Feedback • 12.09.11

Perry’s anti-gay ad in Iowa
What does gays serving in the military have to do with prayer in schools or your faith, Gov. Perry? Shamelessly pandering to voters of faith by conflating two unrelated issues is not a recipe for success. Gov. Perry’s attack on service men and women regardless of their sexual orientation is unprecedented. Mr. Perry has stated that he would re-instate “don’t ask, don’t tell,” even though a survey conducted and released by the Pentagon shows that 70 percent of service members have positive reactions or no problem with the repeal of the policy.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas honors and is thankful for our service men and women and their sacrifices for our freedoms. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas condemns this opportunistic ad released by the Rick Perry campaign.

Sadly, Mr. Perry has decided to release this anti-LGBT attack ad a day after President Obama issued a memorandum to federal agencies to address LGBT inequality abroad. The memo directs all federal government agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons” and establishes a working group to monitor the progress of the initiative.

In addition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva to commemorate the signing of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and devoted most of speech to discussing this new measure. This is the first strategy put forth by any U.S. administration to combat discrimination toward LGBT people outside the United States.

President Obama’s dedication to LGBT equality within the United States has had a major impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. No other president has expressed the kind of deep commitment to improving the lives of LGBT people and certainly no other president has attempted to project such a promise around the world.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas applauds President Obama and Secretary Clinton for their steadfast leadership on these issues, as well as all of our service men and women.

Omar F Narvaez,
president,
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas,
via Instant Tea

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

IMG_5132

CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas celebrates end of DADT

As ban on open gays and lesbians in the military ends, active-duty military personnel come out, some who were discharged consider re-enlisting

Johnson.Cully
Cully Johnson

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became final this week, some active-duty service members came out while some who were discharged under the policy made plans to re-enlist.

Dallas celebrated the repeal with a reception at Resource Center Dallas during which

Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his archive of photos, papers and other memorabilia to the Phil Johnson Library.

Among the papers was correspondence with senators and representatives about supporting the repeal effort. Also included was correspondence with the White House that concluded with Guy-Gainer’s invitation to the final repeal signing ceremony in July.

Guy-Gainer said that he almost missed the invitation, because he almost forgot to check his email one Monday night. When he did remember and checked the inbox, he realized that he had received an invitation to the repeal certification signing ceremony in Washington that Wednesday.

Guy-Gainer said he immediately cleared his schedule and made plans to attend.

Despite repeal of DADT, Guy-Gainer said, SLDN’s  work is not over. Although gays and lesbians may now serve openly, those who are married will not receive 40 benefits that married heterosexual service members enjoy.

Those benefits include their partners having an identity card to get on base and using that card to shop in the PX or use the library.

Same-sex dependents will not be able to use the base attorneys to write wills and other legal papers.

Same-sex couples will not have the access to base housing that opposite-sex couples have, nor will they be eligible for subsistence payments to subsidize off-base housing. That money is offered to many heterosexual couples.

Dependents of heterosexuals also have access to full health care that same-sex partners of servicemen and women will not receive.

Across the country, a number of gays and lesbians who had been discharged under DADT started talking to recruiters Tuesday about re-enlisting, including Cully Johnson, one of the owners of Dallas Eagle.

Johnson was a captain and said he is consiering re-enlisting in the Air Force. He had an appointment with a recruiter to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Johnson said he was stationed in Germany for the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Turkey refused to allow American planes to use its airspace, he said, he was responsible for finding alternate routes and bases that allowed the mission to happen.

After serving more than nine years, Johnson was dismissed from the military under DADT.

But like many who were dismissed, Johnson never “told.”

Another member of the Air Force asked him out on a date. When he turned the man down, that airman went to Johnson’s superior and reported him as being gay.

Johnson said there was no defense he could present. His attorney said that explaining the story of why he was turned in would just be seen as retaliation.

So Johnson was given an honorable discharge and he returned to Dallas while the closeted gay man who turned him in remained in the Air Force.

Johnson said he would like to finish his 20 years to take advantage of full military retirement benefits. Although he is talking to a recruiter, Johnson said that in addition to his business, he recently purchased a condo and has a new partner.

His partner was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Johnson’s re-enlistment.

“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said his partner, who works for an employer that doesn’t offer nondiscrimination protection and asked not to be identified.

Because Johnson was an officer, there may not be an immediate slot for him in the Air Force. With President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of armed forces, many who want to re-enlist whose specialties have been filled will also have to wait for an opening.

Pepe Johnson had an appointment with a recruiter on Wednesday also. Before his DADT discharge, he had been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill and became a sergeant.

Today, the former Dallas resident, who still owns a house in Oak Cliff, works as a petroleum land man in West Virginia.

“I want to sit down with a recruiter and look at the options available to me,” Pepe Johnson said, adding that he holds no resentment against the Army for his 2003 dismissal.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a law created by Congress and imposed on the military,” he said. “The Army was an incredible experience for me.”

If he re-enters, Pepe Johnson said he would have to go through basic training again because of the length of time since he served. Then, he said, he’d like to enter officer candidate school.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: HIV/AIDS progam not a priority for Texas Senate panel; Target sues gay group

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Things aren’t looking good for the Texas program that provides life-sustaining drugs to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS. The Texas HIV Medication Program, which needs an additional $19.2 million from the Legislature over the next two years, was not among the top priorities listed by a Senate budget panel that made its recommendations Thursday. If the Legislature doesn’t provide the money, the program will have to cut off enrollment or otherwise restrict access. “We’re basically making a decision regarding who lives and who dies,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Houston, who voted against the panel’s recommendations.

2. Servicemembers United reports that 261 people service members were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2010. “While this latest official discharge number represents an all-time annual low, it is still unusually high considering that the Secretary of Defense issued a directive half-way through the fiscal year to make it much harder for military units to discharge troops under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United. “Despite this law clearly being on its deathbed at the time, 261 more careers were terminated and 261 more lives were abruptly turned upside down because this policy.”

3. Target is suing an LGBT group in San Diego to stop it from gathering petitions in support of marriage equality outside eight of the retailer’s stores. Target says the group, Canvass for a Cause, is bothering customers, but the group says the company has anti-gay motives. Arguments in the case are set to begin today.

—  John Wright

OutMilitary.com connects gay servicemembers

John McKinnon

John McKinnon said he launched OutMilitary.com on Dec. 28 — right after the Senate voted to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

OutMilitary.com is a social networking site for active military and their supporters including gay and lesbian military retirees. McKinnon calls the site a Facebook clone as far as usability.

After Reuters and ABC News picked up a story about the site, OutMilitary began adding several hundred new members a day. Today, about 2,000 members belong to the network.

McKinnon said they are setting up groups for every military base and creating events. Members have told him the site is “quite liberating.” Many active duty personnel have joined under their own names and listed their current location. Others have disguised their names and locations because “don’t ask, don’t tell” is still in effect and new service members may still be processed under the law.

Membership cuts across all branches and ranks.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

SLDN: ‘The job is not done’

Aubrey Sarvis

This open letter addressed to servicemembers, the LGBT community and allies just came across from Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran who serves as executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

Dear Friend,

With the President signing legislation into law that provides a pathway to repeal, the SLDN family and greater LGBT community, along with our allies, should be proud of the role each person played in making history. But the job is not done.

Troops remain at risk under the law. Our service member hotline has not silenced. Since the President signed legislation, 135 service members and veterans have contacted our legal team for help. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will remain the law until certification and the 60-day implementation period have been completed.

While a measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay and lesbian veterans who served in silence – the uncertainty and fear in the ranks remains. Our mission and our services will continue: securing the freedom for all qualified to serve in the U.S. military with equality of treatment and opportunity.

We all know there is vital work unfinished.

—  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

Obama to sign bill that DOES NOT immediately repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on Wednesday

SLDN provided this image from Saturday’s ‘NBC Nightly News’ to illustrate how media outlets are incorrectly reporting that DADT has been repealed.

President Barack Obama will sign the bill that outlines a path for repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” in a ceremony at the Department of the Interior, at 9:15 a.m. Eastern (8:15 Central) on Wednesday. However, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is reminding folks — and especially the media — that even after Obama signs the bill, the law will remain in effect for an unknown period of time.

“We need the media’s help to let troops know they remain at risk under the law even after the President signs the bill,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in an e-mail statement this morning under the subject line “URGENT: Media warning ….”

“The Pentagon just released new guidance that made clear ‘Don’t Ask’ may still be the law for some time to come,” Sarvis said. “We respectfully renew our call for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations during this limbo period. Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day implementation period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law. Certification and the implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011. The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted.”

SLDN says LGBT servicemembers with questions should call 202-328-3244 ext. 100 to speak with a staff attorney.

For more on the process for repealing DADT, see this story from the Washington Post.

—  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

Key findings and full text of Pentagon report on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

For your afternoon reading, below is a copy of the Pentagon report on “don’t ask don’t tell” that was released just moments ago, as well as a copy of the Support Plan for Implementation. And here’s a summary of the key findings from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (for another summary, go here):

When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.”

• When asked about how having a service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

When asked “in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,” 69% of Service members reported that they had.

• In communications with gay and lesbian current and former service members, the CRWG repeatedly heard a patriotic desire to serve and defend the Nation, subject to the same rules as everyone else.

The CRWG is convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war. They do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated Service men and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our Nation with the military capability to accomplish any mission.

The CRWG found “the risk of repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell to overall military effectiveness is low.”

The CRWG believes this to be the “largest, most Comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the department of defense has ever undertaken.”

DADTReport FINAL Hires)

DADTReport SPI FINAL 20101130(Secure Hires)

—  John Wright