DADT repeal crusader Dave Guy-Gainer dies

Dave Guy-Gainer

Dave Guy-Gainer, who was a leading local advocate for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” died unexpectedly at his home in Forest Hill on Thursday.

Guy-Gainer was 63. A public memorial will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road at Oak Lawn Avenue.

Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who came out after leaving the service, was a member of the board of Equality Texas and a founding board member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He worked tirelessly for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He also ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the City Council in Forest Hill, a small town in Tarrant County south of Fort Worth.

Guy-Gainer was invited to the White House for the DADT repeal legislation signing ceremony.

“Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high in that room,” Guy-Gainer said later of the ceremony. “You couldn’t help but shed a tear in there. It was just such an overwhelming feeling of weight being lifted and equality finally happening.”

At a DADT repeal party in September 2011 at Resource Center Dallas, he donated boxes of papers releated to DADT to the Phil Johnson Library. Throughout the repeal process, he was the local media contact who made sense of it all.

The circumstances of Guy-Gainer’s death couldn’t immediately be confirmed, but he is believed to have committed suicide.

His partner David Guy said funeral arrangements are pending but there will be a full honor military funeral.

Read statements on Guy-Gainer’s passing from SLDN and Stonewall Democrats below:

—  David Taffet

COVER STORY: Coming out of the shadows

As the process of repealing DADT nears its end, some gay servicemembers discharged under the policy are considering the possibility of re-enlisting

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Since the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military — was first enacted in 1993, more than 14,000 men and women have been discharged, according to the Government Accounting Office.

Now that the policy has been repealed by Congress, in a vote last December, and since that repeal has been certified by the Pentagon and President Obama, some of those gay and lesbian former servicemembers plan to re-enlist.

DADT repeal will be complete Sept. 20, 60 days after the president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the certification of repeal.

Of those discharged under DADT, 2,215 were in critical positions, according to the GAO which, in its latest report, estimated that each dismissal cost the government $52,800. That’s a total of about three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network estimates the actual cost of each dismissal was much higher.

But there is more to these discharges than numbers and politics. Behind each one is a very personal story of a life that suddenly veered in a new and unexpected direction.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

Michael Moore graduated from Seagoville High School a year early then enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 at the age of 17. He was 19 and stationed in Germany when he began to come out.

And technically he did tell.

“I told one person,” he said.

During his coming-out process, Moore approached a supervisor in another department and asked her what would happen if he came out.

“The next morning, she came up and told me she was going to report it,” he said.

Moore said his sergeant called him in and yelled at him, then they sent him to counseling.

“They were afraid I was going to commit suicide. They were concerned because I was going career,” Moore said.

But he knew the concern wasn’t for him and certainly not for the military career he had planned. They only sent him to counseling to cover themselves.

His discharge process began immediately.

Fighting the discharge would have entailed a lengthy and expensive court battle in civil court, something he couldn’t afford. Besides, Moore said, he didn’t think he could win in court anyway.

“It would have just delayed the inevitable,” he said.

Moore described the administrative discharge proceeding as one-sided and unfair. He said the attorney assigned to his case was in another country and he spoke to him only once. Within two months, Moore was out of the service.

Now it’s five years later, and DADT is ending, and Moore said he hopes to return to the service, but only after he finishes his degree.

“I want to go back as an officer,” he said.

He is studying for a degree at the Art Institute of Dallas that will qualify him to re-enter as an officer.

“On the one hand, I’m glad it happened,” he said. “I got to know who I am. Before I went in, I didn’t even know what gay meant.”

Because of his service, Moore receives government assistance toward his education. But because of DADT, he said he’s only receiving half of what others who completed even a two-year hitch get.

Moore hopes that those who are in the service are careful about coming out. Just because it’s legal, does mean coming out will necessarily be safe. He said he wonders if the woman he told had changed her attitude.

“She knows what she did,” he said, “and she’ll have to live with it.”

Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson of Maryland served in the Navy and came out to his commanding officer in 2007 after realizing there was no way to successfully juggle his private life and his professional life in the military as long as he remained closeted.

“I was under a whole lot of pressure being in the service in a position of leadership,” Johnson said. “I was under scrutiny.”

While some commanders would immediately start trying to discharge someone who came out, Johnson said his commander instead started looking for ways to keep him in the Navy.

“He told me, ‘I think things will change if you’ll just hang on,’” Johnson recalled.

Because his command needed him, “Technically, they could keep me,” Johnson said. But he was discharged anyway, after 10 years of service.

After leaving the Navy, Johnson worked for a year as a contractor in the same position he left. In August 2008, he went back to school fulltime and now has one year left to complete his degree at University of Maryland.

He also works at The Palm Center, which does research on sexual minorities in the military.

Now, four years after he was discharged, Johnson is exploring the possibility of re-enlisting.

“I’m looking to go back as a reservist,” he said. “I have half my career in.”

One setback is that there is currently no room for him to return at his former level.

“They have allotments of how many can be in a job at a pay grade,” Johnson said. “They’re at 104 percent and won’t take me.”

He said that the military used to allow someone to drop a pay grade when they re-enlisted, but no longer.

Once he has his degree, Johnson said he would put together an officer package and if the Navy cannot accommodate him, he may find an opportunity in the Army or National Guard.

Johnson believes one thing brought down DADT — Facebook, which allowed gay and lesbian troops to connect.

“Every time you transfer, you have to seek out the gay underground,” he said. “On one base, there might be fractured circles.”

He said that Facebook led to social media specifically for those in the military like OutServe and OutMilitary.com. As more gay and lesbian service members met, they also organized.

Justin Elzie

Justin Elzie

Justin Elzie agrees that without the Internet, anti-DADT protests like those at the White House last year that led to the arrest of Lt. Dan Choi as well as GetEqual activist Mark Reed-Walkup of Dallas would not have happened.

And Elzie said he believes those demonstrations were instrumental in bringing an end to DADT.

Elzie was the first person dismissed from the Marine Corps under DADT.

He had already served 10 years in 1993 when President Bill Clinton came into office after pledging during his campaign to issue an executive order allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. And Elzie was ready to announce that he was gay as soon as that executive order was issued.

But Congress derailed Clinton’s plan, forcing him into a compromise that came to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Under this new congressionally-mandated rule, gays and lesbians could serve in the military as long as they stayed deeply closeted. And while military leaders could still discharge someone for being gay, they weren’t supposed to go around asking about servicemembers’ sexual orientation unless they had good reason.

But Elzie, who had served in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, made his announcement on ABC News anyway.

“I was pretty naïve back then,” Elzie said recently. But his naivete aside, he knew he was putting his military career on the line when he came out: Before he came out, the commandant of the Marine Corps made news by announcing that there were no gay or lesbian Marines. Elzie couldn’t let that lie stand.

“I just couldn’t stand by and not say a thing,” he said.

Elzie had planned at the time to stay in the military just three more months. But with his announcement, the Marine Corps held an administrative hearing and discharged him. So he sued and won, a move that kept him in the service for four more years while the case progressed.

In the early days of DADT, there were some legal successes; Elzie was among them. He lined up character witnesses and put together a brief detailing his successful military record, and the court ordered the Marine Corps to reinstate him.

During those four extra years, Elzie was recommended for promotion twice. Both times, the Pentagon refused to allow him to be promoted and in 1997, he was forced out of the service.

“They wanted to make an example of me,” Elzie said.

What happens now

Log Cabin Republicans in 2004 filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DADT, claiming that the policy violates the first and fifth amendments. Federal court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in Log Cabin’s favor in October 2010 and issued an injunction against the policy — an injunction that was promptly stayed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court lifted the stay in July this year, saying the Justice Department has been unable to meet the legal standard needed to justify keeping it in place. Despite the fact that Congress repealed DADT last December and the repeal has since been certified, formal arguments for the appeal in the Log Cabin case are set for Aug. 29.

Elzie said that he believes the ruling last October in the Log Cabin lawsuit forced the Obama administration and Congress to repeal DADT. And he hopes the case continues through the courts despite the repeal, because he said he sees a difference between the judicial proceedings and the congressional repeal.

“The repeal says we can serve,” he said. “The Log Cabin case says we’re equal,” Elzie clarified, adding that while the repeal of the law will eventually change attitudes in society and in the military, the change won’t come easy. Anti-gay commanding officers, he noted, will likely continue to make life hard for gays and lesbians under their command.

Having openly gay and lesbian people in the military will inevitably effect change in the larger society, Elzie suggested, because when people from less progressive areas of the country serve together with gays and lesbians who are both open and professional, they will carry that experience back home with them after their service.

North Texan Dave Guy-Gainer, a gay military veteran now on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, has long been one of those in the trenches in the fight to get rid of DADT. What does he think will happen on Sept. 20 when repeal is complete and DADT is finally laid to rest: “Massive hurricanes, disastrous floods and violent tornados.”

Then again, Guy-Gainer said, probably nothing will happen, and all that will be different is the military will not be wasting time and money throwing out well-trained personnel.

—  John Wright

Local gay veteran reacts to DADT vote: ‘Now is the time to regroup, refuel and attack again’

Dave Guy-Gainer

Dave Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant from Tarrant County who serves on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, sent over the below statement in response to Tuesday’s Senate vote halting progress on the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”:

“There is a difference between a war and a battle. Today we lost a battle. Everyone knew going into today’s vote that it would be a close fight. Split directly down party lines, with the exception of Arizona, we lost. The war is not over. After the vote, Senator Levin turned to former AF Major Mike Almy and said, ‘We aren’t done yet.’ Now is the time to regroup, refuel and attack again. We’ll see this scenario again in December and again and again until repeal happens. It will happen! Between now and then, the voices of our community and our allies must become louder and more incessant than ever before. This is NOT a political issue — this is a discrimination issue. After 17 years we cannot give up now! We are still alive in the senate and in the courts.”

Gainer added that he was interviewed by Fox 4 for its 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news broadcasts Tuesday, and he’s scheduled to appear live on the station at 9 p.m. Also on the 5 and 6 p.m. broadcasts will be interviews with two servicemembers from North Texas who were discharged under DADT, Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez and Michael Moore. And Moore will join Gainer live at 9 p.m.

—  John Wright

DADT update: Local SLDN board member blasts survey of troops; trial begins in Log Cabin lawsuit challenging policy

Dave Guy-Gainer

As it prepares for the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military is doing something unprecedented: asking the troops what they think.

“With my affiliation with SLDN, the advice is not to participate,” said Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“Even though the survey goes to a secure public site,” Guy-Gainer said, “you’re still vulnerable if you complete the survey on a government computer.”

When the military first announced it needed six months to study the end of DADT, Guy-Gainer was against the delay. But when he heard they were studying things like benefits and housing for partners, he changed his mind. The survey, however, has raised new issues about the intent of the delay.

Questions on the survey include: “Do you currently serve with a male or female service member you believe to be homosexual?” and “Have you been assigned to share bath facilities with an open bay shower that is also used by a service member you believed to be homosexual?”

“It implies that you’re allowing people to vote,” Guy-Gainer said.

He gave several examples of the military implementing changes without surveying the opinion of troops.

“A few months ago, the Navy put women on submarines, and no one asked about the women,” he said.

Members of the Armed Forces weren’t polled when President Harry S. Truman integrated the troops, when President Gerald Ford made military institutes co-ed or when President Jimmy Carter placed women on battleships.

And questions on the survey appear to be homophobic.

Guy-Gainer has said troops aren’t in Gomer Pyle-style barracks, sleeping in bunk beds and using group showers. Yet, those are the level of questions apparently being asked in the survey.

Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that the troops have never been surveyed like this before and that the military is not a democracy. But Levin added that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with gauging the attitude of the troops. He said the final decision rests with Congress, and the military will be expected to follow it.

Guy-Gainer said the survey is optional, not mandatory. He said he’s afraid those who are homophobic have more incentive to respond while those who are sympathetic to gays and lesbians in the military are afraid of how their answers will be used.

He called the survey unnecessary.

“The working group can identify all the rules and regulations that need to be changed,” he said. “What happens to good order and discipline?”

This week a trial opened in California with Log Cabin Republicans challenging the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Attorneys for Log Cabin used President Barack Obama’s words in their opening statements, according to the Associated Press. Log Cabin argued that maintaining the policy doesn’t advance the government’s interest.

UPDATE: In related news, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that prosecutors have dropped all charges against Lt. Dan Choi, the gay veteran who has twice chained himself to the White House fence this year to protest DADT.

—  David Taffet

Dave Guy-Gainer loses bid to become Tarrant County's 3rd openly gay elected official

dave
Dave Guy-Gainer

Dave Guy-Gainer lost his bid to become Tarrant County’s third openly gay elected official on Saturday. Incumbent Gerald Joubert defeated Guy-Gainer in a runoff for Forest Hill’s Place 3 City Council seat by a margin of 282 votes to 227.

Asked whether he feels his sexual orientation was a factor in the outcome, Gainer said: “Perhaps, but I really don’t think so. It was a ‘newcomer’ taking on a 12-year incumbent.”

Guy-Gainer added that it was a “great race” in which he learned a lot about Forest Hill.

Perhaps this will also give him more time to focus on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell.”

With Guy-Gainer’s defeat, Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and Fort Worth ISD board member Carlos Vasquez remain the only two openly gay elected officials in the history of Tarrant County.

—  John Wright

SLDN board member Dave Guy-Gainer on DADT compromise: 'The war is still not won'

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

UPDATE, 2 p.m.: SLDN has issued a national action alert on DADT. For more, go here.

Gay-rights activists strongly disagree (what else is new???) about whether a compromise announced Monday on “don’t ask don’t tell” is a good thing. For a decent summation of the two views, go here and here. As for me, I’m aligning myself with Tarrant County’s Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network who said the following in an e-mail just moments ago:

We are now at 48 hours and counting. The events of yesterday brought about an agreement between those fighting for the demise of DADT; the White House; members of both the House and Senate; and the DOD as to how repeal CAN move forward. Never in its history have we been at such a cooperative juncture.

Secretary Gates, the President, and Congress are now in sync and Congress is not being asked to delay action. Delay beyond this session most likely would have been a death knell to repeal in any form. Congress is no longer fearful of casting a vote without DOD’s buy in. The power of Executive Order in dealing with open service will be clearly restored to the President. The LAW that says we are “incompatible with military service” will be erased from the books. Repeal allows the DOD to complete its study of HOW inclusion will happen and NOT IF it should without the continual disruption of partisan politics and the anti-gay rhetoric of those who support discrimination. Repeal of the law will enable those like Admiral Mullen to finally take action and not just wrestle with the wrongness he feels in his heart.

—  John Wright

BREAKING NEWS: Deal possible on DADT

The Advocate is reporting that representatives from Congress, the White House and LGBT groups were working on a deal this morning that would allow a legislative repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” to go forward this year. The proposed repeal of the military’s ban on open service is expected to be considered in both the House and Senate later in the week. From The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld:

LGBT groups met with officials at the White House while legislative affairs representatives from the White House and the Department of Defense met with the House and Senate leadership offices on Capitol Hill along with those of Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sens. Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman.

A White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the White House meeting. “Our understanding is that Congress is determined to act this week and we are learning more about their proposal now,” said the aide.

A Democratic leadership aide called the development “promising” but said discussions were ongoing. The House Democratic leadership is expected to meet about the proposal later this afternoon.

According to one person familiar with the White House meeting, the proposal that is being considered would legislatively repeal the statute this year, but the current policy would remain in place and implementation of repeal would not occur until after the Pentagon’s working group study is finished in December. Further, completion of repeal would require certification from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention and other key factors that affect the military.

Also this morning, we received an update on the DADT repeal from Dave Guy-Gainer, a Tarrant County resident who serves on the board of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. I’ve posted Guy-Gainer’s update after the jump.

—  John Wright

DADT: 'Miles to go, and so little time'

Dave Guy-Gainer, CMSgt, USAF (retired) and a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was in Washington, D.C., recently for the SLDN Lobby Day, board meetings and annual dinner.

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

With Congress teetering on the cusp of actually repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — which keeps gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military and which has prompted the discharge of more than 14,000 men and women since it was enacted 17 years ago — this trip was especially poignant for Guy-Gainer, who lives in Forest Hills, near Fort Worth, with his husband.

Here is his account of the trip:

Last week, we made our annual trip to Washington, D.C., for the whirlwind four days of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Lobby Day, annual dinner and board meetings.

This is our fifth and hopefully last trip in the fight to repeal “Don’t ask don’t tell.” We went up there a day early so I could have time to visit with staff and the 140 people who came from across the nation to lobby. I saw many of those who have crusaded for the last 17 years and, not surprisingly, scores of new faces.

Sitting just inside the office door when I arrived was Lt. Col. Victor  Fehrenbach. His energy, hope and perpetual smile nearly overshadow the fact that his 18-year career as a decorated fighter pilot is under attack. We laughed at the fact that I was the first Air Force chief to ever introduce his husband to him.

The tone of Lobby Day this year was very focused and all work. No rally was held. Meetings were prearranged for the lobby teams who worked even through lunch. The mission: Seek out and confirm more co-sponsors for House Bill 1283 (191 co-sponsors) and Senate Bill 3065 (26 co-sponsors).

—  admin