A lesson learned

We may never know for sure what happened between the gay man and the Marine during the LCR convention, but we can’t overlook the situation’s one clear lesson

David Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

It’s hard to understand exactly what happened at a Dallas Hilton Anatole hotel bar last weekend when a Log Cabin Republican conventioneer was allegedly called a “faggot” and assaulted. Everyone involved seems to be engaging in high-gear damage control.

Although police cited the suspect for an alleged Class C misdemeanor assault at the scene, the victim reportedly advised police the next day he would not be pressing charges after the suspect apologized to him. That in effect gave the suspect a pass for allegedly slamming the victim’s face on a bar table.

What is extraordinary about this development is that the police apparently acted as mediators between the victim and the suspect the day after the incident. The negotiations reportedly involved the Dallas Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community, Laura Martin, who described the suspect as 27-year-old member of the U.S. Armed Services.

Dallas police spokesman Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse claimed that the alleged crime did not rise to the level of a hate crime — even though the suspect used the slur “faggot” during the attack — because either the victim or one of his friends allegedly provoked the assault by either whistling or making a catcall at the suspect and his friends. He described both the victim and the suspect as being intoxicated, and dismissed it as a bar fight.

After the charges were dropped, police considered reporting the incident as a hate crime for statistical purposes, but decided not to, according to Martin.

The victim and his friends, who do not want their identities revealed, have disputed the official police report, calling it “misleading.” The victim, who is from out of town, said he decided not to press charges because pursuing it would be time consuming and “arduous.”

What’s more, we learned that the suspect might be a member of the U.S. Marines who was staying over at the Anatole after a tour in the Middle East. Ironically, all of this began coming to light just as reports circulated about the Marine Corps conducting seminars aimed at smoothing the way for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Services.

What a mess. If all that’s true, no wonder the Dallas Police Department found time to negotiate a cease-fire between the victim and the suspect.

On top of all that, we learned during the same weekend that U.S. Navy Seals had finally managed to take out Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. in 2001. It’s not exactly the best time to be criticizing a member of the military.

Still, there are troubling aspects to this story. From decades of covering crime, I know that the most common defenses in crimes involving everything from assaults to murders of LGBT people is for the suspect to claim the victims made sexual advances. The suspect reportedly also told the police the next day that he didn’t remember much about the incident, another common excuse for attempting to shirk responsibility.

Likewise, the victim acknowledged being intoxicated.

Astonishingly, the victim took a real verbal beating in the comments sections of the Dallas Voice’s blog, Instant Tea, where the alleged assault was reported. It was interesting that so many LGBT people took the position that the victim deserved to not only be viciously assaulted, but to be humiliated in public as well.

As a member of the U.S. military, the consequences for the suspect would be far more severe than a mere hefty fine. A conviction would mean a nasty stain on his military record. Even if the victim or someone else at the table whistled or made a comment about someone “looking good,” it hardly merits a physical attack from someone who has sworn to protect U.S. citizens.

On the other hand, members of the LGBT community need to be respectful of heterosexuals and be on guard not to offend anyone through their actions or words. With all of the gains the community has made in recent years, we are more recognizable and subject to more scrutiny and criticism.

With the end of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy quickly approaching, members of the U.S. Armed Services are likely to be more on edge and prone to taking offense.

We saw a similar event occur in 1993 when three Marines stationed at Camp LeJeune allegedly attacked a gay man in a Wilmington, N.C., gay bar., when then President Clinton was vowing to end the ban on gay and lesbians serving in the U.S. Armed Services. That led to a high-profile lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the behalf of the victim. The lawsuit was later settled for a token amount. The Marines in that incident also claimed they were provoked by the bar patrons.

We may never know exactly what happened at the Anatole Hilton in Dallas that night, but maybe we can learn a lesson from it anyway: We probably all need to monitor ourselves a little more closely when we are in predominantly straight venues to make sure we aren’t pushing our luck. What is appropriate in a gay bar just doesn’t work well in most other places.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Federal judge declares DADT unconstitutional

READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE RULING

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

A federal judge in California on Thursday declared the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional, saying it violates both the First Amendment rights to free speech and the Fifth Amendment rights to due process in the U.S. constitution.

The 85-page memorandum opinion came in Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S, a six-year-old lawsuit that has received little media attention compared to most other gay-related trials. The bench trial in Riverside, Calif., in July was overshadowed by a much more high-profile challenge of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, in federal court in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips presided over a two-week-long trial that began July 13 and included many witnesses testifying about the history of DADT and the injury it has caused. Phillips, 52, was appointed to the federal bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, who signed DADT into law in 1993. LCR filed its lawsuit against the policy in 2004.

“As an American, a veteran and an Army reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ statute violates the Constitution,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.  “Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican servicemembers, but all American servicemembers.”

The opinion strikes down the 1993 law that bars from the military any servicemember who engages in “homosexual conduct,” has a “propensity” to do so, or even just states that he or she is a “homosexual or bisexual.”

Phillips’ decision, which has not yet been officially “entered,” could include an injunction against further enforcement of DADT by the government but will almost certainly be stayed and appealed to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Phillips granted plaintiffs Log Cabin until Thursday, Sept. 16, to submit a proposed judgment granting an injunction. After that, the Department of Justice will have seven days to respond with objections.

Log Cabin brought the lawsuit on behalf of many of its members who it said are being denied their constitutional rights. The group specifically identified only two members at trial: 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.

“This is a historic moment and an historic ruling for the gay military community,” Nicholson said in a statement Thursday night. “As the only named injured party in this case, I am exceedingly proud to have been able to represent all who have been impacted and had their lives ruined by this blatantly unconstitutional policy. We are finally on our way to vindication.”

The Department of Justice 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 postpone the trial, arguing that Congress has a measure pending that could significantly affect the DADT law.

That measure is still awaiting action in the Senate as part of a Defense spending bill that is likely to see action later this month. There seems little doubt that the judge’s opinion will now be the subject of the debate around that measure. But Judge Phillips refused to delay action on LCR’s lawsuit, noting that the DADT repeal measure — as it is currently worded in Congress — does not guarantee repeal of DADT. Instead, the legislation requires a sign-off procedure involving the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The likelihood the bill would lead to repeal, said Phillips at trial, is “remote, if not wholly speculative.”

Phillips noted that evidence considered at trial, including three historic studies concerning gays in the military, did not identify any legitimate reasons for barring gays. The 1957 Crittenden Report, she said, “is not evidence that discharge of homosexual servicemembers significantly furthers government interests in military readiness or troop cohesion.” The 1988 PERSEREC Report “generally dismisses traditional objections to service by homosexuals in the military as abstract, intangible, and tradition-bound.” And the 1993 Rand Report concludes, “no empirical evidence exists demonstrating the impact of an openly homosexual servicemember on the cohesion of any military unit.”

Using tables of data to demonstrate a point made at trial by DADT opponent Nathaniel Frank, Phillips showed how the military discharged increasing numbers of servicemembers for homosexuality from 1994 to 2001, but that the number “fell sharply” beginning in 2002 as the U.S. began fighting in Afghanistan. In 2001, according to the data, the military discharged 1,227 people for being gay — the largest number per year since DADT went into effect. But in 2002, the number of discharges dropped to 885. Last year, only 275 were discharged.

She also cited data submitted by Log Cabin Republicans’ attorneys showing the Defense Department often suspended investigations of servicemembers it believed to be gay until after the servicemembers had completed their tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD, she noted “deployed servicemembers under investigation … to combat missions or, if they were already so deployed, delayed the completion of the investigation until the end of the deployment.”

“This evidence, in particular, directly undermines any contention that [DADT] furthers the Government’s purpose of military readiness, as it shows [DOD officials] continue to deploy gay and lesbian members of the military into combat, waiting until they have returned before resolving the charges arising out of the suspected homosexual conduct.”

“Taken as a whole,” wrote Phillips, “the evidence introduced at trial shows that the effect of the Act has been, not to advance the Government’s interests of military readiness and unit cohesion, much less to do so significantly, but to harm that interest.“

In her decision, Phillips noted that the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals addressed a similar case, Cook v. Gates, and came to a different opinion and upheld the law. But Phillips said she found the 1st Circuit’s reasoning “unpersuasive” and noted that she, within a 9th Circuit court, is not bound to follow it.

Phillips, however, indicated she was bound to follow a precedent of her own 9th Circuit, rendered in another challenge to the DADT policy and brought by an Air Force nurse, Margaret Witt, in Seattle. On a preliminary matter in that case, the 9th Circuit ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas recognized a fundamental right to “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.” Infringement on a fundamental right requires a law to pass a “heightened” or more stringent judicial review.

The Witt v. U.S. case is scheduled for trial beginning Sept. 13 in the U.S. District Court for Tacoma, Wash.

Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which is pressing the case against Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California, said the Log Cabin decision “is yet another significant and long-overdue step toward full equality for all Americans.

“It is clear,” said Griffin, “that our nation is moving toward the day when every American will be treated equally under the law, as required by our Constitution.”

Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said: “We’re pleased by the judge’s decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger for years. Congress made the DADT law 17 years ago and Congress should repeal it. The Senate will have the opportunity to do just that this month and most Americans think the Senate should seize it.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he hopes the ruling will help spur Congress.

“Today a federal judge affirmed what the vast majority of the American people know to be true — that it’s time for the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law to be sent to the dustbin of history,” Solmonese said. “With this legal victory in hand, Congress is right now in a perfect position to strengthen our national security by ending a law that has discharged thousands of capable service members. With House passage already secured, the Senate can and should vote in the next few weeks to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and allow every qualified man and woman the chance to serve with honor.”

Online editor John Wright contributed to this story.

© 2010 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Letters • 07.09.10

Label Schlein ‘Guest humorist’

The next time you publish a column by Dallas’ own Log Cabin Republican it should read Rob Schlein/Guest Humorist.

I laughed out loud when he said he found the term “Tea Bagger” as offensive as the term “Faggot.” Surely this man cannot be serious, and if he is, all the more reason to pull the Democratic lever this November!

Michael Hallock
Dallas


Even a dog knows abuse

I usually let things I read in the paper go by without a comment, but this is one I just couldn’t let go.

I think denial is a river in Egypt. How many times does the person you feel you have the most in common with, and love dearly have to hit you up side the head and say that you are disgusting before you realize that you are in a bad relationship?

Do you continue in the relationship with the idea that if I stay in this relationship, I’m going to change this individual, because I love them, only to get hit again? Even a dog will eventually come to see when it has been abused: And dogs are loyal to a fault.

It seems to my weak imagination that the Log Cabin Republicans are in this type relationship with the Texas Republican party, especially. How many ways and how many times does this party have to show them you are not welcome before they realize that changing it from the inside is impossible?

It is like going as a guest of someone invited to a party and the host, emphatically telling saying, “You are not welcome here.” Would you stick around because you thought it would hurt the feelings of the person who invited you if you left?

How many ways does the Texas Republican party have to say that gay people are not wanted? Because I believe in the principles of smaller government, low taxes etc. etc. should not make me the target of abuse.

I am not fool enough to associate with people who don’t want me. At every step of the way, the Texas Republican Party has shown great contempt for gays, for blacks, for Latinos, and anybody that is not rich.

Joe Bennett
Dallas


Thanks from YFT Collin County

Thank you to [the Voice] and our wonderful community. We now have a VERY discounted storage space and the donated use of a truck to move our stuff.

Now we just need a permanent home. Wouldn’t it be great if we could purchase something in Collin County?

We have lots of handywomen (& men) who could turn it into something the whole community could use in addition to the Youth, i.e., coffee nights, movies, fundraisers, meetings, etc.

Jeanne Rubin
Frisco
Youth First Texas Collin County

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens