DADT is dead. But opposition lives on

Marshal vows legislation to keep gays out of Virginia’s National Guard; Graham threatens to block START treaty ratification in revenge over repeal of DADT

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

I was wrong. I was very skeptical of the chances of getting “don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed in the lame duck Congress, yet they did it. Yes, Hardy, there is a Santa Clause!

The vote for repeal, which was slightly bipartisan (eight Republicans voted for repeal), was a great holiday surprise. But what comes as no surprise is the vehemence with which opponents vow to fight on, even after they have lost on this one.

Already the voices of hard-core homophobes are chiming in. Virginia Delegate Bob Marshal says he will introduce legislation to prevent openly gay men and women from serving in the Virginia National Guard.

Hatred, especially hatred of LGBT people, dies hard.

Further west, Sen. John McCain, one of the most vocal opponents of the repeal, still laments its passage.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage. Today is a very sad day,” McCain declared.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham is leading the charge for Republicans to block the new START treaty ratification in retaliation for the repeal of DADT. Apparently in Sen. Graham’s eyes, keeping gays out of the military is more important than nuclear disarmament.

Like I said, old hatred dies especially hard.

And then there is Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Amos. Anyone who watched the debate in the Senate was most likely surprised at his strident opposition.

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marine that I’m visiting at Bethesda with no legs be the result of any distraction,” he said before the vote.

I guess Gen. Amos figured that Marines are just too delicate to serve next to gay troops, or at least to know which Marines are gay and which are not. I have to wonder how much further his career will go now that the law of the land has changed?

Additionally, some evangelical chaplains have voiced their worries that they will no longer be able to preach. A Pentagon report stated, “Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ exists among the chaplains.”

Most of these concerns are that chaplains would no longer be able to preach that homosexuality is a sin. This little problem is particularly confusing to me since for centuries they have been able to reconcile killing the enemy in battle with the whole, “thou shalt not kill” thing.

Luckily, some chaplains — like retired chaplain Col. Jerry Rhyne — feel differently.

Rhyne has counseled gay troops who struggled with their sexual orientation for years. In an interview with CNN he said, “For me, it was very disheartening. I tried to bring them hope and encouragement to live their life to the fullest and to help them deal with their issues.”

Needless to say, Col. Rhyne supported repeal of the policy.

I hope the voices of dissent will soften after they realize that essentially, nothing in the military will change except that those in the military will be able to concentrate on doing their job. They will no longer be distracted by the witch hunts and investigations that saw more than 13,000 gay men and lesbians discharged.

Gay and lesbian service members will no longer be distracted by trying to conceal their orientation. Military commands will no longer be distracted by spending valuable time and resources looking into every innuendo and allegation.

Contrary to Gen. Amos’ assertion, having openly gay and lesbian troops serving will be less of a “distraction.” Straight troops will not have to wonder who is gay and who isn’t, though I suspect in reality it won’t be an issue. All the service members I know, both straight and gay have told me they know gays and lesbians in their outfits and have never had a complaint against them.

The military will behave like the military, and continue to serve with honor and bravery.

Contrary to what they opponents of DADT repeal believe, gay troops are not going to start having orgies in the showers, and the behavior of troops will still be subject to military decorum. To believe otherwise is just not rational.

I have to wonder if folks like Lindsey Graham and Gen. Amos haven’t been watching too much gay porn?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Leaked study results support DADT repeal

FUTURE MILITARY | Members of a Dallas-area Jr. ROTC group march in formation, carrying U.S. flags, during Dallas’ annual Veterans Day Parade Thursday morning, Nov. 11. According to information leaked to The Washington Post earlier this week, a Pentagon report studying attitudes of current members of the military, a large majority don’t believe repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would harm military readiness. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

Repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” poses only minimal risk to current war efforts, according to results from a 370-page Pentagon study that were leaked to the Washington Post.

According to an article published on the Post’s website late Wednesday, sources said the study results indicate more than 70 percent of 400,000 servicemembers and 150,000 military spouses surveyed said the effect of DADT repeal would be positive, mixed or nonexistent. The survey found that a majority had no strong objections, though a significant minority is opposed. But the study’s authors reportedly concluded that objections to serving alongside openly gay colleagues would drop over time. And it says that servicemembers who object to sharing a room or shower with openly gay troops should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Openly gay Air Force veteran David Guy-Gainer of Forest Hill called the report “a Veterans Day gift” for LGBT current and former servicemembers.

Guy-Gainer is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant and a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He had just returned from a Veterans Day breakfast in Tarrant County when he spoke to Dallas Voice on Thursday, Nov. 11.

“I am thrilled. It’s wonderful. I can’t think of a better gift for Veterans Day,” he said.

The story was published just hours after the Obama administration filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that the military be allowed to continue enforcing DADT while a lower court ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional makes its way through the appeals process.

Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal argued that the stay is necessary because the injunction would cause “the government the kind of irreparable injury that routinely forms the basis for a stay pending appeal.”

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction against enforcement of DADT last month in the wake of her earlier ruling, in a case brought by Log Cabin Republicans, that DADT is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of Phillips’ injunction, and Log Cabin Republicans appealed that stay to the Supreme Court.

The Post article is based on information provided to the newspaper from two people “familiar with a draft of the report,” according to reporters Ed O’Keefe and Greg Jaffe. The sources are not identified in the article. Asked if the reporters could convey a request from Keen News for follow-up, O’Keefe said Thursday morning that the sources “insisted we not contact them again.”

The report will almost certainly affect the momentum for repealing DADT during the lame-duck Congress, as the potential for breaking a Republican-led filibuster hinges largely on 10 senators who said in September that they did not want to vote on the issue until the Pentagon study was available. The study is due to President Barack Obama by Dec. 1.

“These results confirm what those of us who actually know the modern military, especially the rank and file troops, have said all along: The men and women of America’s armed forces are professionals who are capable of handling this policy change,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under the law in 2002. “In light of these findings, as well as the Secretary of Defense’s recent call for Senate action on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ during the lame duck session, there is no longer any excuse for failing to bring the defense authorization bill back up during the first week of the post-election legislative session.”

Aubrey Sarvis, exeutive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said servicemembers who were polled for the study reflect how most Americans feel about open service — ”It’s no big deal, let’s move on and get the job done.”

“The military has a proud tradition of adjusting to change and becoming stronger for it. Ending ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ will be no different,” Sarvis said. “It’s clear a majority of Americans in both the military and civilian spheres agree that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is outdated and should go. Congress needs to catch up and the Senate should immediately act on repeal when it returns to Washington next week. No one should be surprised if a vocal minority, for a short window, might object, as a minority did when segregation in the ranks ended and women were admitted to the service academies. In the military you get over your objections or you get out.”

The Post said its sources provided details about “a draft” of the study that was distributed late last week to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, and leaders — both civilian and uniformed — of the four military branches.

The study reportedly does not recommend any significant changes to military housing or benefits, saying that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits recognition of same-sex spouses.

Although many political observers have suggested there is little to no chance that the lame-duck Congress will pass a defense authorization bill this year with the DADT repeal language intact, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told the Washington Blade this week that “Democrats are going to try very hard” to do so.

And in a telephone conference call with reporters Wednesday, Winnie Stachelberg, a key participant in meetings with the White House on the issue, said she thinks the strong statements from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in recent days have help put the repeal effort “in a solid position” during the lame-duck session of Congress.

Stachelberg, who is a vice president at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said pro-repeal activists need to focus on 10 senators who indicated during debate in September that they wanted to hear from the Pentagon study before taking a position on repeal. Those 10 include Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio. They also include Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia, as well as two senators who will not take their seats until the new Congress convenes in January — Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, whose election is still pending, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The Human Rights Campaign also launched a grassroots campaign Monday to put pressure on senators from eight key states to support breaking the filibuster on DADT. Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

The House passed DADT repeal language in its version of the FY 2011 defense authorization bill last May, but the Senate was unable to take up a similar version of the bill in September when Republicans led a filibuster aimed primarily at DADT repeal.

Some unsourced reports suggested last week that Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a supporter of repeal, was discussing with Sen. McCain the possibility of stripping DADT repeal from the bill. But neither senator confirmed that report and, with unsourced reports, it’s hard to know what is really being discussed and what is simply a rumor being spread by one side or the other to create an appearance of inevitability to advance their own interests.

Stachelberg said Wednesday she believes the only real objections surrounding DADT repeal now are ones over procedure — how and when to repeal it, not substance. But she acknowledged that Congress must vote repeal this year because “next year would be very grim.”

Copyright ©2010 Keen News Service. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

—  John Wright

Cooking up some lame duck soup

Can the Democrats use the lame-duck session to make good on all their promises to the LGBT community? If not, then maybe we should start looking for candidates who will keep their promises

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

Do you hear that quacking sound? Nope it’s not the AFLAC duck, but a lame-duck Congress.

During this session, members who have been ousted can take their parting shots and actually try to do some of the things they promised before the previous election.

You would think that would be as easy as duck soup. Heck, what have they got to lose?

Well, that remains to be seen. When Congress returns on Monday, Nov. 15, they will have a lot of work to do. Much of it is related to spending. During the last session, not a single spending measure passed — which means that if the government is not going to shut down, a stop-gap measure will have to be enacted.
Then there is the matter of those Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire. These affect mainly the wealthiest Americans, and you can bet the GOP won’t let these die without a fight.

The Democrats have a stake in it as well. There was a token: The $1,000-per-child tax credit that would be pared down to $500 and some relief on the “marriage penalty” that will make this a tough pill to swallow for the left.

On the health care front, there is a provision on Medicare that cuts what doctors are paid by 23 percent. That most likely will have to be fixed.

And on the Social Security front, there is a proposed one-time $250 payment to some seniors who didn’t get a cost-of-living adjustment this year. That measure didn’t fly in the previous session, and there is no telling what will happen to it now.

There is lots of unfinished business that was put on hold prior to the election when both parties were afraid to do anything that could be used as ammunition against them during the campaigns. Now the big question is, will Congress actually get down to business and do their job?

Your guess is a good as mine.

And then there is the “elephant in the room,” or more appropriately the “donkey in the room.”

That mythic creature consists of the LGBT issues that are still just empty promises. DADT, an unjust policy that even Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants repealed, may or may not get addressed, much less the Defense of Marriage Act or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Though some progress has been made on the human rights front, LGBT citizens are still second-class when it comes to employment discrimination, marriage and serving in the military.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if the politicians put away their rhetoric and actually looked at the inequity caused by this institutionalized discrimination?
Wouldn’t it be nice if the president used some of his remaining political capital to actually push the reluctant Democrats to do the right thing?

So far, even though President Barack Obama has repeatedly said DADT will be ended “on his watch,” there doesn’t seem to be any effort beyond rhetoric toward this end. I am beginning to doubt whether he or Congress has the political will (read “balls”) to pick up the LGBT hot potato.

After expending so much energy on enacting health care reforms, and being incredibly unsuccessful in framing the issue before the GOP dubbed it “Obama Care,” I don’t know if any further measures will happen.

Now, we have to rely on the remaining Democrats and those who have lost their seats to use the brief time of this lame-duck session to take up our cause, when they have a whole year’s worth of bills log-jammed in Congress. Since many of these representatives are not coming back to Washington after Jan. 1, our leverage with them is limited.

What can we do? Well, aside from the fantasy of the GOP suddenly deciding to turn gay-friendly, something that would blunt one of the most effective weapons in their arsenal of fear-based tactics, we might do well to punt.

Punting in this case means trying some unorthodox tactics.

Though I am loathe to say it, that might include more lawsuits like the Log Cabin Republicans tried against DADT. While I am still a bit suspect of their real agenda, which I believe was to embarrass the Obama Administration, at least it’s a shot.

Left-wing LGBT groups are going after the Defense of Marriage Act at a national level with lawsuits. This tactic will likely hit the brick wall of the Bush-era-packed Supreme Court, but it’s worth a shot.

Frankly, I am tired of being patient, and if the lame-duck Congress doesn’t deliver on its many promises to the LGBT community, then we might have to start finding new candidates who are actually socially liberal.

Unfortunately, that will be a much tougher recipe than duck soup.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens