Giffords’ friend, out State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, keynotes Texas Stonewall conference in March

Two years ago I attended the first Biennial Statewide Conference of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus in Austin, which among other things yielded this rather memorable gaffe by then-freshly elected out Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado. That same year, the conference also included a visit from Matt Foreman, a venerable gay-rights activist and former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The point is, it was a pretty solid lineup of speakers, and it looks like Texas Stonewall has come pretty close to duplicating it for this year’s second biennial event, set for March 5 and 6 in the capital. (On top of that, it looks like they’ve stepped it up from the DoubleTree on 15th to the Hilton Garden Inn downtown.)

Daniel Graney

Topping the list of speakers this year will be Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who happens to be good friends with recovering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Tuscon (Sinema’s interview with a local TV station the night of the shooting is above).

Sinema, who’s bisexual, has led two statewide campaigns to defeat anti-gay propositions in Arizona, and some may remember her from visits to Dallas in support of President Barack Obama in 2008.

This year’s conference will also feature Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio; Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie; Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman; and National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell.

The theme is “The New Political Landscape In Texas: Where Do We Go From Here?,” and the conference will focus on what went wrong in November 2010 and how Democrats in Texas can reverse the huge losses they suffered. And once again, people are encouraged to stay over for Equality Texas’ Lobby Day on Monday, March 7.

For conference information and to register online, go here (the discounted hotel rate expires Feb. 14). A full press release from TSDC President Daniel Graney is after the jump.

—  John Wright

John McCain doesn’t want whoever manages Sarah Palin’s Twitter account to think he’s gay

Sen. John McCain

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the leading opponent of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” now says he will do everything he can to make it work. The Hill reports:

McCain signaled that he had made peace with the lame-duck bill to do away with the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members, of which he had been an outspoken critic.

“I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the [impact on the] morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible,” McCain said on Fox Business. “It is a law and I have to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this new situation. I will do everything I can to make it work.”

Who knows for sure what’s behind McCain’s change of heart, which is just the latest in his series of flip-flops on the issue. But we’d be willing to bet that it’s politically motivated on some level.

Of course, we could also speculate that his wife, Cindy, finally got to him. Or that he saw Sarah Palin’s retweet the other day and set out to again prove that he’s not gay. In any case, he remains firmly atop our Top 10 RINFs, which is a companion to this list.

—  John Wright

DADT is dead. But opposition lives on

Marshal vows legislation to keep gays out of Virginia’s National Guard; Graham threatens to block START treaty ratification in revenge over repeal of DADT

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

I was wrong. I was very skeptical of the chances of getting “don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed in the lame duck Congress, yet they did it. Yes, Hardy, there is a Santa Clause!

The vote for repeal, which was slightly bipartisan (eight Republicans voted for repeal), was a great holiday surprise. But what comes as no surprise is the vehemence with which opponents vow to fight on, even after they have lost on this one.

Already the voices of hard-core homophobes are chiming in. Virginia Delegate Bob Marshal says he will introduce legislation to prevent openly gay men and women from serving in the Virginia National Guard.

Hatred, especially hatred of LGBT people, dies hard.

Further west, Sen. John McCain, one of the most vocal opponents of the repeal, still laments its passage.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage. Today is a very sad day,” McCain declared.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham is leading the charge for Republicans to block the new START treaty ratification in retaliation for the repeal of DADT. Apparently in Sen. Graham’s eyes, keeping gays out of the military is more important than nuclear disarmament.

Like I said, old hatred dies especially hard.

And then there is Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Amos. Anyone who watched the debate in the Senate was most likely surprised at his strident opposition.

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marine that I’m visiting at Bethesda with no legs be the result of any distraction,” he said before the vote.

I guess Gen. Amos figured that Marines are just too delicate to serve next to gay troops, or at least to know which Marines are gay and which are not. I have to wonder how much further his career will go now that the law of the land has changed?

Additionally, some evangelical chaplains have voiced their worries that they will no longer be able to preach. A Pentagon report stated, “Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ exists among the chaplains.”

Most of these concerns are that chaplains would no longer be able to preach that homosexuality is a sin. This little problem is particularly confusing to me since for centuries they have been able to reconcile killing the enemy in battle with the whole, “thou shalt not kill” thing.

Luckily, some chaplains — like retired chaplain Col. Jerry Rhyne — feel differently.

Rhyne has counseled gay troops who struggled with their sexual orientation for years. In an interview with CNN he said, “For me, it was very disheartening. I tried to bring them hope and encouragement to live their life to the fullest and to help them deal with their issues.”

Needless to say, Col. Rhyne supported repeal of the policy.

I hope the voices of dissent will soften after they realize that essentially, nothing in the military will change except that those in the military will be able to concentrate on doing their job. They will no longer be distracted by the witch hunts and investigations that saw more than 13,000 gay men and lesbians discharged.

Gay and lesbian service members will no longer be distracted by trying to conceal their orientation. Military commands will no longer be distracted by spending valuable time and resources looking into every innuendo and allegation.

Contrary to Gen. Amos’ assertion, having openly gay and lesbian troops serving will be less of a “distraction.” Straight troops will not have to wonder who is gay and who isn’t, though I suspect in reality it won’t be an issue. All the service members I know, both straight and gay have told me they know gays and lesbians in their outfits and have never had a complaint against them.

The military will behave like the military, and continue to serve with honor and bravery.

Contrary to what they opponents of DADT repeal believe, gay troops are not going to start having orgies in the showers, and the behavior of troops will still be subject to military decorum. To believe otherwise is just not rational.

I have to wonder if folks like Lindsey Graham and Gen. Amos haven’t been watching too much gay porn?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Pentagon study, Senate hearings on DADT coming this week

Lisa Keen  | Keen News Service

The Pentagon’s study on how to best implement the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” will be released Tuesday, Nov. 30, and the Senate Armed Services Committee announced this week it will hold two days of hearings on that report beginning on Thursday, Dec. 2.

The back-to-back hearings will include an all-star line-up of the military’s highest-ranking officials to discuss the report’s findings. Day One will lead off with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and the two co-chairmen of the study group —Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham.

Day Two — Friday, Dec. 3 — will showcase four generals and one admiral who head up each of the five branches of the military. Both days are almost certain to provoke tough questioning from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has taken a lead in opposing repeal of DADT.
The hearings begin at 9 a.m. each day.

Secretary Gates told reporters Sunday, Nov. 21 that he will release the Pentagon’s study on DADT one day early, adding that, “if this law is going to change, it’s better that it be changed by legislation than it simply be struck down …by the courts with the potential for us having to implement it immediately.”

Meanwhile, White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs told mentioned DADT repeal Monday while ticking off a list of what President Barack Obama hopes to accomplish in the lame-duck session — behind taxes, unemployment compensation, and the new START treaty.

“Everything is on schedule and my current intention is to release the report to Congress and to the public on Nov. 30th,” said Gates.

Just last Friday, Nov. 18, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the report would not be sent to Congress or made public before Dec. 1 — “not before Dec. 1 to anyone.”

Gibbs said Monday the president has not seen the report and dodged a question about whether the president had persuaded DOD to release the report early. But, clearly, something has persuaded the Defense department to budge a little on its hardened deadline. And the latest comments from Gates, in response to questions during a press availability in Bolivia, suggest the Pentagon is preparing for some “change” in the law which currently bans openly gay people from serving in the military. It also indicates that Gates believes a federal court might well strike down DADT if Congress fails to repeal it during the lame-duck session.

In response to a follow-up question about what chances he thinks repeal would have if the vote is carried over into the next session of Congress, Gates did not offer an assessment but expressed “concern” that decisions by federal courts in lawsuits challenging DADT had forced the military to carry out “four different policies” concerning gays in the military “in the space of two weeks … including, at one point, a directive immediately to suspend the law.”

“Having to implement this immediately and without preparation and without taking the steps to mitigate whatever risks there are,” said Gates, “I think, is the worst of all possible outcomes …”

“All I know is,” he added, “if this law is going to change, it’s better that it be changed by legislation than simply be struck down — rather than have it struck down by the courts with the potential for us having to implement it immediately.”

The vote on DADT repeal is not likely to be carried over into the next session of Congress. After prodding from the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to try to bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor in the lame-duck session with the DADT repeal amendment attached.

Interestingly, Howard Dean, the founder of the progressive Democracy for America political action committee, told MSNBC “there’s no reason for Congress not to” repeal DADT, but that President Obama “has an ace in the hole,” if it doesn’t.

“He can withdraw his appeal” in the lawsuits challenging DADT in federal court. Prime among those lawsuits is Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S., which will be argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February. A federal district court judge ruled in July that DADT unconstitutional but the Obama Department of Justice has appealed the decision.

“If he can’t do it through Congress, he should do it through the judicial process,” said Dean. “This is a critical issue. For people under 35, the president’s base, they elected the president, believe that gay rights is the civil rights issue of their time. You’ve got to do this in order to get the young people back to the polls.”

The Associated Press’s Lisa Neff reported Monday that there were no discharges executed under DADT during the past month. Starting Oct. 21, Secretary Gates — responding to various court orders related to the Log Cabin lawsuit — issued a memo requiring that any discharges under DADT must now be approved by three of five senior Defense officials. Approximately 35 servicemembers per month were discharged in 2009.

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

All we want for Christmas is DADT repeal

Just wanted to pass along a significant update to our story on DADT repeal that appears in this week’s Dallas Voice: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said Thursday that he believes supporters of repeal have the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. The only question, it seems, is whether there will be enough time between the Thanksgiving recess and the end of the year to debate the Defense spending bill to which DADT repeal is attached. From The Advocate:

“I am confident that we have more than 60 votes prepared to take up the Defense authorization with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ if only there will be a guarantee of a fair and open amendment process, in other words, whether we’ll take enough time to do it,” Lieberman told reporters at a press conference, naming GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Richard Lugar as “Yes” votes. “Time is an inexcusable reason not to get this done.”

Lieberman noted that two items could be negotiated by Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell – the number of amendments to be considered and the amount of time for debate on those amendments.

Full and open debate on the bill could take as many as two weeks but an agreement between Reid and McConnell might also shave that down to just one week. Regardless, given that other bills will also eat up some of the remaining days, providing some sort of open amendment process will likely require that Senators stay past the targeted adjournment date of Dec. 10 until at least Dec. 17.

Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly breaks down where Democrats are likely to get the four Republican votes needed to overcome an expected filibuster attempt led by Arizona Sen. John McCain.

And we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves, but what a wonderful holiday gift DADT repeal would be for the entire LGBT community, and especially for gay veterans and servicemembers. On the flip side, it will be a bitter pill to swallow if DADT repeal doesn’t happen because senators feel like going home or to the Bahamas. Will Lieberman’s Chanukah oil burn long enough to get the job done? Will Harry Reid be like a Mormon Santa Claus? Or will McCain just be the grinch?

—  John Wright