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Entries in Sexuality (2)

Tuesday
Jul172012

Boy Scouts Reaffirm Ban on Gays

Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images(IRVING, Texas) -- The Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays from joining or being leaders – a decision that’s disappointing gay rights groups.

A special committee of Scout executive and adult volunteers formed in 2010 concluded unanimously that the anti-gay policy was “in the best interest” of the 100-year-old organization.

The Scouts is one of the largest youth organizations in the country with 2.7 million members and more than 1 million adult volunteers.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and son of Iowa lesbians who has been outspoken in the issue, today accused the organization of basing their decision on a committee of "11 unelected, unnamed bureaucrats."

"Why not put out a call and make it a democratic process?" he said to ABC News. "Why have a secretive committee make the decision?"

"I believe the vast majority of Scout families do not support their policy on excluding gays and if that is the case, they picked an awfully interesting way of affirming that in their report," said Wahls.

"It's disappointing," he said. "The first value of the Scout's law, is a scout is trustworthy and this process does not sound trustworthy. We don't know who the people are -- they are not named and they are not willing to accept responsibility for their actions."

But the Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, said that both leaders and Scouts overwhelmingly support the policy.

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

Just this week AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America, said he was committed to ending the ban. He takes over as president in 2012, according to Wahls.

"Things are changing," said Wahls. "He will be one of the three most powerful men in the organization."

The exclusion policy was challenged in 2000, but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Boy Scouts of America, ruling 5-4 that the organization was exempt from state laws that bar anti-gay discrimination.

The court overturned a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court to require a troop to readmit a longtime gay scoutmaster who had been dismissed.

The Girl Scouts of America has had a diversity policy and non-discrimination clause since 1980.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick expressed dismay over the decision.

"With organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Club and the U.S. military allowing gay Americans to participate, the Boy Scouts of America need to find a way to treat all children and their parents fairly," said Graddick in a prepared statement.

"Until this ban is lifted, the Scouts are putting parents in a situation where they have to explain to their children why some scouts and hard-working scout leaders are being turned away simply because of who they are. It's unfair policies like this that contribute to a climate of bullying in our schools and communities. Since when is that a value worth teaching young adults?"

The president of the largest U.S. gay-rights group, Chad Griffin, of the Human Rights Campaign, depicted the Scouts' decision as "a missed opportunity of colossal proportions."

"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec212011

Manning Defense Focuses on Female Alter Ego and Erratic Behavior

Comstock/Thinkstock(FORT MEADE, Md.) -- Bradley Manning's defense team breezed through testimony from the only two witnesses they called Wednesday, setting the stage for closing arguments Thursday that will likely focus on Manning's female alter ego, Breanna, his violent erratic behavior and the leadership failures within Manning's unit.

Manning did not testify or provide a written statement on his own behalf, as part of the Article 32 pre-trial hearing that will determine whether Manning's case will be recommended for a court-martial.

From the start of the six-day hearing, defense attorneys consistently raised the issue of his gender-identity disorder.

Early on Maj. Matthew Kemkes, Manning's military attorney, said raising Manning's homosexuality and his gender identity disorder was important because it would show "what was going on in my client's mind."

Manning is accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks while he was deployed to Baghdad as an intelligence analyst in late 2009 through mid-2010. In 2010, the anti-secrecy website published hundreds of thousands of military battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than a hundred thousand State Department cables.

Prosecution witnesses were routinely asked about whether they knew about Manning's sexuality and alter ego, whom he named Breanna. One Army computer forensic investigator recalled seeing a purchase order for a book on feminine facial surgery from Amazon with billing and shipping information for Manning.

Another investigator said she had seen gender identity documents inside Manning's living quarters in Baghdad, but at the time didn't think they were relevant to the investigation.

Capt. Steven Lim, Manning's commander during his service in Baghdad, testified that it was not until after Manning's arrest that he became aware of an email Manning had sent to his senior enlisting officer. In the April 2010 email, Manning said he suffered from gender identity disorder and included a photo of himself dressed as a woman. Lim said had he known about this email it would have raised red flags for him and would have probably resulted in his being removed from his job and denied access to sensitive information.

As the defense focused on gender identity, the prosecution was quick to point out the training Manning and his co-workers had received prior to security clearance. These included awareness of security protocols that restricted the movement of secure documents outside their classified office; and Manning had to sign a non-disclosure form stipulating classified information must not be disclosed for a period of 80-100 years.

In questioning prosecution witnesses, Manning's defense attorneys also raised the issue of his erratic, violent behavior, which led one superior to conclude he was "a threat to himself and to others." The defense raised questions about why Manning's superior officers allowed him to deploy to Iraq and continue to have access to classified materials.

Former Army specialist Jihrleah Showman said she was "furious" when she saw Manning's name on a deployment roster after two disturbing incidents, prior to the unit's deployment to Iraq, in late 2009.

In one of the incidents, he began to act aggressively, "screaming at the top of his lungs, waving his hands, with saliva coming out of his mouth" at the sight of his the unit's senior ranking non-commissioned officer.

Showman said she recommended that Manning receive an Article 15 non-judicial punishment to deal with a minor infraction, because he "was a threat to himself" and a "threat to others" and had disrespected his superiors. However, to her knowledge, superior officers took no action.

In a separate incident, Manning told her he "constantly felt paranoid" and "felt people were listening to his conversations, felt he could not trust anyone in the unit or around him."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio