Democrats demand to know why Pentagon is ‘backing away’ from LGBT Pride Month

Democrats demand to know why Pentagon is 'backing away' from LGBT Pride Month

Washington (CNN)A group of House Democrats from the Armed Services committee are demanding to know why the Pentagon didn’t issue an official memo marking June as LGBT Pride Month.

Concerned that Pentagon leadership is "backing away from supporting and celebrating" its LGBT military members, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Maryland, and seven of his Democratic colleagues penned a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis asking him to explain the decision not to issue a memo.

The group of Democrats is also demanding answers as to why Defense Department leadership declined to address the Pentagon’s annual Pride event.

"The absence of demonstrative support from DOD leadership at events like these can have the effect of isolating our LGBT service members and employees," the letter sent Thursday read.

The Department of Defense has hosted an official Pride event every June at its headquarters, featuring speakers from the department’s leadership, since the repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy in 2011.

The undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness has released an official memo marking Pride Month since DADT was repealed. In their letter, Brown and other congressional members asked what role, if any, did the undersecretary for personnel and readiness Robert Wilkie had in deciding not to issue a memo.

This year’s Pride event did, however, go on as planned on June 11, though with a noticeable absence of Defense Department leadership.

"The refusal to officially acknowledge Pride Month this year is deeply troubling, and whoever made the decision to break with this important tradition should be ashamed," American Military Partner Association president Ashley Broadway-Mack said in a press release two days later.

Elaine Donnelly, the president of Center for Military Readiness, which supports the policy barring transgender military service members, told CNN it was a "positive development" and pointed to an article she wrote published last Friday.

"President Trump’s decision to discontinue controversial LGBT Pride events suggest that he intends to deliver on his promise to end extreme political correctness in our military," Donnelly wrote, adding, "The Department of Defense should not feel obligated to host and subsidize lobbying fests for ideological pressure groups, including the LGBT Left."

Donnelly said that continued involvement of the Pentagon at Pride Month "would have invited even more division" in the military.

At last year’s event, Anthony Kurta , the then-undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, represented the Department of Defense in place of Mattis.

Kurta also issued an official memo recognizing and encouraging the celebration of June as Pride Month that year.

"The struggles, sacrifices, and successes among the LGBT community continue to shape our history and remind us to uphold tolerance and justice for all," the memo read.

The Pentagon celebrated pride month for the first time in 2012 , after the end of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy that penalized gay and lesbian military members who openly acknowledged their sexual preference.

Jeh Johnson, who was the Pentagon’s general counsel at the time, delivered the keynote, while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to the audience in a video message. In 2013, Chuck Hagel was the first defense secretary to address Pentagon’s pride month event in person.

Obama’s third defense secretary, Ash Carter, also spoke at the Pride Month event in 2015, announcing that the department had updated its Military Equal Opportunity policy to include sexual orientation for the first time. Transgender individuals, however, were still not openly serving in the military and could face being discharged.

President Donald Trump is seeking to re-implement the ban on most transgender individuals serving in the military, which is stalled in several federal court cases, after the Pentagon ended it in 2016.

According to a Pentagon memo about the policy , exceptions to the ban would include people who have been "stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession," service members who "do not require a change of gender" and troops who started serving under the Obama administration’s policy prior to the new memo.

"Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," Trump said in a series of tweets last July when he first announced he was considering reinstating the ban.

A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a "minimal impact" on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force.

Young LGBT people keen on more gender neutrality, strategy states

Young LGBT people keen on more gender neutrality, strategy states

‘No-one in this country should feel isolated, discriminated against or bullied’

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said every part of Government was whole-heartedly behind the new strategy. Photograph: Maxwells Young LGBT people want gender neutral uniforms in schools, more gender neutral toilets and changing rooms at public facilities and a positive representation of their identity in media.

They would also like the introduction and enforcement of hate-crime legislation, better access to mental health services and improved services for young people who are out or coming out.

These are among the findings in the world’s first strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) young people, which was published on Friday by the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone .

The three-year strategy, which was drawn up with an advisory group of 14 young people, has a central principle that all young people should be “visible, valued and included”.

Its three main goals are to create a safe, supportive and inclusive environment to improve the physical and mental health of and to gather better data on young LGBT people.

Its 59 actions will be led by the majority of Government departments, and include the development of initiatives to reduce the risk of mental health problems for the community – to be led by the Department of Health and the HSE.

Another is to include LGBT matters in the current review of relationships and sex education in schools, to be led by the Department of Education, while the Department of Culture and Heritage, and the National Library are to “maintain, develop and enhance to Irish Queer Archive”.

Minister Zappone said she wanted the strategy taken seriously and said it “must achieve real results”. Her Department has committed €400,000 to improving youth services.

“ Ireland has taken big steps in terms of equality. Decriminalisation, marriage equality and Gender Recognition Act are huge positives. But it is also clear more must be done,” she said.

“No-one in this country should feel isolated, discriminated against or bullied, yet this is a reality for some younger members of our LGBTI+ community.

“As Minister for Children I can commit that this strategy contains real actions which go a long way to addressing these concerns. Every part of Government is whole-heartedly behind this effort.”

Brendon Urie Pledges $1 Million Supporting LGBT Youth

Brendon Urie Pledges $1 Million Supporting LGBT Youth

Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie has teamed with GLSEN to help launch GSA clubs in high schools across the United States. Brendon Urie partnered with GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) to help create GSA (Gender & Sexuality/Gay-Straight Alliance) clubs in high schools across America. To mark the new alliance, Urie pledged $1 million dollars to GLSEN to launch the initiative. "For years my fans have inspired me with their determination and creativity as they have created a safe and inclusive community," the Panic! At the Disco singer said in a statement. "I felt the time had come for me to join them boldly, to bring that energy and power to bear on the huge challenges facing our whole society."

Urie’s partnership follows the creation of Highest Hopes Foundation, which will help support human rights advocacy across all marginalized communities. GLSEN is the first beneficiary following the foundation’s launch.

Earlier this month, Panic! At the Disco released their sixth studio album Pray for the Wicked . The LP follows the Grammy-nominated Death of a Bachelor and Urie’s Broadway debut as Charlie Price in the musical Kinky Boots . The last two albums are the first with Urie billed as the sole member of the group; the group’s founding drummer Spencer Smith departed in 2015 after a two year hiatus spent dealing with alcoholism and prescription pill addiction.

This July, Panic! At the Disco will embark on an extensive tour in support of Pray for the Wicked . Hayley Kiyoko will be the tour’s opening act.

Professional football player Collin Martin comes out as gay during pride month

Professional football player Collin Martin comes out as gay during pride month

A professional football player has announced he’s gay, prior to a pride night being held by his football team.

Collin Martin, who plays for Minnesota United, is now the only out gay football player in a top professional soccer league.

Martin wrote a statement on his Twitter account and said: “June is Pride month, and I am proud to be playing for Pride, and to be playing as an out gay man.” Martin said his friends, family and teammates were already aware of his sexuality. “I have played Major League Soccer for 6 seasons: 4 seasons with DC United and 2 seasons with Minnesota United. Today I’m proud that the entire team and management of Minnesota United know that I’m gay.”

“As we celebrate Pride night I want to thank my teammates for their unconditional support for who I am. In light of who I am I want to encourage others who play sports professionally or otherwise to have confidence that sport will welcome them wholeheartedly,” Martin added.

Minnesota United FC was an American professional soccer team based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area in Minnesota.

Martin follows in the footsteps of Robbie Rogers, who came out in 2013 after a stint with Leeds United. Rogers went on to become the first gay professional footballer when he signed for LA Galaxy. Rogers retired in 2017 after winning two MLS cups and 18 caps for the US men’s national team.

Tessa Thompson comes out: ‘I’m attracted to men and women’

Tessa Thompson comes out: ‘I’m attracted to men and women’

(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for MTV) Actress Tessa Thompson has come out, revealing that she is attracted to men and women.

The Thor: Ragnarok actress spoke publically about her sexuality for the first time on June 29, before going into depth about her rumoured relationship with Janelle Monáe.

In an interview with Net-A-Porter , Thompson said that she was attracted to both men and women, though she did not give herself a specific label . Thompson at the premiere of Thor:Ragnarok (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney) Thompson said: “I can take things for granted because of my family – it’s so free and you can be anything that you want to be.

“I’m attracted to men and also to women. If I bring a woman home, [or] a man, we don’t even have to have the discussion.”

Thompson is best known for her appearances on dystopian drama Westworld , as well as her role as the explicitly bisexual hero Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok .

The 34-year-old was recently propelled into the spotlight due to her close relationship with musician and actress Janelle Monáe who came out as queer earlier this year . Thompson and Monáe in ‘Pynk’ (Janelle Monáe/YouTube) There has been a great deal of speculation online about the relationship between the actresses, particularly after the release of the sexually charged bisexual anthem “Make Me Feel” in which Thompson stars. Thompson said that there was a difficult balance between maintaining privacy and also contributing to representation.

She said: “It’s tricky, because Janelle and I are just really private people and we’re both trying to navigate how you reconcile wanting to have that privacy and space, and also wanting to use your platform and influence.”

Thompson added that she knew that coming out would prompt fresh speculation about the relationship . Thompson at the Tribeca Film Festival (Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) While she did not confirm or deny a romantic relationship with Monáe, the 34-year-old spoke about whether she had a responsibility to confirm a relationship at all.

“That was something I was conscientious of in terms of this declaration around Janelle and myself,” she said.

“I want everyone else to have that freedom and support that I have from my loved ones. But so many people don’t. So, do I have a responsibility to talk about that?

“Do I have a responsibility to say in a public space that this is my person?” Janelle Monáe and Tessa Thompson (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Essence) Thompson then added that the flurry of speculation about her relationship with Monáe did not bother her, and that they loved each other greatly.

She said: “We love each other deeply, we’re so close. We vibrate on the same frequency. If people want to speculate about what we are, that’s okay. It doesn’t bother me.”

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners activist has disability benefits reinstated after appeal

Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners activist has disability benefits reinstated after appeal

An original member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) who was crowdfunding after her disability benefits were cut has had them fully reinstated.

Nicola Field was crowd-funding £2,000 for an accessible car earlier this month after her benefits were cut in February, as reported by PinkNews .

However, now her benefits have been reintroduced following an ‘exhausting’ 23-week appeals process. The funds raised by her appeal – which totaled £1,635 – will be divided between two disability rights organisations.

The sum had initally been planned to replace an accessible car and home help that the LGBT-rights activist could no longer afford.

She said: “As someone with ME and PTSD, I cannot tell you what a relief this is.

“I will now be able to re-apply for a Motability car to help me get around safely and reinstate the help at home I have been having to do without. I’m over the moon.”

The U-turn means that Field will not need to go through a formal tribunals process to keep her full amount of benefits.

The activist told PinkNews that assessors had used her ability to maintain eye contact during the assessment as evidence against her in awarding a lower rate of disability benefits.

Gesticulating hands were also seen as evidence that she did not need a higher level of benefits payment, said Field.

According to Citizens Advice, over half of similar ‘mandatory reconsideration’ appeals are successful. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) was a group of LGBT activists who formed to support striking miners in 1984-1985.

The organisation fundraised for those on strikes through appeals and charity concerts, including the Pits and Perverts gig headlined by the Bronski Beat in December 1984.

Its activities were dramatised in the smash-hit 2014 BBC film, Pride.

However, LGSM disbanded formally in 2015, saying they did not want to become “an LGBT version of the British legion.”

Gay couple raises more than £11,000 on GoFundMe for surgery after brutal attack

Gay couple raises more than £11,000 on GoFundMe for surgery after brutal attack

Collie McQuillan (right) with his husband Gui (Facebook) A gay couple has turned to GoFundMe to raise funds to cover their medical costs after they were attacked.

Collie McQuillan, 30, and his husband Gui, 24, were reportedly attacked by four men in Portlaoise in Ireland .

Collie had to be transferred to a hospital in Dublin for treatment for his injuries.

So far, McQuillan has already raised more than 13,000 euros (£11,500) via the fundraising platform .

“I was savagely attacked by a group of people which caused extensive damages to my face and jaw and teeth which resulted in myself being transferred from Portlaoise hospital to St James hospital Dublin ,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page.

“The attack was mindless and totally unprovoked,” McQuillan said, saying the medical costs were adding up for his treatment. “I have an upper and lower broken jaw. My lower jaw line has splintered bone and I have lost two teeth and another two teeth have been broken in half…

“The cost of both medical and dental repairs is about 8,000 euro,” he wrote. Collie McQuillan and his husband Gui were attacked by four men (GoFundMe) “I’m hoping to raise at least half of this amount. Please if you can help with any donation at all nothing is too small it would me the world to me as this has been a huge knock to my confidence and has caused a lot of emotional stress and physical pain.”

Writing on Facebook, Gui wrote: “It never comes to your mind that this could happen to you or to someone close, until it does.

“So with the physical pain, came the depression ,” he said. “We still can’t believe that this happened, what kind of people do that? We just don’t understand.”

He added that dental treatment would be expensive and asked people to help donate funds.

“If we could raise half of it, it would be a huge help,” he wrote. “And please pray!”

A police spokesman said: “Gardai in Laois are investigating an alleged assault in the Harpurs Lane part of Portlaoise on Sunday the 10th of June 2018 at approx 2.30am.

“One male was taken to St James Street Hospital with serious facial injuries.”

Cash machines smashed in ‘homophobic’ attack for showing Pride messages

Cash machines smashed in ‘homophobic’ attack for showing Pride messages

The message on Santander cashpoints for Pride (@gjc04 / Twitter) A set of cash machines have been smashed in Northern Ireland for displaying Pride messages .

On Friday, the cash machines outside of a branch of the Santander bank in the town of Lurgan were vandalised by having their screens smashed and anti-gay graffiti scrawled on them.

To celebrate Pride Month, Santander has displayed pro-LGBT messages on several of their cashpoints across the UK, using the hashtag #SantanderSupportsPride. A Santander cashpoint showing the Pride message (@gjc04 / Twitter) It is one of these screens that reportedly prompted the vandalism, causing the bank to condemn it as motivated by homophobia.

A Santander spokesperson told PinkNews: “We are appalled by this act of homophobic vandalism and have reported the incident to the police.

“Reflecting and celebrating diversity is something that is important to us as a bank and we are proud to show our support for the LGBT+ community and our colleagues participating in this year’s Pride events around the UK.” Dublin Pride (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images) Santander has made appearances at several Pride events across the UK , including the Birmingham Pride parade that took place in May.

Lurgan local Councillor Keith Haughian also hit back at the vandalism, which he stated was “driven by hatred.” Cllr Haughian told the Portadown Times : “ATMs outside the Santander bank in Lurgan were smashed because messages of support for Pride were displayed on the screens.

“The bigots then scrawled anti-gay messaging on the machines. This is an attack driven by hatred and the culprits should face the full rigour of the law.” A cashpoint (SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images) Northern Ireland is currently embroiled in a bitter debate over equal marriage, as it is the only part of the UK that currently does not have same-sex marriage.

On Thursday, a cross-party group of Northern Irish politicians gathered at the third regional reception held by PinkNews this summer to debate LGBT+ topics from education to same-sex marriage.

Naomi Long, the leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, said at the event that the lack of LGBT rights and representation in the country was causing “personal suffering” to LGBT people. Naomi Long MLA (Philip Magowan/PressEye for PinkNews) Speaking at the PinkNews summer reception in Belfast, she said: “Things in Northern Ireland are not as they should be for LGBT people.

“Rights are denied, equality is frustrated, and people are suffering personally as a result.”

She then paid tribute to the LGBT community despite the “fundamentally personal nature of the intrusion of denying you the right to marry the person you love.”

Long also criticised the lack of sex education in Northern Ireland and the failure to tackle homophobic bullying.

Floss dancing is helping the LGBT community

Floss dancing is helping the LGBT community

LGBT activists and allies are ‘floss’ dancing to raise money for anti-bullying equality charity Diversity Role Models.

The trend has seen dozens of people flock to the hashtag #FlossWithPride to upload videos of their best dance moves.

But one celebrity has got the wrong end of the stick.

Sinitta attempted to join the trend and a video was posted of her ‘flossing’ as part of the hashtag. However instead of dancing, the singer pretends to floss her teeth. Thanks @sinittaofficial for partaking in the #FlossWithPride for @DiversityRM . NOW you need to nominate 😉 No compatible source was found for this media.

— Amelia-Eve Warden (@ameliaevewarden) June 29, 2018 Other campaigners joined in with the dancing: Throw down your best Floss #FlosswithPride Donate by texting FLSS18 £3 to 70070. All funds go towards @DiversityRM and their work with regional Prides to ensure engagement with young people & schools – I now nominate @RachelShelley @MrDuncanJames Throw down your best #flossdance ! LGBT+ charity @DiversityRM launch #FlosswithPride ! Post your video using #FlosswithPride and TEXT FLSS18 £3 to 70070 to donate to @DiversityRM to ensure we pass the #Pride to the next generation #Pride2018 — DIVA Magazine (@DIVAmagazine) June 29, 2018 Diversity Role Models is a charity that actively seeks to prevent homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in UK schools. Its aim is to stop bullying before it happens by educating young people about difference, challenging stereotypes and addressing the misuse of language.

The floss dance originates from an Instagram-famous American schoolboy known as the ‘backpack kid’.

16-year-old Russell Horning began releasing videos of his dance back in the summer of 2016, but it’s only recently that his dances have gone viral.

Fans of the backpack kid started to copy his moves and the floss became his signature dance.

But his popularity really took off in May 2017 when Horning was invited on to Saturday Night Live to perform his dance alongside Katy Perry when she sang her tune Swish Swish.

Many celebrities have now attempted the dance including Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, Tottenham and England footballer Dele Alli and GMB’s Kate Garraway and Charlotte Hawkins.

Europe migrant crisis: Gruelling EU match ends in a draw

Europe migrant crisis: Gruelling EU match ends in a draw

After the first day of talks Mrs Merkel said differences between states remained The threat of an Italian veto on all agreement at this EU summit concentrated minds – but they were very tired minds by 04:30 local time (02:30 GMT).

The England vs Belgium football match provided an all too brief respite.

The migration deal may be enough to defuse German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s quarrel with her Bavarian CSU allies, who threaten to impose new German border controls. A CSU meeting on Sunday should decide whether her ruling coalition survives.

Mrs Merkel says Greece and Spain have agreed to take back migrants stopped at the German-Austrian border who are proven to have entered their countries first.

Illegal migration is probably Europe’s most divisive issue and the marathon talks reflected that .

The still rather vague wording of the deal reveals how domestic politics is skewing EU policy in this area. Could the migration crisis finish the EU?

Reality Check: Is Italy taking in thousands of migrants?

Merkel’s Bavarian ally threatens migrant mutiny

The deal appears to balance measures to tackle the Mediterranean arrivals with those to tackle the "secondary" migration of asylum seekers, who register in one country and move to another.

But the pledge to set up safe new migrant screening centres in the EU and transit countries looks very ambitious. The leaders did not specify where they would be, nor how much they would cost.

Greek socialist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras lamented that the EU was "deeply divided". "It seems we don’t share the same values," he said, condemning "chauvinist, nationalist forces".

The numbers arriving in the EU are 95% lower than at their peak in October 2015 , the European Council’s summit conclusions note.

That is largely due to the EU-Turkey deal reached in March 2016 and EU naval co-operation with the Libyan coastguard.

But the crisis took a dramatic new twist when Italy’s new populist government, elected on a promise to get tougher on illegal migrants, threatened to scupper this summit. Why is the Aquarius migrant rescue ship empty? Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, new to the political game, was gently mocked when he referred to his skills as a lawyer.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven cited his experience as a welder and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov added: "I am a firefighter."

French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly worked with Mr Conte to persuade the others to accept new "voluntary controlled centres" in EU countries, which would screen newly-arrived migrants.

So Italy won an EU commitment to ease its burden. More than 600,000 migrants have come ashore in Italy since 2014. Its reception centres and those in Greece are overcrowded and generally squalid.

The word "voluntary" is stressed in a convoluted clause about these new centres. The legalistic language reflects the difficulty of getting 28 nations to agree. Reality Check: Who is responsible for migrants at sea?

The Aquarius: Migrant taxi service or charitable rescuers?

Italy still wants mandatory relocation of migrants across the EU, but the Visegrad Group – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland – rejects it. A voluntary arrangement gets round that obstacle.

But the Dublin Regulation, under which the country where a migrant first arrives has to process his/her asylum claim, remains a thorny issue, dividing the EU. Migrant crisis: EU border force Frontex explained Italy was dissatisfied earlier that the EU was focused only on creating "disembarkation platforms" in North Africa. The "platforms" would screen migrants picked up off North Africa, and the EU still aims to establish them, to break the people-smuggling gangs’ business model.

Much uncertainty remains, not least about sending failed asylum seekers back to their countries of origin. The migrant "return" rate is still below 40%.

Far more co-operation with African countries – and aid – will be needed to tackle the deep-rooted poverty driving so many to head for Europe. Braving slavery horrors for European dream

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An Oxfam statement criticised the summit deal, saying member states "continue to try to offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU" and play "political games".

President Macron called the deal a triumph for the EU over "national solutions" . It is evidence that thwarting Europe’s nationalists is part and parcel of EU efforts to tackle migration.