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 I was very skeptical of the chances of getting “don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed in the lame duck Congress, yet they did it.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

Military leaders urge Senate committee to pass DADT repeal

Most Republicans on Armed Services Committee appear resistant to passing DOD authorization that includes repeal of anti-gay ban in place since 1993

Lisa Keen  |  lisakeen@mac.com

Sen. John McClain and Sen. Susan Collins

The Pentagon’s top four leaders stood their ground Thursday, Dec. 2, during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Department’s report concerning repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 1993 law that keeps lesbians and gays from serving openly in the U.S. military.

But there was considerable pushback from Republicans on the committee — and not just John McCain.

A lot of important ground was covered, both technically, concerning certification and benefits, and personally, with top military officials making clear that they believe repeal is the right thing to do and that now is the right time to do it.

Important, too, were questions by Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republicans who, until recently, were considered potential votes to at least allow the Senate to debate the repeal measure.

Collins spent her time for questions laying out arguments to rebut criticisms made of the Pentagon’s report by McCain and others; and Graham seemed to have backed off his complaint last week that the study failed to investigate “whether” DADT should be repealed.

One of the chief criticisms hurled at the report by McCain and several other Republicans was that the Pentagon did not ask a direct question of the 400,000 troops surveyed to determine whether they would like Congress to repeal DADT.

Collins noted that the Pentagon does not ask troops whether they want to go to Iraq either and that, while troops were not asked about DADT repeal directly, their thinking was certainly conveyed by their responses to less direct questions.

The insistence, by McCain and others, that troops should have been polled on whether to keep DADT elicited the strongest rebuke from the military leaders themselves. Both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen repeatedly rejected the idea as “dangerous.”

Gates said that conducting a “referendum” on a matter of military policy “is a very dangerous path.” Mullen agreed, saying it would be an “incredibly bad precedent to essentially vote on a policy.”

McCain persisted, saying it was “not voting” on a policy, it was “asking their views.”

He was not alone. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said he, too, felt the Pentagon should have asked a direct question.

Both McCain and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., seemed to flirt with the use of some inflammatory tactics during the hearing.

McCain twice raised the issue of who was responsible for the current public release of classified documents by a website called Wikileaks — an act that is considered to be one of the most damaging breaches in intelligence confidentiality in American history. It has been widely reported that the 22-year-old Army private first-class who has been arrested for enabling the leaks, Bradley Manning, has identified himself as gay.

Chambliss noted that Mullen, in his opening statement both Thursday and at a previous hearing in February, indicated he had served alongside gay people and had gay people under his command. Chambliss asked questions to suggest that Mullen had failed to seek the discharge of these gay servicemembers as required by existing military policy at the time.

(Mullen, however, noted that military law and policy has changed during the course of his career in the service and that, in fact, “every single one” of the gays he knew of were discharged. “I did this, and I saw this,” said Mullen.)

What is the difference?

There was considerable discussion of how the repeal of DADT might mirror the changes that took place in the late 1940s and 1950s after then-President Harry Truman signed an executive order requiring integration, and again in the 1960s when Congress repealed a 2 percent cap on the number of women who could serve.

“Social changes in the military have not been particularly easy,” said Gates.

He said that “serious racial problems” plagued the military “at least through” the Vietnam War years, and that women in the military still face the very real problem of sexual assaults.

McCain pointed out that, in 1993, Gen. Colin Powell had opposed gays in the military and rebuffed attempts to compare discrimination based on race and that based on sexual orientation.

Jeh Johnson, the co-chair of the Pentagon study group, said he would agree that “issues of race and sexual orientation are fundamentally different.” But he said that, in his study of integration issues for the DADT report, he found that some of the nation’s greatest heroes in World War II “predicted negative consequences for unit cohesion if there was racial integration” of the troops.

Johnson, who is African-American, also noted that surveys of 3,000 to 4,000 troops in the 1940s found that opposition to racial integration ran as high as 80 percent — and that was at a time when there were only about 700,000 black soldiers in a force of 8 million troops.

It was also a time, said Johnson, when integration was not accepted by society at large.

“But we did it. It took some time. It was not without incident,” said Johnson. “But we did it and, I think the chairman said, the military was stronger as a result.”

In fact, Johnson said the opposition to racial integration then was “much more intense than the opposition to gays serving openly today in the military.”

What are the bottom lines?

Thursday’s hearing came across as a vigorous debate between Republicans on the committee, most of whom seem to oppose repeal, and Democrats and the Defense Department’s top brass, who appear to support it.

But it took place against the backdrop of a political gaming of the Senate’s parliamentary procedures.

All 42 Republicans in the Senate signed onto a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday, Nov. 30, saying they would not agree to vote on “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase … .”

Although the language of “fund the government” might provide some wiggle room for the defense authorization bill (because it authorizes the expenditure of funds for the government), the letter is being widely characterized as an obstacle to consideration of DADT repeal, which is contained inside the defense authorization bill.

Maine Republican Collins’ questions Thursday suggested she is still for repealing DADT — a position she took in the committee’s original vote on the defense authorization bill in September.

Unless she and a few other Republicans agree to provide the Democrats with the votes they need to reach 60 — to allow the defense authorization bill to the floor — Thursday’s debate and debate that will take place during Day Two of the hearing, Friday, Dec. 3, are moot.

The hope of convincing some Republicans to wiggle themselves around the Republican drop dead letter could well have been behind Secretary Gates’ repeated assurances Thursday that he would not sign the necessary document to “certify” the troops are ready to implement repeal until “everything has been done” to ensure the troops are ready and that the chiefs of each of the service branches “are comfortable” that any risks to combat readiness had been “mitigated if not eliminated.”

Neither Gates nor Mullen suggested how long it might take to certify such readiness after Congress votes to repeal the law. But both also sought to impress upon the committee another issue with regard to timing: The courts.

“Whatever risk there may be to repeal of this law, it is greatly mitigated by the thorough implementation plan included in this study, the time to carry out that plan and effective, inspirational leadership,” said Mullen in his opening statement.

“Now, let me tell you what I believe,” continued Mullen. “I believe our troops and their families are ready for this. Most of them believe they serve, or have served, alongside gays and lesbians, and knowing matters a lot … . “I believe now is the time to act. I worry that unpredictable actions in the court could strike down the law at any time, precluding the orderly implementation plan we believe is necessary to mitigate risk,” Mullen said. “I also have no expectation that challenges to our national security are going to diminish in the near future, such that a more convenient time will appear.” 

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 03, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Military leaders stand firm during 1st day of Senate hearings on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

The Pentagon’s top four leaders stood their ground Thursday, Dec. 2 during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Department’s report concerning “don’t ask don’t tell.” But there was considerable pushback from Republicans on the committee — and not just John McCain.

A lot of important ground was covered — both technically, concerning certification and benefits, and personally, with top military officials making clear that they believe repeal is the right thing to do and that now is the right time to do it.

Important, too, were questions by Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — Republicans who, until recently, were considered potential votes to at least allow the Senate to debate the repeal measure.

Collins spent her time for questions laying out arguments to rebut criticisms made of the Pentagon’s report by McCain and others; and Graham seemed to have backed off his complaint last week that the study failed to investigate “whether” DADT should be repealed.

What is the question?

One of the chief criticisms hurled at the report by McCain and several other Republicans was that the Pentagon did not ask a direct question of the 400,000 troops surveyed to determine whether they would like Congress to repeal DADT. Collins noted that the Pentagon does not ask troops whether they want to go to Iraq either and that, while troops were not asked about DADT repeal directly, their thinking was certainly conveyed by their responses to less direct questions.

The insistence, by McCain and others, that troops should have been polled on whether to keep DADT elicited the strongest rebuke from the military leaders themselves. Both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen repeatedly rejected the idea as “dangerous.”

Gates said that conducting a “referendum” on a matter of military policy “is a very dangerous path.” Mullen agreed, saying it would be an “incredibly bad precedent to essentially vote on a policy.”

McCain persisted, saying it was “not voting” on a policy, it was “asking their views.” He was not alone. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said he, too, felt the Pentagon should have asked a direct question.

Both McCain and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., seemed to flirt with the use of some inflammatory tactics during the hearing. McCain twice raised the issue of who was responsible for the current public release of classified documents by a website called Wikileaks — an act that is considered to be one of the most damaging breaches in intelligence confidentiality in American history. It has been widely reported that the 22-year-old Army private first-class who has been arrested for enabling the leaks, Bradley Manning, has identified himself as gay.

Chambliss noted that Admiral Mullen, in his opening statement both Thursday and at a previous hearing in February, indicated he had served alongside gay people and had gay people under his command. Chambliss asked questions to suggest that Mullen had failed to seek the discharge of these gay servicemembers as required by existing military policy at the time. (Mullen, however, noted that military law and policy has changed during the course of his career in the service and that, in fact, “every single one” of the gays he knew of were discharged. “I did this, and I saw this,” said Mullen.)

What is the difference?

There was considerable discussion of how the repeal of DADT might mirror the changes that took place in the late 1940s and 1950s after then President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order requiring integration and again in the 1960s when Congress repealed a two-percent cap on the number of women who could serve.

“Social changes in the military have not been particularly easy,” said Gates. He said that “serious racial problems” plagued the military “at least through” the Vietnam War years and that women in the military still face the very real problem with sexual assaults.

McCain pointed out that, in 1993, General Colin Powell had opposed gays in the military and rebuffed attempts to compare discrimination based on race and that based on sexual orientation.

Jeh Johnson, the co-chair of the Pentagon study group, said he would agree that “issues of race and sexual orientation are fundamentally different.” But he said that, in his study of integration issues for the DADT report, he found that some of the nation’s greatest heroes in World War II “predicted negative consequences for unit cohesion if there was racial integration” of the troops.

Johnson, who is African-American, also noted that surveys of 3,000 to 4,000 troops in the 1940s found that opposition to racial integration ran as high as 80 percent — and that was at a time when there were only about 700,000 black soldiers in a force of 8 million troops. It was also a time, said Johnson, when integration was not accepted by society at large.

“But we did it. It took some time. It was not without incident,” said Johnson, “but we did it and, I think the chairman said, the military was stronger as a result.”

In fact, Johnson said the opposition to racial integration then was “much more intense than the opposition to gays serving openly today in the military.”

What are the bottom lines?

Thursday’s hearing came across as a vigorous debate between Republicans on the Committee, most of whom seem to oppose repeal, and Democrats and the Defense Department’s top brass, who appear to support it. But it took place against the backdrop of a political gaming of the Senate’s parliamentary procedures. All 42 Republicans in the Senate signed onto a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday saying they would not agree to vote on “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase.” Although the language of “fund the government” might provide some wiggle room for the defense authorization bill (because it authorizes the expenditure of funds for the government), the letter is being widely characterized as an obstacle to consideration of DADT repeal, which is contained inside the defense authorization bill.

Maine Republican Collins’ questions Thursday suggest she is still for repealing DADT — a position she took in the Committee’s original vote on the defense authorization bill in September. Unless she and a few other Republicans provide Democrats with the votes they need to reach 60 — to allow the defense authorization bill to the floor— Thursday’s debate and debate that will take place during Day Two of the hearing, Friday, are moot.

Collins has been ridiculed by a number of pundits in recent days for saying she didn’t know how to vote on another contentious piece of legislation — the START treaty — and that she would appreciate getting some direction from two former Republican presidents — the two Bushes. Such negative publicity may have inspired Collins to ask the pro-repeal oriented questions she asked at Thursday’s hearings.

The hope of convincing some Republicans to wiggle themselves around the Republican drop dead letter could well have been behind Secretary Gates’ repeated assurances Thursday that he would not sign the necessary document to “certify” the troops are ready to implement repeal until “everything has been done” to ensure the troops are ready and that the chiefs of each of the service branches “are comfortable” that any risks to combat readiness had been “mitigated if not eliminated.”

Neither Gates nor Mullen suggested how long it might take to certify such readiness after Congress votes to repeal the law. But both also sought to impress upon the Committee another issue with regard to timing: The courts.

“Whatever risk there may be to repeal of this law, it is greatly mitigated by the thorough implementation plan included in this study, the time to carry out that plan, and effective, inspirational leadership,” said Mullen in his opening statement.

“Now, let me tell you what I believe,” continued Mullen. “I believe our troops and their families are ready for this. Most of them believe they serve, or have served, alongside gays and lesbians, and knowing matters a lot….

“I believe now is the time to act. I worry that unpredictable actions in the court could strike down the law at any time, precluding the orderly implementation plan we believe is necessary to mitigate risk,” said Mullen. “I also have no expectation that challenges to our national security are going to diminish in the near future, such that a more convenient time will appear.”

Copyright ©2010 Keen News Service. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

—  John Wright

John Travolta likes well-hung Middle Eastern types. Join the club

It’s one of the best-kept, worst-kept secrets in Hollywood that John Travolta is gay (Scientology allegedly promises to “cure” you of your homosexuality) — a fact that, despite evidence (remember the candid lip-lock photographed on him kissing his late son’s male, umm, “nanny”?) that has been respectfully ignored most of the time by the mainstream press.

This is nothing new. I was at the Samar party last week, jawing with some straight male media friends, and all of them were shocked by my “secret” list of commonly accepted gay celebs … including Travolta. People believe what they wanna believe. It’s how Lindsey Graham is still in a leadership position with the GOP.

Anyway, the most salacious of rumors about Travolta have been published on Gawker, and the language used is surprising. Well, not to me, but most hausfraus out there will probably be astonished to find that the man who gained fame in musicals and had his last hit as a cross-dressing woman (in a musical!) likes to go to bathhouses and apparently has a penchant for Middle Easterns (guilty as charged, I admit it).

Some of the allegations made include that Travolta abused himself in a steam room and came onto the author; that he has both given and received oral sex from other men in public; and that he uses his celebrity to attract his type (which usually means well-endowed men of color).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Right-wing immigration group is gay-baiting Sen. Lindsey Graham

ALIPACAmericans for Legal Immigration is gay-baiting Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) because of his support for immigration reform. Graham is the senator best known for apologizing to Justice Samuel Alito’s wife for the tough questioning of her husband during his judicial committe hearings and calling Justice Sonia Sotomayer “nasty,” “a terror” and “a bit of a bull” at hers.

On their website ALIPAC, they wrote:

The national border security organization known as Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) is officially calling for US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to make his homosexual lifestyle public knowledge in the interest of political integrity and national security.

William Gheen, president of the group, spoke to a Tea Party rally on Saturday, April 17. He said:

US Senator Lindsey Graham is gay and while many people in South Carolina and Washington DC know that, the general public and Graham’s constituents do not. I personally do not care about Graham’s private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets. Senator Graham needs to come out of the closet inside that log cabin so the public can rest assured he is not being manipulated with his secret.

Really? You don’t care about his “private sexual life?” But proving he’s gay people explains why he supports reforming the broken immigration laws? Because if he’s gay, he’s automatically in favor of illegal immigration? And just what is a “closet inside that log cabin?” A snotty reference to LGBT Republicans or a skewed view of Abe Lincoln’s luxurious suburban upbringing in a mini-mansion made of logs? Making deals to hide being gay? That’s so 1970s.

On the topic of immigration reform, about the only thing that the LGBT community might agree on is that current laws aren’t working. The solution is something that the LGBT community is as divided on as every other group in the country.

One comment by Gheen we can certainly agree with, however.

“Barney Frank has more integrity and bravery than Senator Lindsey Graham right now,” Gheen said, although I’m sure he didn’t mean it as a compliment to Frank.

—  David Taffet