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.
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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”
Last Friday, the Boy Scouts of America proposed maintaining its ban on adult gay leaders, while dropping the ban on gay scouts. Several faith leaders quickly expressed their disappointment in the proposed policy change.
All faith leaders continued to call for a fully inclusive scouting program that included qualified gay leaders, even while some expressed joy that gay scouts would no longer be removed.
The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian (UUA), issued the following statement:
While long opposing the BSA’s discriminatory policies, the UUA has consistently noted the many benefits that scouting offers to boys and young men, and we applaud the fact that these benefits will potentially be available to all boys and young men who want to participate in scouting. However, it is abhorrent to continue to discriminate against scout leaders.
As a religious community, Unitarian Universalists are called to affirm the worth and dignity of every person regardless of sexual orientation. Starting in 1985, the UUA has spoken out in opposition to the BSA’s discriminatory practices.
This resolution further illustrates how the BSA remains out of touch and inconsistent with their own values of respect and kindness, but also with the changing attitudes of the American public.
The proposed resolution from the BSA is a step in the right direction, but it falls short of ensuring equality for gay scout leaders. Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that there is still time to persuade the BSA to move from discrimination and prejudice to inclusion and respect for all Americans who wish to participate in scouting.
The United Church of Christ, which sponsors over 1,000 troops, cheered that gay scouts would be accepted by the Boy Scouts of America, but expressed bitter disappointment at the continued ban on gay adult leaders. Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, United Church of Christ Minister for LGBT Concerns said the following:
Because youth are a primary concern, I support the proposed Boy Scouts of America (BSA) resolution to change their membership policies to allow gay youth to participate in scouting programs. I urge the delegates at the upcoming Annual Meeting to adopt the change and I encourage the scouting program to take all the necessary steps to welcome gay scouts, and provide a safe and nurturing space for their full participation.
At the same time, I’m dismayed by the decision to maintain the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with regard to gay scout leaders. This aspect of the proposal sends a mixed message to both youth and adults. It communicates to youth that if you’re “out” about being gay you will not be allowed to one day become an adult scout leader and share the leadership and other skills you have learned; a not so subtle message that you are not as good as your fellow straight scouts. To adults, it communicates that if you want to be a scout leader you must stay in the closet about your sexual orientation, compromise your integrity and live with the stress that should someone choose to out you, or you decide to come out, you must face the scandal of being removed. This current policy of excluding gay scout leaders is inconsistent with the core values of scouting and there is no good reason for it to continue.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Reconciling Works: Lutherans for Full Participation, noted the tension that many Lutheran congregations feel about being welcoming to all people, while sponsoring a troop that continues to practice discrimination. Currently, Lutheran churches sponsor nearly 4,000 troops across the country.
Lutherans are one of the biggest groups of Christians in the United States. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Lutheran congregations throughout the United States that host Boy Scout troops. Many of these congregations welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people not only on Sunday mornings at worship, but also LGBT people who may be part of the Boy Scout troop that uses the building at other times. When these churches say all are welcome, they really mean all. To accept gay scouts but not openly gay leaders results in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” double standard. This standard would be detrimental to gay scouts who would come to believe that in order to succeed they would have to hide who they are.
We applaud the faithful service of the many scouts and troop leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities whose work is a witness to what Scouting is all about – helping boys develop values such as loyalty, helpfulness, kindness, thrift, bravery, and duty to God. We call upon the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to set a policy that welcomes and includes all.
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her seven-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
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Democratic representative Tammy Baldwin gave us another reason to celebrate on November 6, 2012 by making history in becoming the first elected openly gay senator. Congrats Wisconsin and Senator Baldwin!
By: Brandy Black
Does kissing defuse anger? These two women kissed in front of demonstrators who gathered to oppose the bill which would allow gay marriage and adoption in France. The women of Marseille, France explained later that they were straight but simply wanted to draw attention to the issue with a gesture of solidarity.
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The Defense Department announced -for the first time in U.S. history -that it is allowing service members to march in uniform in a gay pride parade. Even though their policy is to not allow troops to march in uniform in parades they will be making an exception for the San Diego gay pride parade. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta vowed to remove as many barriers as possible so that gays and lesbians can be proud to be out in uniform with the recent repeal last year of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.
Progress is good.
By: Shannon Ralph
I figured, okay, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can, and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out. But they can’t make me somebody I am not.—Betty Ford
Betty Ford died last week at the age of 93. Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill First Lady, Betty Ford was a free spirit and a stealthy feminist. A woman who once said, “The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.” She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She spoke out about breast cancer at a time when it was the disease no one talked about. Not only did she raise public awareness with her candor, but she changed the perception about a disease generations of women had lived with in secret shame. She marched with Gloria Steinem. She campaigned virulently for the Equal Rights Amendment. She publicly praised the Supreme Court for it’s Roe vs. Wade decision. She admitted to her addiction and founded a center to help others who battled those same demons. She named Eleanor Roosevelt among her heroes, admiring the previous First Lady’s belief that she had the right to express opinions independent of the President and her shaping the irst Lady Role to match her individualism.
And she was a Republican.
There was a time—not very long ago—when a high-profile Republican woman was not afraid to speak her mind, even if it meant bucking her own party and her President husband. In today’s political climate where the Tea Party (now being dubbed the “Hell No Caucus”) has hijacked the Republican party and are attempting to enforce their brand of extreme social and fiscal conservatism that is so far to the right of the average American citizen, we need women like Betty Ford. As Tea Partiers are ignoring the voices of reason within their own party, shutting down governments with a complete refusal to compromise (if you can’t govern—which by its very definition includes compromise—then you have no business being in government!), and attempting to return us to a time when human rights (women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights) were optional in this country, I think Betty Ford would have most certainly spoken the truth.
I admit to being a die-hard Democrat, but I admire Betty Ford for being a trail-blazer and a phenomenal women. I miss her brand of Republicanism. She was a woman who stood by her convictions. A woman we could all—Democrats and Republicans alike—learn something from.
By: Shannon Ralph
Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Republican candidate for president, became the first candidate to sign a new anti-gay conservative pledge on July 7th. “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” is a conservative pledge to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, oppose any form of gay marriage at any level of government, and recognize that children raised in a heterosexual marriage “experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy,” among other vows. The pledge—produced by influential, Iowa-based Family Leader—is a required commitment for any candidate seeking endorsement by the group. The pledge’s footnotes contain numerous anti-gay statistics that are questionable, at best.
In addition to its detestable and disgraceful—not to mention completely false—claims about gays and lesbians, Bachmann has received significant criticism for signing the vow due to racially offensive statements in the pledge’s preamble. Among other things, it states the following:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.
Not only is this statement racially offensive, but it is completely asinine. Slave marriages were not legally recognized in the south. Spouses and families were routinely split up and sold, making the likelihood of a child born into slavery in 1860 being raised by his mother and father dubious, at best. This portion of the preamble has received criticism from both the left and the right because of its suggestion that African American children were better off in slavery.
Way to go, Michelle! Let’s see how many people you can alienate and offend with a single signature. Gays and lesbians? Check! Straight children of gays and lesbians? Check! African Americans? Check! Single parents? Check! Women in the military (if you read the entire pledge)? Check!
Oh yea, and did I mention that the pledge encourages “robust childbearing and reproduction?” Yep, we definitely need the likes of Michelle Bachmann robustly reproducing.
By: Shannon Ralph
As a mom of three young children, a lot of my mental energy goes into making certain my kids eat foods that will keep them healthy, happy, and strong. As a borderline obsessive mom of three young children, I spend an obscene number of precious never-can-get-them-back minutes consumed with my children’s diet. I try to buy organic food when I can. Organic food, while easing my mind on the dietary front, often presents its own set of issues on the budgetary front. On more than one occasion, I have found myself in the grocery store—a regular apple in one hand and an organic apple in the other—mentally weighing the pros and cons of spending the extra money for organic fruits and vegetables. Are conventionally-grown apples pesticide-ridden cancer-causers? Is that claim an overly hyped exaggeration? Is it irresponsible to forgo my grocery budget for organic foods? Is it more irresponsible to feed my children anything but organic food? Will my future grandchildren be born with two heads if I buy the regular apple for my precious little ones? Oy vey. Being a parent these days is mentally exhausting.
Imagine my excitement when I came across the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The EWG lists the twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables, as well as the fifteen “cleanest.” The foods that the EWG considers most important to buy organic are: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, and kale/collard greens. These conventionally-grown foods contain the highest pesticide residue. The following are considered safe to buy conventionally-grown, as they contain the lowest pesticide residue: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.
Of course, eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than eating no produce at all. Most days, if I can manage to get a vegetable of any sort in my children, I am happy. However, the next time I find myself standing in the grocery produce department man-handling the apples, I will definitely think twice about saving a buck.
By: The Seattle Lesbian
The Board of Directors of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today announced their acceptance of President Jarrett Barrios’ resignation. The Board of Directors will now begin to assemble an Executive Search Committee to identify a new President. GLAAD’s Board of Directors confirmed a commitment to maintaining a strong focus on its mission-related activities during this transition and has appointed Mike Thompson, Chief Operating Officer, as Acting President of the organization.
Barrios announced his resignation in an email to the Board of Directors on Saturday, June 18:
“None of you have asked me to resign, and I have appreciated such confidence in me. I have been pained by the difficulties that have beset GLAAD over the last three weeks. As you know, they concern GLAAD’s endorsement of the AT&T / T-Mobile merger—and inaccurate but effective characterizations that suggest GLAAD has supported this merger because of our relationship with them as a corporate sponsor. As many of you have observed to me, this entire situation is wrought with miscommunication and assumptions. Be that as it may, I respect the function and responsibility of my position, and know this is the right course of action. Of utmost concern and foremost in all of our minds must be the well-being of GLAAD. The staff continues to work hard and does not deserve to work under a cloud, nor do they merit the distraction that it has become from our organization’s fine brand.”
Read more here!
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