeling and your real vision of family and hide it away. You have been allowed, and more than that – encouraged, to be yourself and be the best of you that you can be. That is how it should be
That is not how it has been for almost any of the gay people you know.
So today is National Coming Out Day. Here is my suggestion, and request. Take fifteen minutes and think on your marriages, your relationships, your most tender romance, your social life, the looks on your friends and families faces when you announced your engagement. Think of that moment when you realized you were in love and the person loved you back. Now ponder what it would feel like to be asked to make all of that a deathly secret, hide it away, and cloak it in shame. If you do, you may have a sense of what the closet is like, and how it is less “a closet” and more a “dungeon” that some do not survive.
A few months ago, I wrote a public letter to my sons. The point of that letter was the wish that they would never have to “come out” about who they are. I want for those who still have to come out in order to be who they are fully the safety to do so, and to have the potential for the best life possible when they do.
What can you do today? Be open. Be open, so closet doors of others can open and you can lend an outstretched hand to those within. If you live in Maine, Washington, Maryland or Minnesota, you can be even more open and support Marriage Equality in those states so that others can achieve the same level of family responsibility that you can.
Those who vote against Marriage Equality are afraid. I get that. They are afraid that by letting others live fully, they will somehow be threatened, be less valued or be diminished. That is not true. Heterosexual people are not limited resources with finite compassion to share in doled out amounts. You are a spiritual force. The principle of Love is that the more you give away, the more of it you have.
Give. On this day, give. Your acceptance is a boom-a-rang that will not only touch someone else’s world, it will make yours even better.
By: Juan LuqueGrowing up with the wrong beliefs took me into a path of challenging relationships and the ultimate misconception about parenthood.
I grew up listening to people’s stories, many of those stories were telling me I would never be able to be a father, to dig even further, some of those stories made me believe I would never be able to love or be loved.In one of those memories I was about 12 years old, I played these sexually charged games with a cousin of the same age, regardless of being so young and having little understanding of feelings, for me that was a relationship. I felt a deep, passioned, love for him. One day we were talking, away from the adults, having our own serious conversation. He said, “You know Juan, because you are this way (gay) you will never have anybody to love you. But me… on the other hand (he never considered himself gay even if he always started to play those games), I will get married, I will find the woman of my dreams and one day I will marry her. We will be at church getting married and you will be sitting in the last row, crying for me, because you love me, but I don’t love you”
I believed him.
I believed my cousin because I loved him, I trusted him and I admired him. What he was saying was painful, but I chose to believe not only because he was right, I was in love with him and he was not, but because his prediction was also supported for many other stories that I was told about been gay and been a sinner.
I made an emotional agreement with myself, that I believed I was not worthy of love.That twelve-year agreement that I made had a great impact on my emotional and psychological life. At that age, after my sexual discovery and the conflictive Catholic believe system that was imposed by my parents; which undoubtedly determined I was a lost soul and I was going to hell, I was ignited to a whole new way to cope with life. The strong belief that I was condemned even when I was the best student at catechism school vs. the strong desire to be a good person and to make my parents proud of who I would become. The conflict, between who I thought I was and who I wanted to be, became so strong and tangible that I started to play the role of the person that everyone wanted me to be, keeping my secret life separate.
I learned to lie.
At one point my facade didn’t work any longer. Teenagers were getting stronger and successful at soccer and I was this rachitic, weak, big teeth kind of kid. My years of high school were hell. I learned to hate my bullies and to build a wall around me to keep everybody away.
I was bitter.
When I left the small town for college I became a time bomb. I wanted to experience everything. I leaned about existentialism and for the first time I didn’t feel alone, there were other people like me. The darkness was a place in which I could survive after all. My desire to please those who considered me less than human were gone. It was the 80’s baby and I was ready to learn how to party. I felt so free, scared but free. Why bother trying to be a good person? I was going to hell anyway. Why even consider finding a nice guy for a relationship if I would never be able to be loved?
I was determined to live my life at the edge. Chasing for pleasure and danger–anything that make me feel something.
I was super intelligent, creative, charismatic and talented yet my cousin’s voice was always in the back of my mind whispering to me that I would never be loved.
My path of auto-destruction lasted for about 30 years, I wouldn’t attribute all of it to this childhood conversation, which only represented my first love lesson. Others’ wicked beliefs added compiled along the way, well organized and purified to the core were a big part of my ever growing shield as well.
At one point in my life my mother told me: when are you going to give me a grandchild? She said that with shyness and almost jokingly, I looked at her and said, “why should I bring a child to an overpopulated world? No way. That answer probably reminded her of a conversation we had few years earlier when I was a kid.
She hung clothes in the backyard as I , frustrated, after trying to play a complicated game I just invented with my 4 siblings, who were younger than me said to her, “why did you have so many kids? We don’t have enough toys, we will never have good opportunities in life, we are stuck…”
She just kept hanging her laundry.
For me,my short answer,as I would come to understand a few years later, was to cover my unequivocal belief that I wasn’t good enough to be a father, I was unable to have any relationship and mostly, because I was gay and I would never change.
When my partner proposed to have children 25 years later, my very first and visceral answer was NO. No, no and no! Besides, what a selfish idea. Bring children that are never going to have a mother. That’s plain wrong. A mom is everything, they take care of us, they nurture us, they don’t answer us when we talk shit, they hang our clothes. A mom is irreplaceable!
Then my partner said, there are different kinds of families, some families don’t have a mom, but if there is love, there is a family. He didn’t try to be pushy with me, but he planted a bug in my mind. The bug grew quickly because of its simple architecture. Any time I prayed or meditated that simple idea, the bug, was always there, intact, impeccable and pure.
Okay, I thought, a kid may not require a mom in order to be happy, since it would be impossible to miss one if he never knew what it was to have a mom. In my book, my mom mainly provided love, and I have love to provide. Now. She is a female… well, I never loved my mom for her gender, I love her for the love she gave me. But could I provide that quality of love? That infinite unconditional love I felt from her? Am I even able to provide any kind of love? I was ready to accept the proposition but there were something missing. I wanted to be sure I was equipped with good knowledge and the right values to form my future son into an emotionally balanced, happy person.
In one of my meditations I had this very loud image. Do you really think human kind depends on their parents’ abilities only? Do you really think kids are the takers and fathers are the givers? Well, think again. Yes, you have to physically protect and feed those children but during the process of raising them, who teaches more? Who provides more in the feeling department?
I had an aha moment.
For the first time I have considered that children are not only here to receive, they are here also to help us to grow and to provide us with a new set of feelings and strengths we would never have without them.
Then I was ready to be a father.
Those old wrong ideas, and lies about myself were gone after I discovered how much passion I had for my children and family. All those sleepless nights and hard work with my partner had endure our relationship. I remained teachable and open to receive what today are the greatest loves of my life. They teach me I am a strong person, I am nurturing and unconditionally loving.
When I talked to my mother about how wonderful was to be a father she said, in a very calm manner: Everybody deserve to feel what it is to be a parent.
A few months ago I received a message from my cousin’s sister, asking me about how we had our children, because his brother, my cousin, the guy that was supposed to be forever happy, and his wife of 16 years are still unsuccessfully trying to be parents. I thought how ironic.
I found so much gratitude from the end of this story. I smiled to myself knowing that the lies about me and the agreement was finally buried forever.
In Tennessee, gay couples can’t adopt, right? Well, it’s not that simple. The process for GLBT couples is often long, with extra and often invisible hurdles. While a heterosexual couple can adopt as a couple, one member of a same-sex couple must adopt as a single parent. A second legal process secures guardianship for the second parent. Further, many adoption agencies are religious, with doctrinal commitments that leave same-sex couples with few options.
Matthew Smith and Trey Darnell are like any other couple who want kids. “We both wanted to be fathers before we met each other,” Matt said. “I always wanted to have kids and surrogacy just cost so much money and I put it out of sight, out of mind.” As a couple, given the adoption roadblocks, their focus initially centered on surrogacy, often prohibitively expensive. In the end, however, research showed Matt and Trey that even “in conservative northeast Tennessee, adoption was possible.”
But possible is one thing, realistic is quite another. As they moved to the first stage of the process, a home study, they faced cold facts. “No local social workers would even do the home study, not even from Knoxville,” Matt recalled. In the end, a social worker from Nashville agreed to make the 4-hour (each way) trek.
When they had an approved home study in hand, Trey and Matt finally revealed to family and friends their journey toward parenthood. “Our moms were so excited,” Matt said. “Both of them worried we’d never have kids, and Trey is an only child, so his mom thought she might never have grandkids.”
Concern for what lay ahead, clouded that excitement. This was, after all, just the beginning.
Matt and Trey needed an agency, and many refused to work with gay couples, while others refused to promote them actively to birthparents. In effect, as Trey put it, “They were willing to take our money, but not to work actively to place a child with us.” Then came a rejection that spoke to every fear and internalized barrier: “birthparents looking to make an adoption plan for their child through Bethany are overwhelmingly looking for more traditional, married couples to place with.”
Disheartened, Matt and Trey traveled to Atlanta for an information session with the Independent Adoption Center (IAC), an agency recommended by the Human Rights Campaign. That weekend coincided with Atlanta Pride, and the discovery that IAC had a booth at Pride was a boost they both sorely needed. IAC represents nearly as many same-sex couples as heterosexual couples and would “promote [Matt and Trey] as a couple alongside others.”
This helped Matt and Trey realize that they had done exactly what those social barriers promoted. “We were being harder on ourselves than we needed to be. We accepted the stereotype that it would be harder for us and that no family would choose us.” Once they got past this internal block, Matt said, “Our experience showed us that there is a right birth family for every adopting family and reality wasn’t nearly as hard on us as our own self-image. We came to terms with the fact that you don’t have to be a traditional family to be the right family.”
The couple proceeded to IAC’s weekend intensive program about adoption and the legal hurdles, and then IAC helped them develop a “Dear Birth Mother” introducing themselves as a prospective family. Approval of this letter by IAC, a few months later, meant that Matt and Trey “went live,” were put through matching processes and submitted for consideration by birth mothers.
During the waiting game, the couple opened up about their path to adoption in the Johnson City Press. Though nervous about possible responses, the article led a local lesbian couple in the area who had already been through the process to contact them. They introduced Matt and Trey to a local attorney who would handle their case. Perhaps more importantly, they shared their experiences with adoption and parenthood with the young couple, and continued to be a source of support along the way.
Their path to adoption has been winding and expensive as many programs that help with the costs of adoption simply don’t help same-sex couples. Tennessee’s legal barriers make adoption harder for same-sex couples. Increasingly, however, national and local groups advocate for and work with same-sex couples in Tennessee.
Currently, there is at least one local agency, Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, that will help same-sex couples through both the initial adoption process and the legal proceeding legalizing the second parent’s status. JFS provides adoption services to Jewish and non-Jewish couples.
Matt and Trey remain positive in reflecting on their experience. “We want people to know that it may be hard, but if you want it bad enough and work hard, there are ways to adopt. It may not be fair, but having to work this hard shows how much we want to be parents, and what we’re willing to put into raising a child.” Most of all, they want to share that, even in Tennessee, where the barriers are so high, if you put yourself out there and work for it, “you’ll be amazed by the support you get, the positives outweigh the negatives and keep you going.” If things are ever going to change in Tennessee, Matt believes we have to “keep spreading the positives about same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption: it’s a good thing and it’s attainable.”
All that positivity and hard work hasn’t been for nothing: if all goes well, Matt and Trey will be welcoming Baby T-Rex (it’s a nickname, we promise) home in the next couple of weeks!
Congrats to Matt and Trey on the addition to their family. This is an article that was written about them by Out and About Nashville . We look forward to your upcoming blogs.
By: Rob Watson
Last September, actor Rupert Everett shocked those of us in the gay dad world when he declared to a British paper, ” “I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.”
Wow. It had only been six years previous when Rupert and I shared several car rides from the bay area to upper lake county. I listened intently as he told me of his early life, his struggles in Hollywood, and those irritating meetings with Madonna.
Ok, ok, ok. So Rupert was not ACTUALLY in the car with me. His voice was. And it was coming out of the car stereo from the book on tape where he was reading his autobiography.
I did not initially have a crush on Rupert. Years ago when I watched him in the movie Another Country, I was barely out about my sexuality. I did not feel attraction for him but rather identified with his character. Both of us though, it seemed, were VERY much enamored of a young Cary Elwes..
I do not really know Rupert Everett. I can say I know of him, and his hanging around in West Hollywood and the gay scene there. But, I don’t know him, not a thing about him, really.
This I do know, and I can say this with absolute certainty. My ignorance of him is NOTHING compared to his ignorance of me. I am well assured that he is quite unaware of my existence, let alone my personality, skills, talents, manner and ability to love.
Yet, with complete and total unawareness of me on the planet, and of many others who do what I do, he feels competent to tell a reporter that there could be “nothing worse” than gay dads.
I do not claim to be perfect in my life and in the things I do… but I can tell you that the one area that I am most focused to be the best I can be, is parenthood. I have been told by many that I am a “great Dad” and I accept those words because I aspire to be that.
Both my sons were born to practicing drug addicts. My eldest son was born six weeks before his due date, weighed four pounds and had heroin in his system. My partner and I needed to alter the nipples on his bottles so that he got exactly 16oz in each feeding so that his brain would develop properly.
My younger son, who we got at a year old, had never had a bath in his life. His mother had only wiped him down with diaper wipes. It was not her fault, she was doing the best she could. She shook so much from the drugs she feared that if she attempted to bathe him in water, she would drown him.
Do I think I am the “worst” alternative? No.
Like anyone else, Mr. Everett has a right to his opinion. I am not sure why that opinion should be given any more merit than if it had come from any other person with anti-gay bias. Because he presumably knows how to make love to a man, he is held up in the public and the media as if he should be an expert on all gay people. He is not.
I confess, when I saw Mr. Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding, … my heart fluttered. I really fell for his charisma, his wit, his charm. I did want to know him personally.
The reality is, I don’t know him personally, and he does not know me.
After his comments last September, as far as I am concerned, it is just fine for it to stay that way.
By Brandy Black
Katie Acosta is a Sociology professor who specializes in the areas of gender, sexuality and family; she devotes her research agenda to queer families and their unique needs. She is doing a lesbian stepparent study that I found interesting for our readers. Here is a little more about Katie…
Research is a really important part of my job and I have had the good fortune of being able to devote my research agenda to queer families. I have a book coming out this fall on how lesbian bisexual and queer women of Latin American descent negotiate the families they are raised in and the families they build for themselves as adults. With that book project coming to a close, I have decided to start a new study on families which include children being raised in same sex stepparent households. This project is inspired in part by own my family. My partner Hilary and I are raising our son Josiah. I am Josiah’s birth mom and he is the result of a heterosexual relationship I had in college 14 years ago. My interest in this study stems in part from recognizing some of the unique challenges my own family faces but also my interest stems from recognizing the limitations in the existing research on same sex families that doesn’t account for familial change.
The Next Family community of readers is made up of several different versions of the modern parent and throughout the years we have heard from some of our writers on parenting kids who stem from a heterosexual relationship. TNF decided we would give our readers an opportunity to be a part of a new study that could shed light on some of the unique challenges these parents face.
More Information on the Lesbian Stepparent Study:
The Lesbian Stepparent Study is designed to explore the unique needs of these families. Participants are asked to do a 90-minute phone interview where I ask them questions about how their families came to be and what their experiences are raising children within these family forms. I find that research participants are often interested in learning more about my family during the interview and at times I find myself sharing experiences, offering and receiving troubleshooting techniques from other families, and laughing at the similarities in our children. Those who have participated have noted that the interview process has led them to think about their roles as stepparents, co parents and/or bio parents in news ways. Everyone has asked that I please share the results of the study with them in the future so I am currently considering maintaining a blog where I write about some of the trends I am finding from the interviews I have done.
Who Can Participate?
Any woman who is in a same sex relationship which include children from a previous relationship and who have been members of this family form for at least one year. It does not matter if the children are from previous heterosexual or same sex relationships. The race or ethnicity of family members does not matter. Research participants can be stepparents, bio parents, or co-parents. All research participants must be at least 18 years old. Individuals who are in doubt about whether or not they are eligible to participate in the study should send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
All of the interviews are confidential. Every effort is made to protect the privacy of the participants and every participant is assigned a pseudonym after they have been interviewed.
This research project is approved by the Institutional Review Board of Tulane University which means that the project has been evaluated by the university’s review board and they have found that it meets the university’ s standards for ethical and responsible research.
Should any of The Next Family readers decide to participate in this study you can reach out to Katie Acosta at email@example.com. Also if you would like to follow up and share your story with us, please reach out to the editors of The Next Family and we would be happy to share your story with our readers.
By: Shannon Ralph
I have come to the conclusion in recent weeks that my youngest son may just be gay. Or not. One or the other. The important thing, of course, is that I love him regardless. But I am beginning to wonder.
Why do I think my son might be gay?
Well, there are several reasons and every single one of them is a broad, sweeping generalization about gay men. Of course, all stereotypes have to have an infinitesimal grain of truth to them, right? Or else, how would they ever come to be broadly (and unfairly) accepted to apply to an entire group of people? So while the below list may be ripe with stereotypes, they do have me wondering about where my young son will eventually fall on the gay/straight spectrum.
1. All of his friends at school are girls. He gets along better with girls, as he seems to have little in common with rough and tumble seven-year-old boys. “Rough” and “tumble” are words that would never be used to describe Nicholas. As a matter of fact, the vision of Nicholas “tumbling” with anyone makes me smile. His twin sister could totally kick his ass.
2. He told me recently that there is a “boys” table and a “girls” table at lunchtime. He is the only boy who regularly sits at the girls table because, frankly, he says the boys’ table smells. The heady testosterone-infused aroma offends his delicate sensibilities (that is not a direct quote), so he prefers to sit with the girls.
3. He wanted, and of course received, a yoga mat for is birthday. In what was, by far, the strangest conversation I have had in a good long while, the gay boy stocking shelves in the yoga aisle at Target gave us a knowing look, a wink and a nod as he told us, “You two look like you would be the accepting parents I always wished I had should your yoga-loving (wink, wink) son one day tell you he is gay.”
4. He effusively tells his sister how beautiful she is. Often. As a matter of fact, I have a picture of Sophie as the wallpaper on my phone, and just yesterday Nicholas was waving the phone around to anyone and everyone who would look saying, “Now this is what true beauty looks like!”
5. He is overly effusive about everything. Seriously. Everything. Every tree is the most beautiful tree he has ever seen in his life. His blanket is the warmest blanket he has ever felt in his life. Every grilled cheese sandwich I make his is the best grilled cheese he has ever eaten in his life. Every puppy is the cutest puppy he has ever seen in his life. I want to say, “Dude. Everything can’t be THE BEST.”
6. He is incredibly orderly. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Though his bedside nightstand may look like something from a particularly horrifying episode of “Hoarders,” he knows every single thing that is stored there. God help the poor soul who makes the egregious mistake of thinking his Dum-Dum wrapper collection is trash!
7. He is particular about his clothes. Whereas I believe his older brother, Lucas, doesn’t even see the clothes we hand him to put on each morning, Nicholas is quite selective about his clothing. And he has a style that only be described as Nouveau Nicholas. Though it has been known to occasionally involve tube socks and crocs, I see a possible designing career in his future.
8. He helps his sister pick out her clothes. And of course, everything she puts on is “fabulous.”
9. He is the biggest cuddler we have and constantly tells us how much he loves us.
10. I come from Kentucky where every young boy gets sheered like a sheep come summertime. My hometown is rampant with skinny little knobby-kneed boys running around with buzz cuts this time of the year. Nicholas, however, is quite fond of his hair. Whereas his older brother cares not at all about the shape of the hair on his head, Nicholas likes his long. He likes to be able to brush his bangs from his eyes with a mere whip of his head. He likes it hanging over his ears. He does NOT, however, appreciate being called a hippie—a fact I earned the hard way.
11. He gets his feelings hurt easily. Every perceived wrong is met, not with loud arguments, but with quiet tears that he tries his best to blink away before they are noticed. But I notice them. His other mom notices them. And they worry us.
How will our sweet, gentle, effusive, beauty-loving, oddly particular, someone rigid little style maven be accepted by the world? Will he be considered “weird?” The world is changing, but Nicholas is growing older every day. Is it changing fast enough for him? Wherever he ends up falling on the sexual identity spectrum, I will always and forever adore him. And like every mom who ever wondered “maybe…?” I will pray every night for a more accepting, tolerant world.
“We are incredibly excited to have Catie Curtis as the first brand ambassador for TomboyX,” said Fran Dunaway, CEO of Tomboy Exchange. “She’s a creative, talented woman who has never been afraid to stand up for what she believes in.”
The New Yorker dubbed her a folk-rock goddess and according to TomboyX she’s strong, smart and awesome – the perfect TomboyX woman.
“Sometimes I feel like an impostor in the women’s department, with its frills, flowers and bows–while men’s clothes don’t fit me either,” said Catie.” I’m so grateful to have discovered TomboyX where the clothing is made for women like me!”
Along with being a talented musician she is a role model. Catie started the “Aspire to Inspire” initiative to provide funding to the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). The Foundation helps raise funds to purchase instruments for young musicians who can’t afford to buy their own.
As her music progresses to inspire, so does her Philanthropy. After benefit concerts for Americans United for Separation of Church and State in 2012, Catie and a group of well known comedians took on a music video for Voices United 2– including Jane Lynch from Glee.
Look for Catie’s collaboration with TomboyX when the TomboyX Original Collection launches in July.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Dr. Lauren Boswell (Hilarie Burton) is certainly stirring up a storm with Grey’s Anatomy’s power couple, Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), affectionately known as “Calzona.”
On the show’s season finale, Lauren shamelessly flirted with Arizona, causing even more tension between her already rocky marriage, and fans were not happy about it. In fact, Burton told Huffington Post she was receiving death threats.
“I don’t engage in social media, which has its good and bad sides, I guess – but the good side is when people hate my guts, I’m kind of oblivious to it. I’m just worried about my kid and my dog here at the house,” she said.
Lauren is a complex character because she is both good at her job and engaging, but also the “other woman,” which was something Burton found tricky to portray.
“I don’t flirt [with] married people but Lauren does,” Burton said. “So that’s what I had to do for a couple days. You just buck up and get your flirt on.”
And get their flirt on they did. Grey’s Anatomy is now on hiatus until the fall. Will Calzona still be intact when we see them next?
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
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”