Hagel vows to push for equal benefits for gay and lesbian military families

Chuck Hagel

Two LGBT groups, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council, are praising Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel after he wrote a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer addressing concerns about his appointment. Boxer endorsed the Hagel nomination on Monday. She had withheld support citing his positions on Israel, women’s and LGBT issues.

With regard to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Hagel wrote:

“I fully support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country. I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.”

In the U.S. Senate, Hagel received a 0 percent rating with Human Rights Campaign and voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. He was not in the Senate for the enactment or repeal of DADT.

“This commitment is a big step forward for military families with lesbian and gay parents,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy for Family Equality Council. “The Department of Defense has a lot of work to do to ensure that all military families have access to the benefits they’ve earned through service to their country. We look forward to working with the Administration to make sure that all military families, including those with lesbian and gay servicemembers, are protected and respected.”

“Senator Hagel’s commitment is a turning point for our gay and lesbian military families,” said SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson. “His promise to grant these service members the family benefits they have earned demonstrates his deepening grasp of the injustice currently being done to them.”

In its press release, SLDN referred to a 2011 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demanding a list of benefits available to straight military and denied to gay and lesbian military because of DOMA. That list includes issuance of military ID cards for a non-military spouse and access to military hospitals to visit a sick child by the non-military parent. Without a military ID card, a spouse cannot get on a base to visit the child.

While far right wing members of the Senate continue to oppose Hagel’s nomination, Jewish members are beginning to support him. In addition to Boxer, Chuck Schumer of New York expressed support today.

—  David Taffet

DADT repeal crusader Dave Guy-Gainer dies

Dave Guy-Gainer

Dave Guy-Gainer, who was a leading local advocate for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” died unexpectedly at his home in Forest Hill on Thursday.

Guy-Gainer was 63. A public memorial will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road at Oak Lawn Avenue.

Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who came out after leaving the service, was a member of the board of Equality Texas and a founding board member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He worked tirelessly for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He also ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the City Council in Forest Hill, a small town in Tarrant County south of Fort Worth.

Guy-Gainer was invited to the White House for the DADT repeal legislation signing ceremony.

“Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high in that room,” Guy-Gainer said later of the ceremony. “You couldn’t help but shed a tear in there. It was just such an overwhelming feeling of weight being lifted and equality finally happening.”

At a DADT repeal party in September 2011 at Resource Center Dallas, he donated boxes of papers releated to DADT to the Phil Johnson Library. Throughout the repeal process, he was the local media contact who made sense of it all.

The circumstances of Guy-Gainer’s death couldn’t immediately be confirmed, but he is believed to have committed suicide.

His partner David Guy said funeral arrangements are pending but there will be a full honor military funeral.

Read statements on Guy-Gainer’s passing from SLDN and Stonewall Democrats below:

—  David Taffet

‘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

DADT is finally dead

OutServe, a group for active-duty LGBT military personnel, published an issue of its magazine featuring 101 newly out servicemembers to mark the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’

After 18 years and more than 14,000 discharges, “don’t ask, don’t tell” finally ended at 12:01 this morning. For the first time in the nation’s 235-year history, gays and lesbians can serve openly in the U.S. military.

President Barack Obama took to Twitter to mark the end of the ban, and the White House posted video of gay veterans talking about what DADT’s demise means to them. A Pentagon press conference is planned later today.

OutServe, a group for active-duty LGBT military personnel, published a DADT repeal issue of its magazine featuring 101 newly out servicemembers. And one gay servicemember stationed in Germany came out to his father in the middle of the night and posted the emotional clip on YouTube (video below).

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said 100 events are planned in all 50 states to celebrate the end of DADT, including in Austin/Fort Hood, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. The Dallas celebration is from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Resource Center Dallas.

“Today marks the official end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America’s military,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. “Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.

“Our work is far from done, but today we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our patriots as we look forward to a new era of military service — one that honors the contributions of all qualified Americans who have served or who wish to serve,” Sarvis said.

Below are more statements on the end of DADT, as well as video of the gay servicemember coming out to his dad.

—  John Wright

DADT repeal starts Tuesday, but will discrimination continue?

DOJ says Log Cabin lawsuit should be declared ‘moot,’ but LCR attorney warns that without ruling, discriminatory policies could be reinstated

Baldwin.Polis
STILL FIGHTING | Attorney Dan Woods, right, and Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper, left, pose together following the ceremony last December in which President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT. (Photo courtesy Log Cabin Republicans)

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be off the books Tuesday, Sept. 20. But there is still concern among some that the removal of that specific law barring gays from the military will not stop discrimination against gays in the military.

And Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is warning active duty military to be aware of rules affecting them if they choose to be openly gay in uniform.

Log Cabin Republicans’ attorney Dan Woods reminded a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 1 that Congressional repeal of DADT is not enough to end discrimination against gays in the military. Woods noted that before passage of DADT in 1993, there was a military regulation — not a federal law — that banned “homosexuals” from the military.

“That ban had existed for decades,” Woods said.

And if the 9th Circuit panel does not affirm a district court decision finding DADT unconstitutional, Woods added, “the government will be completely unconstrained in its ability to again ban gay service in the military.”

The 9th Circuit panel is considering a motion by the Department of Justice to declare the Log Cabin lawsuit moot since Congress has repealed DADT.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director for Log Cabin Republicans said Tuesday, Sept. 13, that there is no prescribed timeline for the 9th Circuit issuing its decision on the motion.

“I know some people are expecting that we will have a ruling on that by Sept. 20 or just after that, but Dan Woods has told us that it could happen any time. And ‘any time’ means it could come in a month, or it could take several months. There’s nothing that says when the court has to issue its ruling,” Cooper said.

Woods pointed out that even since the repeal was passed by Congress last December, there is a new Congress now, there has already been a House vote to de-fund implementation of repeal, and there are “multiple candidates for president promising, as part of their campaign platforms, to repeal the repeal.”

One member of the panel, Judge Barry Silverman, suggested the latter concern, about presidential candidates, seemed a bit “speculative.”

“Well, there’s an election next year,”  responded Wood.

“Come back next year,” the judge shot back, with a barely stifled laugh. “If any of these things come to pass, it’ll be a different story. But in the meantime, this is the situation we’re faced with.”

The Department of Justice is urging the federal appeals panel to declare the Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S. lawsuit moot. The lawsuit — which won a powerful decision from U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in September 2010 — was largely responsible for prompting Congress to finally pass a bill repealing DADT in December.

Phillips had ordered the military to immediately stop enforcing DADT and, though the 9th Circuit put that order on hold pending appeal, military officials began warning Congress that it seemed inevitable the courts would strike down the law.

The military wanted a smooth transition to a DADT-free force, and Congress agreed.

Henry Whitaker, attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, urged the panel to declare the litigation moot. He said the government would submit a motion after Sept. 20 to vacate the ruling and have the case sent back to the district court for dismissal.

Whitaker said that, if the 9th Circuit does affirm the lower court ruling, the government might even consider appealing it to the U.S. Supreme Court. And he stated several times that, until repeal takes effect, the government “is defending” DADT on its merits.

Woods said that if the federal appeals panel agrees with the government and vacates the lower court decision, and then a new president or Congress reinstates the policy, “we’d have to start all over again to prove again that laws banning open gay servicemembers are unconstitutional.

“This case took seven years to get here today. And it would be inappropriate to have to have people go through that all over again,” Woods said.

Woods also noted that affirming Judge Phillips’ ruling would remedy “collateral consequences” caused by DADT. Among those concerns, he said, are loss of benefits under the G.I. bill and benefits from the Veterans Administration, inability to be buried in VA cemeteries, and requirement that discharged servicemembers pay back their student loans.

The DOJ’s Whitaker said Log Cabin’s fear that a future Congress or president might re-enact DADT “does not pass the straight face test.” And, he added, said individuals discharged under DADT could seek remedies to these collateral forms of discrimination through individual lawsuits.

But Woods argued that it “ought not be necessary for every one of the thousands of people who have been discharged under this law to have to do that.

“If you vacate the judgment and take away the case,” Woods added “the government is unconstrained and simply might do it again. History might repeat itself.”

For now, SLDN is trying to prepare gay active duty servicemembers for the historic change that is about to take place Tuesday when the 60-day review period will have ticked away following certification of military readiness to implement repeal.

And, not surprisingly, some organizations, including SLDN, plan to celebrate the end of the 18-year-old ban.

“Many servicemembers want to attend these celebrations, and some might want to speak at them,” noted the SLDN website, adding that “no special rules apply to attendance at or participation in such events.”

But SLDN did warn gay servicemembers not to criticize their commanders — past or present — or elected officials, and not to urge defeat of any particular elected official or candidate. And the organization warned servicemembers not to wear their uniform to an event that is partisan in nature.

For more details on what’s allowed and disallowed for active duty service members in uniform, see SLDN.org.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

COVER STORY: Coming out of the shadows

As the process of repealing DADT nears its end, some gay servicemembers discharged under the policy are considering the possibility of re-enlisting

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Since the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military — was first enacted in 1993, more than 14,000 men and women have been discharged, according to the Government Accounting Office.

Now that the policy has been repealed by Congress, in a vote last December, and since that repeal has been certified by the Pentagon and President Obama, some of those gay and lesbian former servicemembers plan to re-enlist.

DADT repeal will be complete Sept. 20, 60 days after the president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the certification of repeal.

Of those discharged under DADT, 2,215 were in critical positions, according to the GAO which, in its latest report, estimated that each dismissal cost the government $52,800. That’s a total of about three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network estimates the actual cost of each dismissal was much higher.

But there is more to these discharges than numbers and politics. Behind each one is a very personal story of a life that suddenly veered in a new and unexpected direction.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore

Michael Moore graduated from Seagoville High School a year early then enlisted in the Air Force in 2004 at the age of 17. He was 19 and stationed in Germany when he began to come out.

And technically he did tell.

“I told one person,” he said.

During his coming-out process, Moore approached a supervisor in another department and asked her what would happen if he came out.

“The next morning, she came up and told me she was going to report it,” he said.

Moore said his sergeant called him in and yelled at him, then they sent him to counseling.

“They were afraid I was going to commit suicide. They were concerned because I was going career,” Moore said.

But he knew the concern wasn’t for him and certainly not for the military career he had planned. They only sent him to counseling to cover themselves.

His discharge process began immediately.

Fighting the discharge would have entailed a lengthy and expensive court battle in civil court, something he couldn’t afford. Besides, Moore said, he didn’t think he could win in court anyway.

“It would have just delayed the inevitable,” he said.

Moore described the administrative discharge proceeding as one-sided and unfair. He said the attorney assigned to his case was in another country and he spoke to him only once. Within two months, Moore was out of the service.

Now it’s five years later, and DADT is ending, and Moore said he hopes to return to the service, but only after he finishes his degree.

“I want to go back as an officer,” he said.

He is studying for a degree at the Art Institute of Dallas that will qualify him to re-enter as an officer.

“On the one hand, I’m glad it happened,” he said. “I got to know who I am. Before I went in, I didn’t even know what gay meant.”

Because of his service, Moore receives government assistance toward his education. But because of DADT, he said he’s only receiving half of what others who completed even a two-year hitch get.

Moore hopes that those who are in the service are careful about coming out. Just because it’s legal, does mean coming out will necessarily be safe. He said he wonders if the woman he told had changed her attitude.

“She knows what she did,” he said, “and she’ll have to live with it.”

Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson of Maryland served in the Navy and came out to his commanding officer in 2007 after realizing there was no way to successfully juggle his private life and his professional life in the military as long as he remained closeted.

“I was under a whole lot of pressure being in the service in a position of leadership,” Johnson said. “I was under scrutiny.”

While some commanders would immediately start trying to discharge someone who came out, Johnson said his commander instead started looking for ways to keep him in the Navy.

“He told me, ‘I think things will change if you’ll just hang on,’” Johnson recalled.

Because his command needed him, “Technically, they could keep me,” Johnson said. But he was discharged anyway, after 10 years of service.

After leaving the Navy, Johnson worked for a year as a contractor in the same position he left. In August 2008, he went back to school fulltime and now has one year left to complete his degree at University of Maryland.

He also works at The Palm Center, which does research on sexual minorities in the military.

Now, four years after he was discharged, Johnson is exploring the possibility of re-enlisting.

“I’m looking to go back as a reservist,” he said. “I have half my career in.”

One setback is that there is currently no room for him to return at his former level.

“They have allotments of how many can be in a job at a pay grade,” Johnson said. “They’re at 104 percent and won’t take me.”

He said that the military used to allow someone to drop a pay grade when they re-enlisted, but no longer.

Once he has his degree, Johnson said he would put together an officer package and if the Navy cannot accommodate him, he may find an opportunity in the Army or National Guard.

Johnson believes one thing brought down DADT — Facebook, which allowed gay and lesbian troops to connect.

“Every time you transfer, you have to seek out the gay underground,” he said. “On one base, there might be fractured circles.”

He said that Facebook led to social media specifically for those in the military like OutServe and OutMilitary.com. As more gay and lesbian service members met, they also organized.

Justin Elzie

Justin Elzie

Justin Elzie agrees that without the Internet, anti-DADT protests like those at the White House last year that led to the arrest of Lt. Dan Choi as well as GetEqual activist Mark Reed-Walkup of Dallas would not have happened.

And Elzie said he believes those demonstrations were instrumental in bringing an end to DADT.

Elzie was the first person dismissed from the Marine Corps under DADT.

He had already served 10 years in 1993 when President Bill Clinton came into office after pledging during his campaign to issue an executive order allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. And Elzie was ready to announce that he was gay as soon as that executive order was issued.

But Congress derailed Clinton’s plan, forcing him into a compromise that came to be known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Under this new congressionally-mandated rule, gays and lesbians could serve in the military as long as they stayed deeply closeted. And while military leaders could still discharge someone for being gay, they weren’t supposed to go around asking about servicemembers’ sexual orientation unless they had good reason.

But Elzie, who had served in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, made his announcement on ABC News anyway.

“I was pretty naïve back then,” Elzie said recently. But his naivete aside, he knew he was putting his military career on the line when he came out: Before he came out, the commandant of the Marine Corps made news by announcing that there were no gay or lesbian Marines. Elzie couldn’t let that lie stand.

“I just couldn’t stand by and not say a thing,” he said.

Elzie had planned at the time to stay in the military just three more months. But with his announcement, the Marine Corps held an administrative hearing and discharged him. So he sued and won, a move that kept him in the service for four more years while the case progressed.

In the early days of DADT, there were some legal successes; Elzie was among them. He lined up character witnesses and put together a brief detailing his successful military record, and the court ordered the Marine Corps to reinstate him.

During those four extra years, Elzie was recommended for promotion twice. Both times, the Pentagon refused to allow him to be promoted and in 1997, he was forced out of the service.

“They wanted to make an example of me,” Elzie said.

What happens now

Log Cabin Republicans in 2004 filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DADT, claiming that the policy violates the first and fifth amendments. Federal court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in Log Cabin’s favor in October 2010 and issued an injunction against the policy — an injunction that was promptly stayed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court lifted the stay in July this year, saying the Justice Department has been unable to meet the legal standard needed to justify keeping it in place. Despite the fact that Congress repealed DADT last December and the repeal has since been certified, formal arguments for the appeal in the Log Cabin case are set for Aug. 29.

Elzie said that he believes the ruling last October in the Log Cabin lawsuit forced the Obama administration and Congress to repeal DADT. And he hopes the case continues through the courts despite the repeal, because he said he sees a difference between the judicial proceedings and the congressional repeal.

“The repeal says we can serve,” he said. “The Log Cabin case says we’re equal,” Elzie clarified, adding that while the repeal of the law will eventually change attitudes in society and in the military, the change won’t come easy. Anti-gay commanding officers, he noted, will likely continue to make life hard for gays and lesbians under their command.

Having openly gay and lesbian people in the military will inevitably effect change in the larger society, Elzie suggested, because when people from less progressive areas of the country serve together with gays and lesbians who are both open and professional, they will carry that experience back home with them after their service.

North Texan Dave Guy-Gainer, a gay military veteran now on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, has long been one of those in the trenches in the fight to get rid of DADT. What does he think will happen on Sept. 20 when repeal is complete and DADT is finally laid to rest: “Massive hurricanes, disastrous floods and violent tornados.”

Then again, Guy-Gainer said, probably nothing will happen, and all that will be different is the military will not be wasting time and money throwing out well-trained personnel.

—  John Wright

WHAT’S BREWING: Day of prayer suit dismissed; post-DADT guide for gay troops; NY marriage split

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block Texas Gov. Rick Perry from participating in or promoting his Aug. 6 day of prayer on the grounds that his involvement violates the separation of church and state. The group of atheists and agnostics that filed the lawsuit, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, says it may appeal Thursday’s decision. Meanwhile, a DV poll over on our main page (lower right) shows that 70 percent of respondents believe Perry’s involvement with the event is in fact a violation of the first amendment’s establishment clause.

2. In anticipation of the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in September, a leading advocacy group has published a legal guide for gay servicemembers who’ll be serving openly post-DADT. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network also launched a redesigned website reflecting a shift in the group’s focus. “The work of advancing military equality marches forward after repeal,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a press release. “At SLDN, we will fight alongside those who may face harassment or discrimination as we oversee implementation; when necessary and timely, litigate in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America’s military; advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assist veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork.”

3. The nation is split 50 percent to 46 percent over whether marriage equality in New York is a good thing, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Check out the breakdown of the poll results below.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: President certifies DADT repeal

President Barack Obama is shown signing the law repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ on Dec. 22, 2010. After a delay of more than six months during which the U.S. military branches received training on DADT repeal and dealing with openly gay and lesbian servicemembers, the president today certified repeal of the gay ban. DADT will officially be lifted in 60 days.

 

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

President Barack Obama has put his signature to certification of the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which means that the ban on openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military officially ends in 60 days, or on Sept. 20.

“Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” the president said today after signing the repeal certification, adding that he had indeed “certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.”

The president continued, “As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. … Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.”

Obama also praised “our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.”

Word came last night that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm. Mike Mullen would be certifying the repeal today, but there had been no confirmation then that the president would also certify repeal today.

“The days of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ are quite literally numbered,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, said in a press release announcing that Obama had signed the certification. Murphy then went on to say that many other statutes that discriminate against LGBT people are still on the books, at the state and federal levels, and that the ACLU would “continue to seek justice” for gay and lesbian servicemembers discharged under DADT, and that the organization would continue to push for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples.

“The countdown to repeal begins today!” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network declared in a statement released by his organization. But Sarvis also warned gays and lesbians in the military that they are still at risk and that it is unsafe for them to come out until the ban is lifted in 60 days.

And Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and himself a former Army intelligence collector who was discharged under DADT, called certification of repeal “nothing short of historic,” adding that “gay and lesbian servicemembers can and will breathe a huge sigh of relief” now.

But even as many LGBT rights advocates were exulting over certification of repeal of DADT, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, earlier today issued a statement reminding advocates that the battle is not yet over: transgender and transsexual servicemembers still have to stay closeted or risk discharge.

“NCTE rejoices whenever discriminatory laws end, and ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a discriminatory law and it needed to go,” Keisling said. “However, as repeal is certified, transgender servicemembers continue serving in silence. NCTE looks forward to the day when the U.S. Armed Forces ends discrimination in all its forms,” Keisling said, adding a call for the Pentagon and the Obama administration to “address the gap” in DADT repeal.

—  admin

Military gay couples won’t enjoy benefits

Even after DADT repeal is complete, DOMA will create discrepancy

JULIE WATSON  |  Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Gay service members from Army soldiers to Air Force officers are planning to celebrate the official end of the military’s 17-year policy that forced them to hide their sexual orientation with another official act — marriage.

A 27-year-old Air Force officer from Ohio said he can’t wait to wed his partner of two years and slip on a ring that he won’t have to take off or lie about when he goes to work each day once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed. He plans to wed his boyfriend, a federal employee, in Washington D.C. where same-sex marriages are legal.

He asked not to be identified, following the advice of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national organization representing gay troops, including the Air Force officer, that has cautioned those on active duty from coming out until the ban is off the books.

“I owe it to him and myself,” the officer said of getting married. “I don’t want to do it in the dark. I think that taints what it’s supposed to be about — which is us, our families, and our government.”

But in the eyes of the military the marriage will not be recognized and the couple will still be denied most of the benefits the Defense Department gives to heterosexual couples to ease the costs of medical care, travel, housing and other living expenses.

The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman — prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.

That means housing allowances and off-base living space for gay service members with partners could be decided as if they were living alone. Base transfers would not take into account their spouses. If two gay service members are married to each other they may be transferred to two different states or regions of the world. For heterosexual couples, the military tries to avoid that from happening.

Gay activists and even some commanders say the discrepancy will create a two-tier system in an institution built on uniformity.

“It’s not going to work,” said Army Reserve Capt. R. Clarke Cooper, who heads up the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that sued the Justice Department to stop the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “Taking care of our soldiers is necessary to ensure morale and unit cohesion. This creates a glaring stratification in the disbursement of support services and benefits.”

Cooper said he also plans to marry his boyfriend, a former Navy officer, in a post-repeal era.

Pentagon officials have said they believe the ban could be fully lifted soon. The military for now is not discharging anyone under the policy to comply with a federal appeals court ruling July 6 that ordered the government to immediately cease its enforcement. The Department of Justice has filed an emergency motion asking the court to reconsider its order, saying ending the ban now would pre-empt the “orderly process” for rolling back the policy as outlined in the law passed and signed by the president in December.

The military’s staunchly traditional, tight-knit society, meanwhile, has been quickly adapting to the social revolution: Many gay officers say they have already come out to their commanders and fellow troops, and now discuss their weekend plans without a worry.

The Air Force officer says he has dropped the code words “Red Solo Cups” — the red plastic cups used at parties — that he slipped into conversations for years to tell his partner he loved him when troops were within earshot. He now feels comfortable saying “I love you” on the phone, no longer fearful he will be interrogated by peers.

One male soldier, who also asked not to be identified, said after Congress approved repealing the law, he listed his boyfriend on his Army forms as his emergency contact and primary beneficiary of his military life insurance in case he dies in Afghanistan.

He said when he was transferred to South Korea, he and his partner had to pay for his partner’s move.

“But we were able to stay together,” the soldier wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press from Afghanistan. “During the move, I realized I needed to make sure my partner in life was taken care of if something, the worst, ever happened to me, especially knowing I was about to deploy.”

The soldier said when he added his boyfriend’s name to the paperwork as a primary beneficiary and identified him as a friend, the non-commissioned officer in charge shut his office door and told him: “Unlike the inherent benefits to being married in the Army, such as housing and sustenance allowances, our life insurance and will don’t discriminate.”

Same-sex partners can be listed as the person to be notified in case a service member is killed, injured, or missing, but current regulations prevent anyone other than immediate family — not same-sex spouses — from learning the details of the death. Same-sex spouses also will not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremonies if their military spouses are killed in action.

Gay partners and spouses also will be denied military ID cards, which means they will not be allowed on base unless they are accompanied by a service member and they cannot shop at commissaries or exchanges that have reduced prices for groceries and clothing, nor can they be treated at a military medical facility. They also will be excluded from base programs providing recreation and other such kinds of support.

Military officials say some hardship cases may be handled on an individual basis. Activists warn such an approach will create an administrative nightmare and leave the military vulnerable to accusations of making inconsistent decisions that favor some and not others.

Military families enjoy assistance from the Defense Department to compensate for the hardship of having a mother or father or both deployed to war zones and moved frequently.

“It strains a relationship when you’re gone for over a year,” said Navy medical corpsman Andrew James, 27, who lived two years apart from his same-sex partner, who could not afford to move with him when he was transferred from San Diego to Washington. “But straight couples have support so their spouses are able to be taken care of, with financial issues, and also they are able to talk to the chain of command, whereas gays can’t. They don’t have any support at all financially or emotionally, and that is really devastating.”

He said he was lucky that his relationship survived and now that he is in the Reserves, they are together again in San Diego.

The benefits issue came up repeatedly during training sessions to prepare troops for the policy change.

“There are inconsistencies,” Maj. Daryl Desimone told a class of Marines at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, after being asked about benefits for gay military personnel. “Anyone who looks at it logically will see there are some things that need to be worked out in the future.”

—  John Wright

Appeals court halts enforcement of DADT, but gay servicemembers warned to remain cautious

A federal appeals court has halted enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell,” effective immediately.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous order today lifting a stay it had placed on an injunction handed down last year by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the ban on open military service unconstitutional.

According to the appeals court’s order, DADT cannot be enforced unless and until the government gets a stay from either the 9th Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Congress voted to repeal DADT in December, but repeal has not yet been certified by the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is most welcomed,” Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. “It’s the hope of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that this favorable ruling will not be challenged by the Defense Department. In fact, this whole matter could have been avoided had we had certification back in the spring. It’s time to get on with that important certification, end the DADT confusion for all service members, and put a final end to this misguided policy.”

Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, warned that despite today’s order, gay servicemembers should remain cautious about revealing their sexual orientation. “The issue remains in a state of flux, although guarded optimism is certainly warranted,” Nicholson said in a statement.

Although the appeals court lifted its stay of the injunction, it has not ruled on the merits of the case, Log Cabin Republicans vs. The United States. The court set arguments for Aug. 29.

In its order, the appeals court cited the Obama administration’s position that it’s unconstitutional to discriminate against gays, which was laid out in a court brief last week.

To read the appeals court’s order, go here.

—  John Wright