TOP 10: Gays began serving openly in U.S. military

DADT

KISSING DADT GOODBYE | Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta, left, kisses her girlfriend, Citlalic Snell, at a Navy base in Virginia Beach, Va., on Dec. 22. According to Navy tradition, one lucky sailor is chosen to be first off the ship for the long-awaited kiss with a loved one. This time, for the first time, the happily reunited couple was gay. (Associated Press)

No 1:

Legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” passed Congress last year and was signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 22, 2010.

But 2011 was the year of implementation.

While other countries that changed policies about gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces recommended a quick implementation, the U.S. chose a slow, methodical approach.

Before repeal went into effect, the defense secretary, chairman of the joint chiefs and president had to certify that the military was ready for implementation.

Among the delays in implementing the repeal was to give the Pentagon time to change regulations and benefits, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Next, training materials had to be prepared and, finally, 2.2 million troops had to be trained. In February, the military announced some of its plans.

The idea of building separate bathroom facilities was rejected and personnel wouldn’t be given the option of refusing to serve with gays and lesbians.

The Navy announced its training schedule to be complete by June 30.

Support for the repeal grew and came from some surprising sources.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld even announced: “We know that gays and lesbians have been serving in the military for decades with honorable service. We know that [repeal] is an idea whose time has
come.”

As implementation progressed, conservative members of Congress continued to try to derail it. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have required all four service chiefs to certify that DADT repeal wouldn’t hurt the military’s readiness.

Another amendment by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss, would require the military to “accommodate” servicemembers who believe that “homosexual or bisexual conduct is immoral and/or an inappropriate expression of human sexuality.”

The Navy previously announced that it would allow same-sex weddings on bases in states where it’s legal.

In May, it reversed course saying that the Defense of Marriage Act precluded it from allowing chaplains to perform marriages for gay and lesbian servicemembers on base.

As certification approached, the Pentagon made it clear that same-sex spouses of military personnel would not be recognized and would receive none of the benefits opposite-sex spouses receive.

On July 22, Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certified that the U.S. military was ready for DADT repeal.

Repeal would be final 60 days from certification.

On Sept. 20 gays and lesbians could serve openly, if not equally, in the military. Members of the military began coming out without fear of expulsion, but those who had same-sex spouses were still not given 40 benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy.

Those benefits include healthcare for the spouse and housing allowances that can be substantial.

Even if the couple has children, the spouse cannot be issued an identification card to get on base with the military member’s child for healthcare and cannot access the base attorney to write wills and other papers normally drawn up before an overseas deployment.

Servicemembers dismissed under DADT began to consider re-enlisting.

Cully Johnson, an owner of Dallas Eagle, said at a Sept. 20 DADT repeal celebration that he would like to return to complete his military career.

Although gays and lesbians can now serve without fear of dismissal or rebuke, the ban on transgenders serving remains in effect.

More than 14,000 men and women were discharged under DADT during its 18-year existence with some estimates of the cost to taxpayers running as high as $700 million.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Anti-gay measures filed in Texas House

Dennis Coleman

As deadline looms, Chisum files bill to give AG more time to intervene in same-sex divorce case; Workman files resolution urging Obama to defend DOMA

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Just before the Texas Legislature’s deadline for filing new bills passed last week, one anti-gay measure and one hostile resolution were filed in the House of Representatives. It was the first time in six years that anti-gay measures have been introduced.

Rep. Paul Workman, a freshman Republican who represents the southwest corner of Travis County, introduced a resolution to urge U.S. President Barack Obama to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. In February, the president directed Attorney General Eric Holder to stop defending DOMA in court.

So far the resolution, known as HCR 110, has no Senate counterpart bill.

Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman said a resolution doesn’t need a committee hearing before going to the floor. The resolution was added to the LGBT lobby group’s tracking list, but Coleman did not express concern.

“So far, we don’t see it as having any traction,” he said.

Rep. Warren Chisum, whose district covers part of the Panhandle and is known as one of the most conservative members of the House, has filed a bill to give the Texas attorney general more time to intervene in same-sex divorce cases.

The move comes after Texas AG Greg Abbott tried to intervene in the divorce of a lesbian couple in Austin but was declared ineligible by an appeals court because he had missed the deadline.

This bill would give that office up to 90 days after a divorce is settled to intervene.

Coleman laughed and said, “It was introduced because [the attorney general] missed the window. We want to give him more time so he doesn’t miss the window again.”

Coleman said that it was interesting that a legislature that was elected to get government out of people’s lives was considering bills that interfered more when it came to the lives of gays and lesbians.

Known as HB 2638, the bill has no co-sponsors and has not been referred to committee yet. A Senate counterpart was not been filed.

Now that the filing period for new bills has ended, Coleman said his organization’s main concern is amendments that could weaken pending legislation or add anti-LGBT measures to other laws.

Anti-bullying bills

Several bills addressing bullying have been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives. But not all those bills have gained ringing endorsements from LGBT activists, while the two that had advocates most hopeful have been stripped of language enumerating protected categories.

Sen. Wendy Davis and Rep. Mark Strama authored identical bills that have been amended and are now known as CS (Committee Substitute) SB 242 and CS HB 224. A House committee has already heard the bill. Coleman said that most of the testimony supported the bill and only two groups spoke in opposition.

Coleman said that as a result of the recent LGBT Lobby Day, Rep. Alma Allen of Houston has signed on as a new co-sponsor. He has spoken to others in both the House and Senate about adding their names.

Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston introduced another anti-bullying bill in the House known as Asher’s Law, in memory of Asher Brown, a Houston 13-year-old who committed suicide last September.

Asher’s Law would mandate creation of suicide prevention programs for junior, middle and high schools. It requires training for counselors, teachers, nurses, administrators, social workers, other staff and school district law enforcement to recognize bullying and know what to do to stop it. A report would be submitted to the legislature by Jan. 13, 2013.

The bill also defines cyberbullying in state law for the first time.

That bill was placed in the public health committee. Dennis Coleman liked that the legislature was treating suicide as a public health issue and thought the bill had a good chance to move to the House floor from committee.

He said legislators favoring anti-bully laws have told him that they need to continue to hear from constituents, especially from teachers and principals.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

High court may issue 1st Prop 8 ruling this week

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

The Prop 8 case may be going to the Supreme Court sooner than expected — sometime this week.

Not the entire case. Just the motion to extend District Judge Vaughn Walker’s stay.

If the 9th Circuit Court opts not to extend the stay, the defendants in the case may take the case to the Supreme Court.

The argument by anti-gay marriage forces is that the stay needs to be extended to protect those who may marry. If the stay is lifted, those people may suffer harm. Nice of them to be so worried.

According to the New York Times, the anti-marriage folks would be facing an uphill battle on this issue, even with conservative members of the Supreme Court.

First, the interveners who’ve defended Prop 8 in the lower courts would have to convince the high court that this is their battle to fight. The state is the named defendant, but California’s governor and attorney general have declined to defend the marriage ban. In his decision last week allowing the stay to expire this Wednesday afternoon, Judge Walker questioned the defendants’ standing.

In the past, conservative members of the high court have taken narrow views about who has standing in appeals. No matter how much Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito may despise the idea of same-sex marriage, allowing this group to appeal the case when the named defendants have declined to do so would go against precedent.

—  David Taffet

Gramick: Equality is a Catholic value

Nun began working toward acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church in 1971

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo
SOCIAL JUSTICE | Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo spoke to a group of Metroplex Catholics at Resource Center Dallas on Aug. 11. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

In 1971, Sister Jeannine Gramick became friendly with a gay man while she was working on her doctorate in mathematics education.

“Sister, what is the Catholic Church doing for gays and lesbians?” he asked her.

She realized the answer was, “Very little.”

That’s when Gramick began working on LGBT issues in the Catholic Church and has since dedicated her career to helping gays and lesbians.

In 1977, Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry, a Catholic social justice center working for the reconciliation of lesbian and gay people and the church. She founded several local Dignity groups and has served on the board of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“I do this because I believe this is what God is calling me to do,” said Gramick, who was in Dallas this week for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious with Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry.

DeBernardo said he came of age after Vatican 2 in the social justice tradition of the church. He said what’s more important isn’t someone’s sexual orientation but that people are not being treated equally.

New Ways helps parishes that want to become more gay friendly and helps them develop strategies to do that.

Gramick said that since she began her work, a number of bishops in the United States have supported her. But more and more conservative members of the clergy have been appointed to higher positions since she first took her vows.

In 1999, the Vatican prohibited her from doing pastoral work with gays and lesbians and the next year she was ordered to stop speaking about homosexuality and about Rome’s investigation into her work.

She refused to be muzzled and continued working tirelessly.

The head of her order was worried that Gramick faced excommunication. She suggested they travel to the tomb of the founder of their order in Munich, Germany, to pray for divine intervention.

They flew from Baltimore to Rome where they changed planes for Munich. On the plane from Rome, she sat next to a man she thought might have been a priest.

That’s where the divine intervention happened.

She interrupted him to introduce herself.

“I’m a nun,” she said and asked if he was with the church.

The man introduced himself as Cardinal Ratzinger. When she told him her name, he joked that he had known her for 20 years,meaning they had a thick file on her and had been investigating her for that long.

Before they landed, the head of her order told the cardinal her concern that Sister Jeannine would be excommunicated.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Gramick said the future Pope Benedict told her. “It’s not that level of doctrine.”

Gramick said that the work of New Ways Ministry is not considered an excommunicatable matter. She noted that despite the Vatican’s position on LGBT issues, no one has been excommunicated for working on gay and lesbian social justice issues.

Although Gramick disagrees with the pope’s position on a number of issues and believes the Vatican still doesn’t understand the impact pedophile priests have had on so many lives, she is gracious in describing him.

She recalls him as a friendly, spiritual, holy man.

“He was praying when I interrupted him,” she said. “He has a good sense of humor.”

She said that meeting him put a human face on the institution.

DeBernardo explained the work of New Ways Ministry. Helping parishes become more supportive of gay and lesbian Catholics is a major focus of the organization. He suggested a number of ways parishes can become more supportive.

“The oppression runs the gamut from silence to violence,” said DeBernardo. “Just breaking the silence is a good way.”

He suggests starting support groups in churches. Some churches have integrated gays and lesbians into their education programs.

“If you’re having a discussion on sexuality, you have to mention homosexuality,” he said. “You can’t ignore it anymore. It’s an important part of the current discussion on sexuality.”

Recognizing the gifts gay and lesbian members bring is another important step. One parish, he said, recognizes a lesbian mom or the mother of a lesbian every Mother’s Day.

He said his approach is not “one size fits all.” What works in one area of the country won’t work elsewhere. What works in one church won’t work in a neighboring parish.

In Maryland, New Ways is experimenting with a new program targeting legislators as well as Catholic grassroots voters.

DeBernardo said support of gay and lesbian issues is strong among the grassroots and among middle managers in the church.

“But bishops get the media,” he said.

The project, that they will bring to other states debating same-sex marriage legislation or other equality laws, helps educate legislators that they will not lose Catholic votes by voting in favor of social justice.

Gramick said that there is a disconnect between the church hierarchy and Catholics in the pews.

She spoke at Resource Center Dallas on Wednesday, Aug. 11, to a group of Catholics from around the Metroplex interested in her work.
A teacher who attended said she was afraid she would lose her job if she helped gay students who came out to her.

Gramick suggested the teacher help her students by teaching the full range of Catholic theologies. While the hierarchy teaches one thing, a vast majority of Catholic writers and theologians teach something else, Gramick said.

A parent of a gay son wanted to know how to help others in her parish and in other parishes around the diocese.

“Baby steps,” DeBernardo suggested.

He said the church puts a strong emphasis on family.

“Catholics are so much about keeping families together and when you have large families, you’ll have gays and lesbians in your family,” he said.

“Church leaders think a lot about sex,” he said. “For people in the pews, while sex is important, they don’t think of it as the primary way of interpreting the world. People know that sex is only one part of their lives.”

Gramick estimated that as many as half of all priests are gay. She said that the Catholics in the pews, however, separate the pedophile priests scandal from homosexuality.

Gramick said that when the scandal first erupted, there was a lot of confusion between sexual abuse and gay priests.

She said that people came to church because they liked their priest and didn’t care about his sexual orientation.

Congregations are showing their independence on the issue, Gramick and DeBernardo said.

One church in Greenwich Village has marched in the New York gay Pride parade for years. This year, New York’s new archbishop told them they could not carry their church’s banner in the parade.

Instead they all wore T-shirts with their church’s logo and carried a blank banner.

“They were on CNN. That was great publicity for the church that was being gay friendly,” Gramick said. “Not so good for the archbishop.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas