DADT activist Dan Choi to speak at UNT Feb. 6

0000004401216004555101740Former Army Lt. Dan Choi, an officer-turned-activist after he was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is coming to Texas to speak at the University of North Texas on Feb. 6 for its Distinguished Lecture Series.

In 2009, Choi announced that he is gay on The Rachel Maddow Show and he was later discharged. Afterward, he became one of the most well-known faces of the fight to repeal DADT.

Choi will speak at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 in UNT’s Auditorium Building, located at 1401 W. Hickory St. The event will include remarks from Choi, as well as a question and answer session.

Tickets for the public are $10 and can be purchased online or in person at the Stovall Temporary Union Building Information Desk or by calling 940-565-3805.

—  Dallasvoice

DADT ends, but discrimination continues

Dan Choi being arrested at the White House while protesting DADT.

The Dallas celebration of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” begins at 5:30 p.m. today at Resource Center Dallas.

Although the policy to discharge any member of the military suspected of being gay or lesbian has ended, discrimination has not. That discrimination may take a number of forms, including refusal to promote. Benefits will also not be equal. The military will not recognize same-sex spouses so gay and lesbian families will not receive any benefits including housing and health benefits. And transgender service members are still barred from open service.

But the discriminatory policy toward gays and lesbians has ended, and President Barack Obama issued a statement today:

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Full-page ad in El Paso newspaper calls gays ‘putrid,’ ‘depraved’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-gay Catholic priest took out a full-page ad (right) in the El Paso Times over the weekend calling gays “immoral,” “putrid” and “depraved.” The ad, taken out by Friar Michael Rodriguez of El Paso’s San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, has since been removed from the newspaper’s website, according to The Advocate, which contacted the newspaper about its advertising policy but didn’t hear back. It’s hardly surprising that the EPT ran this ad. In fact, it may represent an improvement since the newspaper used to give Rodriguez free space to spout his hatred. Just last year, the EPT published an op-ed piece in which Rodriguez compared homosexuality to rape and said those who don’t actively oppose gay rights are damned to hell.

2. Army Lt. Dan Choi’s federal trial continues today in Washington, D.C. Choi, who’s charged with disobeying police orders, was arrested for handcuffing himself to the White House fence last November during a protest of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He faces up to six months in jail. People arrested for protesting at the White House normally face local misdemeanor charges. But Choi’s attorneys claim he’s being treated differently because he’s a prominent gay-rights activist.

3. A 21-year-old cannibal in Russia is accused of using the Internet to lure a gay man to his home for sex, then stabbing the victim to death before cutting up his body and eating it, according to Ria Novosti, an English-language Russian news site: Investigators believe the killer became acquainted with his victim via the internet, and lured him in sexually. “According to preliminary information, one of them was seeking a sexual partner. The accused explained later that such people are not open, and they prefer to hide their contacts”, Murmansk Investigation Committee chief Fyodor Bludenov said. “The accused stabbed the man a few times, and after having assured himself that the man was dead, he cut up his body and ate him,” the Investigation committee said in a statement.

—  John Wright

Disappointed in Dan Choi

Dear Lt. Dan Choi,

When I attended the National Equality March in October 2009, I went with hopes of being inspired, becoming more informed, and a fire to fuel my college town and the city where I came out, which has been plagued as one of the most conservative cities in the nation. While gathering for the march to the nation’s Capitol, I was awestruck by the thousands of people who surrounded me. Queer college students from Connecticut, various gay couples who had been together for many years in a partnership that is not legally recognized, children with their same-sex parents, out of the closet, in the closet, Texans, Mexicans, Blacks, Asians, veterans, and even dogs donning rainbow attire. I no longer felt alone in my passion for fighting for what is right. I met people who had, like myself, scrounged together money to be able to attend such a momentous and life-changing event. I was 19 years old, in college, and ready to begin my journey to changing the world.

That day, I heard Cleve Jones speak. “We don’t organize to march, we march to organize.” he said. That sentence impacted me tremendously. He had just given me a huge responsibility. He told me that the fight didn’t stop on the grassy lawn of the Capitol. He forced me to make my scope of reality wider and bigger than I had anticipated. This wasn’t about me being at the National Equality March. This wasn’t about marching with 155,000 people who wanted the same thing as I did. This was about me going back to my small, conservative college town and creating my own movement. I took his words to heart, but I still wasn’t sold.

I was sitting on the ground when you began speaking. Then I heard you say, “But of all those things that are worth fighting for, love is worth it. Love is worth it!” I got goosebumps and immediately rose to see you speak, despite my exhaustion. As you were finishing, I had tears in my eyes. What you said impacted me more than any other speaker that day. I had then decided that I was in undeniable agreement with you — that love was worth it. Love was worth what were to be sleepless nights, three-hour conference calls, upsetting those who didn’t want change, inspiring those who did, and growing into myself all at the same time. Because of you, I decided that love was worth traveling to places to participate in demonstrations and protests when I couldn’t afford it, holding people in the movement accountable for their actions, educating those who were ignorant, and loving those who hate. After all, no amount of money can equate to love, right?

Since the march, I watched your speech over and over again to the point of memorization. For a long while, people would ask me why I am an activist, and I would say simply, “Because love is worth it.” Since that march, I began the arduous journey to get you to speak at my school, Texas Tech University. While speaking to your extremely rude agent, hype began to spread about your appearance. People were excited, and I just knew with my entire being that if I could get you to speak to the people I help every day, a fire would be lit in the queer community of Lubbock, Texas. To me, the mere hope of reaching out to those who meet my words with deaf ears was worth putting up with your agent and the exorbitant amount of $10,000 to get you out here. I never for a moment questioned why it was that much, or why you were charging anything at all.

I had the privilege of speaking during an event to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in Dallas. I spoke to the marchers with intensity and all of the passion I had. I made sure they felt every word to the core just as I did when I heard you speak. I ended with telling them to, “Own their own truth.” Many have wondered what that means. I’ll explain it as this: Owning your own truth is holding yourself accountable as a participating person for the progress of the movement. Owning your truth can start by coming out, loving yourself, loving others like you and who differ from you, and progressing to sacrificing and putting together events for the movement for equality.

Make sure you read the definition of owning your own truth carefully.

About a month ago, after nine months of dealing with your agent, I received an e-mail directly from you. In short, you basically said that the only way I could get you to speak is if I raised enough money to bring you to Tech. No deals, no compromises, end of story.

Sir, before I say my point, I want to say that I respect you as a servicemember and war veteran of this country. My brother graduated from the Air Force Academy a year after you graduated from West Point, and I have the utmost respect for both of you for that. I appreciate your service and risking your life to protect mine.

However, I’ve lost all respect for you as a gay- and human-rights activist. In the course of my two short years as an activist in the communities I have lived in, I have met amazing people such as Irene Andrews, C.d. Kirven and Michael Robinson, who travel from city to city, state to state with their own money and ask NOTHING from those who request their speaking services. These people, like myself, live, breath and eat queer activism. They live to inspire others. They live to show the compassion of love to others. They have not lost sight of what is truly important here: equality for all.

You, sir, have lost sight in one of those many $10,000 checks written to you, of why you came out and became an activist in the first place. Remember, Lt. Choi? LOVE IS WORTH IT. LOVE is worth cutting a deal to poor college kids in an extremely conservative city who’s only desire is to make headway in their community. LOVE is worth sacrificing money to give my friends and others who are currently serving in silence the hope to remember they are worth it. Love isn’t made by money. Love isn’t made by your agent, Alec Melman. Love isn’t tangible when you’re suffocated by greed as you are. Love is constantly flowing through the heart and brain. Love is giving. Love isn’t defined by financial status, color, gender, creed, age or sexual orientation.

Your definition of love is no longer my definition of love.

So, I ask you, Lt. Choi: Own your truth. Hold yourself accountable for your actions. Look at what you preach and see if it matches your actions. Think about when you were my age, just going into West Point, and feeling alone next to your brothers and sisters. Remember Matthew. Remember Irene, C.d. and Michael. Remember me. Remember those 155,000 people who heard your words. After you do that, think about those in Lubbock, Texas, and other cities who couldn’t “afford” you and how you could have changed their lives.

This is about love, sir. Not money.

Best,
Nonnie Ouch

Texas Tech University
Gay-Straight Alliance
President
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1515030199

—  John Wright

DADT trial begins; questions linger about troop survey

Testimony under way in court case brought by Log Cabin Republicans

Prosecutors dropped all charges Wednesday, July 14 against Lt. Dan Choi and James Pietrangelo, two of the gay soldiers shown above who chained themselves to the White House fence to protest DADT. For a full story, go here.

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

While most people who are concerned about eliminating the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” law are focused on a bill in Congress and a survey by the Pentagon, there is important action elsewhere — in a federal district court in Riverside, Calif.

It is there, in the U.S. District Court for Central California, that Judge Virginia Phillips opened proceedings Tuesday, July 13, in a bench trial to hear a class action lawsuit against “don’t ask don’t tell.”

Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S. is to the federal law banning gays from the military what Perry v. Schwarzenegger is to the state law banning gays from obtaining marriage licenses. It is a days long trial examining the history of the law, the injury it has caused, and the likelihood that animus is its motivation.

The plaintiff is the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), a national gay political group, who says many of its members are being denied their constitutional rights. The group specifically identifies two members: Alexander Nicholson, a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence officer who was discharged under DADT and now serves as head of Servicemembers United; and John Doe, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves concerned he may face discharge under the policy.

The U.S. Department of Justice has tried repeatedly to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming LCR has no legal standing to serve as plaintiffs. It also tried to have the judge decide the case without hearing testimony from LCR’s witnesses. And it tried to have the judge “stay”— or postponement — the lawsuit, arguing that Congress has a measure pending that could significantly affect the DADT law.

But in an important victory July 6, Phillips ruled against the government on all three points. She said LCR was entitled to a trial and entitled to put on witnesses. She ruled that against a postponement, saying that it would be “speculative” to assert that the DADT repeal measure before Congress “will ultimately be included as part of the final defense authorization bill.” And, even if the DADT repeal is retained within the defense authorization bill, she said, repeal of the law is still conditioned on various certifications.

“In other words,” wrote Phillips, “the currently contemplated legislation, were it to become law, would not result in imminent repeal of the DADT Policy. Given the many contingencies involved—including the threshold contingency of Congressional approval—and the lack of clear timelines, any ultimate repeal that may result from this legislation is at this point remote, if not wholly speculative.”

Phillips also — importantly — ruled last year that DOJ must show — not just a rational reason to justify DADT but — an “important” reason. While a “rational” reason could be just about anything, requiring an important reason makes it harder for the federal government to defend the law.

Phillips’ pre-trial rulings have not all been in favor of Log Cabin. In one, she indicated she would not hear the group’s claim that DADT violates the equal protection guarantee.

The legal questions that remain during the trial this week are whether DADT violates the constitutional guarantees to free speech and due process of law. And the question of free speech is, in this case, limited. Judge Phillips said she would consider DADT’s implications on speech other than statements “regarding homosexuality as evidence of his or her propensity to engage in homosexual acts.”

Phillips, 52, was appointed to the federal bench in 1999 by President Clinton, who signed DADT into law in 1993. LCR filed its lawsuit against the policy in 2004.

On the witness stand today, according to LCR lead attorney Daniel Woods, were Terry Hamilton, chairman of the LCR national board; Jamie Ensley, president of the Georgia LCR chapter; Philip Bradley, LCR member; and Nathaniel Frank, author of a book about the military’s policy on gays, called Unfriendly Fire.

According to a prepared statement published on blogcabin.net, an LCR blog, Woods called DADT “one of the most pressing civil rights issues in our great country today.”

But interest in the case would not prove that point. Except for a few Twitter reports from The Advocate and an LGBTpov.com blog entry from Karen Ocamb, news editor for Frontiers in LA magazine, there was relatively little coverage of the case. And compared to the media frenzy around the Proposition 8 case in January, and its closing arguments in June, LCR v. US is proceeding in virtual obscurity.

A Twitter report from The Advocate indicated that, among general circulation media, only Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times had reporters in the courtroom Tuesday. But by the end of the day, the Los Angeles Times had run the Associated Press story, which provided few details about Tuesday’s courtroom proceedings. Neither of the two national organizations working for repeal of DADT had any mention of the lawsuit on their websites Tuesday, nor did any of the national gay legal or political organizations. Even Blogcabin.net ran only attorney Woods’ prepared opening statement.

What has captured considerable media attention concerning DADT during the past several days is a “survey” the Pentagon sent to about 400,000 active duty servicemembers asking such questions as, “If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you are assigned to bathroom facilities with an open bay shower that someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian Service member also used, which are you most likely to do?” With this question, the survey gave servicemembers several possible answers to choose from, including “use the shower at a different time” and ask a leader for “other options.”

Servicemembers United, a national organization of gay and lesbian servicemembers, harshly criticized the survey as “biased” against gay servicemembers. Executive Director Nicholson said the survey used “derogatory and insulting wording, assumptions, and insinuations.”

The survey repeatedly uses the clinical one-dimensional term “homosexual,” and even misstates the law itself, saying that it requires separation from the service of a servicemember who “is found to have engaged in, or attempted to engage in, homosexual acts.” The law, in fact, calls for discharge of a servicemember who “demonstrates a propensity” to have sex with a person of the same gender, and a servicemember who simply says, “I am gay” is considered to have such a propensity.

In a telephone conference call with reporters Friday, July 9, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell defend the survey, saying its purpose was not to be a referendum on DADT but “a confidential conversation” between the Pentagon DADT working group and “a large representative sample” of servicemembers.

And, in fact, one could “read” the survey as a tactic common among political surveys—providing to servicemembers some ideas about how to handle situations involving gay servicemembers. For instance, with the shower facility question, the six multiple response choices are: “Take no action,” “Discuss how we expect each other to behave and conduct ourselves while sharing a room, berth or field tent,” “Talk to a chaplain, mentor, or leader about how to handle the situation,” “Talk to a leader to see if I have other options,” “Something else,” and “Don’t know.” (If a servicemember chooses, “Something else,” the survey prompts him or her to “specify” what that is.)

But in clarifying the purpose of the questions about sharing bathroom and sleeping facilities, Morrell they were intended to determine whether the large scale group expressed the same concerns as did servicemembers participating in 30 focus group discussions on the topic. He said they would also direct the Pentagon’s efforts in being able to “devise a solution” to problems that are perceived to be widespread concerns.

“If we avoided these questions and proceeded with a repeal, and proceeded with an implementation that didn’t address this potential problem, we wouldn’t be doing our job,” said Morrell. “Because the [Defense] secretary’s attitude about this is he thinks this change should be made, but he’s insisting that it be done smartly.”

That latter statement from Morrell was the first time a Pentagon official confirmed that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is himself in favor of repealing DADT. Gates’ public statements, thus far, have been carefully worded to indicate “support” for the president’s decision to repeal DADT and have not stated explicit support for repeal of DADT.

—  John Wright

Dan Choi ends DADT hunger strike

Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo have reportedly ended the hunger strike they began last Thursday over “don’t ask don’t tell.” Here’s the statement posted Wednesday night on Choi’s website:

“Friends,

“The fast of the past seven days has been a success because people have been educated to the use of fasting as a tool to bring attention to a set of clear political and social demands.

“Tonight, we will end the fast knowing that the inadequacies of the ‘compromise’ to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are well known. Our quest to end the discharges, stop the insulting study, and institute a non-discrimination policy is not over. In the coming weeks, we will prepare to resume our fast and will provide many ways for those who believe in uncompromising justice to join us.

“On a personal note, we have learned a great deal about the proper planning involved in fasting. We appreciate the concerns that many have expressed. When this fast is resumed, we will be using the proper safeguards to ensure our health is properly attended to. Everyone that considers fasting for an extended period of time must also take proper precautions.”

—  John Wright

DADT update: Senate panel may debate repeal in open session Thursday afternoon

Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate reports via Twitter that a Democratic aide has told her the Senate Armed Services Committee will take up the proposed repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” Thursday afternoon in an open session. The committee initially planned to consider an amendment that would repeal the ban on open service in closed session, Eleveld says. Think Progress’ Wonk Room is reporting that the open session has been requested by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who’s threatening to join a Republican filibuster of the repeal if it makes it out of committee to the floor. McCain wants this afternoon’s committee proceedings to be televised.

Meanwhile, Keen News Service is reporting that a House debate on the DADT repeal likely won’t take place until Friday.

And finally, DADT repeal advocates Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. James Pietrangelo have announced a hunger strike. Here’s their press release:

FASTNG FOR EQUALITY & DIGNITY STATEMENT BY DAN CHOI

Immediately following congressional mark-ups on the National Defense Authorization Act 2011, Captain James Pietrangelo and I will commence a fast in pursuit of Equality and Dignity. We have three demands of President Barack Obama.

DEMAND #1: End the Comprehensive Working Group “Study,” which insults the dignity of all Americans.

DEMAND #2: End “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” discharges forever.

DEMAND #3: Replace all discriminatory regulations in the military with a comprehensive non-discrimination policy.

Choi added in a Twitter post that, “Some are prepared to spend Memorial Weekend in prison.”

For the latest Associated Press story on the DADT repeal, go here. Stay tuned to Instant Tea throughout the day for updates.

—  John Wright

Mark Reed reflects on arrest for chaining self to White House fence during DADT rally

Mark Reed, far right, was released from jail Monday and ordered to pay a $100 fine.
Mark Reed, far right, was released from jail after 24 hours on Monday and ordered to pay a $100 fine.

Ironically, as he stood with one arm handcuffed to the White House fence on Sunday afternoon, Dallas activist Mark Reed says he felt “liberated.”

Reed, a successful business owner who’s in his early 50s, said he’d never been arrested before and hadn’t even had a traffic ticket in 10 years.

In fact, he’d always figured that if he were arrested, he’d probably faint due to his fear of authorities.

Strangely, though, that didn’t happen.

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL releases new video to promote next rally

The direct action group GetEQUAL released this video featuring Lt. Dan Choi in advance of a May 2 demonstration at noon in front of the White House protesting “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Choi has been arrested twice in the last two months for chaining himself to the White House fence protesting the military policy.

At the last protest, police chased reporters out of Lafayette Park when they made their arrests. Over the weekend, the White House apologized for being overly aggressive with the media covering the event.

GetEQUAL wants to coordinate other actions with their D.C. protest. On their YouTube channel they wrote:

There will be a rally in Washington DC on Sunday, May 2, 2010 to pressure the President with the demand he transmit IMMEDIATELY to the Senate Armed Service Committee the language for repeal into the Defense Authorization Bill.

If you would like to plan your action for this date, by all means do. If not please email the date and details of your action plan to: DADTRepeal@gmail.com so we can try to coordinate and assist in publicizing!

—  David Taffet

6 GetEQUAL activists who chained themselves to White House fence are released from jail

The six GetEQUAL activists arrested for chaining themselves to the White House fence on Tuesday were released from jail on Wednesday, but two of them are scheduled to face a trial in July, according to Metro Weekly.

Lt. Dan Choi and James Pietrangelo II, who had previously chained themselves to the fence in March, were originally scheduled for a trial on charges of failure to obey a lawful order April 26. But since the two now face similar charges stemming from Tuesday’s action, the judge has set a combined trial July 14.

The other four activists – Autumn Sandeen, Larry Whitt, Mara Boyd and Evelyn Thomas – were ordered to pay a $100 fine, which was promptly covered today by GetEQUAL.

Tuesday’s protest of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was one of three actions in as many days from GetEQUAL. On Monday night, activists from the group disrupted a speech by President Barack Obama in Los Angeles over DADT. And earlier today, they disrupted a House committee hearing to demand action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Dallas’ Mark Reed, Laura McFerrin and Chastity Kirven were among those involved in this week’s actions.

—  John Wright