The U.S. military has its first openly gay flag officer with the promotion of Tammy Smith to the rank of Army brigadier general on Friday.
Smith received her stars in a private ceremony at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, according to a press release from the Service Members Legal Defense Network, an organization promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in the U.S. military.
Friday was also the first day she publicly acknowledged her sexuality, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, and that acknowledgement comes less than a year after the military ended the "don't ask, don't tell" policy under which an active-duty service member faced punishment or discharge if he or she admitted being homosexual.
“I don’t think I need to be focused on that," Stripes quoted Smith as saying. "What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”
Smith is serving as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve in Washington. She is a 26-year veteran of the Army and has served in Afghanistan, Panama and Costa Rica as well as stateside assignments.
“It is indeed a new era in America’s military when our most accomplished leaders are able to recognize who they are and serve the country they love at the same time," Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said in a statement.
Smith's spouse is Tracey Hepner, director of operations for the Military Partners and Families Coaliton, an advocacy and support organization for LGBT members of the military.
Hepner presented Smith with her stars at Friday's ceremony.
President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen certified Friday that the U.S. military is prepared to accept openly gay and lesbian service members, and that doing so will not harm military readiness, according to the White House.
Under a bill passed last year that set up a process for repealing the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, all three men needed to sign a certification that confirms the military's ability to accept the integration of openly gay and lesbian troops.
A 60-day waiting period will now begin before the repeal is fully implemented.FULL STORY
The Pentagon is set to certify that the U.S. military is prepared to accept openly gay and lesbian service members, and doing so will not harm military readiness, a U.S. official told CNN on Thursday.
An announcement of that certification - which is required to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy - is likely to come Friday, according to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified.
Under a bill passed last year that set up a process for repealing the controversial policy, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, along with President Barack Obama, have to sign a certification that confirms the military's ability to accept the integration of openly gay and lesbian troops.
Even after certification, there will be a 60-day waiting period before the repeal is fully implemented.FULL STORY
The Obama administration Thursday evening asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its order last week blocking the U.S. military from enforcing its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians serving in the military.
U.S. officials have been moving ahead with dismantling the policy but had objected to having the courts force the government to officially repeal it at this time.
At issue in the complex legal fight is whether "don't ask, don't tell" can remain in effect - even in name only - while the legal fight over its constitutionality is being carried out in the federal courts. Judges have been at odds over the enforcement issue for months.
The case has put the Obama administration in an unusual position of supporting a repeal, but at the same time filing court motions to prevent it from happening faster than planned. Military officials suggest the policy compliance changes eliminating "don't ask, don't tell" could be finished in a few weeks.FULL STORY
Gay rights advocates claimed victory Saturday after an administrative panel in California this week recommended not to discharge an openly homosexual sailor.
Although "don't ask, don't tell" is not repealed, the panel's vote is believed to be the first case in which the military chose not to enforce the controversial policy, according to a gay rights organization.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado, 26, was facing military discharge after a comrade reported that he saw photos posted of the gay serviceman on Myspace kissing another man.FULL STORY
So about that lame-duck Congress.
After midterm elections, predictions abounded that the next few months were going to be brutal in the halls of Congress - with fighting between the GOP and Democrats, fillibusters aplenty and all around disagreement, meaning nothing was going to get done - despite a massive agenda for the Obama administration.
But now, shortly before the holidays, in what many might have said in November would only happen if there were a Christmas miracle, key pieces of legislation have been signed into law, practically back-to-back. Some, such as the DREAM Act, failed a procedural vote in the Senate. The bill would have offered a path to citizenship to some illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children. President Barack Obama called the defeat his "biggest disappointment."
Still, with everything happening so fast, it was blink, and you missed if legislation passed or failed.
So, we figured we'd help you catch up, take a look at where things stand and perhaps re-dub the group of lawmakers many thought couldn't even sit in the same room together as the not so lame-duck Congress after all.
With the coming repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gays and lesbians will be allowed to openly serve in the military. Some say this is a step toward a national policy permitting same-sex marriage, while others have argued there’s a difference between being allowed to openly serve in the military and letting same-sex couples marry.
President Obama was asked about parallels between the two issues in a news conference Wednesday, but what do you think? Leave your comments below!
Concern on Korean peninsula - Tensions rippled across the Korean peninsula as South Korea geared up for its largest land and air winter drills Wednesday. The maneuvers, which are planned for Thursday, are being choreographed in the shadow of the South's reclusive, tough-talking communist neighbor. (Above: South Korean marines patrol on the island of Yeonpyeong near disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on Wednesday.)
The South Korean army said Wednesday that the long-planned live-fire drills will be held just 15 miles from its longtime adversary North Korea, whose nuclear aspirations strike worry in Seoul and in capitals across the world. Meanwhile, North Korea is retaliating for a November artillery attack by launching a "fax attack" on South Korea, an official said Wednesday.
And CNN's Wolf Blitzer reports on his six-day trip to North Korea: "This is a tinderbox. One miscalculation can quickly lead to all-out war and hundreds of thousands of ... casualties."
"Don't ask, don't tell" - President Obama signed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law Wednesday, ending a policy enacted in 1993 that banned openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service. The changes won't be immediate, possibly taking several months to implement, the White House has said.
News of the U.S. Senate's vote to end "don't ask, don't tell" Saturday drew emotional reactions from both sides of the issue, with supporters of the repeal hailing it as a civil rights landmark and detractors calling it a threat to the armed services.
The reaction was loudest from those who supported a repeal of the Pentagon policy, which had officially banned open gays and lesbians from serving in the military for 17 years. Many reserved their praise for Republicans who had crossed traditional party lines to vote for repeal.
"With this vote, we have crossed one of the final hurdles standing in the way of ending the failed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy," said R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans, one of several gay-rights organizations to lead the fight to defeat the policy.
The group praised Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for her leadership in bringing other Republicans across party lines.
"Senator Collins, in particular, has long been the point of the spear in fighting for repeal among Republicans. She showed tremendous leadership in crossing the aisle to make this vote happen, continuing the fight when many thought hope was lost. Senators Brown, Kirk, Murkowski, Snowe and Voinovich also deserve our thanks for taking a principled stand for the integrity of all American service members. "
Former army lieutenant and gay-rights activist Dan Choi, who was discharged from service after publicly coming out in 2009, said the vote sent a message to closeted gays and lesbians that they have the support of the government.
[Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET] Members of the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans openly gay people from serving in the armed forces. With House of Representatives legislators having voted similarly Wednesday, the bill now goes to the desk of President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.
The president will sign the new law next week, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Twitter.
[Posted at 11:51 a.m. ET] The U.S. Senate voted Saturday morning to end debate on whether to repeal the military's policy banning gay men and lesbians from military service.
The 63-33 vote on the cloture motion sets the stage for a direct vote on ending the policy, known as "don't ask, don't tell."
The Senate will hold a final vote on the repeal at 3 p.m.Read CNN's coverage of the 'don't ask, don't tell' debate
Four key GOP senators who have announced their support for a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal are prepared to join Democrats in voting to let the bill proceed, as long as Congress first deals with a measure to fund the government, aides to the four said Friday.
The aides said Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown will vote Saturday to end debate on the ban on openly gay and lesbian people in the military if the Senate passes a stopgap spending bill, a continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
The four have previously said that bill must be approved first.
The Senate is currently working to craft a temporary spending bill, made necessary after Democratic leadership pulled a $1 trillion spending bill after Republicans abandoned their support of it.
The four senators' support for the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal would ensure the 60 votes needed to clear the way for the bill to advance even if Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, votes against it, as is expected.FULL STORY
Elizabeth Smart trial
The jury will resume deliberations Friday morning in the trial of Brian David Mitchell, above at left, a homeless street preacher accused of kidnapping 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002.
After three hours of deliberation Thursday night, the Salt Lake City, Utah, jury will return at 10:30 a.m. ET Friday.
The jurors will decide whether Mitchell, 57, was legally insane when he snatched Smart at knifepoint from her bedroom on June 5, 2002. Smart testified at the monthlong trial that he led her to a makeshift camp in the canyons above her home, "sealed" her as his spiritual plural wife and raped her.
The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic bid to open debate on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning openly gay and lesbian soldiers from military service, possibly killing any chance for it to get passed in the current congressional session.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called the vote without an agreement from any Republican senators to support the motion, ensuring it would fail.
The vote was 57-40 in favor of the cloture motion that required 60 votes
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights says she has a good reason for not attending the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Friday’s ceremony coincides with Human Rights Day, and Pillay is scheduled to host a meeting with human rights defenders in Switzerland, spokesman Richard Colville told Foreign Policy.
Yang Jianli, another Chinese dissident who represents Liu before the Nobel committee, isn’t buying it. He called Pillay's decision not to attend “a clear and unequivocal abdication of her responsibilities as high commissioner.”
He also blasted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for failing to raise Liu’s case when he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao shortly after the Nobel committee’s announcement.
Though Yang claims that the U.N. is buckling to pressure from China, Colville said Pillay – a South African lawyer who got her start defending opponents of apartheid – simply couldn’t bow out of the Swiss event.
According to BBC, 19 countries including China will not attend the ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Forty-four will attend.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu told the BBC that China would not change because of “interference by a few clowns.”
China has mounted a campaign to dissuade nations from attending the ceremony and said through its state-run media that 100 countries back its stance. Xinhua further cited a professor as saying that Liu was a “Chinese criminal [who] challenged China’s judicial authority and interfered in China’s internal affairs."
The Nobel Committee, of course, sees it differently and applauds Liu’s calls for multi-party democracy and human rights reforms.
In other developments this week: Liu’s lawyers said they were prevented from appealing their client’s charges; they say they were also prevented from visiting Liu’s wife, who has been under house arrest since the Nobel announcement; and an Australian-based Chinese dissident was detained in Shanghai en route to Oslo, The Australian reported.
As Congress debates the repeal of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, military chaplains are doing their own soul-searching.
About 3,000 chaplains currently serve in the military, endorsed by a multitude of faiths, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim denominations. It's a unique culture where chaplains of various beliefs serve alongside one another counseling and caring for an equally diverse congregation of armed service members.
"Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about Don't Ask, Don't Tell exists among the chaplains," states the Pentagon report, released last week, on the potential impact of repealing the policy. The report concludes that allowing openly gay or lesbian troops to serve in the military would have little lasting impact on the U.S. armed forces.
Among the issues raised by chaplains, according to the report, is whether a change in policy would hinder ministers' religious expression, particularly for those faiths that consider homosexuality immoral.
"Chaplains who aren't able to proclaim what they believe is true about this issue ... means that the soldier then, the airman, the sailor, the guardian, the Marine aren't able to get the full opportunity to hear religious faiths," retired Army Chaplain Brigadier Gen. Douglas Lee tells CNN.
Leaders of the different branches of the U.S. armed forces gave sharply divergent answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday when asked whether the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy should be repealed, and what the consequences of a repeal might be.
They appeared united, however, in their belief that a repeal would be better handled if ordered by congressional legislation rather than a ruling from the courts.
The strongest resistance to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly came from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, who warned of potentially strong repercussions in terms of unit cohesion.
[Updated at 9:40 a.m.] Top Air Force officer tells Congress Air Force can accommodate repeal but disagrees with military report that short term risk on fighting in Afghanistan would be low.
Gen. Norton Scwhartz recommends delaying full implementation until 2012 to avoid impact on combat.
[Updated at 9:39 a.m.] Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee Friday that he does not support a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
[Posted at 9:35 a.m.] There is "strong potential for disruption at the small unit level" of combat units if the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is repealed, Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos told the Senate Armed Services Committee Friday.
Allowing openly gay and lesbian Marines to serve would "no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat."
WikiLeaks - A U.S.-based domain name provider shut down WikiLeaks early Friday, but the controversial website announced hours later that it had employed a company in Switzerland and was back up.
"WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland," the company said on its Twitter page about 4 a.m. ET. The tweet also provided WikiLeaks' new Web address. U.S.-based domain provider EveryDNS.net shut down WikiLeaks' old Web address early Friday. The company announced that it had to cut its relationship with WikiLeaks because the site had received multiple cyber attacks.
Today we'll be taking a look at the James Bond-esque bunker where WikiLeaks files are kept, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his own words, and what he has to say about the latest document dump when he takes questions from readers from the UK's Guardian.
Don't ask, don't tell - Leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard are expected to speak Friday as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds its second day of hearings on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.