Oklahoma House panel hears bill to reinstate ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for state’s National Guard

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern once called gays a bigger to America threat than terrorists, and Oklahoma certainly wouldn’t want terrorists in its National Guard. So according to Kern’s logic, that must mean the state shouldn’t allow gays and lesbians in its National Guard, either.

In January, State Rep. Mike Reynolds introduced a bill that would allow anyone eligible to serve in the military on Jan. 1, 2009 — 20 days before Barack Obama was inaugurated as president — to serve in the Oklahoma National Guard.

The bill would put the state at odds with military policy — which has allowed gays to serve openly since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” last year.

Last week, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis wrote to Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the National Guard Bureau Chief, and asked him to come out against the bill.

“If a state National Guard ‘fails to comply with a requirement of this title, or a regulation prescribed under this title, the National Guard of that State is barred, in whole or in part, as the President may prescribe, from receiving money or any other aid, benefit, or privilege authorized by law,’” Sarvis warned McKinley.

In other words, if Reynolds’ bill passes, Oklahoma could lose $300 million from the federal government.

Sarvis also wondered what will happen to service personnel in the Oklahoma Guard who have come out since the repeal of DADT.

“Would those who have come out since the repeal of DADT be discharged?” he asked. “And if the Oklahoma National Guard mobilizes into federal service, will gay and lesbian guard members from Oklahoma be allowed to serve openly while deployed in accordance with DOD and National Guard Bureau policy, only to be demobilized and discharged under Oklahoma’s DADT law?”

The Oklahoma Daily weighed in with its opinion: “A ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule for Oklahoma National Guard is wasteful and disrespectful to guardsmen.” John Aravosis of AmericaBlog has a different idea — call their bluff and let them hang themselves.

The Oklahoma House Veteran and Military Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear arguments about the bill this afternoon, according to the Oklahoma LGBT group The Equality Network.

UPDATE: Oklahoma Sen. Al McAffrey reports that the bill has been sent to a different committee where it will die.

“The bill reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Oklahoma National Guard is dead!” McAffrey wrote. “It was pulled from the Veterans Committee and reassigned to the Rules Committee, where the Chairman will not hear the bill. It’s good for our state that this bad piece of legislation will not proceed.”

—  David Taffet

Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to ban gays from serving openly in state’s National Guard

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

An Oklahoma state legislator has introduced a bill that would effectively reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell” for the state’s National Guard troops. State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, told the Tulsa World that he filed the bill in response to requests from members of the Oklahoma National Guard:

Reynolds’ bill would amend the existing state law that allows any able-bodied U.S. citizen or person who has declared intentions of becoming a citizen and who is at least 18 years old and not yet 70 to serve in the Guard.

The amendment would prohibit anyone who was ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces under federal regulations that were in effect on Jan. 1, 2009, from serving in the Guard.

Reynolds said the state is allowed to set its own standards for service in the National Guard and is not required to duplicate standards for the rest of the U.S. military.

ThinkProgress notes that Reynolds was an endorser of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s August prayer rally, the Response, and also is a supporter of anti-gay Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern:

Last year, Reynolds endorsed the Response, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial public prayer event, which was organized and attended by a who’s-who of anti-gay leaders. “I am encouraging Oklahomans to join with thousands of other Christians from around the nation in participating in this event. Go and show your support of public prayer,” Reynolds told the Pauls Valley Democrat in July.

A supporter of state Rep. Sally Kern’s (R) “Oklahoma Citizens Proclamation for Morality,” Reynolds has also spoken out against so-called “homosexual activists” after a gay minister recognized a same-sex couple in the gallery during an opening prayer.

Lawmakers in Virginia have also tried to reinstate DADT for the state’s National Guard, but the bill died in committee.

On the presidential campaign trail, Perry has repeatedly touted that fact that as governor, he serves as commander in chief for Texas’ 20,000 National Guard troops. Perry has also said he wants to reinstate DADT. So it’s unclear why Perry hasn’t proposed similar legislation in Texas.

UPDATE: The Human Rights Campaign and The Equality Network of Oklahoma have put out a joint statement responding to Reynolds’ bill. Read it after the jump. Also, HRC has launched a petition which you can sign by going here.

—  John Wright