BREAKING: A new plan for DADT repeal

Details are emerging today about a new plan to pass a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the lame duck session of Congress.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., introduced DADT repeal legislation in the House this morning that could see a vote as early as Wednesday. The plan reportedly involves attaching DADT repeal as an amendment to a bill that has already passed the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House amendment to a Senate bill will become “an amendment between the Houses” and holds “priviledged status,” allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to call it up at any time to the floor.

“We applaud House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Reps. [Steny] Hoyer and Murphy for their extraordinary leadership in the waning hours of the lame-duck session,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Let’s be clear: we’ll still need 60 votes in the Senate. This ‘privileged’ House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate. While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk. Repeal supporters need to contact their House member to vote for repeal tomorrow. We also need to keep the pressure on the Senate and not relent. Time remains the enemy and Senators need to complete the bill before leaving for holiday vacation. Get on the phone and help hold the frontlines.”

Below is the list of key senators SLDN is targeting. To contact them, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA);
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK);
–Mark Kirk (R-IL);
–And the sole unpersuaded Democrat: Joe Manchin (D-WV)


—  John Wright

Reid pledges lame duck vote on DADT repeal

President urges Levin to bring DADT repeal back, but Levin wants to see results of Pentagon study first

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will return to the Senate floor following the Thanksgiving recess, but whether repeal advocates can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster of the measure is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 17, that he will bring DADT repeal back to the floor as part of the National Defense Authorization Act during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”

Reid’s announcement came on the heels of a meeting about DADT repeal involving representatives from national LGBT groups, along with top officials from the White House and the majority leader’s office.

“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center For American Progress. “Further the majority leader and the president made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.”

Those who met with representatives from the three groups were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro, White House director of legislative affairs; Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, chief of staff to Reid; and Serena Hoy, senior counsel to Reid.

Reid also said Wednesday that he plans to introduce the Dream Act, a controversial immigration reform measure, as a separate bill this time. Some Senators who voted to block debate on the NDAA in September cited their opposition to the Dream Act, which had been attached to the bill along with DADT repeal.

Also Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had contacted Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to urge him to move forward with DADT repeal.

“Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement. “The president’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”

Levin said in a statement that he wants to await the results of a Pentagon study on DADT repeal, which are due Dec. 1, before moving forward. Some Senators have said they will not vote to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service until they can review the study results.

“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is repealed and the NDAA  — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said. “I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Senate to take up DADT repeal in December

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will return to the Senate floor following the Thanksgiving recess, but whether repeal advocates can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster of the measure is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 17, that he will bring DADT repeal back to the floor as part of the National Defense Authorization Act during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”

Reid’s announcement came on the heels of a meeting about DADT repeal involving representatives from national LGBT groups, along with top officials from the White House and the majority leader’s office.

“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center For American Progress. “Further the majority leader and the president made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.”

Those who met with representatives from the three groups were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro, White House director of legislative affairs; Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, chief of staff to Reid; and Serena Hoy, senior counsel to Reid.

Reid also said Wednesday that he plans to introduce the Dream Act, a controversial immigration reform measure, as a separate bill this time. Some Senators who voted to block debate on the NDAA in September cited their opposition to the Dream Act, which had been attached to the bill along with DADT repeal.

Also Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had contacted Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to urge him to move forward with DADT repeal.

“Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement. “The president’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”

Levin said in a statement that he wants to await the results of a Pentagon study on DADT repeal, which are due Dec. 1, before moving forward. Some Senators have said they will not vote to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service until they can review the study results.

“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is repealed and the NDAA  — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said. “I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December.”

—  John Wright

Rep. Johnson expects tough time for LGBT rights

Democrat wins 10th term, but says with Republicans in control, many LGBT-positive bills won’t get heard

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert
HONORING VETERANS | Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert were among those participating in Dallas’ Veterans Day parade on Thursday. Johnson said repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is possible during the lame duck session, but questionable. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has been considered a friend to the LGBT community since she served in the Texas House of Representatives.

“I grew up black in Waco, Texas. It’s just hard for me to fight against anybody’s rights,” said the woman who just won re-election to Congress.
But Johnson dates her firm commitment to LGBT equality to a much more recent event.

She said that throughout her life she fought for civil rights, but “When they [the LGBT community] really got my attention was when they [anti-gay conservatives] were talking about putting something in the Constitution,” she said. “You know, I have never seen them amend the Constitution to take rights away from people. So that’s just the beginning and the end of my philosophy.”

Johnson told a story about the subtle discrimination that she encountered in her first job as the first black nurse at the Dallas VA Hospital.
She worked a shift until midnight. When she got off on time, she’d catch the last bus to her home downtown.

But her supervisors purposely liked to delay her so that she’d miss the bus and have to walk up Lancaster Road and across the Corinth StreetBridge to get downtown.

“It brings tears to my eyes even now,” she said.

But Johnson said she had on her comfortable white nursing shoes, all those nights, and she made it home. And she made it to Congress, where she hopes she’s helped make other people’s lives easier.

On Monday, Nov. 15, the lame duck session of Congress opens. But Johnson said she doesn’t “anticipate a lot” of movement on the several bills of interest to the LGBT community that have been languishing this session.

She said that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has already passed the House, where she serves, and that the Senate has the votes. But still, she isn’t hopeful it will go through.

She said she believes that if DADT had to come back to the House because of amendments, it would pass there again. But, “It depends on what the Senate does,” she said.

Since Johnson expects that a number of House members who were defeated will not return for the lame duck session, she isn’t hopeful that other legislation of interest to the LGBT community will even be brought to the floor.

She said the House had the votes to pass Employment Nondiscrimination. But if the legislation does come up during the lame duck session, whether it passes will depend on who has shown up for work.

Two immigration bills that might be considered could help the LGBT community: the Dream Act and the Uniting American Families Act. The Dream Act would give people who were brought to this country as children a way to become citizens. UAFA would give an American citizen the right to sponsor a partner for a visa and eventual citizenship, the same way a married spouse currently can.

Johnson noted that Republican Sen. John McCain had been a sponsor of the Dream Act but has since dropped his sponsorship. The bill would have an easier path to passage with his name on it, she said.

Johnson would like to see the omnibus immigration reform bill — which includes the Dream Act and UAFA and has been debated this session — pass while the Democrats are still in control.

“I wish we could because it would be much more acceptable,” she said. “People have to have a path to becoming citizens.”

Whether the two bills that would benefit the LGBT community would be considered in the next session, she couldn’t say.

“They determine what comes to the floor,” she said, referring to the majority party, which will be the Republicans.

Under Republican control, Johnson expects a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.

“If they mean to be productive, that’s one thing,” she said.

But she doesn’t expect that in the new session.

And what would she like in the new Congress?

“To get along,” Johnson said, with a sidelong glance that indicated that she didn’t expect it to happen.

“There’s going to be two parties up there, but it’s going to be the Tea Party and the Republican Party,” she said.

As we spoke in the conference room of her Dallas congressional office earlier this week, she revealed one of her darkest secrets: Some of her best friends in Congress are Republicans.

She also divulged one of her little tricks: Pralines from Neiman Marcus.

“This will make you a little sweeter,” she’ll tell a committee colleague when debating proposed legislation or funding for a project.

When Congress reconvenes in January, Johnson will once again be in the minority. She noted that she has spent fewer terms in office in the majority, so this won’t be anything new for her.

She said Republicans have indicated that 60 percent of each committee will be named from their own party.

“And the rumor is they’re going to cut them in half,” she said regarding committee size.

That will leave Democrats scrambling for committee assignments. She believes her own positions on the Science and Technology Committee and the Transportation Committee are safe because of her seniority, but worries that Democrats will lose the opportunity to develop younger talent.

She recalled the last time Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 sweep. They were in control for the first time in decades and she called their initial leadership “mean-spirited.”

First they fired all House staff, assuming them to be Democrats. Then they closed down a number of offices to outsource the work, including the printing and furniture building offices.

“Most of the furniture we use is made in house,” she said. “They got rid of all that staff and then they found out that to make a desk was $150 — maybe — and to buy one was a thousand.”

Johnson said printing is also done cheaper in-house.

She said doesn’t expect the in-coming Republican leadership to make the same mistakes, and that she hopes her committees continue to act in a bipartisan fashion.

“There’s no Democratic highway and there’s no Republican sewer system,” she said. “We tend to get along.”

While delighted by her own huge landslide in the recent election and thankful to people who voted for her, Johnson said she is saddened by how many of her friends won’t be returning to Congress with her in January.

Although the election coverage was all about the Tea Party candidates, only about a third were actually elected. Though many of the others lost by a small margin, Johnson defeated Stephen Broden, her Tea Party opponent, by more than 50 points. Her landslide was possibly the largest against a Tea Party candidate in the country.

Johnson laughs at coverage of her election that minimized the enormity of her win. She said that by looking at her opponent’s campaign filings, she knew rank-and-file and local Republicans weren’t supporting him. That indicated last-minute money might flow into his coffers from around the country.

But Johnson said she was prepared and ran her usual campaign, taking nothing for granted.

“People in my district know me,” she said.

And in large numbers voted for her for a 10th term in office.

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

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Tammy Baldwin at Black Tie

Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told The Washington Blade on Tuesday there is “zero chance” of passing pro-equality legislation in the new Republican-controlled House next year. Three days before, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin told attendees at Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner pretty much the same thing.

“The last time Republicans were in control of Congress, we fought hard for consideration of pro-equality measures, and we were rebuffed at every turn,” Baldwin said. “Within the new Republican leadership and among the incoming class of members, I don’t see many champions of gay rights. Now it’s my hope the Republican majority won’t revert to its prior agenda, which forced us to play defense, fighting back anti-equality measures, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Baldwin said that while a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is still “possible” during the lame duck session of Congress, the same cannot be said for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act.

“Unfortunately the chances of enacting these measures are slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future,” Baldwin said. “Now that doesn’t mean we’re going to throw up our hands and give up. We will keep on moving forward, because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time, and as with every great movement of social change, it requires that we have faith — faith that, using the tools of our democracy we can affect change, even when it’s our government that’s denying us our rights.”

Watch Baldwin’s full speech above.

—  John Wright

SLDN board member Dave Guy-Gainer makes sense of all the latest developments on DADT

Dave Guy-Gainer

The Raw Story has posted a nice recap of the many developments of the last few days concerning the possible repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” during the lame-duck session of Congress – otherwise known as the possible repeal of DADT anytime before 2013.

In a nutshell, there are reports that Senate leaders plan to remove the amendment that would repeal DADT from a Defense spending bill, to facilitate the spending bill’s passage. And those reports from The Advocate and The Wall Street Journal have prompted some to conclude that DADT repeal is dead as a hammer. Meanwhile, on the same day that the new commandant of the Marine Corps spoke out against DADT repeal (Saturday), Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated his desire to see the ban lifted. So what gives?

To make sense of it all, we turned to Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Here’s what Gainer said:

“It seems like in this week between the elections and the reconvening of the lame duck Senate, pundits and talking heads are coming out of the woodwork. Let me stick to the facts of today and avoid speculation. The bill to repeal DADT is still attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. The president has said that he wants the legislative branch to act. Secretary Gates has repeated that he would like to see the ban lifted. Well over 70 percent of the nation says that repeal is needed. The DOD report is due Dec. 1.  The newly elected members of the House and Senate won’t be seated in this session. Those who will be leaving are still there. None  of the advocacy groups who have fought for repeal have folded up tent and left the battlefield. For repeal to happen, we still need existing Republican Senators to do the right thing and vote for passage. We especially need our Log Cabin Republican allies, of whom I am most proud in the courts, to bring the Republican vote to the table. Surely, there are Republicans who would do the right thing and vote for repeal. DADT has been declared unconstitutional in lower federal courts and is winding its way through appeal. Congress could end it all in the next six weeks. The question is — will it?”

UPDATE: We asked Guy-Gainer whether there’s any hope that Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would break ranks and provide one of the needed Republican votes in favor of repeal. Guy-Gainer’s response, and this is a direct quote, was, “<expletive deleted>.” Gainer went on to note that Texas isn’t on the list of states where SLDN is targeting key senators. Below is the list, and SLDN is again urging people to contact these folks by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Harry Reid (D-NV);
–Carl Levin (D-MI);
–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);
–Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark)
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Joe Manchin (D-WV)
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
–Mark Kirk (R-IL)


—  John Wright