Why I will vote Republican in 2012

If LGBTs really want to win equality, we must back the candidates that will help our pocketbooks, even if they take anti-LGBT positions

Robert Schlein
Special Contributor

I always give a five-minute speech at our monthly Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas meetings, and I was recently reviewing some of my remarks from July, 2008, when I asked the question, “What political price would my critics pay to resolve all of their gay civil rights issues? Would they accept any political doctrine, if it was bundled with promises of improvement in gay civil liberties?”

I said to our group that I didn’t want an America that looks like Europe: one that can’t generate enough jobs for its younger workforce, whose immigration policies have created many social ills and whose government-controlled socialized medicine results in less availability of care for all, and with the best care for only those who can afford to travel to another country.

America answered that question in 2008 — and unfortunately got it wrong. While the LGBT community finally secured some victories, what we got in exchange was bigger government, bigger debt and a much-worsened economy.

ObamaCare is an impending disaster that threatens our quality and availability of health care. The economy is stagnating because Obama and his administration seem to know little about capitalism or how to inspire confidence among those with cash to invest.

So again I ponder my question from 2008, because we Republicans will likely have a GOP candidate for president that saber-rattles his or her threat for a federal marriage amendment, or the reinstatement of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to placate the social conservatives.

Let’s be realistic, we Republicans need SoCons to win elections.

However, despite this pressure, our next Republican president will more than likely follow through instead on fiscal efforts to repeal ObamaCare, neuter the EPA’s hard work to shut down power plants that will severely hamper our economy (many in Texas), allow us to explore for oil domestically, steer us to a more balanced budget and get rid of the Dodd-Frank Banking bill that has caused cash-for-title loan stores to spring up like Texas ragweed.

For those who are upset at Rick Perry’s decision to sign the National Organization of Marriage’s pledge to move forward on an amendment to the Constitution, I say I’m willing to pay that price — a danger, in my view, that is as exaggerated as the reported threat of Hurricane Irene — in exchange for fiscal conservatism that is more likely to win the day and return us to prosperity.

After all, the process for amending the Constitution of the United States is so burdensome and so difficult, it seems to me the pledge to NOM is as empty as most men’s promises to stay monogamous until “death do us part.”

That said, I don’t believe that Rick Perry is our party’s best hope to beat Obama.

In the swing states that really matter — Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania — Mitt Romney, who has never been a great friend of Log Cabin’s, polls better. He’s one of them, and his dad was a very, very popular Michigan governor.

And if Jon Huntsman can organize some support he would be a brilliant choice, too.

But, we don’t get to decide in isolation who our nominee will be. By the time the candidates reach Texas, we will likely have our winner.

And, if that winner is Rick Perry, he can count on my vote and my vocal support.

We say in Log Cabin that “inclusion wins,” and we appreciate and welcome those with ideas that differ from our own.

All we can do is to try to elect people that can win who are most compatible with our views, and try to exert influence on those who differ, who do win.

For the LGBT community, economic power is the most liberating one. Paying your debts down, burning up your mortgage and having, pardon my language, some “screw  you” money in the bank — that stands the best chance to obtain the equality we seek.

For if it weren’t for a handful of very wealthy billionaires in New York who were with us, their Republican senate majority leader would have never passed gay marriage in that state.

Let me be clear on this: It wasn’t just Log Cabin. It wasn’t just the Human Rights Campaign.  It was former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlmen, PayPal founder Peter Thiel and their very rich allies that really got this done!

Because, at the end of the day, money is power. And we need to vote on the party that will best give us a chance to prosper, to accumulate wealth and, hence, all the power we need to accomplish our goals.

Obama has shown that he does not stand with those who seek economic prosperity and to accumulate wealth, and for this reason I will vote Republican —  even if Rick Perry is our nominee. And I hope you will, too.

Rob Schlein is president of the LGBT Republican group Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

DADT update: Discharged vets file lawsuit; standalone repeal bill up to 40 sponsors

Mike Almy, a highly trained communications officer who served in the Air Force for 13 years, is one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Three veterans discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” filed a lawsuit earlier today against the government (read the filing here). The lawsuit brought by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network seeks reinstatement as well as a ruling declaring the 17-year-old policy unconstitutional and unenforceable anywhere. And needless to say, the lawsuit is aimed in large part at putting pressure on Congress to repeal the 17-year-old policy during the lame duck session. The Associated Press reports:

The legal action came four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced a standalone measure, but it’s uncertain if it will be brought for a vote before the Senate and House adjourn for the holidays.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said the lawsuit was meant as a warning to lawmakers that if they don’t act to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the courts could step in and order an integration timetable that is less to the Pentagon’s liking.

“If the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively,” said Sarvis, whose group coordinated the lawsuit and prepared it with lawyers from a private law firm.

“From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the standalone bill that would repeal DADT now has 40 Senate co-sponsors, but only one of them is a Republican, and that’s Collins. A vote on the bill could come later this week or early next week, assuming the Senate sticks around that long.

We’ve contacted the offices of Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to inquire about how they plan to vote on the bill, as if we don’t know already. But as of this post, we had received no response. Hey, anyone planning a sit-in?

—  John Wright

Openly Gay USMC Vet Justin Elzie Speaks On His Discharge And Reinstatement

Former USMC Sgt. Justin Elzie is a JMG reader and commenter, as some of you may know. His book Playing By The Rules is now available online and at booksellers nationwide.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

DOJ Will Appeal DADT Reinstatement Of USAF Major Margaret Witt

The Department of Justice has filed a brief announcing their intent to appeal the reinstatement of Major Margaret Witt, whose DADT-related discharge was overturned by a federal court in September. Chris Geidner reports at Metro Weekly:

With today’s filing, DOJ stated in a docketing statement required to be filed with the Notice of Appeal that the principal issue to be raised on appeal is: “Whether plaintiff’s discharge pursuant to 10 U.S.C 654 and its implementing regulations was constitutional and whether plaintiff should have been ordered reinstated to the military, subject to meeting applicable requirements respecting qualifications for continued service.”

Geidner adds that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs took note of today’s action by the DOJ and cautioned, “This filing in no way diminishes the President’s — and his Administration’s — firm commitment to achieving a legislative repeal of DADT this year. Indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Log Cabin Member Seeks Reinstatement in Marines

LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS X390 | ADVOCATE.COMWill Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of the Log Cabin Republicans’ San Diego chapter, has joined a handful of former service members attempting to rejoin the military. The Pentagon has ordered recruiters to allow gay applicants.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

DADT WIN: Federal Judge Orders Reinstatement Of Major Margaret Witt

In another win in the battle to overturn DADT, late this afternoon a federal court ordered the reinstatement of Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was suspended just before her retirement date in 2004 after her superiors learned she is a lesbian. Today’s decision only applies to Major Witt’s case.

A federal judge ruled Friday that a decorated flight nurse discharged from the Air Force for being gay should be given her job back as soon as possible in the latest legal setback to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton came in a closely watched case as a tense debate has been playing out over the policy. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to lift the ban this week, but two federal judges have ruled against the policy in recent weeks. Maj. Margaret Witt was discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and sued to get her job back. A judge in 2006 rejected Witt’s claims that the Air Force violated her rights when it fired her. An appeals court panel overruled him two years later, leaving it to Leighton to determine whether her firing met that standard.

Witt was represented by the ACLU. Read the decision here (PDF.) Reactions to the decision are below.

Human Rights Campaign

“By reinstating Major Witt, a decorated Air Force nurse discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ another federal court has demonstrated once again that this discriminatory law does not contribute to our nation’s security or defense,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Had Major Witt been discharged in any other circuit in the country, she would not had her day in court. It is time for Congress and the Administration to recognize that his failed law should be removed from the books once and for all.”

Servicemembers United

“Yet another judge has taken yet another righteous, historic, and courageous stand against a discriminatory and unconstitutional law,” said Alexander Nicholson, founder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United. “Major Witt’s case is a clear-cut one in which her discharge itself actually harmed unit cohesion, morale, and combat readiness.” This legal victory against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is the second this month, with a judge in Riverside, California previously declaring the entire “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law unconstitutional in a facial challenge to the law brought by the Log Cabin Republicans. Major Witt’s victory will apply only to her own discharge, but the precedent set with this decision and the previous appellate court ruling in this case on the standard to be used in deciding on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges all contribute to a significant shift in how courts appear to be viewing and treating the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

More reactions will be added to this post as they arrive.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Former colleagues testify for lesbian flight nurse discharged from Air Force under DADT

GENE JOHNSON | Associated Press

TACOMA, Washington — A lesbian flight nurse discharged from the Air Force under the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military was an excellent officer whose sexuality never caused a problem in her unit, former colleagues told a federal judge Monday, Sept. 13.

Former Maj. Margaret Witt is seeking reinstatement to the Air Force Reserve in a closely watched case that “don’t ask, don’t tell” critics hope will lead to a second major legal victory this month. The trial began just days after a federal judge in California declared the policy unconstitutional.

Witt was suspended in 2004 and honorably discharged after the Air Force received a complaint from a civilian about her sexuality.

The first witness in her case, retired Master Sgt. James Schaffer, testified that Witt was exceedingly competent and said her dismissal was so unfair, it was part of the reason he retired in 2007.

“It was a rather dishonorable act on the part of the Air Force,” Schaffer said. “It should not be about what you are, but who you are.”

Witt’s case has already led to one crucial ruling — a 2008 holding by a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that the military cannot discharge people under “don’t ask, don’t tell” unless it shows that the firing is necessary to further military goals such as unit cohesion. The case has returned to federal court in Tacoma for U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton to determine whether Witt’s dismissal met that standard.

The 1993 law prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members, but allows the discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered to be engaging in homosexual activity. Last week, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Los Angeles determined the policy was an unconstitutional violation of the due process and free speech rights of gays and lesbians.

While Phillips’ ruling has no effect on the legal issues in Witt’s case, gay rights activists believe a victory — and Witt’s reinstatement — could help build momentum for repealing the policy. The Senate could soon take up a House-approved defense bill that includes a repeal.

Witt sat in the courtroom Monday amid her supporters, including Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a fighter pilot from Idaho who is fighting his own discharge by the U.S. Air Force.

Peter Phipps, a Justice Department lawyer representing the Air Force, insisted during his opening statement that Witt’s conduct necessitated her firing. That included a long-term relationship with a civilian woman, an affair with a married woman and two earlier relationships with fellow servicewomen, Witt acknowledged in a May deposition.

A 2004 e-mail from the married woman’s husband to the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper, prompted the investigation into Witt’s sexuality. Witt remains in a relationship with that woman, whose husband divorced her.

“By committing adultery, she compromised her integrity and her ability to lead,” Phipps said. “Plaintiff set an example of a disregard for Air Force policies.”

Witt’s discharge therefore eliminated a risk to unit cohesion and morale, he added. He said the support she has received from colleagues is irrelevant; the law’s constitutionality doesn’t depend on the views of her friends.

Furthermore, the military cannot handle discipline by referendum, because that would lead to uneven application of the law, Phipps said.

Witt acknowledged in her deposition the extramarital affair was not consistent with good “officership.” She also said she told two members of her unit about her orientation — forcing them to choose between loyalty to Witt and Air Force policy, the Air Force argues.

Former colleagues who testified Monday disagreed that Witt’s firing accomplished anything — especially because it came during a shortage of flight nurses.

“We were at war at the time,” said Lt. Col. Vincent Oda. “It was the loss of an able flight nurse is what that was.”

The court also heard from other service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” One, former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, said that when his superiors first investigated him, he gave them pictures of himself and his boyfriend kissing to make it clear he didn’t want to hide anything.

The result of that initial inquiry? “No evidence” of homosexuality, Manzella said. He served almost two more years before the Army kicked him out in 2008.

One of Witt’s lawyers, Sarah Dunne of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state, said in her opening statement that the McChord Air Force Base aeromedical evacuation squadron with which Witt served welcomed gays and lesbians, and it was her dismissal — not her orientation — that caused problems in the unit.

Schaffer, the retired master sergeant, said he went on hundreds of flights with Witt, including several missions to evacuate ill or wounded Americans from the Middle East and Afghanistan. Witt received a standing ovation when she showed up at his retirement party in 2007, he said.

Dunne said Witt received glowing performance reviews that attested to her nursing ability and leadership, even one that was written in 2005, after her suspension.

Her suspension came less than a year before she would have earned her full pension.

—  John Wright

Texas AG Greg Abbott argues that he can’t be sued for discriminating against gay employees

Greg Abbott

Last November we reported on a lawsuit filed by Vic Gardner of Tyler, who alleges that he was forced out of his job with the state attorney general’s office for being gay.

Jason C.N. Smith of Fort Worth, who’s representing Gardner in his suit against a former supervisor and AG Greg Abbott, reports that the case is set for a hearing in an Austin district court next Tuesday.

Smith said the AG’s office has field a motion seeking to dismiss the case, on grounds that Abbott can’t be sued for damages for discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Although Texas has no statute prohibiting anti-gay job discrimination, courts have held that gay and lesbian government employees are protected by constitutional principles such as privacy and equal protection, Smith said. Still, he said it’s possible that Abbott would appeal the case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.

“My hope is that the Texas Supreme Court would follow the lead of the U.S. Supreme Court and hold that gays are protected under the constitution,” Smith said. “I think certainly the law is very clear. It’s just a matter of whether they’re going to play politics with the gay community.

“Greg Abbott’s record both as a Supreme Court justice and as Texas attorney general, he’s not one who’s embraced giving everyone equal rights, so it doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t s think folks who are fired because they’re gay should be able to recover damages,” Smith added.

Garder, who’d worked for the AG’s child support division for about three years, says he resigned after repeatedly being unfairly disciplined. Despite Gardner’s above-average job performance, according to the lawsuit, Gardner’s supervisor had directed him to “not be so out.”

Gardner is seeking reinstatement to a similar position and back pay, as well as a declaration by the AG’s office that he was discriminated against and a pledge not to do so going forward.

A spokesman for Abbott’s office has declined to comment on the case.

—  John Wright