Pentagon report may change "donít
ask, donít tell" policy
by Eric Resnick
Washington, D.C.--The Department of Defense released two reports at a news briefing July 21 that, if implemented, could change the way the "donít ask, donít tell" policy is carried out. Both reports resulted from the brutal beating death of Pfc. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, in Kentucky, on July 5, 1999.
At the briefing, Under Secretary of the Air Force Carol DiBattiste unveiled the 13-point anti-harassment plan, which was ordered by Defense Secretary William Cohen in response to a Department of Defense Inspector General report released in March. As a result, Cohen acknowledged a "disturbing level" of anti-gay harassment in the armed services.
DiBattiste chaired the working group made up of civilian and uniformed officials that examined the implementation of the policy, reviewed the Inspector General report, and received comments from over 200 citizens and advocacy groups.
The anti-harassment plan recommends that the Department of Defense issue a single directive covering all forms of harassment, including that based on sexual orientation. Formerly, each branch had its own individual policies, creating confusion regarding training and implementation of the directives.
The directive reads in part, "It should make clear that mistreatment, harassment, and inappropriate comments or gestures, including that based on sexual orientation, are not acceptable."
The plan demands that the effectiveness of the policy training be measured in the areas of knowledge, behavior, and climate.
Military personnel are to be trained in procedures of reporting anti-gay harassment, including which avenues are confidential and which ones are not.
Commanders hearing complaints will no longer be allowed to inquire of the complainantís sexual orientation and will be trained to that effect. Previously, gay soldiers reporting harassment or soldiers merely expressing an interest or concern about anti-gay harassment were at risk for expulsion, and the complaint could cause other soldiers to start harassing them.
The plan requires commanders to take disciplinary action against anyone that condones or ignores mistreatment, including inappropriate comments and gestures.
The armed services are required to monitor and report the effectiveness of their training programs, based on the reduction of the number of reported incidents of harassment.
"We believe that the action plan . . . will ensure that all personnel receive timely, tailored and effective training necessary to influence conduct," said DiBattiste, "and thatís what weíre trying to do here, influence conduct and eliminate harassment."
Secretary Cohen signed an implementation memo for the plan directed at all the services earlier that day.
Michelle Benecke, co-director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington-based group that monitors the policy and counsels gay personnel, called the plan "thoughtful" and said that seven of their recommendations to the working group were adopted, "some more fully than others."
"We view this as a serious effort in an area where serious efforts over the last seven years can be counted on one hand," said Benecke. "But if this is implemented, it could make a difference for servicemembersí safety."
Benecke said the most pleasing surprise in the report was an over-arching policy that brings all the regulations concerned under one area, instead of being scattered throughout military policy, making them difficult to interpret. "This was smart and needed," she said.
However, Benecke expressed concerns regarding the militaryís history of not carrying out orders to correct deficiencies in the policyís implementation. "Reports get shelved," said Benecke, "Our concerns are valid."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) shares Beneckeís skepticism and expressed concern that the work of DiBattisteís committee could be unheeded by an unfriendly administration.
"This administration is going out of power in January," said Frank. "I think Al Gore would be serious about seeing that this [action plan] is carried out, but there would be no way under George [W.] Bush."
Benecke also said, "The new administration in office will determine whether this is implemented or is put on a shelf to gather dust."
The second report released at the briefing was the Army Inspector General report on the command climate at Fort Campbell and it is drawing more criticism than the action plan.
The Army Inspector General report was ordered by then Fort Campbell commander Major General Robert Clark in January following the court martial of Winchellís murderers.
The report is controversial because it lays all the blame for the command climate surrounding the murder on Winchellís first sergeant, a noncommissioned officer, who has since been relieved of his duties. The report clears all other officers up the chain of command, including Clark.
This is despite the reportís own findings that officers at Fort Campbell knew about and participated in anti-gay harassment, including inappropriate comments and gestures in the work area, in formation, and on duty hours.
Winchellís mother, Patricia Kutteles,, called the report devastating.
"To me, it seems as if the Pentagon brass and the Fort Campbell command are more concerned about protecting themselves than the safety of our soldiers" she told the New York Times. "Iím just so disappointed, really, really disappointed."
The report corroborates SLDNís claims of anti-gay graffiti, run cadences, terms used to berate substandard soldiers, and other anti-gay activity, but cites lack of training of personnel as the reason.
Inspectors could not find a single occasion of training on "donít ask, donít tell" prior to July, 1999.
The report called the command climate of the company to which Winchell was assigned "poor," and attributed this to personnel shortages, underage drinking in the barracks, and the presence of an abusive noncommissioned officer.
Even while the investigation of Fort Campbell was underway, Commander Clark was given a promotion to the key Pentagon post of Deputy Director for Operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, citing a family memberís medical problems, Clark asked for and received a "compassionate reassignment" from the prestigious Pentagon post, CNN announced July 25.
Benecke said the reason for the many incongruous conclusions of the report is that the policy itself is discriminatory and based on untrue stereotypes. She is also concerned that Army Public Affairs officials are trying to downplay the fact that anti-gay harassment exists.
"To downplay is the wrong response," said Benecke, "Officials need to step up and deal with this."
"If we were talking about a similar policy on vehicle maintenance," said Benecke, "the training would not slide seven years."
A senior Army official close to the investigation agreed with the observations that it has taken too long to implement the policy properly and added that initially the policy was not appreciated or understood.
"The important thing right now is to make an assessment of if what has been recommended, particularly by the Department of Defense, gets implemented," he said.
The sharpest criticism of the report is that it does not hold officers up the chain of command responsible for the lack of training that is cited by the inspectors as the reason for the anti-gay harassment found at Fort Campbell and throughout the Army.
Benecke noted that the Inspector General was not directed by the Secretary to look at the command climate after the murder of Pfc. Winchell, nor was he directed to evaluate the action or inaction of leaders in the chain of command relative to the testimony and reports of anti-gay harassment.
The Inspector General was only directed to look at Winchell's unit and the climate prior to the murder.
"This naturally leads to a focus just on Winchell's first sergeant and other unit leaders, and away from those higher in the chain of command," said Benecke. "It also means that the Army cannot say that there is not a hostile climate at Fort Campbell since Winchell's murder, because the Inspector General was not tasked to investigate it, and apparently did not."
Addressing concerns that the gay and lesbian personnel could not participate openly in the investigation of Fort Campbell for fear of investigation and discharge, the senior official said that no personnel were discharged as a result of the investigation. He stressed that the rest of the investigation was designed with the knowledge that this would be the case. The official acknowledged that SLDN had expressed that concern with the investigators prior to onset of the investigation at Fort Campbell.
The official said that investigators were instructed to treat admissions of homosexuality during a complaint of harassment as "inadvertent" and they were to do nothing with the report. The official said three servicemembers had "inadvertent reports" of homosexuality since then and nothing has happened to them.
The official does not think the new recommendations will be shelved, and believes that the Secretary of the Army will see to it that it is implemented properly.
"The Inspector General report shows that there are holes in the dyke that have got to be fixed," he said.
David Stockwell, a spokesperson for the National Security Council addressed the issue of ineffective implementation saying, "We recognize that there have been problems implementing the Ďdonít ask, donít tellí policy. We anticipate that the 13 recommendations [in the anti harassment plan] will further reduce harassment. Implementing the policy and effecting change is a process, and the Department of Defense continues to build on the success the department has made."
Rep. Frank pointed to other examples where the Department of Defense has promised to do the right thing, then ignored their own directives.
"I am disappointed in Secretary Cohen in his handling of this," said Frank. "I donít know whether he is politically afraid to deal with it or what, but, except for a few little things initially, he has been very disappointing."
In summarizing past enforcement of "donít ask, donít tell," the senior Army official was not optimistic.
"Commanders, particularly in the field, are recipients of policy, then they enact on that policy within the guidelines that are set forth," he commented.
He pointed out that the guidance that has been in the field calls for the training to be done "periodically", and is not specific.
"It doesnít happen as busy as they are out there. The new requirement is that everyone in the Army will see training annually on it," he confided.
"I see more and more acceptability of that lifestyle than there was in the past, but it depends on where you look," the official said, speculating on the effect these reports will have on the acceptability of gays in the armed forces. "We bring people in the military from all sides of society, but probably, some time in the future, I think this will change."
"Maybe weíd be further along now if we had sat down and talked with them [the SLDN] quite some time ago," he concluded.
by Anthony Glassman
San Jose, CA--July 23 saw the start of something big. And loud. And very, very gay.
It saw the beginning of the GALA Festival 2000.
The Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, which includes queer choruses from around the world, as well as from across the United States, has a national convention once every four years. This year, San Jose is playing host to the convention, with its awards dinners, comedy shows, and more choral performances than one can shake a baton at.
Performing at the festival, which continues through July 30, are Ohio groups, including North Coast Menís Chorus and the Coastliners from Cleveland, the Columbus Gay Menís Chorus, the Cincinnati Menís Chorus, and Muse, Cincinnatiís womenís chorus.
Six thousand singers with 110 choruses have turned out for the event and organizers expect to draw 50,000 people over the course of the week-long festival.
Delegates from as far afield as Italy and Australia are there, enjoying the weather and the complete take-over of the city.
"Every bar downtown is a gay bar," said Mike Tentis. "I just left the Fairmount Hotel downtown. They had to use a bullhorn to close the place down at 2:00am."
Many choruses are using the event as a forum for showcasing original works by gay and lesbian youth, survivors of the Holocaust, and other pieces of interest to the LGBT community that supports the choruses.
"We use music as a tool to create change," Kenneth T. Cole, executive director of GALA, told the San Jose Mercury News. "Itís the one language that can speak to people when other language fails."
"I donít have to suppress that Iím gay or worry about what others in the group will think," said Mickey Gilyard of Cincinnati, speaking about her reasons for singing with Muse.
Rutland, Vt.--Announcements for civil unions are beginning to appear alongside wedding announcements on wedding pages in newspapers around the state.
At many newspapers, editors said they will treat announcements of same-sex unions the same as traditional marriages, placing them in the same section of their newspapers and in the same format, although perhaps under a different heading.
The decision "took about 30 seconds of deep thought," said Valley News editor Jim Fox. "It wasnít very difficult."
"Of course we would treat them the same," said Annette Sharon, managing editor of the Manchester Journal. "If they want to make that announcement to their neighbors, the newspaper is the place for that to happen."
Even newspapers that have editorialized against the law granting marriage-like benefits to same-sex couples appear likely to print civil union announcements.
So far, the requests have been few. In Brattleboro, where the first civil union was certified just after midnight on July 1, no announcements have been submitted to the local newspaper, the Reformer.
In August, that will likely change, though, when John Calvi and Marshall Brewer of Putney, have a civil union ceremony, and submit an announcement. The couple, and the newspaper, made national news more than a decade ago when the Reformer became the first mainstream newspaper in the United States to publish a gay wedding announcement.
"Itís not our intention to be revolutionary, but itís our tendency to present this as normal," Calvi said. "The most common reaction we have from people is, ĎOh yes, of course."í
At the Newport Daily Express, however, managing editor Susan Davis doesnít expect such a smooth reception.
Davis said if she receives civil union notices, she will print them as long as her publisher approves. But she anticipates a backlash.
"I donít have a problem with it, but I know a lot of people do," she said. "This is the Northeast Kingdom and everybody is running anti-civil unions (for the upcoming elections). Itís a huge issue up here."
by Eric Resnick
Akron, OH--John Woytovech, owner of the Roseto Club and financial contributor to the Akron gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community died July 17 at age 60 following an extended battle with cancer.
Woytovech owned the Roseto Club with Anna, his wife of 33 years, and made it one of Akronís enduring establishments serving the GLBT community for 15 years.
Woytovech, who retired in 1998, wasnít at the club much the past year, having gone through seven surgeries. But he was remembered fondly by many patrons and friends who shared stories of Woytovechís generosity, his kindness and his "big heart."
Woytovech was, often anonymously, a major contributor to many organizations serving the needs of the GLBT community.
Additionally, the Roseto Club frequently hosted fundraisers and benefits for organizations like Stonewall Akron, Violetís Cupboard, the Akron Womenís Shelter, the Akron Area Pride Collective, and the Columbus Womenís Festival
Woytovech also contributed to the burn unit at Akron Childrenís Hospital, the Humane Society, and the Ohio AIDS Coalition. He was always one of the first bar owners to volunteer and help staff the beer garden at the Cleveland Pride festival.
"He was an icon to us and did things for me that my own family wouldnít do," said Missy Villers, a longtime friend. "John put his heart and soul into this community."
Anna Woytovech plans to continue ownership of the Roseto Club.
Lesbian mother of twins to takes custody battle to top court
Trenton, N.J.--The lesbian mother of twins intends to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep her former partner away from her children.
The New Jersey Supreme Court in a national landmark ruling last April said the former partner identified only as V.C. had a right to visitation with the children because she had lived with them and functioned as a parent to them for two years.
The children called their birth mother "Mommy" and their motherís partner "Meema." The birth mother, identified only as MJB, opposed visitation by her estranged lover.
Now MJBís lawyer has filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to have the visitation order reversed. The attorney for V.C., Robin Wernik, confirmed she had been notified of the appeal.
Wernik said she did not believe the appeal would be accepted by the nationís highest court because it has denied similar appeals from other states on issues concerning the designation of a "psychological parent" on equal footing with a biological one.
Gay rights organizations had hailed the New Jersey case as a breakthrough because the state court had concluded both lesbians had equal status as parents under law. The twins were born in 1994. The couple separated in 1996.
As a result, the Lesbian Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union said it would assist in Wernikís answer to the appeal, according to spokesman Eric Ferrero.
Man gay-bashes straight couple, son
DaytonóIn what is being referred to as a "mistaken" anti-gay hate crime, Layrue Mitchell Jr., a 24-year-old Dayton man, has been arrested for attacking a heterosexual couple and their son July 16.
Mitchell, who was in a truck with at least two other people, thought Gary Massey, Sr. and his wife, Mary, were a gay male couple. The two were sitting in their pickup in the parking lot of a store.
"My wife has short hair," Massey told the Dayton Daily News. "They thought we were gay. They came by calling us (anti-gay slurs)."
The couple drove the block back to their home, where Mitchell, who had followed them, began hitting their truck with a steel bar. Mitchell continued attacking the couple, injuring Masseyís ear and bruising Mrs. Masseyís arm, when their son, Gary Jr., came out of the house and was struck on the head with a shovel.
The family was treated at a local hospital and released.
Mitchell, who was released from the Montgomery County Jail after posting a $5,000 bond, was charged with felonious assault with a deadly weapon. Police are continuing their search for the other assailants.
Gays host event at National Convention
Washington, D.C.óThe Log Cabin Republicans and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund announced July 21 that they will host a reception at the Republican National Convention August 1, entitled "Making History."
Rep. Jim Kolbe, a gay Republican from Arizona, is scheduled to speak at the event, and other gay and gay-positive Republican politicians will be honored at the event.
A number of the honorees were in attendance at the meeting between George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, and gay Republicans, which many contend was a ground-breaking meeting between a Republican candidate and gay leaders.
The meeting also upset many arch-conservatives, who felt Bush was betraying the "family-first" core of the party.
"Making History" will mark the largest gathering of gay and lesbian Republicans at a National Convention.
Prison guard awarded $15M
Carle Place, N.Y.óA jury awarded former Nassau County jail guard James Manning, fifteen million dollars on July 18.
The jury found that anti-gay harassment to which Manning was subjected amounted to a custom of workplace discrimination, marking the second time in a year a court found that Nassau County allowed anti-gay hostility in its working environment. In June 1999, a police officer was awarded $380,000 after a judge ruled that he had been subjected to harassment and anti-gay pranks.
"They made my life hell and what they did was wrong; it shouldnít happen to anybody," Manning said. "Iím just glad that they were found accountable for what they allowed to happen."
Among the allegations made by Manning were that jail workers altered fliers warning against sexual harassment to depict him in a derogatory fashion.
The county is considering an appeal.
Canadian province files to strike down ban on gay marriage
Victoria, B.C.--British Columbiaís attorney general filed a petition with the Canadian provinceís Supreme Court to determine whether the current ban on same-sex marriages is constitutional.
Attorney General Andrew Petter said July 20 that his office has received a legal opinion concluding that the courts would likely revise the federal common law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This revision would be in light of recent equality rights decisions under the Charter of Rights, Canadaís bill of rights.
Currently in Canada, same-sex couples are entitled to all the benefits of heterosexual couples except for the right to apply for a marriage license.
In June 1999, however, members of the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly that marriage should remain defined as the union between a man and a woman.
British Columbiaís move is the first by a province to go to the courts on the issue, although the city of Toronto has sought guidance in Ontario courts over whether to issue a marriage license to two men.
"If the institution of marriage is a positive and beneficial institution for society and works for heterosexual couples, it should work for same-sex couples," Petter said. "We have no right to deny same-sex couples the same opportunities to participate in that institution given their equality rights."
The provinceís petition names two same-sex couples who have tried but failed to get marriage licenses. Other gay and lesbian couples are expected to join the case. There was no indication when the petition might be heard.
One of the couples named in the petition, Judy Lightwater and Cynthia Callahan, applied last May for a marriage license, but a provincial official deferred granting it pending a legal decision.
"This is the second-best thing in our opinion that could happen other than actually getting the license," Callahan said.
Ryan White Act passes House
Washington, D.C.óThe House of Representatives voted July 26 to reauthorize the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act for another five years.
The Senate already passed the reauthorization on June 6. The only thing left is for a joint committee to work out any potential differences between the two versions of the bill, and for the President to sign it.
"We are pleased by the efforts in the House and are looking forward to working with CongressÖto win final approval for this key legislation before the 106th Congress ends," said Human Rights Campaign political director Winnie Stachelberg in a statement released to the press.
The Ryan White Act is the largest provider of federal funds to people living with HIV/AIDS, and is structured to target the release of money to where it is needed most.
The act supports a wide range of community-based services, including home health care, case management, substance abuse treatment, nutritional and housing assistance. It also funds the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides drug therapy to uninsured and underinsured people with HIV/AIDS.
Transgender cashier awarded $2M plus
New Brunswick, N.J.óRicky Bourdouvales, a pre-op male-to-female transgender, was awarded over two million dollars July 17 after Wal-Mart, the defendant, failed to respond to the lawsuit.
According to the suit, Bourdouvales had no trouble as a cashier at the store, and was even asked to train other employees. When a manager looked at Bourdouvalesí application and noticed that the box for "male" was checked, he questioned Bourdouvales, who confided that she was undergoing a sex change. After that, according to the suit, harassment and discrimination began.
"New Jerseyís law against discrimination is a very strong one, and it definitely covers what happened here," said Bourdouvalesí lawyer, Mark Stanton.
According to Stanton, Wal-Mart was served notice of the suit in May, and a motion for a default judgement was filed in June, when Wal-Mart still had not responded to the suit.
As a result, Superior Court Judge Douglas Hague awarded Bourdouvales $2 million in punitive damages, and another $100,000 in compensatory damages and legal fees.
"We were totally unaware of the suit," said Tom Williams of Wal-Martís corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, "and we want to have the opportunity to defend ourselves. Weíd like to have our day in court."
Williams said that the store was aware that a document was served in May, but did not realize what it was.
Blair vows to fight ĎNo Promo Homoí
London--Prime Minister Tony Blairís Labor government has vowed to continue attempts to repeal Britainís controversial Section 28 law, just days after the effort was defeated in the House of Lords on July 24.
Section 28, also known as "no promo homo" prevents governmental authorities, including schools, in England and Wales from "promoting" homosexuality. Section 28 is usually interpreted as meaning that schools cannot teach children that being gay or lesbian is anything but bad.
Blair has vowed to repeal the law, which one of his spokespersons referred to as a "piece of prejudice" introduced by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcherís conservative government more than twenty years ago.
Baroness Young, a conservative member of the House of Lords who led opposition to the repeal, told the Lords before the vote that it would be very unpopular with the public.
The Guardian, a British newspaper, however, released the results of an internet poll showing that 78% of the populace were in favor of scrapping Section 28, a fact that could seriously hurt conservativeís efforts in the next election.
Scotland repealed Section 28 in June.
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