DADT repeal was a birthday gift for SLDN co-founder, Fort Worth native Dixon Osburn

Dixon Osburn

As a co-founder and former executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Fort Worth native Dixon Osburn says Saturday’s Senate vote to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a huge moment for him.

It was even bigger still because Saturday also happened to be Osburn’s 46th birthday.

“It was a pinch-me moment,” Osburn told Instant Tea earlier today. “It’s been a long hard fight, and watching the votes take place, I was shaking and crying and smiling and cheering all at once. I thought it would take us 20 years, and it took 17. It’s a great birthday present, and it shows that Texans are helping carve paths for equality.”

Osburn graduated from Trinity Valley School before obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Stanford and his law degree from Georgetown. He launched SLDN with former Army captain Michelle Benecke in 1993, the same year he says President Bill Clinton “capitulated” to DADT.

Osburn, who’d volunteered at SLDN’s predecessor, the Campaign for Military Service, launched the new group because he felt DADT was a defining moment in the history of gay rights — the first time our lives had been discussed on a federal level.

Osburn spent 14 years as SLDN’s executive director before stepping down in 2007. He worked as a consultant and wrote a book before recently joining Human Rights First as director of law and security.

“My focus is on the intersection of national security policy and human rights … trying to ensure we don’t return to a regime of torture, trying to ensure that those suspected of terror receive fair trials,” Osburn said. “All the years of work with generals and admirals with SLDN, is what I’m doing now on these sets of issues.”

Below is Osburn’s full, official statement on Saturday’s vote:

“Today is my birthday, and this is the best birthday present I could have asked for. The real gift, though, is to our nation, which believes in our national security and equality. This victory is a tribute to the 60,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual troops serving our nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe. It is a tribute to the one million LGBT veterans who have been willing to shed blood for out country in defense of our freedom and liberty; they now have been accorded theirs. The repeal of DADT and implementation of non-discrimination policies by the Pentagon will be judged among the pantheon of civil rights advances in our country. Today, no state government, local government or private business can substantiate discrimination when our military does not. Diversity is strength.

“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen for leading. I want to also acknowledge the many advocates both individual and organizational that have helped this moment arrive. From Baron von Steuben, likely a gay man who helped organize the colonists during the American Revolution to the gay WWII vets who formed vibrant LGBT communities in NYC and San Francisco after the war, to Frank Kameny who protested the ban in the 1960s and 1970s in front of the Pentagon to Brigadier General Keith Kerr, Brigadier General Virgil Richards and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who came out as gay on the 10th anniversary of DA DT, to so many more who have fought for what is right for our nation and our armed forces. We owe you a debt of gratitude. December 18th is a great day.”

—  John Wright

Monday morning open thread: Who deserves the most credit for repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’?

That’s right, now that DADT is almost history, it’s time to fight over debate who deserves the most credit for its repeal. Barack Obama? Harry Reid? Joe Lieberman? Nancy Pelosi? The Human Rights Campaign? GetEQUAL? Servicemembers Legal Defense Network? Dan Choi? Lady Gaga?

Here at Instant Tea we were convinced that our own reporting was responsible for Saturday’s successful Senate vote, but then we received the below e-mail from Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, and we began to have second thoughts. So, what do you think?



—  John Wright

Senate vote on DADT repeal just hours away

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the standalone bill to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” sometime after 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, or 9:30 a.m. Dallas time, on Saturday. With at least four Republicans on board, supporters say they have the 60 votes needed to advance the bill to a final vote, which could come as early as late afternoon. From the Associated Press:

The Senate was headed toward a landmark vote Saturday on legislation that would let gays serve openly in the military, testing waning opposition among Republicans and putting Democrats within striking distance of overturning “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Passage would be a historic victory for President Barack Obama, who made repeal of the 17-year-old law a campaign promise in 2008. It also would be a political win for congressional Democrats who have struggled repeatedly in the final hours of the lame-duck session to overcome Republican objections. …

Repeal would mean that, for the first time in U.S. history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.

Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers — the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — are required to certify to Congress that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ ability to fight. After that, 60 days must pass before any changes go into effect.

You can watch the historic proceedings live on the CSPAN website. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  John Wright

DADT rally planned Thursday on Cedar Springs

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and other groups are planning a rally — either a protest or a celebration — on Cedar Springs on Thursday night following a possible Senate vote on the Defense spending bill that includes a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” From the e-mail we just received:

The Senate will be voting on DADT 12/09/10. We are going to join other LGBT community organizations tomorrow for either a celebration or a protest according to how the vote goes tomorrow.

Here is what we need the membership to do:

1. Call Senator Hutchison (202) 224-5922 or (214) 361- 3500 and/or FAX (202) 224-0776

2. Call Senator Cornyn (202) 224-2934 or (972) 239-1310 and/or FAX (202) 228-2856

Just tell them your name and that you are a voting constituent. Then tell the staffer you URGE the Senator to vote to REPEAL DADT. While you’re at it you can also urge them to vote in favor of the DREAM ACT! Both legislations effect our LGBT brothers & sisters.

3. Show up at the rally at 7 p.m. on 12/09/10. We will meet at the Oak Lawn Library and then march down Cedar Springs to the Monument of Love and have our celebration or protest rally! Bring your PRIDE Flags, banners, signs, or just yourself! History will be made tomorrow. Be a part of it! Please forward this rally email to everyone you know. Please post in your Facebook and/or Twitter statuses! Thank you to Equality March Texas (EMT), LULAC 4871, HRC, and Out & Equal groups that are already on board for the rally!

—  John Wright

DOJ responds to DADT ruling; Gibbs says filing doesn’t diminish Obama’s commitment to repeal

Lawyers with the Justice Department on Thursday night, Sept. 23,  asked U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips not to grant an immediate injunction ordering that the military stop enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law/policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The filing came 14 days after Judge Phillips ruled that DADT is unconstitutional and should be immediately ended. ( You can read ABC News’ report here.)

The filing Thursday by DOJ lawyers asked for a “reasonable” amount of time to consider an injunction.

The fact that the government continues to defend the policy, despite President Barack Obama’s clearly and repeatedly stated opposition to DADT and his pledge to end it left Log Cabin Republicans, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit in question, more than a little angry.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans

LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper issued this statement Friday morning, Sept. 24: “We are deeply disappointed with the administration’s decision. Yet again, the Obama administration has failed to live up to its campaign promise to repeal this unconstitutional law for the servicemembers of this country.”

In the same press release that included Cooper’s statement, Dan Woods, the attorney with White and Case who is representing Log Cabin in the trial, had this to say: “The Justice Department’s objections fail to recognize the implications of the government’s defeat at trial. It is as if the South announced that it won the Civil War. The objections also fail to mention that the court has previously denied the government’s requests for a stay on three prior occasions and nothing has changed to suggest that a stay is now appropriate; if anything, the Senate vote this week shows that the court was correct in denying the prior requests for a stay. But what is most troubling is that the government’s request for a stay ignores the harm that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ causes to current and potential members of our Armed Forces. That is the saddest, most disappointing and, in light of the president’s position, most hypocritical part of the objections.”

The Senate vote to which Woods referred was the one on Tuesday, Sept. 21, in which every Senate Republican and three Senate Democrats voted against the motion for cloture, which would have ended a Republican filibuster and forced a final vote on the Department of Defense funding bill that included an amendment repealing DADT. That bill had already passed the House. One of the Democrats who voted against the motion was Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had made the motion. He voted against it in a procedural maneuver so that he would be able to bring it up again later.

Moderate Republicans in the Senate who might otherwise have voted with the Democrats on that motion voted against it because Reid had also included an amendment dealing with immigration — the Dream Act — and had refused to allow Republicans to offer any amendments to the DOD spending measure.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday defended the DOJ’s filing, saying that it was the department’s job to defend “acts of Congress” when they are challenged. But Gates insisted the filing “in no way diminished the president’s commitment to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT — indeed, it clearly shows why Congress must act to end this misguided policy.”

Gates added: “The president was disappointed this week when a majority of the Senate was willing to proceed with the National Defense Authorization Act, but political posturing created a 60 vote threshold. The president spoke out against DADT in his first State of the Union address, and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both testified in support of repeal. And the Department of Defense continues to work on a plan on how to implement repeal. This president, along with his administration, will continue to work will continue to work with the Senate leadership to achieve a legislative repeal of DADT as outlined in the NDAA this fall.”

UPDATE: Also Friday, a group of 69 progressive members of the House sent a letter to Obama asking that him not to appeal Phillips’ decision. Thursday’s filing was not technically an appeal, but experts say it was a strong indication that the DOJ does plan to appeal. For more on the letter, go here.

—  admin

Local gay vet: Time to regroup, refuel, attack again on DADT

Veterans and active servicemembers express outrage and frustration but will use this time to regroup

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

Gay current and former servicemembers from North Texas expressed frustration and outrage over this week’s vote in the U.S. Senate that halted progress on a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

But they vowed to continue fighting the military’s 17-year-old ban on open service, in hopes the Senate will take up the measure again during the lame duck session that follows November elections.

The Senate voted 56-43 on Tuesday, Sept. 21 to move forward with debate on the 2011 Defense spending bill that includes a provision to repeal DADT, but the margin fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Dave Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant from Tarrant County and a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, chalked up Tuesday’s vote as a lost battle, but said the war won’t end until the policy is history.

“Now is the time to regroup, refuel and attack again,” Gainer said. “We’ll see this scenario again in December and again and again until repeal happens. It will happen. Between now and then, the voices of our community and our allies must become louder and more incessant than ever before. This is not a political issue — this is a discrimination issue. After 17 years we cannot give up now. We are still alive in the Senate and in the courts.”

Two weeks before the Senate vote, a federal district judge in California declared DADT unconstitutional, but the U.S.

Justice Department, which is defending the policy, hasn’t said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon review of the impact of DADT repeal is due Dec. 1.

Kevin, an active-duty gay Marine from North Texas whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under DADT, called on  President Barack Obama to issue an executive order ending discharges under DADT until the policy can be repealed — either legislatively or judicially.

Currently stationed overseas, Kevin is a member of OutServe, an underground network of actively serving LGBT troops. Kevin’s partner is also on active duty.

“This was a huge letdown, and has made me just about completely lose faith in our government,” Kevin said of Tuesday’s vote. “But we at OutServe are standing by our word, we are not going to give up the fight.

“I would also encourage the American public to still stay on their congressmen and senators, call them and tell them to repeal this unjust policy,” Kevin said. “This is human lives that this policy is affecting.”

Danny Hernandez, a former Marine from Tarrant County who was discharged under DADT and now works with SLDN, said he was in the Senate gallery when Tuesday’s vote took place.

“The Senate continues to play games with the lives of thousands of servicemembers,” said Hernandez, a graduate of Texas A&M University who hopes to one day return to the Marines. “There were GOP senators who voted not to represent their constituents, but to follow party lines even though they support the repeal of DADT. A vote against the bill is one thing, but a vote against the opportunity to bring it up for debate is shameful.

“I am remaining optimistic and hoping that this will pass during the lame duck session at the end of the year,” Hernandez added. “It would be nice to see politics placed aside as well as for the support of all our men and women in uniform.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Closeted gay Marine from North Texas reacts to DADT vote: ‘I was absolutely outraged. I still am’

A while back we interviewed a gay Marine from North Texas who is a member of OutServe, the underground network of actively serving LGBT troops. We sent the Marine a message Tuesday afternoon inquiring about his reaction to the Senate vote that halted the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Here’s his response:

“When I heard the news, I was absolutely outraged. I still am,” he said. “This was a huge letdown, and has made me just about completely lose faith in our government. But we as OutServe are standing by our word, we are not going to give up the fight. We will be here fighting until every servicemember has equal rights. We aren’t going anywhere. This is a setback, but it’s not the end of the fight. Now I would urge President Obama to stand up and do what is right: Issue an executive order to stop discharges until the final review is over in December. I would also encourage the American public to still stay on their congressmen and senators, call them and tell them to repeal this unjust policy. This is human lives that this policy is affecting.”

—  John Wright

Reid sets DADT vote

Unless measure passes before November elections, Republican gains could mean an end to repeal possibilities for the time being

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service lisakeen@me.com

Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night
MAKING A POINT | Pop star Lady Gaga attended the VMAs on Sunday night, Sept. 12, with three former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who resigned from the academy to protest the anti-gay policy. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Monday, Sept. 13, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring the defense spending bill with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal measure to the floor next week.

Reid himself confirmed the decision in a post on Twitter, in response to a call by pop star Lady Gaga following MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night, Sept. 12.

Gaga attended the awards show with three LGBT former servicemembers who were discharged under DADT and a former West Point cadet who left the academy in protest over the policy.

The four were U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hall, former U.S. Air Force Major Mike Almy, former U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Stacy Vasquez and former West Point cadet Katie Miller, all members of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The pop star then spoke about the importance of repealing DADT during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres after the VMAs.

The following day, Gaga sent a Tweet to all her followers urging them to contact Reid and urge him to schedule a Senate vote on repeal. Reid responded with a Tweet saying the vote had been scheduled for this coming week.

The decision — if it sticks — is an important step forward for activists hoping to repeal the federal law that bans openly gay servicemembers from the military.

Many political observers are predicting that Republicans could take over the majority in the Senate and/or House at the mid-term elections. Such a development would almost certainly kill any chance of repeal for DADT during President Barack Obama’s first term.

The DADT repeal language was attached to the annual bill that authorizes Department of Defense spending. The language calls for repeal of the military’s ban on gay servicemembers to begin after the Secretary of Defense receives an “implementation report” he has asked for, due Dec. 1, and after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff have signed a statement certifying that they have considered whatever recommendations are made in the report, prepared the necessary regulations to accompany repeal, and certified that repeal is “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

Fiscal year 2011 begins Oct. 1. With the congressional clock ticking down the last days of fiscal year 2010, the pressure is on to finish off remaining budget bills authorizing spending and appropriating FY 2011 monies.

If Congress fails to settle its budget bills by the end of FY 2010, it has the option of passing “continuing resolutions” — bills that simply set the next year’s fiscal budget at the same levels as the current year.

According to the New York Times, the Senate typically spends about two weeks on the defense spending bill. Last year’s defense authorization bill was passed by the Senate in July, but it took lawmakers more than two months to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions.

So, there is no certainty that DADT will, in fact, come up during the first week or that it will even get a vote before FY 2010 runs out.

Meanwhile, when the defense authorization bill does come to the floor and the Senate begins debate on the language seeking to repeal DADT, the debate is expected to be vigorous, at least from opponents.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans have made clear they are steadfastly against repeal. The question is whether Democrats believe support for repeal could lose them votes during the mid-term elections, and potentially control of Congress.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Groups step up pressure as clock winds down on DADT repeal

DAVID CRARY  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — Elated by a major court victory, gay-rights activists are stepping up pressure on Congress to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy this month. They want to avoid potentially lengthy appeals and fear their chances for a legislative fix will fade after Election Day.

The House voted in May to repeal the 17-year-old policy banning openly gay service members. Many majority Democrats in the Senate want to take up the matter in the remaining four weeks before the pre-election recess, but face opposition from Republican leaders.

National gay-rights groups, fearing possible Democratic losses on Nov. 2, urged their supporters Friday, Sept. 10 to flood senators’ offices with phone calls and e-mails asking that the Senate vote on the measure during the week of Sept. 20.

“If we don’t speak up now, our window for repeal could close,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Supporters of repeal hope senators heed the ruling issued Thursday in Los Angeles by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who said ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was an unconstitutional violation of the due process and free speech rights of gays and lesbians.

The policy has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the military by hurting recruitment efforts during wartime and requiring the discharge of service members who have critical skills and training, she said.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a Republican gay-rights organization, sued the federal government in 2004 to stop the policy, and Phillips said she would draft an order within a week doing just that. The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t yet said whether it will appeal the ruling; spokesman Charles Miller said attorneys were reviewing it.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen — both in favor of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” — say they prefer that the change wait until the military completes a review of the issue. That study, due in December, includes surveys of troops and their families to get their views and help determine how a change would be implemented.

Gay-rights activists, worried that the election could tilt the balance of power in Congress, don’t want to wait.

“We’re pleased by the judge’s decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger for years,” said Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has lobbied against ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’

The House-passed repeal measure is contained in a broader defense policy bill which has yet to be sent to the Senate floor because of an objection by Republican Sen. John McCain during debate in the Armed Services Committee.

McCain said it was “disgraceful” to push for a vote on the repeal before completion of the Pentagon review.

Democrats, who effectively hold 59 Senate seats, will need at least some Republican support to reach the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. Republican Susan Collins of Maine voted for repeal in committee.

The Senate has a packed agenda for the next few weeks before its recess, and Republicans have warned that they might not make time for the defense bill if it contains controversial amendments. Along with the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal, it includes a proposal that would allow female service members to receive abortions at military facilities.

Among those on the spot is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who must decide how hard to push for a vote on the repeal.

Over the summer, Reid was given the West Point ring of Lt. Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran who was discharged from the New York Army National Guard because he was open about his homosexuality. Choi said he would take back the ring only when ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was repealed, and he was among many activists urging Reid to press hard for a vote.

“The time for accountability has come,” Choi said Friday. “Sen. Reid needs to follow the leadership of Judge Phillips and take immediate action to support the men and women serving in our nation’s military.”

President Barack Obama has said he would like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed, but wants Congress to take the lead in accomplishing that. Republicans on Friday called on the administration to defend the law until the Defense Department had a chance to complete its review.

“After making the continuous sacrifice of fighting two wars over the course of eight years, the men and women of our military deserve to be heard — and have earned that right,” said California Rep. Buck McKeon, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

During the trial before Phillips, government attorneys presented only the policy’s legislative history in their defense and called no witnesses.

Justice Department attorney Paul G. Freeborne argued that the issue should be decided by Congress rather than in court. He said the plaintiffs were trying to force a federal court to overstep its bounds and halt the policy as it is being debated by lawmakers.

In 2008, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law itself is constitutional, but the way the military applies it is not. The court said it’s OK to discharge people for being gay — but only if the military proves that the dismissal furthers military readiness.

The Pentagon has ignored that ruling over the past two years, continuing to discharge gays without making such a showing.

The case before the 9th Circuit concerned former Maj. Margaret Witt, a decorated Air Force flight nurse discharged for having a long-term relationship with a civilian woman in Washington state. Witt continues to seek reinstatement, and a federal trial was scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 13 in Tacoma over whether her firing actually furthered military goals.

Phillips’ decision was the third federal court ruling since July to assert that statutory limits on the rights of gays and lesbians were unconstitutional. Earlier, federal judges ruled against California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages even in states such as Massachusetts that allow them.

—  John Wright