Additional states turn away National Guard spouses, one reverses itself

MilitaryPartnerMore states are following Texas’ lead and refusing to process ID cards for same-sex spouses of National Guard troops, American Military Partner Association reports, but one state reversed course.

Indiana and South Carolina joined Texas this week in sending same-sex spouses of National Guard troops to federal facilities to register. Both states accept applications from opposite-sex spouses.

But after further legal review, Indiana reversed itself and again began taking applications at National Guard bases.

“We applaud the Indiana National Guard for doing the right thing,” said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA. “We urge other state national guards who are refusing to comply with the Defense Department directive to process all spouses for federal benefits to immediately follow suit.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee, wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking him to intervene.

Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi also began signing up all spouses but then stopped after Texas turned away applicants. In Texas, Alicia Butler was turned away from Camp Mabry on the first day same-sex spouses could sign up for IDs and is now being represented by Lambda Legal’s Dallas office.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Is this Bud for us? New Budweiser ad appears to support gays in the military

Budweiser has released a new military-themed ad that some folks are saying is also a “pro-gays-in-the-military” ad.

The ad starts off with a soldier calling another guy and saying, “Hey man. I’m coming home.” Then in a split-screen, continues with scenes of the soldier making his way home while the other guy goes about planning and organizing a welcome home party, and then being the first one to step forward and hug the soldier when he gets home.

If it is a “gay” ad, it isn’t, well, flamboyantly gay. And that’s perfectly fine, since there are many, many, many LGBT people out there — including many of our men and women in uniform — who are definitely not flamboyantly gay themselves. We deserve to have our diverse community portrayed (and honored and celebrated) realistically in all our diversity.

Is this a gay ad? Did Budweiser mean for it to be a gay ad? Huffington Post has a poll up, and readers there are pretty evenly split, with 33 percent saying it is totally gay, 25 percent saying no way it’s gay, and 41 percent saying probably not but I can see why some folks think it is.

And AfterElton.com points out that “if you substituted a woman for [the guy the soldier calls first], it would read pretty much exactly like a heterosexual relationship.”

Only Budweiser knows for sure, of course. But — again, as AfterElton notes — this is a mega-big company with some pretty experienced advertising folks working for them, and do you really think they would let something so very obviously possibly gay slip through inadvertently?

Watch the ad yourself (below) and see what you think. All I know for sure is that I don’t drink beer of any kind, but if I did drink beer, I think I’d probably drink Bud.

—  admin

Former colleagues testify for lesbian flight nurse discharged from Air Force under DADT

GENE JOHNSON | Associated Press

TACOMA, Washington — A lesbian flight nurse discharged from the Air Force under the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military was an excellent officer whose sexuality never caused a problem in her unit, former colleagues told a federal judge Monday, Sept. 13.

Former Maj. Margaret Witt is seeking reinstatement to the Air Force Reserve in a closely watched case that “don’t ask, don’t tell” critics hope will lead to a second major legal victory this month. The trial began just days after a federal judge in California declared the policy unconstitutional.

Witt was suspended in 2004 and honorably discharged after the Air Force received a complaint from a civilian about her sexuality.

The first witness in her case, retired Master Sgt. James Schaffer, testified that Witt was exceedingly competent and said her dismissal was so unfair, it was part of the reason he retired in 2007.

“It was a rather dishonorable act on the part of the Air Force,” Schaffer said. “It should not be about what you are, but who you are.”

Witt’s case has already led to one crucial ruling — a 2008 holding by a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that the military cannot discharge people under “don’t ask, don’t tell” unless it shows that the firing is necessary to further military goals such as unit cohesion. The case has returned to federal court in Tacoma for U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton to determine whether Witt’s dismissal met that standard.

The 1993 law prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members, but allows the discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered to be engaging in homosexual activity. Last week, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Los Angeles determined the policy was an unconstitutional violation of the due process and free speech rights of gays and lesbians.

While Phillips’ ruling has no effect on the legal issues in Witt’s case, gay rights activists believe a victory — and Witt’s reinstatement — could help build momentum for repealing the policy. The Senate could soon take up a House-approved defense bill that includes a repeal.

Witt sat in the courtroom Monday amid her supporters, including Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a fighter pilot from Idaho who is fighting his own discharge by the U.S. Air Force.

Peter Phipps, a Justice Department lawyer representing the Air Force, insisted during his opening statement that Witt’s conduct necessitated her firing. That included a long-term relationship with a civilian woman, an affair with a married woman and two earlier relationships with fellow servicewomen, Witt acknowledged in a May deposition.

A 2004 e-mail from the married woman’s husband to the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper, prompted the investigation into Witt’s sexuality. Witt remains in a relationship with that woman, whose husband divorced her.

“By committing adultery, she compromised her integrity and her ability to lead,” Phipps said. “Plaintiff set an example of a disregard for Air Force policies.”

Witt’s discharge therefore eliminated a risk to unit cohesion and morale, he added. He said the support she has received from colleagues is irrelevant; the law’s constitutionality doesn’t depend on the views of her friends.

Furthermore, the military cannot handle discipline by referendum, because that would lead to uneven application of the law, Phipps said.

Witt acknowledged in her deposition the extramarital affair was not consistent with good “officership.” She also said she told two members of her unit about her orientation — forcing them to choose between loyalty to Witt and Air Force policy, the Air Force argues.

Former colleagues who testified Monday disagreed that Witt’s firing accomplished anything — especially because it came during a shortage of flight nurses.

“We were at war at the time,” said Lt. Col. Vincent Oda. “It was the loss of an able flight nurse is what that was.”

The court also heard from other service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” One, former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, said that when his superiors first investigated him, he gave them pictures of himself and his boyfriend kissing to make it clear he didn’t want to hide anything.

The result of that initial inquiry? “No evidence” of homosexuality, Manzella said. He served almost two more years before the Army kicked him out in 2008.

One of Witt’s lawyers, Sarah Dunne of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state, said in her opening statement that the McChord Air Force Base aeromedical evacuation squadron with which Witt served welcomed gays and lesbians, and it was her dismissal — not her orientation — that caused problems in the unit.

Schaffer, the retired master sergeant, said he went on hundreds of flights with Witt, including several missions to evacuate ill or wounded Americans from the Middle East and Afghanistan. Witt received a standing ovation when she showed up at his retirement party in 2007, he said.

Dunne said Witt received glowing performance reviews that attested to her nursing ability and leadership, even one that was written in 2005, after her suspension.

Her suspension came less than a year before she would have earned her full pension.

—  John Wright

Airman reaches deal to block discharge under DADT

Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho aviator has reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to temporarily block his discharge under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bars openly gay and lesbian military members from service.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says an agreement reached Monday, Aug. 16 prevents the Air Force from discharging Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach until a judge can consider its request for a court order to stop his ouster from the military.

The network, an advocacy group seeking equal treatment of gays in the military, is representing Fehrenbach in his legal fight to keep his job and last week filed a federal lawsuit in Idaho.

The lawsuit asks for an order to stop the Air Force from discharging Fehrenbach until a full hearing can be scheduled. It also wants the law declared unconstitutional.

—  John Wright

22 countries ban gays in the military

Map of countries that ban gays in the military
Map of countries that ban gays in the military. (From Esquire.com)

This is the list of countries that have a ban on gays (and lesbians, where women may serve) in the military. We’re in great company:

Cuba, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, United States, Venezuela and Yemen.

—  David Taffet