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”
A Catholic high school in Columbus, Ohio has fired Carla Hale, a teacher of 19 years, after she was outed as a lesbian in her mother’s obituary.
The obituary mentioned her “partner” Julie and a parent of a student at Bishop Watterson High School told the school.
Hale was fired through a termination letter. According to Digital Journal she was shocked because “she said that her sexual orientation and her life with her female partner were never brought up at school and did not affect her work there.”
Hale plans on fighting for her job back and the Dispatch story claims that Hale may have been illegally fired. According to Columbus law, discriminating against an employee based on sexual orientation is illegal. Plus, Hale said many other teachers are living common-in-law, divorced or are using birth control – all actions that are not in compliance with the Catholic Church.
Hale isn’t the only one upset by her termination. The students at Bishop Watterson started an online petition on change.org that has over 56,000 signatures.
“She was a teacher who cared for her students and treated each one with respect,” student Jackson Garrity wrote on the petition. “The diocese, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her. It’s unfair that someone who cared so much about her students and her job should lose them on the basis of something she cannot even control.”
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
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.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
As the debate for marriage equality continues across the country, slowly but surely U.S. Senators are starting to voice their support for gay marriage. Just this week six Senators came out in favor of the issue, following in the tracks of Republican Mark Kirk and Rob Portman who have already voiced their support.
According to Attorney and marriage equality advocate Jill Metz, 23 U.S. Senators have formally endorsed same-sex marriage thus far, and that number is only expected to increase. “The tide is turning in the Senate,” says Metz. “While the number of formal endorsements is slowly growing, at the very least many politicians are open to changing their opinion, something that would have been unheard of even a few years ago.”
Metz explains that many of the Senators who have voiced their support admit their newfound stance on the subject had evolved. “A support system has begun to develop in Congress which may give public figures who are teetering on the border the courage to go over the edge,” says Metz.
All eyes were on the Supreme Court of the United States Tuesday and Wednesday as nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments in two very public cases: Hollingsworth v. Perry(Proposition 8) and United States v. Windsor.
In case you missed anything, we’re going to catch you up. Take a look.
A ruling is expected within three months on the constitutionality of the 1996 law that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.
Wednesday’s arguments concluded two days of presentations before the high court on one of the most prevalent social issues of this era — the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed and receive the full benefits of law provided to heterosexual couples.
Afterward, Edith “Edie” Windsor, 83, stood on the steps of the courthouse — near the “Equal Justice Under Law” slogan engraved above — and proclaimed something she hid for decades before her challenge against the act known as DOMA.
“I am today an out lesbian, OK, who just sued the United States of America, which is kind of overwhelming for me,” she said. She had just watched almost two hours of oral arguments before the nation’s highest court on how she had to pay higher estate taxes than someone in a heterosexual marriage.
Windsor tried to explain to reporters why she and her late spouse, Thea Spyer, married in New York when the law allowed it after decades together.
Marriage, she said, is “a magic word, for anyone who doesn’t understand why we want it and why we need it.”
“We did win in the lower court,” Windsor added, then later predicted: “I think it’s gonna be good.”
ABC News Reports
Justice Anthony Kennedy, viewed as a key swing vote, appeared critical of the federal government’s declining to recognize marriages that states have made legal.
Kennedy cited concerns about federalism, saying there was a “real risk” of the federal law running into conflict with a state’s power.
“The question,” Kennedy said, “is whether or not the Federal government, under out federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage.”
The four liberal justices expressed similar concerns over federal power, as well as other concerns about equal protection of gay Americans under the law.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked about a marriage that is recognized by the state but not the federal government. She pointed out that a couple who is legally married in their state might be denied marital deductions and Social Security benefits. “Your spouse is very sick, but you can’t get leave,” she said. “One might well ask, what kind of marriage is this?”
Later, Ginsburg said that one marriage is considered regular and the other “skim milk.”
By Sheana Ochoa
On the morning Adam Lanza discharged countless bullets on two rooms full of children and staff in Connecticut I was sound asleep next to my four-year-old son in Los Angeles. His grandpa was visiting and using his room so he slept with Mommy and Daddy. On the morning of the Newtown massacre, my son and I awoke, opened our eyes and smiled at each other. By then the children were dead. The rainstorm from the previous night had passed, but the temperature had dropped and my son and I stayed snug under the covers. “Will you scratch my back?” he asked and I did, reveling in the touch of his silky skin, still so much like a newborn’s. One day that baby softness will toughen from the elements and time. His heart will harden too as he learns prejudice and judgment and fear. This is the problem and there are solutions. It isn’t just my responsibility, though parents play the major role; it is this country’s obligation to help rear healthy, compassionate, and usefully whole human beings. But we need the resources.
As the investigation in Newtown ensued that day, I was still uninformed. My son and I dressed for school. He was excited that I’d be staying at school with him for the Christmas party. Christmas songs punctuated our play as children made paper and yarn stockings and heart-layered Christmas trees. Not all the parents came, and so I helped a couple kids make stockings of their own. We cleaned up, and after all the hullaballoo, the children were placated with plates of cookies and chips and juice. My son, content with treats, asked, “Aren’t you leaving, Mommy? All the other parents are going.” That was my cue so I left and if I had turned on the radio I would’ve heard what happened in Newtown and turned the car around to bring him home, but I did not listen to the news. As twenty bright stars lay extinguished in the classrooms where they fell I was gluing sequins and glitter onto Christmas stockings with my son. Yes, there’s guilt, which is unreasonable. But mostly there’s grief.
The day after the killings I awoke hoping it had been a nightmare, but when I saw the front page of the LA Times, I realized it really did happen. And now here were more pictures, more details to burrow into the recesses of my gnawing heart. I couldn’t remember the gunman’s name yesterday. But it rang like an alarm the next day: Adam. Original Man.
On the day of the massacre, it wasn’t until my dad and I were on the 10 freeway heading to UCLA Pain Management (the reason for his visit) that I turned on the radio and heard that 20 children and 6 adults had been slain. Eight and half hours had passed. The gunman was dead too. After my initial disbelief came incomprehension mixed with outrage: Why would somebody attack defenseless children? Then came a strange sympathy. Whoever did this, I thought, must be incredibly sick and in pain.
We don’t spend this country’s abundant resources on our children. On Monday, President Obama addressed Newtown at the high school saying, “This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.” I agree, but his words are mere platitudes if he doesn’t implement institutional change in health care, social services, teacher’s pay, school security, community awareness, resources for parents, and all the components that create the villages we need to rear healthy children.
If we spent as much money on our children -their empathic instincts, their emotional needs, their handicaps, their education- as we do on the war economy, perhaps Adam Lanza would have been given the tools to deal with his demons early on when he was as unblemished and vulnerable as the children he murdered. Our obsession and consequent immunity to violence has permeated the nation’s very soul. Mass murder doesn’t happen in other countries on this scale, and it’s escalating. The president is aware of this. Talking to the citizens of Newtown, he said, “There have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America.” Obama said we have to change, but again, how is he, as our leader, going to do this?
As I waited for my father in the doctor’s office on the day of the shootings I visualized picking up my son. At his preschool, the door is locked and there’s a buzzer. A staff member sees the person at the door on a monitor and unlocks the door. There’s a sign-in/out sheet at the entrance, more to track attendance than as a security precaution. When I first enrolled my son, I remember thinking how unattractive this system was -the gates, the buzzer, having to wait for someone to let me in. At Sandy Hook Elementary, the late Principal Hochsprung had just installed the exact same security measures. It didn’t prevent Adam Lanza from entering the school.
At my son’s preschool, a substitute or class helper can buzz someone in. To clarify: they don’t have to necessarily identify or recognize who they are letting in with the children. It isn’t monitored. This has to change. We must institute a universal security system in every school throughout the country.
When I enrolled my son I signed a release form listing the specific people that could take him to and from school. It should be required that the parent supply the school with photos of these people and when someone announces that they are dropping off or picking up a specific child, there should be a security guard whose only job is to man the door, verifying on his computer that the person standing at the door matches the photo of the people on the child’s release form. Software would have to be developed. Cameras would have to be installed with a 360-degree view of the entrance. Employees would be required to meet with a relative or associate outside the school premises. These are logical and reasonable precautions. It isn’t rocket science. It surely wouldn’t cost a fraction of what we spend on our defense budget.
Without a doubt school safety is an issue of national security. These are demands every parent in this country needs to make. How many times will we live under the delusion that our children are safe with evidence to the contrary? I realize this isn’t fullproof. A “gunman” could still attack children at play outside. Or in the case of Sandy Hook, he could force his way in through a window. But deterrents must be put in place if for no other reason than to buy time to call for help and secure the children in a bulletproof safe room out of harm’s way.
When I finally retuned home from the hospital, my son was watching a cartoon, happy to see me, but engrossed in the action hero. I hugged him, felt his baby smooth skin. As much as I wanted to hold him all night, I had to keep my distance, as my heart was in such turmoil, cycling between shock and fear and tears. I didn’t want to frighten him. I let him stay up after Daddy and Grandpa went to bed. We watched a Christmas movie and ate sweets, my gratitude overflowing. The parents whose children didn’t come home from school could not even say goodbye to their kids.
Before the first Adam committed the original sin of knowledge he knew nothing of fear. He lived in harmony with the world. Whether one believes that Adam’s fall was a fable or truth, it boils down to the same principle just like the laws of physics which we seem to have no problem following. That principle guides the spiritual, or moral, laws of our higher selves. The first Adam turned his back on his higher self when he placed self-will above that of the Universe. The moral of the story is that we all suffer when self-interest is placed above the greater good, that of the community and most importantly that of our most valuable asset, our children. Children in this country are not taught and have fewer and fewer examples of how to listen to their higher selves. Nor do they have the resources to get back on track when they lose their way. We have forsaken them. But we can change the destructive course we’re on. We can create the villages they need to thrive by investing in our schools and communities and by supporting parents.
A universal security system is simply one small measure of protecting our children, but it doesn’t resolve the root problem. The president has the majority of Americans supporting him. It is our job to let him know what we want him to do. It is our obligation to listen to our higher selves and prevent the massacre at Sandy Hook from happening again. Again, this is an issue of national security -not the war in Afghanistan, drones, or semiautomatic guns.
By: The Next Family
The high court will consider marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Today the U.S Superme Court issued an order granting review of Hollingsworth vs. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown), the federal constitutional challenge to California’s proposition 8 and the review of US v. Windsor, a challenge to the constutionality of the federal Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Next Family will keep you updated as we get more information.
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!
Tonight is an historic night and yet another step toward equality for all. It looks likely that it will be 4 of 4 states that have voted to legalize same-sex marriage. It’s the first time after some 30 losses across the country that by popular vote same-sex marriage is supported.