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The Dive: Is the Trans Military Ban Really Over? And Is Ellen DeGeneres Part of the #DeepState?

Marilyn Drew Necci | January 5, 2018

Welcome back to The Dive, our weekly column digging through the dirt to find all the LGBTQ news we didn’t get a chance to cover this week. If you’ll put on your oxygen masks, we’ll begin.

The Trump administration has given up on the trans military ban… for now. As in the ending of a horror movie that you just KNOW will have a sequel, the slaying of this monster only appears to be temporary. But for now we can breathe a sigh of relief, as in a Department of Justice statement given to Reuters confirmed earlier this week, the government has abandoned their challenges against several court rulings halting the ban.

Ding dong, the witch is dead! Right? Not so fast — back in September the Pentagon created a panel to study methods of implementing the Trump trans ban. At the time, they had six months during which to complete their study and offer recommendations for a plan back to Trump. They still intend to hit the February 21 deadline for submission of this plan, according the statement from DOJ.

“The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks, so rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the president’s lawful authority in district court in the meantime.”

That means we’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of seven weeks before Trump will have a new plan on his desk from which to proceed. So as many trans people as possible should probably join up now, before the monster rises once again. Be careful, though — as Buzzfeed has found, at least one transgender man has been denied enlistment since the ban was supposedly lifted.

A Washington, DC man Buzzfeed identifies as Parker A. was turned away by recruiters for the Air Force Reserves, who he contacted on January 1. Parker, a 24-year-old American University student who told Buzzfeed he’d been trying to enlist for five years, said, “I was hopeful that all the roadblocks would be leveled and I could be processed. However, to my dismay, they were not.”

Buzzfeed contacted the same recruiting office and spoke to a man who identified himself only as “Dave.” The man confirmed Parker’s account, telling Buzzfeed, “Right now a person who is transgender is not eligible to enter the Air Force Reserve. That is based on our guidance.” Air Force Reserve Command spokesman Col. Bruce Bender later told Buzzfeed that this recruiter was “in error,” and that “we strive to make sure accurate information gets to our contractors, and sometimes information is slow to get to the distant ends, because we work in a bureaucracy.”

So good luck, everyone — it seems you may need it. And if by any chance you or someone you know has trouble enlisting due to their trans status, please let GayRVA know about it. We’ll help in whatever way we can.

Other relevant happenings:

Trump Judicial Nominee Thinks LGBTQ Judges Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Preside Over Cases Involving LGBTQ Rights. Howard C. Nielson Jr. is a Trump nominee to be a judge in Utah’s District Court. And, as with nearly one-third of Trump’s judicial nominees thus far, he holds problematic anti-LGBTQ views that could cause a lot of problems for Utah’s citizens if he is confirmed.

Nielson served as one of the plaintiff’s lawyers in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the 2010 case that decided the fate of Proposition 8, California’s notorious constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state after it had previously been legal. Now some information about Nielson’s conduct in that case has been released as part of a report by Alliance For Justice, which sheds some light about his retrograde views.

As if the mere fact that he was defending Proposition 8 in court wasn’t damning enough, at one point Nielson argued that Northern California District Court judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Proposition 8 violated the Constitution should be vacated on the grounds that Walker himself is gay. The motion that Nielson filed in favor of the ruling being vacated stated that Walker “had a duty to disclose not only the facts concerning his relationship, but also his marriage intentions.”

Nielson went on to state in the motion that only if Walker “unequivocally disavowed any interest in marrying his partner could the parties and the public be confident that he did not have a direct personal interest in the outcome.” That motion was eventually denied, but it is only one of several anti-LGBTQ statements made by Nielson during the Hollingsworth v. Perry proceedings. He also argued that homosexuality could be a choice, and “disputed the effects of discrimination on LGBTQ individuals, such as increased rates of depression and attempted suicide,” according to the Alliance For Justice report.

Nielson also filed a brief in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the outcome of which granted marriage equality at the federal level. One guess which side Nielson’s brief supported. There’s more to Nielson’s hateful record, but really, why belabor the point any further? At the moment, Nielson’s nomination is pending review by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Needless to say, Alliance For Justice opposes his confirmation. Let’s hope they get their wish.

Illinois outlaws the “gay panic” defense. This is pretty excellent, if long overdue — effective January 1, Illinois became the second US state to ban the “gay panic” defense for murder, in which a person claims that their instinctive horror at discovering a person’s sexual orientation in conjunction with a perceived sexual advance inspired a “passionate involuntary response such as murder,” according to the Associated Press. The most infamous example of someone whose killers attempted to use the “gay panic” defense is that of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. The amendment’s wording mentions “a person’s sex or sexual orientation,” meaning that the law will also apply to the closely related “trans panic” defense, which was successfully claimed by trans teen Gwen Araujo’s killers.

Illinois joins California in banning this particular defense tactic against murder charges. Sadly, the other 48 states in the union, including our great(?) state of Virginia, have no laws on the books about it. It’d be nice to see that changed soon…

#dougjones #swearingin #washingtondc #capitol #wemadeit #nocaptionneeded

A post shared by Carson Jones (@thedapperzookeeper) on

Carson Jones gets the last laugh. We told you last week about how Roy Moore supporters had a lot of nasty things to say once Moore made them aware via Facebook of Doug Jones’ son Carson’s interview with the Advocate. Since then, the elder Jones has taken the oath of office and become an official United States Senator. But what got the entire queer internet talking over this past week was the photo Carson Jones posted on his instagram, of himself right beside his dad during the swearing-in ceremony, looking daggers at Vice President Mike Pence.

As we all should know by now, Pence has a long history of anti-LGBTQ statements and political positions; Donald Trump has even joked that where LGBTQ Americans are concerned, Pence wants to “hang them all!” The younger Jones tweaked Pence in multiple ways during his father’s swearing-in ceremony, not only capturing some truly glorious side-eye via social media but also wearing a rainbow flower pin provided to him by the group DC Homos. He didn’t manage to get the pin into any photos, but he did post it on instagram, from which it was captured and tweeted by DC Homos.

One final note, re: Pence — this week he apparently had to deal with some of the neighbors at his Colorado vacation spot hanging up a huge banner reading “Make America Gay Again.”

Awesome. And finally…

Does Eric Trump think Ellen DeGeneres is part of the #DeepState? Or does he just not know how to crop a screen shot? As funny as the former would be, I’m guessing it’s the latter. The way this whole kerfuffle has been reported, with headlines like “Eric Trump Tweets Bizarre Conspiracy Theory About Ellen DeGeneres,” you might think the President’s second son went full Alex Jones on twitter. What’s next — will he say George Clooney is an alien?

Once everyone stopped laughing and actually looked at the Trump Organization VP’s tweet, it seemed clear that allegations like this were a tad bit overblown.

Having said that, it’s clear that this is a screen shot Trump took to point out that twitter is recommending he follow politicians he bitterly opposes… and also Ellen DeGeneres. Shouldn’t he just have cropped Ellen out of the screen shot? Or is it that he finds her being suggested to him just as sinister due to her membership in the LGBTQ community? And what’s this #deepstate thing — does he not realize that twitter’s bots are mainly just pulling this kind of info from terms that show up in his tweets?

If you ask me, Eric Trump isn’t crazy… just kinda stupid. He could have saved himself a lot of roasting by just cropping the screen shot differently. Maybe he’s learned a lesson from all this. All I know for sure is that Ellen DeGeneres’s response to Trump’s unintended-or-maybe-just-dumb implications was hilarious. “I have my gay agenda meetings on Mondays,” she said on her show. “On Wednesdays, Beyonce and I host an Illuminati brunch. And then on the weekends Portia and I are desperately trying to have a baby.” Watch the whole thing here.

That’s all for this week — check with us again next Friday to see how much extra news I can cram in before I pass out from exhaustion.

PS — Congrats to Ellen Page on her marriage to girlfriend Emma Portner. And our condolences to all the heartbroken roller derby girls out there. ;)