By Matthews and Soguel
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., was allowed to bring her partner, Lauren Azar, on a military flight after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., intervened on her behalf, the Politico reported April 1. Baldwin is the only woman who is openly gay in Congress.
House guidelines permit members of Congress to take spouses on military flights when there is room or when necessary for protocol, but the Defense Department officials balked and did not consider Azar a spouse. Pelosi pressured Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who then granted special permission to Azar to join Baldwin on a fact-finding trip to Europe during the Easter recess. Five other members of Congress went on the trip.
"It's a matter of fairness that spouses should be allowed to go, and she is Ms. Baldwin's spouse," Pelosi spokesperson Brendan Daly told the Washington Post.
The Gates-Pelosi intervention renewed a debate on the definition of "spouse" and on the Pentagon's protocols on same-sex marriage. The Defense Department still prohibits openly gay individuals from serving in the military and generally follows a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Late last month, Baldwin sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice requesting basic protections for lesbian and gay employees in the State Department, including equal travel rights for domestic partners accompanying service officers to postings overseas.
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"Abortion" as a search term had been blocked in POPLINE, the largest reproductive health database, according to an April 2 post by Women's Health News blogger Rachel Walden. The research database is funded by the federal government as a project of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The result is that a person who types abortion in to the database for a keyword search will retrieve no articles on the topic.