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SLDN sues government over Defense of Marriage Act

Now that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the United States military, the next step in the legal battle is to secure the same partner benefits for married same-sex couples that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network today filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki on behalf of eight former and current active duty soldiers over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law which prevents the government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even those performed legally in jurisdictions that allow them.

“The plaintiffs, each legally married, want the armed services to recognize their families and seek the same family support and benefits for their same-sex spouses that the services and Department of Veterans Affairs provide to opposite-sex spouses,” SLDN said today via a media release.

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Gay military members cautioned as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ends

Sept. 20 marks the end of an era for gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military, and the non-profit Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is trying to prepare gay active duty service members for the historic change.

Since 1993, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has banned gay Americans from serving openly in the armed services. The policy will officially end Sept. 20, the day a 60-day review period will have ticked away following certification of military readiness to implement repeal.

Not surprisingly, some organizations, including SLDN, plan to celebrate the end of the 18-year-old ban. Two such events — a Retreat Ceremony on Sept. 19 and Repeal Day Celebration on Sept. 20 — are scheduled for Atlanta.

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Local organizations to celebrate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

American Veterans for Equal Rights' Danny IngramSept. 20 will mark a major turning point in the fight for LGBT equality, as the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a law that bans gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly, will finally be repealed. At least two local events are planned to commemorate the milestone.

Passed by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the basis for some 14,000 military discharges during its 18 year-history.

The repeal effort was one of the final acts of the Democratically controlled 111th Congress and fulfilled a 2008 campaign pledge from President Barack Obama.

“By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” Obama said after Congress passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 in late December.

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House to vote on stand-alone DADT repeal

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House Nancy Polosi (D-Ca.), Reps. Steny Howyer (D-Md.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) will introduce a stand-alone bill in the House to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The move comes after a similar announcement made last week by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) of a stand-alone repeal measure in the Senate.

“We applaud  House Speaker Pelosi, Reps. Hoyer and Murphy for their extraordinary leadership in the waning hours of the lame-duck session,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in a press release issued this morning.

“Let’s be clear: we’ll still need 60 votes in the Senate,” Sarvis continued. “This ‘privileged’ House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate.  While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk.”

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Reid: Senate cloture vote on defense bill ‘likely’ tonight, includes ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this morning on the Senate floor that a cloture vote on the 2011 Defense Authorization bill, which includes repeal language for the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, could be voted on tonight if time allowed, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“And I’m likely going to move to my motion to reconsider on the Defense Authorization Act this evening,” Reid said. “Allowing, as I will indicate at that time, time for amendments to that piece of legislation.”

According to SLDN, Reid is “actively reaching out to his Republican colleagues to reach an agreement on how to proceed.”

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‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal stalls in U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator John McCain (AZ-R) voted against the cloture measure effectively blocking a Congressional repeal of DADT

Efforts to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. military received a serious setback Sept. 21, when the U.S. Senate rejected a motion to break a Republican-led filibuster against an annual defense spending bill that includes language aimed at ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The vote was 56 to 43 — four votes short of ending the filibuster. Georgia’s two U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans, voted in the majority to stymie the repeal.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called the vote a “frustrating blow.”

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Ann Coulter on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Right-wing author/dominatrix Ann Coulter sparred with left-wing TV host/Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill on Larry King last night.

After professing her love for Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell, I was hoping she could fill me in on any intelligent opposition to the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' but I think she missed the point completely.

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‘DADT’ Impact: Letter from Lee Quillian

With the Pentagon’s family survey now in the field, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones. SLDN is urging supporters of repeal to call, write, and schedule in-district meetings with both their senators as the defense budget, which contains the repeal amendment, moves to the floor just weeks from now. www.sldn.org/action.


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‘DADT’ Impact: Letter from Nancy S. Manzella

Don't Ask, Don't Tell impact

With the Pentagon’s family survey now in the field, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones. SLDN is urging supporters of repeal to call, write, and schedule in-district meetings with both their senators as the defense budget, which contains the repeal amendment, moves to the floor just weeks from now. www.sldn.org/action.

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‘DADT’ Impact: Letter from Lynne Kennedy

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

With the Pentagon’s family survey now in the field, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones. SLDN is urging supporters of repeal to call, write, and schedule in-district meetings with both their senators as the defense budget, which contains the repeal amendment, moves to the floor just weeks from now. www.sldn.org/action.