HRC and EQME Out in Maine for Repeal

I’m back– and so is the hope of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!”

Last year, on behalf of HRC, I worked in Maine to successfully pass marriage equality legislation and defend it at the ballot box with EqualityMaine. After a few months working on elections in Maine, I have returned to HRC to continue to work for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” All eyes are on Maine because of Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of whom are crucial votes to ensure that the Senate passes legislation to repeal the discriminatory law this year.

I will be working in Maine over the next few weeks to ensure that Collins and Snowe  know that their constituents want them to vote for repeal. Today, I met with the staff of EqualityMaine to discuss outreach to veterans and their members to ask them to get involved. There is no time to waste. The report from the Pentagon regarding the repeal is now scheduled to be released on November 30, and a Senate vote is thought to be shortly thereafter.

You can help! Please call Senator Snowe and Senator Collins and let them know that you want them to vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

If you are a veteran in Maine and would be willing to meet with your Senators, please contact me at jeremy.kennedy@hrc.org


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Standing With Veterans in Maine for DADT Repeal

The following post comes from HRC Regional Field Director Sultan Shakir:

Yesterday, I met with Maine veterans about the critical importance of letting Senators Snowe and Collins know about the need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  I have a deep respect for the men and women have who have served our country and was appreciative of the overwhelming support for repeal expressed by these vets.

Many expressed that they have firsthand knowledge of what military service is all about and how sexual orientation was never a factor in someone’s ability to do to their job.  One gentleman remembers serving alongside gay troops before and during DADT.  He expressed that he always felt that those troops were just as qualified and just as dedicated, if not more because of their willingness to serve, even under DADT.

Across the state, HRC will be meeting with vets to provide them with opportunities to reach out to Senators Snowe and Collins.  Both senators are key votes in the US Senate and can help to end discrimination against lesbian and gay  servicemembers by voting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

If you or someone you know is a vet or a family member of someone currently serving, please email me at Sultan.Shakir@hrc.org


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Maine Senators Snowe and Collins Release Statements on DADT As Senate Prepares to Vote on Cloture

In their write-up of the SLDN – Lady Gaga rally in Maine, the NYT posts responses from the two senators (Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) which the rally, which took place in Portland, meant to pressure:

Soldier In an e-mail message, Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Ms. Collins, said she was the only Republican on the Armed Forces committee to vote for a repeal and “She believes that our Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable to serve our country.” However, she is calling for an open debate and allowing members to offer amendments.

In a statement, Ms. Snowe said the law is due "for a thorough review," but wants a comprehensive review complete before a vote is taken.

Here's Snowe's full statement.

The White House offered a lame statement.

If you haven't called your senator, now is the time.

According to Alex Nicholson at Servicemembers United, here's what's happening tomorrow on DADT:

Tomorrow the Senate will vote at 2:15pm on cloture for the motion to proceed to debate on NDAA. All that means is that we need 60 votes tomorrow to move forward.

The good news is that we had the 60 votes lined up (a few more than 60, in fact) and we were ready to move forward as NDAA normally does. The bad news is that Senator Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, just changed the terms of the debate to slight even the moderate Republicans who were lined up to vote with us to break the filibuster.

So now, this is where we are… either Senator Reid needs to change his mind and let at least some Republicans have an amendment or two of their own, or one or two Republicans need to vote to break the filibuster without the ability to offer any of their own amendments to other areas of NDAA. 

So there are two things you can do:

1. You can call Senator Reid's office and tell him to return to the original terms of amendments and debate for NDAA (the orginal terms that had us the 60 votes locked down).

and/or

2. You can call the 5 Republicans who were either going to or likely to vote to break the filibuster under the original terms of debate for NDAA (Susan Collins, Dick Lugar, George Voinovich, Olympia Snowe, and Scott Brown) and ask them to vote to break the filibuster anyway.

My suggestion is that we all do BOTH! No one can be let off the hook here. Please call these senate offices today and tomorrow. Numbers are below.

Alex Nicholson
Executive Director
Servicemembers United

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
Senate Majority Leader
(202) 224-3542

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
(202) 224-2523

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN)
(202) 224-4814

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)
(202) 224-3353

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
(202) 224-5344

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA)
(202) 224-4543

Here's the Washington Post's look at tomorrow's vote:

"The vote is expected to be close but is almost certain to pass if Democrats can break a Republican-led filibuster. The House passed a similar measure in May, and a House-Senate compromise version is expected to pass both chambers after the November midterm elections. But even if Tuesday's vote succeeds, Senate aides said Republicans may introduce an amendment this week that would remove the repeal from the defense bill."


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

At Gaga’s DADT Rally In Maine

Here’s the scene at Lady Gaga’s DADT repeal rally in Maine. This photo was tweeted from the scene by the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld. Gaga is scheduled to go onstage at 5pm.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Watch: CNN on DADT Showdown, Lady Gaga Rally in Maine

Dadt_maine

CNN has been covering the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" vote set for this week and the rally headed by Lady Gaga scheduled for this after noon in Portland, Maine.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

Meanwhile, the search for 60 votes continues, with moderates seeking concessions from Harry Reid:

"The vote for cloture on the defense authorization is set for Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. A 'yes' vote from 60 senators is required to move forward. The Republican caucus has reportedly been telling GOP senators not to vote for cloture on the defense authorization bill because Sen. Reid is allowing limited amendments on the legislation. The votes of Collins and Snowe are seen among repeal advocates as key to breaking a filibuster and moving forward with the defense authorization bill."



Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Monday: Veterans, Lady Gaga to Maine to press Sens. Snowe, Collins to break DADT filibuster

BREAKING VIA TWITTER: @ladygaga Meet me in Portland, Maine 2moro, 9/20 to help repeal #DADT. I’m holding a Rally + speaking live in Deering Oaks Park http://bit.ly/cO4cY9

– Lady Gaga to her 6.3 million followers today

And she is marshalling her forces with focus — on Maine, a state with two Republican senators — who may be convinced to vote with Dems to break any McCain filibuster on DADT repeal language in the Def Auth bill. (SLDN):

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), will be holding a grassroots rally with young people near the University of Southern Maine campus on Monday, September 20, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. ET, at Deering Oaks Park, Portland, ME, in a major Senate push to break the expected filibuster by Sen. John McCain of the National Defense Authorization Act, to which repeal is included.  The key U.S. Senate vote is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

The votes to break McCain’s filibuster are not there.  We need Sens. Snowe and Collins on board; they’re key to us breaking the filibuster,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.  ”With the vote less than 48 hours away, we need everyone supporting repeal to call the Senate.  We’re bringing gay and straight service members to Portland to help make the case.  And we’re proud to have the support of Lady Gaga to bring grassroots attention to repeal at a critical hour.  Like Lady Gaga, all New England senators, indeed all 100 senators, Democrats and Republicans, need to engage in a real debate on this issue, and not just posture and spin this week over procedure and Senate rules.”

As we saw during the VMAs, Lady Gaga attended with service members affected by DADT (photo), and SLDN director of communications, Trevor Thomas, has acknowledged that the influence of Gaga on the lobbying process has made a substantial impact, and it’s needed again to reach out to even more people in the next 48 hours. (via Kerry Eleveld):

“We know that Lady Gaga can move young people,” Thomas said, noting that she has more followers on twitter than the president (@ladygaga edges out @BarackObama by nearly a million followers). He added that SLDN had been sending action alerts to its 80,000 subscribers asking them to call their senators for the past several weeks. Short of the Gaga intervention, he said his organization would simply be sending out the same action alert on Monday that it did on Friday.

The power of celebrity combined with the reach of social networking has changed the game for activism and spreading the word on short notice. It’s a larger reach than a press release or mailing list when you’ve got a clock ticking down on a critical legislative matter like this. Lady Gaga deserves incredible kudos for harnessing the energy of young people out there to press allies — and potential allies — to act.

Note: 1,000,000+ watched Lady Gaga’s call to action online; and 237,131 people visited SLDN’s action Site as a result — 91.62% were first-time visitors.

For tomorrow’s event, follow the Twitter hashtag: #4the14k – “For the 14,000″: A Rally for the 14,000+ Discharged
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Gaga’s Maine Event

lady gaga rally x390Lady Gaga will pay an unexpected visit Monday to Portland, Maine, in an effort to urge the state’s two GOP senators to vote against a filibuster that could doom DADT repeal.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Lady Gaga Heading to Maine for ‘DADT’ Rally on Monday

Maine_gaga

In an attempt to court the support of Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Lady Gaga is taking her 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' advocacy to a rally in Portland on Monday, one day ahead of a scheduled debate and vote on the measure.

MTV reports:

"The pop superstar is slated to appear at the #4the14k rally organized by the SLDN in Portland, Maine on Monday. The title references the approximately 14,000 citizens discharged under DADT, and veterans affected by the military's controversial measure will address attendees. The event will kick off at 4 p.m. ET…SLDN maintains that the organization seeks to draw the support of Republican Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who could significantly affect the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill which includes the repeal of DADT. The bill would benefit from bipartisan support in order to overtake Arizona Senator John McCain's filibuster."

Here's the info on the rally from SLDN.

If you have not called your Senator now and tomorrow are the times to do so.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Another loss for NOM in federal court. This time in Maine.

Leaders of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) think their organization doesn’t have to play by the rules. In Maine, they didn’t like the rules, so they ran to court to challenge them. Ironic, since NOM is critical when equality advocates go to court. And, our side goes to court to fight for our rights. NOM goes to court to avoid complying with the law and to hide its donors.

But, NOM efforts to avoid compliance with Maine’s ethics law suffered another blow yesterday:

Hornby struck down the 24-hour rule that required disclosure not just before an election, but whenever it is made of independent expenditures over 0. He said the rule “has not been justified is impermissibly burdensome and cannot be enforced.”

He also said “Maine’s use of the words ‘influence’ and ‘influence in any way’ are unconstitutionally vague.”

“Otherwise,” Hornby wrote, “Maine’s laws governing PACs, independent campaign expenditures, and attribution and disclaimer requirements are constitutional, and survive NOM’s challenges that they are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”

The National Organization for Marriage contested the constitutionality of Maine’s campaign finance laws, before perhaps engaging in activity to influence outcomes of upcoming legislative elections.

And, NOM challenged the laws because the group doesn’t want to disclose its contributors to the No on 1 campaign last fall.

Brian Brown is going to keep litigating and still wants to spend money in Maine’s elections this fall:

The organization will pursue an expedited appeal to the U.S. First Circuit Court in Boston, he said, because of the short time before the upcoming elections.

Though Thursday’s decision will delay its plans for political activity in Maine, Brown said, the group is reviewing the decision, to gauge a potential timeline for action.

The organization plans activity in Maine regarding candidates who support “redefining marriage,” said Brown, and candidates who support traditional marriage. He declined to say whether the National Organization for Marriage will be active in the state’s governor’s race, as well as the legislative races.

NOM is going to a lot of trouble to prevent disclosure of its donors. That begs the question we’ve been asking for a long time: Who really is funding NOM?




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

NOM Fails in Lawsuit to Hide Maine Election Activities

Yesterday, a federal judge in Portland, Maine ruled against NOM by upholding laws requiring organizations engaged in Maine elections to register as political action committees, disclose their independent expenditures and provide disclaimers on campaign advertisements. The court found two lesser legal provisions defective but noted that they could likely be cured by new legislation. 

In rejecting most of NOM’s lawsuit, Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled that “Maine… has a compelling reason for compiling information about PACs – the goal of providing information to Maine voters about the interest groups that spend money referring to candidates in an election – and indeed Maine has polling data demonstrating the public’s interest in such information.” The judge found that “NOM’s desire to limit campaign finance disclosures … would yield perverse results, totally at odds with the interest in ‘transparency’ recognized in Citizens United,” the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed for unlimited corporate spending in elections but accepted the government’s compelling interest in requiring public disclosure.

NOM’s lawsuit is part of escalating tensions between the group and ethics officials in Maine. NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009. NOM provided more than .9 million of the million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 – but it failed to disclose where the money came from. The organization has stonewalled the ethics investigation over its Question 1 involvement, which is the subject of a separate ongoing lawsuit. 

Today’s decision follows similar defeats in Washington state, where NOM’s lawyers fought the state’s public records law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and lost. A federal court in California similarly rejected NOM’s efforts to hide its donors in the wake of Proposition 8.

HRC called on the National Organization for Marriage to stop its radical national strategy of hiding its election activities and eviscerating public disclosure laws.  HRC Vice President of Communication & Marketing Fred Sainz said:

“Time and again NOM has tried to evade or eviscerate popular disclosure laws that provide the public with critical information about who spends money on campaigns, and as usual they’ve come up short. It begs the questions: what does NOM want to hide about their efforts to strip millions of Americans of their basic civil rights, and why are they fighting so hard to hide it?

“NOM’s agenda of hiding their political activities from legitimate scrutiny and accountability has gone on long enough. The public has a right to know who is behind their efforts to take away the fundamental rights of people living in Maine, California, Washington and elsewhere across the country. It’s time for NOM to own up and play by rules that serve the public interest.”


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright