DADT repeal celebrated in Dallas

Gay and lesbian former servicemembers raised their hands to indicate they served in the military at a reception at Resource Center Dallas

Resource Center Dallas hosted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal party on Tuesday. A number of gay and lesbian former servicemembers attended, some of whom were discharged under DADT. Among them several who are considering rejoining the military.

David Guy Gainer, a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his collection of papers and memorabilia on the history of DADT to the Phil Johnson Library — the Resource Center’s LGBT history archive.

Among the items presented was the book Ask & Tell by Steve Estes. Guy Gainer traveled with the book that is a compilation of essays and had many of the writers autograph the copy that is now at the library. His papers included a copy of an email from the White House inviting Guy Gainer to the DADT repeal signing ceremony.

Guy Gainer said although repeal was the major goal of SLDN, work remains. Gay and lesbian servicemembers won’t be eligible for 40 benefits available to straight ones. Those include everything from library and PX exchange store privileges to health and housing benefits. And transgender people are still barred from serving openly.

For a full story, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

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: NY marriage lottery results; DADT repeal certification; Kay Bailey Hutchison

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. All 823 couples who played the New York City marriage lottery have won! The lottery initially guaranteed only 764 slots on Sunday — the first day same-sex marriage will be legal in the Empire State. But NYC officials now say they’ll accommodate all couples who entered, although 74 who signed up to wed in Manhattan will have to travel to another borough. For more on the start of same-sex marriage in New York, check out Yonkers native David Taffet’s round-up from Thursday.

2. After 18 long years and some 15,000 discharges, the Pentagon and President Barack Obama are set to put the final nail in the coffin of “don’t ask, don’t tell” today. Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are expected to certify the repeal of DADT when they meet in the Oval Office this afternoon, which would begin a 60-day waiting period before the policy officially — and finally — comes to an end. According to our calendar, that means the big day will be Sept. 20, which happens to be just two days after Dallas Pride. Is it too late to change this year’s theme?

3. If not, perhaps they can just turn Pride into a retirement party for Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who told MSNBC this morning that she objects to the Pentagon’s decision to certify DADT repeal. “I really don’t think we should be putting people who are in harm’s way, in very close quarters, in any kind of uncomfortable position,” Hutchison said. “I think it is not the right decision, but it’s a decision that’s been made.” Watch video from ThinkProgress below:

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: DADT update; new gonorrhea strain; Michele Bachmann’s ‘ex-gay’ clinics

Michele Bachmann

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. After ordering a halt to enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell” last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday gave the Department of Justice 10 days to state whether it will continue to defend the policy’s constitutionality in a case brought by Log Cabin Republicans.

2. Scientists have discovered a new strain of gonorrhea that is totally resistant to antibiotics. “This is both an alarming and a predictable discovery,” lead researcher Magnus Unemo, professor at the Swedish Reference Laboratory for Pathogenic Neisseria in Örebro, Sweden, said in a statement. “Since antibiotics became the standard treatment for gonorrhea in the 1940s, this bacterium has shown a remarkable capacity to develop resistance mechanisms to all drugs introduced to control it.”

3. Christian counseling clinics owned by GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband have been conducting so-called “ex-gay” therapy, according to a report that aired on ABC’s Nightline on Monday night. In the wake of the report, Bachmann said she is “very proud” of the clinics and the jobs they’ve created, but refused to respond to the allegations about reparative therapy. Watch Nightline‘s report below.

—  John Wright

Appeals court halts enforcement of DADT, but gay servicemembers warned to remain cautious

A federal appeals court has halted enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell,” effective immediately.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous order today lifting a stay it had placed on an injunction handed down last year by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the ban on open military service unconstitutional.

According to the appeals court’s order, DADT cannot be enforced unless and until the government gets a stay from either the 9th Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December, but repeal has not yet been certified by the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is most welcomed,” Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. “It’s the hope of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that this favorable ruling will not be challenged by the Defense Department. In fact, this whole matter could have been avoided had we had certification back in the spring. It’s time to get on with that important certification, end the DADT confusion for all service members, and put a final end to this misguided policy.”

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, warned that despite today’s order, gay servicemembers should remain cautious about revealing their sexual orientation. “The issue remains in a state of flux, although guarded optimism is certainly warranted,” Nicholson said in a statement.

Although the appeals court lifted its stay of the injunction, it has not ruled on the merits of the case, Log Cabin Republicans vs. The United States. The court set arguments for Aug. 29.

In its order, the appeals court cited the Obama administration’s position that it’s unconstitutional to discriminate against gays, which was laid out in a court brief last week.

To read the appeals court’s order, go here.

—  John Wright

House committee adopts anti-gay amendments

Aubrey Sarvis

Amendments not likely to pass in the Senate, but could resurface in conference committee

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

The full U.S. House Armed Services Committee approved three amendments late Wednesday night, May 11, that seek to delay implementation of repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and to reiterate Congress’s support for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The votes were largely along partisan lines and are unlikely to be sustained in the Democratic-controlled Senate, even if they are approved by the Republican-dominated House.

But the question is whether they might survive a Senate-House conference committee, when compromises have to be hammered out between two increasingly contentious parties.

None of the proposed amendments sought to undo what Congress did last December when it passed legislation to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay people, but each provided yet another forum for debate over repeal.

The committee debated for more than 40 minutes on an amendment over whether to require that each of the chiefs of the four combat branches of the military provide written certification to Congress before repeal can be implemented. The amendment passed 33-27.

Committee members then debated for less than 20 minutes on an amendment to reiterate that the Defense of Marriage Act applies to the military. The amendment passed 39-22.

And they debated for 13 minutes on an amendment to reiterate that decisions concerning use of military facilities and personnel for conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies are governed by DOMA. That amendment passed 38-23.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called the amendments “an assault on our nation’s senior military leaders and rank-and-file service members, who are marching toward open military service successfully.

“These adopted amendments to delay and derail repeal are a partisan political attempt to interject the same-sex marriage debate and other unrelated social issues into the [budget authorization legislation] where they have no place,” said Sarvis.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the amendments were intended “to slow down open service and perpetuate scare tactics about the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Three different Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee proposed the amendments during the full House Armed Services Committee consideration of the annual bill authorizing how the Department of Defense can spend its funding. The overall bill is known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (or bill Number H.R. 1540). Fiscal Year 2012 begins Oct. 1.

San Diego Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter first introduced his measure, called the “Restore Military Readiness Act,” as a stand-alone bill, in January. It has 25 co-sponsors.

It seeks to require that certification of military readiness to implement repeal of the ban on gays in the military be done by the chiefs of the four branches of the military, in addition to the certifications already required from the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hunter, in debate, claimed that “60 to 70 percent” of Navy Seals oppose repeal of DADT. The Seals have been the subject of enormous public attention and praise recently, after successfully capturing and killing terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

San Diego Democrat Rep. Susan Davis, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee which received Hunter’s original measure, reminded the full committee that the four service branch chiefs testified at Congressional hearings that they believe their views are heard and respected by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, lamented that the House continues to debate DADT repeal.

“Having openly gay people serve in our military is not apocalypse,” said Johnson, “it’s a sign of progress.”

He also reminded committee members that when President Truman moved to integrate the military, there were some who opposed it.

“I think it’s a similar situation here with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” said Johnson.

Ohio Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan read a letter from a gay veteran from World War II, supporting repeal of DADT.

Currently, President Obama, Gates and Mullen are expected to certify the military as ready to implement repeal of DADT this summer. The repeal would then take effect 60 days later.

Given how difficult it has been for the Senate and House to agree on budget matters in recent months, it seems possible that the 60-day waiting period will expire and DADT will be repealed long before a Senate-House conference committee will have a chance to tackle the issues.

The second amendment came from Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler. It seeks to emphasize that DOMA still applies to DOD regulations and policies.

Hartzler said the amendment would address situations such as the recent conflict over whether Navy chaplains could preside over same-sex marriages and allow such ceremonies to take place on military bases.

Rep. Randy Forbes, a Republican from Virginia, and others claimed the amendment was necessary because the Obama administration was “not enforcing” DOMA, so it is necessary to reiterate Congress’s support for the law. No one spoke to correct that claim.

The Obama administration made clear it would continue enforcing DOMA until such time as the courts may find it unconstitutional. But it did say it would no longer defend DOMA as passing all constitutional levels of scrutiny in all federal courts.

The third amendment, from Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin, would prevent the use of military facilities or personnel for marriage ceremonies between same-sex couples.

Akin’s amendment, like that of Hartzler, was in reaction to an April 13 memo from the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains recommending military facilities be available for use at same-sex marriage ceremonies in states where marriage licenses are available to same-sex couples. The chief also recommended military chaplains be allowed to participate in such ceremonies, if their religious beliefs allow them to.

But on Tuesday, May 10, Navy Chaplain Chief Mark Tidd “suspended” his earlier recommendations, saying they needed to undergo “additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”

ABC News reported that a group of 63 Republicans had sent a letter to the Secretary of Navy, expressing objections to Tidd’s initial recommendations.

“Make no mistake,” said SLDN’s Sarvis, “these votes should be a wake-up call to supporters of open service that our work is not done. Our commitment to timely certification and repeal must be redoubled as we move to the House floor to defend the progress we have made to ensure that LGB patriots can defend and serve the country they love with honesty and integrity.”

Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Mississippi Republican, was reportedly ready to introduce an amendment to delay implementation of DADT repeal in order to develop and issue new regulations concerning how to handle service members who have religious or moral objections to openly gay people in the military. He did not do so.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Witt, DOD reach settlement in DADT case

Major Margaret Witt

DOD agrees to allow major to retire with full benefits; DOJ won’t appeal her 9th Circuit victory

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

The ACLU of Washington State announced Tuesday, May 10, that Air Force Reserve nurse Margaret Witt has reached a final settlement with the Department of Defense in her highly publicized litigation to avoid discharge under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

According to an ACLU press release, the DOD has agreed to allow Witt to retire with full benefits and the Department of Justice will drop its appeal of a federal district court ruling in her favor.

Last September, Judge Ronald Leighton of the U.S. District Court for Western Washington ruled that Witt’s sexual orientation did not negatively impact her unit’s morale or unit cohesion and that her discharge under DADT violated her Fifth Amendment right to due process.

“I am proud to have played a role in bringing about the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Witt said in a statement released by the ACLU. “I am so pleased that the tens of thousands of lesbians and gays who have served their country honorably will be able to serve openly.”

The Witt v. U.S. case has been a high-profile one, and the subject of debate on the floor of the Senate and in the confirmation hearing of the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member, Elena Kagan. It was just one of several cases that applied pressure to Congress to repeal DADT before a federal court ordered it to do so immediately.

After several failed attempts, Congress did pass legislation to repeal DADT and President Obama signed it last December. DOD officials said earlier this year they expect to satisfy a necessary certification requirement — certifying that repeal can take place without affecting military readiness — about mid-summer this year.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has been working to pass repeal, congratulated Witt and the ACLU on their “stunning victory.”

“Today’s events underscore once again the unjust nature of this discriminatory chapter in American history,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a written statement. “Her case established a new rule of law in the Ninth Circuit, and her voice and story were pivotal in building support for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ This is not just a victory for Major Witt, it’s a victory for justice and for service members everywhere.”

Witt, 46, joined the Air Force in 1987 and moved quickly up the ranks, becoming a major in 1999, working with a unit that provided airborne intensive care units for wounded military personnel.

She received a number of commendations and even appeared on a recruitment poster.

Witt was discharged in 2006 for having acknowledged she had a relationship with a woman in Tacoma where Witt was based.

In the initial round of her lawsuit, she won — at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals level— the right to a trial on the merits of her individual discharge under DADT.

During Witt’s trial, DOJ attorneys put on witnesses to discuss Witt’s relationship with a married civilian woman and argued that it was not just Witt’s sexual orientation but also her adulterous behavior to blame for her discharge. The government also noted that Witt had told at least two colleagues she was gay, thus putting them in an awkward position of either keeping silent to protect her or informing superior officers of Witt’s being in violation of the DADT law.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  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

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.

Nonnie Ouch

Texas Tech University
Gay-Straight Alliance

—  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, 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 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 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