WATCH: The DOMA debate 15 years before Sen. Cornyn skipped Wednesday’s hearing on repeal

Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, skipped Wednesday’s hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act.

ThinkProgress has posted the below compilation of some of the hateful comments made on the House floor during debate of the Defense of Marriage Act before it was passed in 1996. The point is to highlight the sea change that has taken place in America since then on LGBT equality and same-sex marriage — which is underscored by the reluctance among Republicans today to use it as a wedge issue. On Wednesday, ThinkProgress notes, only two Republican senators showed up for the committee hearing on the repeal of DOMA, and only one spoke up against the Respect for Marriage Act.  One of those who spoke in support of DOMA 15 years ago, as shown in the video, was Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, then the GOP whip, who warned that “attacks on the institution of marriage will only take us further down the road of social deterioration.” Fast forward to Wednesday, when one of the GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who didn’t show up for the hearing was Texas’ John Cornyn, who once suggested in the draft of a speech that same-sex marriage would lead to man-box turtle marriage. Things have indeed changed, even in Texas.

—  John Wright

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg visits Albany to rally the troops in support of marriage equality

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Albany on Thursday discussing marriage equality with Republican senators, according to the Albany Times Union.

Bloomberg told the Albany newspaper that he was willing to back his support for marriage equality with political contributions to Republicans who supported the measure. He said he believes that marriage equality is important to keep New York City competitive. (We wonder if the next Dallas mayor would ever do anything like this.)

On Wednesday night the Assembly passed the marriage equality bill, the fourth time they have done so. But the Senate remains one vote short. Passage in the New York Senate takes 32 votes. So far 29 Democrats and two Republicans said they would vote for the bill. The one remaining Democrat will vote against the bill. Another three or four Republicans have indicated that they are open to supporting equality.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said more discussion is needed on the issue, which equality opponents see as positive. Only one more day is scheduled for the state Senate before adjournment for the year on Monday, June 20, although they may go to extended or special session.

The hate group National Organization for Marriage has threatened to run primary challengers against any Republican who votes for equality. Polls in New York have been consistent showing 58 percent of New Yorkers favor equality.

If the bill passes in New York, the number of people living in states that allow marriage equality will more than double.

Sen. Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island whose impassioned speech in favor of equality went viral on Youtube in the last session, posted a message on her office door.

“Bigots and homophobes please put your literature here,” it said, with an arrow pointing to a garbage bin on the floor.

Among the most ironic anti-equality lobbyists in Albany is Bill Banuchi. Banuchi is a marriage counselor. Is he trying to tell us something?

—  David Taffet

NC poll: Most support rights for same-sex couples

MIKE BAKER | Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — More than half of North Carolina residents now support legal recognition of same-sex couples, and more than one-quarter believe they should have full marriage rights, according to a poll released Monday, Feb. 28.

The Elon University survey found that 29 percent of respondents in the state support civil unions or partnerships for gay couples but not full marriage rights. About 28 percent of people support full marriage rights.

Meanwhile, only 35 percent of respondents opposed all legal recognition for same-sex partners, down from 44 percent when the question was asked two years ago.

“That’s a substantial move,” said Elon Poll Director Hunter Bacot. “We’re seeing people becoming more comfortable with the issue.”

About two dozen Republican senators in North Carolina have proposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay unions. Similar measures have previously been filed in the General Assembly but gone nowhere, but Republicans now control both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in more than a century.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group, has given money to a North Carolina group opposing the constitutional change.

The Elon poll was conducted last week and surveyed 467 North Carolina adults. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

—  John Wright

As Senate begins DADT hearings, Guy-Gainer accuses Republicans of ‘juvenile mutiny’

Dave Guy-Gainer

Senate Republicans are committing “a form of juvenile mutiny” by indicating they’ll block consideration of “don’t ask don’t tell” during the lame duck session, according to a leading local advocate for repealing the policy.

All 42 Republican senators signed a letter delivered to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday pledging to block any legislation that’s unrelated to government funding or taxes this month.

The Senate Armed Services Committee began hearings at 8 a.m. Dallas time today (you can watch live here) on the Pentagon’s report on DADT, which was released Tuesday and concluded that there’s “low risk” to ending the ban. But regardless of the Pentagon report and the committee hearings, some believe Wednesday’s letter to Reid  seriously threatens DADT repeal this year.

Dave Guy-Gainer, an openly gay retired Air Force chief master sergeant who lives in Tarrant County, said there were “no surprises” as he watched Tuesday’s press conference during which the Pentagon report was released.

“In fact, as I listened to each of the four speakers, I heard the same words and sentences that proponents of Repeal have said for many many years,” said Guy-Gainer, a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “The impact of repeal is minimal. And the concerns that some have can be overcome by education and leadership. It was refreshing to hear Secretary Gates call upon the Senate to enact repeal by the end of December. I understand that he has instructed the services to continue to draft the changes to their many regulations and policies and to draft the lesson plans that will be used to educate the force so that they will be ready when repeal happens. Or, they will be ready when the judiciary calls an end to DADT.”

Guy-Gainer added that he believes the findings of the report, along with polls showing a vast majority of Americans support DADT repeal, should serve as a mandate for the Senate to act.

“In military terms, I personally find their [the Senate Republcans'] letter to be a form of juvenile mutiny,” Gainer said.”These Senators were sent to Washington by people called constituents as a part of a whole. In law a constituent is one who appoints another to act on their behalf. About 80 percent of Americans support repeal and that 80 percent is certainly not made up solely of members of other parties. These Senators are there to vote the will of the people and not there to support the selfishness of partisan politics.

“If there is a threat to our national security, it is the withholding of the military funds that would be provided by the National Defense Authorization Act,” Gainer said, referring to the bill to which DADT repeal is attached. “By one measure, 92 percent of our military is fine working alongside gay and lesbian counterparts. But, none of them can function without biscuits, beans and bullets. After months of delay, it is time for a vote to be taken.

“Hopefully, those who read this article will find a way to inspire these 42 to use the power that was handed them at the ballot box to vote according to the wishes of the nation, the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the men and women of our nation’s military. Failing passage this month leaves the issue in the hands of the judiciary — and those cases will proceed.”

—  John Wright

Pentagon study on repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ to be released at 1 p.m. Dallas time

Sen. John Cornyn

A Pentagon study on the impacts of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” will be released at 1 p.m. today Dallas time, according to a press advisory from the Department of Defense:

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will conduct a press briefing at 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to discuss the public release of the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) report.

They will be followed by Gen. Carter F. Ham and Jeh Johnson, co-chairs of the CRWG.

The Associated Press has a story up about the findings of the study and what they mean for the repeal effort:

The Pentagon study that argues that gay troops could serve openly without hurting the military’s ability to fight is expected to re-ignite debate this month on Capitol Hill over repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Officials familiar with the 10-month study’s results have said a clear majority of respondents don’t care if gays serve openly, with 70 percent predicting that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed or no results. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings hadn’t been released.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who have both said they support repealing the law, were scheduled to discuss the findings with Congress Tuesday morning and with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have mostly opposed repealing the law because they say efforts to do so are politically driven and dangerous at a time of two wars.

Needless to say, neither of Texas two Republican senators are on the list of “key Senators that need to hear from repeal supporters” put out by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. We’ve made inquiries to both Texas senators’ offices about whether the Pentagon study results affect their position on DADT. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who likes to accept awards from LGBT groups in his spare time, is among many GOP senators who’ve said they didn’t want to act on DADT repeal until the study is released:

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said in June. “Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

—  John Wright

SLDN board member Dave Guy-Gainer makes sense of all the latest developments on DADT

Dave Guy-Gainer

The Raw Story has posted a nice recap of the many developments of the last few days concerning the possible repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” during the lame-duck session of Congress – otherwise known as the possible repeal of DADT anytime before 2013.

In a nutshell, there are reports that Senate leaders plan to remove the amendment that would repeal DADT from a Defense spending bill, to facilitate the spending bill’s passage. And those reports from The Advocate and The Wall Street Journal have prompted some to conclude that DADT repeal is dead as a hammer. Meanwhile, on the same day that the new commandant of the Marine Corps spoke out against DADT repeal (Saturday), Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated his desire to see the ban lifted. So what gives?

To make sense of it all, we turned to Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Here’s what Gainer said:

“It seems like in this week between the elections and the reconvening of the lame duck Senate, pundits and talking heads are coming out of the woodwork. Let me stick to the facts of today and avoid speculation. The bill to repeal DADT is still attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. The president has said that he wants the legislative branch to act. Secretary Gates has repeated that he would like to see the ban lifted. Well over 70 percent of the nation says that repeal is needed. The DOD report is due Dec. 1.  The newly elected members of the House and Senate won’t be seated in this session. Those who will be leaving are still there. None  of the advocacy groups who have fought for repeal have folded up tent and left the battlefield. For repeal to happen, we still need existing Republican Senators to do the right thing and vote for passage. We especially need our Log Cabin Republican allies, of whom I am most proud in the courts, to bring the Republican vote to the table. Surely, there are Republicans who would do the right thing and vote for repeal. DADT has been declared unconstitutional in lower federal courts and is winding its way through appeal. Congress could end it all in the next six weeks. The question is — will it?”

UPDATE: We asked Guy-Gainer whether there’s any hope that Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would break ranks and provide one of the needed Republican votes in favor of repeal. Guy-Gainer’s response, and this is a direct quote, was, “<expletive deleted>.” Gainer went on to note that Texas isn’t on the list of states where SLDN is targeting key senators. Below is the list, and SLDN is again urging people to contact these folks by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Harry Reid (D-NV);
–Carl Levin (D-MI);
–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);
–Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark)
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Joe Manchin (D-WV)
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
–Mark Kirk (R-IL)


—  John Wright

Sen. John Cornyn calls Reid’s plan for vote on DADT repeal ‘cynical and politically transparent’

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told The Hill on Tuesday that he believes Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to consider a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” as part of a defense spending bill  is “a cynical and politically transparent move.”

Cornyn didn’t say whether Republican senators plan to filibuster the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act over the DADT repeal provision, or whether he would join such a blockade.

“I know that leadership is asking members about their inclination, and I don’t know that that’s been whipped yet,” he told The Hill.

A spokesman for Cornyn, who’s never cast a single vote in support of LGBT equality, told Dallas Voice in June that he would oppose the DADT repeal measure.

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. “Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

Cornyn has accepted an invitation to appear at the Log Cabin Republicans’ National Dinner in Washington later this month, and he has pledged to seek “common ground” with gay members of the GOP.

But if that common ground doesn’t include repealing a policy that 78 percent of Americans oppose, we’re at a loss as to where in hell it could possibly lie.

Actually, no we’re not. We’re pretty sure that by “common ground” Cornyn means “money” and “votes.” Talk about politically transparent!

—  John Wright