SLDN: ‘The job is not done’

Aubrey Sarvis

This open letter addressed to servicemembers, the LGBT community and allies just came across from Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran who serves as executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

Dear Friend,

With the President signing legislation into law that provides a pathway to repeal, the SLDN family and greater LGBT community, along with our allies, should be proud of the role each person played in making history. But the job is not done.

Troops remain at risk under the law. Our service member hotline has not silenced. Since the President signed legislation, 135 service members and veterans have contacted our legal team for help. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will remain the law until certification and the 60-day implementation period have been completed.

While a measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay and lesbian veterans who served in silence – the uncertainty and fear in the ranks remains. Our mission and our services will continue: securing the freedom for all qualified to serve in the U.S. military with equality of treatment and opportunity.

We all know there is vital work unfinished.

—  John Wright

Obama to sign bill that DOES NOT immediately repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on Wednesday

SLDN provided this image from Saturday’s ‘NBC Nightly News’ to illustrate how media outlets are incorrectly reporting that DADT has been repealed.

President Barack Obama will sign the bill that outlines a path for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” in a ceremony at the Department of the Interior, at 9:15 a.m. Eastern (8:15 Central) on Wednesday. However, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is reminding folks — and especially the media — that even after Obama signs the bill, the law will remain in effect for an unknown period of time.

“We need the media’s help to let troops know they remain at risk under the law even after the President signs the bill,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in an e-mail statement this morning under the subject line “URGENT: Media warning ….”

“The Pentagon just released new guidance that made clear ‘Don’t Ask’ may still be the law for some time to come,” Sarvis said. “We respectfully renew our call for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations during this limbo period. Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day implementation period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law. Certification and the implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011. The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted.”

SLDN says LGBT servicemembers with questions should call 202-328-3244 ext. 100 to speak with a staff attorney.

For more on the process for repealing DADT, see this story from the Washington Post.

—  John Wright

DADT update: Discharged vets file lawsuit; standalone repeal bill up to 40 sponsors

Mike Almy, a highly trained communications officer who served in the Air Force for 13 years, is one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Three veterans discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” filed a lawsuit earlier today against the government (read the filing here). The lawsuit brought by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network seeks reinstatement as well as a ruling declaring the 17-year-old policy unconstitutional and unenforceable anywhere. And needless to say, the lawsuit is aimed in large part at putting pressure on Congress to repeal the 17-year-old policy during the lame duck session. The Associated Press reports:

The legal action came four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced a standalone measure, but it’s uncertain if it will be brought for a vote before the Senate and House adjourn for the holidays.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said the lawsuit was meant as a warning to lawmakers that if they don’t act to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the courts could step in and order an integration timetable that is less to the Pentagon’s liking.

“If the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively,” said Sarvis, whose group coordinated the lawsuit and prepared it with lawyers from a private law firm.

“From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the standalone bill that would repeal DADT now has 40 Senate co-sponsors, but only one of them is a Republican, and that’s Collins. A vote on the bill could come later this week or early next week, assuming the Senate sticks around that long.

We’ve contacted the offices of Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to inquire about how they plan to vote on the bill, as if we don’t know already. But as of this post, we had received no response. Hey, anyone planning a sit-in?

—  John Wright

Reax to Pentagon report on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

Here are some reactions to the Pentagon study on “don’t ask don’t tell” released this afternoon. We’ve posted the full text of the study below.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:

“This issue has been studied for fifty years, including by the military itself, and the results from over twenty-two studies are uniform: open service does not harm effectiveness. The small handful of Senators blocking repeal no longer have any fig leaves behind which to hide. The time for repeal is now. …

“America’s men and women in uniform are professionals who already serve with gays and lesbians and repeal will do nothing to change their dedication to protecting our nation,” said Solmonese. “Senators who said they want to hear from military leaders and troops now have their answers.  Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will allow every qualified man and woman to serve without sacrificing the high standards that have made our military great.”

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson:

“This thorough and comprehensive report makes clear to lawmakers and the American people once and for all that the U.S. military is capable of handling the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The questions are now answered and the debate is now settled. It’s now up to the Senate to bring the defense authorization bill back to the floor, allow 10 to 20 amendments to be debated on each side, and get this bill passed. We have the votes now if the process is fair.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“This exhaustive report is overwhelmingly positive and constructive. The Pentagon validated what repeal advocates and social scientists have been saying about open service for over a decade. Still, some initial resistance may come from one or more of the service chiefs — the very leaders who will be charged with  implementing this change. Those chiefs will need to salute and lead in bringing about this needed change. Fortunately, the chiefs have already made it clear they will do precisely that if Congress acts. Now, it’s up to the Senate to make repeal happen this year.”

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Judge denies government’s request to resume enforcement of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

As expected, a federal district judge in California on Tuesday denied the government’s request to delay her injunction from last week halting the military’s enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

The Associated Press reports:

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued her ruling Tuesday after saying the government had not proven that her order would harm troops or impede efforts to implement new military regulations to deal with openly gay troops.

Justice Department officials say the Obama administration will appeal to the appellate court in San Francisco.

The military has promised to abide by her order as long as it remains in place.

Phillips declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional Sept. 9. Under the 1993 law, the military cannot inquire into service members’ sexual orientation and punish them for it as long as they keep it to themselves.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, issued the following statement in response to Phillips decision Tuesday to deny the government’s request:

“By the judge keeping the injunction in place, lesbian and gay service members are protected another day, but the uncertainty has not gone away. The Department of Justice will immediately ask the 9th Circuit to stay the injunction. We’re talking about the careers of patriots, people who are on the frontlines serving our country – some of whom are highly decorated – and the court needs to keep the injunction in place. As the DOJ fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients’ cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline. During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out. Our service members need finality. Given the uncertainty in the courts, we urge the Senate to act swiftly next month on repeal when they return to Washington.”

Below is the full text of Phillips’ ruling:

LCR v USA – ORDER Emergency Stay Denied

—  John Wright

SLDN advises caution despite Pentagon announcement; Dan Choi attempts to re-enlist

Despite the Pentagon’s announcement Tuesday that military recruiters have been told they must accept gay applicants, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network continues to advise caution.

“During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law is rooted in any statement of homosexuality made at anytime and to anyone. A higher court is likely to issue a hold on the injunction by Judge Phillips very soon. The bottom line: if you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon. As the DOJ fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients’ cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline. Given the uncertainty in the courts, we urge the Senate to act swiftly next month on repeal when they return to Washington.”

Of course, if you’ve already been discharged for being gay, you don’t have much to lose. Among those who plan to try to re-enlist in the wake of the Pentagon announcement is Lt. Dan Choi, according to his Twitter feed:

—  John Wright

Reid: Senate will take up DADT repeal next week

John Wright  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday, Sept. 13, that he plans to bring to the floor next week the 2011 defense spending bill that includes an amendment to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell.” But it remains unclear whether there are enough votes to break a possible Republican filibuster of the bill or stave off unfriendly amendments.

Reid’s plan, first reported by The Washington Blade, represents a major breakthrough for repeal advocates, who fear that if the Senate doesn’t take up DADT repeal next week, it may not happen for several years.

Anti-repeal Republicans are widely expected to pick up seats in mid-term elections, and some senators have indicated they would consider only a temporary defense spending bill during the lame-duck session at the end of this year.

“We are both pleased and relieved that Sen. Reid has decided to schedule the defense authorization bill for floor time next week,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and executive director of Servicemembers United. “We are fairly confident that we will have the 60 votes to break a filibuster of this bill. It would be shameful for lawmakers to vote to hold up an important and expansive piece of legislation like the defense authorization bill simply because of their opposition to one or two provisions within it.”

Servicemembers United and other groups advocating for DADT repeal had launched a major push in recent weeks, pleading with people to call their senators and urge them to take up the bill. Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of a federal judge’s landmark decision last week declaring the military’s ban on open service unconstitutional, as well as some high-profile DADT repeal advocacy from the likes of Lady Gaga.

“We applaud the Senate Majority Leader’s courage and his statement to bring the defense bill to the floor. Now, we must deliver,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Repeal proponents may well need 60 votes in the Senate to get to this important debate in September.  We are now in the final stretch and we must prevail. Repeal supporters should not stop calling their senators. Sen. John McCain has been a strong and vocal opponent from the start and it is critical that we beat back any filibuster threat, defeat attempts to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments.”

The House passed the defense authorization bill, including Rep. Patrick Murphy’s DADT repeal amendment, in May. Even if the Senate passes the bill, the policy wouldn’t be repealed right away. After the Pentagon completes a study of the impacts of repeal, due Dec. 1, the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that repeal won’t hurt military readiness.


—  John Wright