Congress Rejects Anti-Trans Military Amendment

An amendment proposed by Republican Missouri congresswoman, Vicky Hartzler was narrowly voted down in Congress today with a 214-opposing to 209-supporting. 24 Republicans joined all 190 Democrats in the vote.

Had the amendment passed, it would have restricted funds available to the Department of Defense to go toward transition-related health care affecting thousands of transgender members of the armed forces and military families. This is in direct action against a Pentagon policy that has been in place since October.

Congresswoman Hartzler argued that taxpayers should not be responsible for transition-related healthcare, including hormone therapy.

Hartzler argued today:

"This is different from somebody going in and having a cold.”

California Representative, Nancy Pelosi took on an opposing stance by saying:

"We owe these heroes an immense debt. The defense bill before us today should be about honoring that responsibility."

In a statement, Executive Director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Matt Thorn said:

“Congresswoman Hartzler’s attempt to strip healthcare from service members and their families in a time of war was unpatriotic, unconstitutional, and just plain vile, we are pleased to see that the House of Representatives voted down this amendment. It would have been harmful to trans servicemembers, spouses, and families with trans children; it would have undermined our mission readiness by degrading our capabilities as a fighting force. OutServe-SLDN will continue to support and defend our trans brothers and sisters in any and all legal and advocacy matters.”

 Nice try, Hartzler!



Net Neutrality Is At Risk

When you log on to the internet, be it on your phone, computer, or other device, you expect to be able to access all websites, applications and content of your choice. As the user, you want to be in control of what you are personally viewing or experiencing. That means if you check your email and then want to check Facebook and then want to peruse your favorite porn sites, blogs or even dating apps—you hope to do so without interruptions or interference. This, my friends, is Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the foundation of internet use that protects our rights to communicate freely online—an internet that preserves our freedom of speech and privileges to all websites and applications without blocking or discriminating the content.

Without Net Neutrality, phone companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon could have the power to place the internet into what they consider to be fast and slow lanes. An Internet Service Provider (ISP) could block or slow down the access to a competitor’s content based on its own opinions or even charge extra fees to access more content—allowing only those who could afford it to view. Like those pesky premium accounts that already exists on apps, but worse!

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was pressured by millions of activists to instate Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet free and open for all—but now the Trump administration and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have threatened to dismantle Net Neutrality.

If this succeeds, access to your internet browsing could be limited or disappear! No more unlimited streaming videos, no more entry to your daily dose of news or even, dare I say it? Reading this post or other Instinct Magazine content, etcetera etcetera.

On July 12thmany of the world’s biggest internet companies came together in protest against the FCC’s attack on Net Neutrality.

Here are how some giants made their voices heard:

Do you want to continue to freely access your favorite websites, apps and content wherever and whenever you want? You can help do your part to battle the regulations of Net Neutrality by sending a letter to the FCC and Congress HERE

Human Rights Campaign Announces Largest Investment In Political Game


The Human Rights Campaign has announced the launch of HRC Rising, a grassroots initiative that will make the “biggest strategic investment” in 37-year history in an effort to influence 2018 senate races. HRC will be allocating $26 million to add a minimum of 20 staffers who will focus on local and state issues, especially in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Nevada—each with top-tier Senate races.

The President of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, says this:

“It’s not enough to resist the hateful policies and attacks coming from the Trump-Pence regime. We’ve got to accelerate the pace of progress toward full equality and secure protections for LGBTQ people in states and communities across the country. That’s why we’re going on offense with the largest grassroots expansion in HRC’s 37-year history. The power and determination of the 10 million LGBTQ voters and our allies across America will only continue to grow stronger in the face of discriminatory attacks on our rights and freedoms."

HRC Rising will also turn to allies, “pro-equality voters” as the election of Trump has created mobilization among these citizens.

Since its establishment in 1980, the HRC has been active in the political game, but since the recent election donations have flooded the organization in support of keeping the LGBTQIA community at the forefront of this movement.




ENDA Passes Senate Committee In 15 - 7 Vote

For the first time since 2002, an Employment Non-Discrimination Act including protections for lesbian and gay Americans came up for a vote in a Senate committee--and passed. The vote also made other applause-worthy history as the Washington Blade reports:

A Senate committee made history on Wednesday by approving for the first time a trans-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and picking up key Republican support from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Lawmakers on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee reported out ENDA by a 15-7 vote after a short period of discussion. No amendments were offered except for a manager’s amendment, although Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he’ll reserve three that he planned for consideration on the Senate floor.

All 12 Democrats on the committee, including lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), are co-sponsors of the bill as well as one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). They each voted in favor of ENDA during the final vote.

NJ Democrats Call For Vote To Override Gov. Christie's Marriage Equality Veto

The marriage equality fight is heating up in New Jersey where top Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a "conscience vote" on Gov. Chris Christie's veto of same-sex marriage. 

The NJ Star-Ledger reports:

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he will hold a vote to override Christie’s veto of a same-sex marriage bill that passed last year, noting that thousands of gay couples in New Jersey will be ineligible for federal benefits unless lawmakers act soon.

But first, Sweeney said, at least a few Republicans have to change their no votes to yes. The Senate president said Christie has intimidated GOP lawmakers, claiming some have privately admitted they would like to change their votes to allow same-sex marriage.

It's not an easy mission for NJ dems. 

To quash Christie’s veto, Democrats have to muster three more votes in the Senate and 12 more in the Assembly to reach the required two-thirds majority.

ENDA Gets A Date With The Senate

The long-awaited Employment Non-Discrimination Act has finally received a date with a Senate Committee. 

Chris Johnson at The Washington Blade reports:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee has scheduled the markup for the LGBT job anti-bias legislation two weeks to the day that the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

Scheduling the vote is first step for Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, pictured) in fulfilling the promise he announced this year to move ENDA out of the committee this year. All 12 Senate Democrats on the panel are co-sponsors of the legislation — in addition to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — so ENDA should have no trouble obtaining approval from the committee.

The Committee will take up ENDA on July 10. 


Obama Argues Over LGBT Rights With African Leader

After significantly declaring that marriage equality should cross state borders in the U.S., President Obama pressed for LGBT rights in Africa—a move that wasn't welcomed with open arms by Senegal's President Macky Sall.

Though the two didn't speak about gay rights during a private meeting at the presidential palace, Obama later said that he respects differing religious views, but finds it important for Africans to embrace equality and nondiscrimination under the law. 

President Sall didn't exactly take the message to heart. 

"We are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality," Sall said. "This does not mean we are homophobic."

Homosexuality remains illegal in 38 African nations, four of which punish the LGBT with death. 

(Image: AP)

Barney Frank Doesn't Want Obama To Sign ENDA Order

If President Obama shattered most experts' expectations and announced that he would sign an executive order banning the workplace discrimination of the LGBT community, openly gay former Congressman Barney Frank would be the first to try to stop him. 


"There’s a lot of attack on him for exceeding executive power and doing things by executive order," Frank told Michelangelo Signorile. "And he’s in a major fight over that about to come now, where he’s about to issue an executive order restricting emissions from power plants."

"And there’s even a danger that this right-wing [Supreme] Court would overturn that as too far," he added. "I would say this: push to take back the House from the right-wing, and if that happens, then we should push for it to be legislated, because if it’s legislated, then it’s for everybody. If we don’t take the House back, then before he goes out of office, he should do it. But I would ask him to...I would want him to hold off now and give us a chance to do this legislatively. But that will depend on the next election.”

Do you agree with Frank? Or does the immediate anti-bias action and the ripple of symbolism that would flow from it at the pen of the president matter more than the risk? 



UPDATE: President Obama Mentions LGBT Rights During G8 Speech In Berlin

Updated 2:45 p.m. est with video

In a G8 speech given by President Obama in Berlin today, LGBT rights played a prominent role. 

Transcript of the LGBT portion:

I'd suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home, for we know from our own histories that intolerance breeds injustice.  Whether it's based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation, we are stronger when all our people -- no matter who they are or what they look like -- are granted opportunity, and when our wives and our daughters have the same opportunities as our husbands and our sons.  (Applause.) 

"When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well," Obama said. "We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness. And as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we're going to have to work harder, together, to bring those walls of division down."

The president also spoke about nuclear reduction in the U.S. and Russia, Guantanamo Bay and climate change in the much-anticipated speech in front of Germany's storied Brandenburg Gate. 



Sen. Lisa Murkowski Is The Third Republican In The U.S. Senate To Support Marriage Equality

On the eve of a possible Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has widened the pool of republican support in the Senate for LGBT couples. 

“This is a hard issue … because marriage is such a deeply personal issue," Sen. Murkowski said in an interview with KTUU. "There may be some that when they hear the position that I hold that are deeply disappointed. There may be some who embrace the decision that I have made. I recognize that it is an area that, as a Republican, I will be criticized for."

“Senator Murkowski’s courageous and principled announcement today sends a clear message that marriage equality must come to all 50 states in this country," HRC President Chad Griffin said via press release. "As the Supreme Court prepares to rule in two landmark marriage cases this month, a growing bipartisan coalition is standing up for the right of all couples to marry—and there is no turning back that tide. We hope other fair-minded conservatives like Senator Murkowski stand up and join her. Alaska may be nicknamed ‘the Last Frontier,’ but we’ve got to make sure that LGBT Alaskans don’t have to wait to find justice.”

Sen. Murkowski's office also released this statement today: 

Not too long ago, I had the honor of nominating an Alaskan family as “Angels in Adoption,” a celebration of the selflessness shown by foster care families and those who adopt children. They arrived in Washington, DC, a military family who had opened their doors to not one child but four siblings to make sure that these sisters and brother had the simplest gift you can give a child: a home together. We had lunch together, and they shared their stories with me. All the while, the children politely ate lunch and giggled as content youngsters do. Given my daily hectic Senate schedule, it’s not often that I get to sit down with such a happy family during a workday – and I think of them often, as everything our nation should encourage.

I bring them up because the partners were two women who had first made the decision to open their home to provide foster care to the eldest child in 2007. Years later – and after a deployment abroad with the Alaska National Guard for one of them – they embraced the joy and sacrifice of four adopted children living under the same roof, with smiles, laughter, movie nights, parent-teacher conferences and runny noses.

Yet despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses. After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room – and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide. This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.

The Supreme Court is set to make a pair of decisions on the topic of marriage equality shortly, and the national conversation on this issue is picking back up. This is a significant moment for our nation when it comes to rethinking our society’s priorities and the role of government in Americans’ private lives and decisions, so I want to be absolutely clear with Alaskans. I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government. When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values. I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values: it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another. While my support for same sex civil marriage is something I believe in, I am equally committed to guaranteeing that religious freedoms remain inviolate, so that churches and other religious institutions can continue to determine and practice their own definition of marriage.

With the notion of marriage – an exclusive, emotional, binding ‘til death do you part’ tie – becoming more and more an exception to the rule given a rise in cohabitation and high rates of divorce, why should the federal government be telling adults who love one another that they cannot get married, simply because they happen to be gay? I believe when there are so many forces pulling our society apart, we need more commitment to marriage, not less.

This thinking is consistent with what I hear from more and more Alaskans especially our younger generations. Like the majority of Alaskans, I supported a constitutional amendment in 1998 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, but my thinking has evolved as America has witnessed a clear cultural shift. Fifteen years after that vote, I find that when one looks closer at the issue, you quickly realize that same sex unions or civil marriages are consistent with the independent mindset of our state – and they deserve a hands-off approach from our federal policies.

First, this is a personal liberty issue and has to do with the most important personal decision that any human makes. I believe that, as Americans, our freedoms come from God and not government, and include the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What could be more important to the pursuit of happiness than the right to choose your spouse without asking a Washington politician for permission? If there is one belief that unifies most Alaskans – our true north – it is less government and more freedom. We don’t want the government in our pockets or our bedrooms; we certainly don’t need it in our families.

Secondly, civil marriage also touches the foundation of our national culture: safe, healthy families and robust community life. In so many ways, sound families are the foundation of our society. Any efforts or opportunity to expand the civil bonds and rights to anyone that wants to build a stable, happy household should be promoted.

Thirdly, by focusing on civil marriage — but also reserving to religious institutions the right to define marriage as they see fit — this approach respects religious liberty by stopping at the church door. As a Catholic, I see marriage as a valued sacrament that exists exclusively between a man and a woman. Other faiths and belief systems feel differently about this issue – and they have every right to. Churches must be allowed to define marriage and conduct ceremonies according to their rules, but the government should not tell people who they have a right to marry through a civil ceremony.

I recently read an interview where Ronald Reagan’s daughter said that she believes he would have supported same-sex marriage, that he would think “What difference does it make to anybody else’s life? I also think because he wanted government out of peoples’ lives, he would not understand the intrusion of government banning such a thing. This is not what he would have thought government should be doing.”

Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way. Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together. I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) were the first two Senate republicans to back marriage equality.