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.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • Zimbabwe elected 28 women into its lower house of assembly in the March 29 presidential elections. President Robert Mugabe’s party narrowly lost its majority in the government, according to unofficial counts, however election results still need to be confirmed. More than 900 women ran for office in Zimbabwe, according to the YWCA, which monitored the voting. Sixty-one women ran for the 60 senate seats, 118 for the 710 parliament seats and 740 for the 1,958 councilor seats. Women’s organizations spearheaded a national "Women Can Do It" campaign to get out the vote and 100 women participated as election monitors.


  • A Saudi Arabian judge for the first time has allowed a 28-year-old woman to marry the husband of her choice despite her father’s opposition, signaling a possible shift away from forced marriages, the Saudi Daily Okaz reported March 31. The nation will also introduce legal assistance centers run by women for women to convey requests to judges, Arab News reported March 31. "We have come up with a mechanism in which women can reach judges without having to mingle with men," said Minister of Justice Abdullah Al-Asheikh in his announcement.


  • Citigroup has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit involving 2,500 female brokers at Smith Barney for $33 million, Reuters reported April 4. The brokers had accused the firm of preventing them from competing fairly with male brokers for new accounts, denying promotions and fair pay, and depriving women of equal training and sales support.

For more information:

Irish Abortion ‘Journeys’ Avoided in Election:

Studies Plumb Depths of Black Maternal Health Woes:

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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.