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

Giffords celebrated DADT repeal with photo of Arizona sunset, attended signing ceremony

Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot today, is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus.

Steve Rothhaus at The Miami Herald reports that Giffords said the following after first being elected to Congress in 2006:

“I have stood up for equality in Arizona, and I am grateful that HRC and the GLBT community stood with our campaign during the primary and the general elections. We can accomplish so much for our families when we work together. Fairness is an essential American value, and when we champion fairness, we can win decisive victories in even the most competitive congressional districts.”

Giffords received a score of 81 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2008 Congressional Scorecard.

After the Senate passed a standalone bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” last month Giffords sent out this Tweet along with the photo above:

Giffords would later attend the presidential signing ceremony for DADT repeal.

HRC just released this statement from President Joe Solmonese:

“We are shocked and saddened by the events involving Congresswoman Giffords and our hearts go out to her and the other victims of this awful tragedy. Gabby Giffords is a champion for LGBT equality and a principled leader for Arizona. We wish her a speedy recovery as our thoughts and prayers are with her family as well as with the families of all of those touched by today’s horrific violence.”

—  John Wright

Mission accomplished on DADT repeal

By Dave Guy-Gainer

After the signing ceremony on Wednesday, 15 of us made the trek from C Street to the Mayflower Hotel on foot to have brunch.

For the most part, the group was silent and being self-reflective. Major Mike Almy and I walked together and discussed what had happened to him and the E-Ticket ride of the repeal in Congress. We discussed his future and how it looked so much brighter now than it had less than a week prior.

Arriving at the hotel, Joe Tom Easley stopped all of us and reminded us that the hotel restaurant was where J. Edgar Hoover once had lunch with his male lover every day for the last 20 years of his life. The space where Hoover’s permanently reserved lunch table sat is now a PINK store. How appropriate, I thought.

After we sat down, nearly all had e-mails and voice mails to deal with — mostly from press asking for interviews and thoughts. We ordered a bottle of champagne and toasted the fall of this one domino in the fight for equality.

Then the conversation changed. It became one more like you would hear when a bunch of lesbians and gays sit down for a meal. One person said, “We need to get Barney Frank to look gayer. Maybe darken his hair and put in a few highlights.” People roared with laughter. We talked about Christmas plans — most of which had been obliterated by the call to travel to D.C. We talked a lot about our friends over the years that were not at the ceremony. We teased each other.

When brunch was over, there were heartfelt hugs and back pats and we each went our separate ways. Probably all thinking what I was — is this the last we’ll see of each other or is there a cause that will bring us back together?

I caught myself being myself at Reagan Airport — joking with strangers, opening the door for a lady struggling with bags and kids, telling the agent that I liked her rainbow pin. Wow, I thought. You had become so focused and perhaps a little too humorless.

When I boarded the plane I reached inside my coat pocket to pull out the notes I had made, the list of strategy options we were considering, the confidential list of congressional targets, the board briefing on legal support statistics, my talking points to memorize, my to-do list — but I found nothing in the pocket. That’s when it finally sunk in. I was leaving Washington, D.C., with nothing remaining to do. The passenger beside me looked at me strangely when I laughed out loud with eyes full of tears and said to myself, “Mission accomplished.”

I am taking Aaron Belkin’s advice. I asked him at dinner the other night, “What next?” He said, “A nap, Chief.” So, this old Santa Chief is off over this most wonderful of all Christmases to have cookies, milk and lotsa naps! I’ll be back on Monday, though, to do what I can on the certification and transition. After 10 years of negative, I’ll finally get to help with the positive aspects of change.

Implosion cancelled.

Dave Guy-Gainer is a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who lives in Tarrant County.

—  admin

‘Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high’

Dave Guy-Gainer, second from left, of Forrest Hill celebrates with Army Major Margaret Witt, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis and Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach after this morning’s DADT repeal signing ceremony. (Meghan Stabler)

We just got a call from Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” who’s really become the face of the push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in North Texas over the last few years.

Guy-Gainer, a gay retired Air Force chief master sergeant who serves on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, was one of about 500 people who attended this morning’s signing ceremony for the bill to repeal DADT.

Guy-Gainer said he would have driven to D.C. for the ceremony if he had to, and he was the 12th person in line this morning outside the Department of the Interior.

“Chiefs don’t cry, but the allergens were very high in that room,” Guy-Gainer said. “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.”

Guy-Gainer said it was great to see “40 years of gay activists” assembled together, many of whom he’s met over the last decade at functions around the country — alongside lawmakers who’ve worked so hard to end the policy.

“For the first time in a long time I really said the Pledge of Allegiance with feeling,” Guy-Gainer said. “I gave a thumbs up to Sen. Lieberman and he gave me a victory sign back. … Looking at the kids around me. Dan Choi and I were talking for a while. …

“Another one was the standing ovation that [Rep.] Patrick Murphy got,” Guy-Gainer said, recounting some of his memorable moments from the ceremony. “I think he got more applause than the president. He was the real hero in this. …  He fell on his political sword for us.”

A year ago when we interviewed Gainer, he said if repeal didn’t happen in 2010, he’d “implode.” So what will he do now that it has finally happened?

“We still have transition to do. We still have to get the certification. We’ll still probably have some legal battles in the courts,” Guy-Gainer said. “There’s still more work to be done.”

—  John Wright

Joe Lieberman blocks Senate Republicans’ last-ditch effort to kill DADT repeal

On the eve of Wednesday morning’s signing ceremony for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Republicans in the Senate reportedly made a last-ditch effort to undercut the measure. Once again, though, it was Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman to the rescue, as he objected to — and blocked — a “poison pill” amendment proposed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Politico reports:

A last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to complicate the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was blocked Tuesday night after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) objected, Senate aides said.

McConnell attempted to add an amendment to the so-called stripped-down defense authorization bill that would have required the consent of the military service chiefs to proceed with “don’t ask” repeal. Under legislation passed by the Senate last week, certifications are required from the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. All the incumbents in those positions support repeal.

“It was a McConnell proposal,” a GOP aide confirmed. “There was an attempted to get unanimous consent for it to be included in the defense bill and someone objected.”

—  John Wright