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

BREAKING: A new plan for DADT repeal

Details are emerging today about a new plan to pass a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the lame duck session of Congress.

Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., introduced DADT repeal legislation in the House this morning that could see a vote as early as Wednesday. The plan reportedly involves attaching DADT repeal as an amendment to a bill that has already passed the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House amendment to a Senate bill will become “an amendment between the Houses” and holds “priviledged status,” allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to call it up at any time to the floor.

“We applaud House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Reps. [Steny] Hoyer and Murphy for their extraordinary leadership in the waning hours of the lame-duck session,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Let’s be clear: we’ll still need 60 votes in the Senate. This ‘privileged’ House bill will need to pass the full House and then move to the Senate. While we avoid a cloture vote to proceed and save time on the Senate floor, we’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk. Repeal supporters need to contact their House member to vote for repeal tomorrow. We also need to keep the pressure on the Senate and not relent. Time remains the enemy and Senators need to complete the bill before leaving for holiday vacation. Get on the phone and help hold the frontlines.”

Below is the list of key senators SLDN is targeting. To contact them, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA);
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK);
–Mark Kirk (R-IL);
–And the sole unpersuaded Democrat: Joe Manchin (D-WV)


—  John Wright

SLDN Files DADT Suit

As further pressure on the members of the lame duck Senate, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network today filed a federal lawsuit demanding the reinstatement of three veterans discharged under DADT.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court in San Francisco also seeks to have the ban on openly gay troops declared unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable for any service members. “I don’t feel like I’m going up against the military, I really don’t. I just feel like this is a necessary step for doing away with this policy,” said former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde. “I believe the military, the majority of troops I’ve served with and those who have been studied to death are with us.”

SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis: “This filing is a notice to the Senate and to the U.S. government that if the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively.”

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

HRC and SLDN Bring WV Veteran Voices to Senator Manchin

In West Virginia, we’re pulling out all the stops to show newly elect Senator Manchin that supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the right thing to do. Yesterday, veterans Pepe Johnson and Jared Towner joined SLDN staff member Jeremy Wilson to meet with the Senator’s staff in Washington, D.C. to discuss how DADT has affected each of them.

The group also delivered a video, which was collaboration between the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that highlighted the stories of Mountaineer veterans, straight and gay, from around the state.

Jared Towner, who has served three tours of duty in Iraq and is a West Virginia Young Democrat and former staffer for Manchin’s senate campaign, had this to say about yesterday’s meeting:

It was good to see my friends from the Repeal cause again today.  We met with Senator Manchin’s Legislative Aid Joe Ann McLaughlin and his military fellow Sylvia Pletos to talk about the absolute need to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As a straight veteran who has served in combat, I am fully in support of repeal. I lobbied the late Senator Byrd before his historic vote to support repeal and I will keep fighting until we see the end of this discriminatory law.

While our audience at Senator Manchin’s office was engaged and responsive, we cannot rest on our laurels and assume that the vote is won. We must, as an active constituency, reassure Senator Manchin that his vote for the repeal is what’s best for WV and the nation as a whole.

I made my voice heard today, and I’m asking that you do the same. Please call his D.C. Office at (202) 224-3954 to urge Senator Manchin to support repeal. Our Senator needs to hear from you right now to ensure the end of this repressive and dangerous policy.

Do you live in the Charleston area? We need your help! Please contact me at Christine.Sloane@hrc.org to find out ways to get involved over the coming week. We simply can’t do this without you.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

SLDN blasts Senate GOPers for holding Defense bill hostage to tax cuts: ‘This is unprecedented and it is shameful’

SLDN just sent out this statement:

“It is unprecedented that a tax reduction bill must pass before the Senate can act to fund our troops and the nation’s defense. We need to be clear about what’s happening here: the defense bill is being held hostage until Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and John McCain get the tax bill they want to pass. This is unprecedented and it is shameful. The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal provisions, must be called up in the Senate, debated, and passed before Congress leaves for the year. If the 42 GOP senators — including several who support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask’ — put process and procedure and tax cuts first, their continued delays and political jockeying will be an endorsement of the discrimination that has cost 14,000 men and women their jobs and threatened our country’s national security by discharging mission-critical service members,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Sure sounds like SLDN has had it with the games. And, they should be.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

DADT isn’t over: ‘A general just approved the separation of an SLDN client serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force’

The coming week is pivotal for the effort to end DADT. And, as a reminder of how dangerous the DADT policy is for gay and lesbian servicemembers, I just received this via email from SLDN:

CONFIRMED TODAY: As the U.S. Senate is poised to take up repeal legislation, service members still cannot come out. A general just approved the separation of an SLDN client serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force. This service member now faces an administrative separation board. If the discharge moves forward, the fate of the service member’s career will ultimately fall to Secretary Michael B. Donley, Dept. of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson, and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel Dr. Clifford L. Stanley.” Warning to service members: www.SLDN.org/StillAtRisk

We’re running out of time for the Senate to act on the DADT language, which is included in the Defense Authorization bill.

The Obama administration has really screwed up this process. And, they’re still discharging gay and lesbian servicemembers. This is beyond appalling.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Send SLDN your pics for a Veterans Day tribute!

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is compiling a Veterans Day tribute video to honor everyone who has served – past and present, LGBT and straight. They’re collecting photos and videos from all over the country, of gay and straight veterans and their friends & family paying tribute at patriotic locations like veterans cemeteries or monuments. Then they’ll weave those submissions into one national video for Veterans Day.

They’re still looking for more submissions, with cross-country representation and are accepting photos and videos through the end of October.  

A link with info and a sample photo and video is at www.sldn.org/VetsDayVideo.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

SU and SLDN on today’s DADT ruling

The Servicemember groups weigh in.

Alex Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United, who played a key role in the Log Cabin case:

“This order from Judge Phillips is another historic and courageous step in the right direction, a step that Congress has been noticeably slow in taking,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and the sole named veteran plaintiff in the case along with the Log Cabin Republicans. “While this is certainly news to be celebrated, we would also advise caution in advance of a potential stay from the Ninth Circuit. If the appellate court wishes to put itself on the right side of history, however, it will allow this sound and long-over due decision to remain in effect.”

SLDN’s Legal Director Aaron Tax

“We applaud Judge Phillips for putting an immediate stop to all investigations and discharges under this unconstitutional law. As explained by the judge, this order applies across the military. This order bars the Department of Defense from enforcing or applying the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law against any person under its command. We have clients under investigation and facing discharge right now. We’ll be monitoring each case over the coming days. This order will likely be appealed by the Justice Department and brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit where her decision may well be reversed. The law still has a chance of being repealed in the lame duck session of Congress. Service members must proceed safely and should not come out at this time. Anyone in the armed forces with questions or concerns should call our hotline.”




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Air Force Major Mike Almy, SLDN respond to McCain interview with reporters

You’ll recall that yesterday, Sen. John McCain was cornered by The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld and MetroWeekly’s Chris Geidner about his outrageous claim that there aren’t any witch hunts going on under DADT after the Senate failed to break a filibuster on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

MCCAIN: I dont’ care what you say! And I don’t care what others say. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen it in action. I have sons in the military, I know the military very well. So they’re not telling you the truth.

ELEVELD: Senator, just to make sure…

MCCAIN: Just to make sure. We do not go out and seek out and find out….

ELEVELD: Private emails are not being searched? Private emails are not being searched?

MCCAIN: …See if someone is gay or not. We do not go out and see whether someone is gay or not.

ELEVELD: There are documented cases…

MCCAIN: They do not, they do not, they do not. You can say that they are, you can say [inaudible] it’s not true!… Yea, I’d like to see…

GEIDNER: It is the case of Mike Almy, Senators.

McCain and Almy were on Rachel’s show:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Today, Mike Almy has come forward to comment on the Arizona Senator’s befuddled assertions in a letter.

September 22, 2010

U.S. Sen. John McCain

241 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Sen. McCain,

I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of this year and told the story of my discharge from the military because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). You were in attendance that day and heard me tell my story of how the Air Force conducted an open-ended search of my private emails, solely to determine if I had violated the DADT law.

On Tuesday, September 21, you emphatically denied that the military conducts searches of private emails because of DADT. When challenged by reporters who mentioned my name, you said “bring him to my office.” Senator, I respectfully ask for an opportunity to do so to discuss this law that took my career.

In this letter I will again share with you my story, as I did during the committee hearing last March.

Almy continues below the fold.

Once DADT is history, I plan to return to active duty as an officer and a leader in the Air Force.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close — just two or three votes — to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service. My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, conducting search and rescue operations for downed aircrews, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force. One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Another uncle served in the Army in Korea.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a military officer.

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship. I earned my jump wings in 1991. In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide. In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people. Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times. In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq. We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment. Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq — during a routine search of my computer files — someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved — a man.

The email — our modern day letter home — was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

But instead, after 16 months, I was given a police escort off the base as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security. The severance pay I received was half of what it would have been had I been separated for any other reason.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.

Senator McCain, I’ve had no greater honor than leading men and women in the United States Air Force, in harm’s way, to defend the freedom’s we enjoy in this country, as you yourself have honorably done. I genuinely hope you will support me in my endeavor to return to the Air Force as an officer and a leader.

Thank you,

Mike Almy

Former Major, USAF

Statement by Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“Sen. John McCain is either ignoring U.S. Senate testimony that showed the military was proactively seeking out gay and lesbian service members for discharge under ‘Don’t Ask’, or he is openly deceiving Americans after his shameless filibuster.  Either way, McCain is grossly out of touch and factually off the mark. Air Force Major Almy testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where McCain was present, that the Air Force proactively went into his emails – authorized for “personal or morale purposes” while at war – and found that he was gay.  Major Almy never made a statement, even after being asked by his command, to his sexual orientation. And if McCain didn’t filibuster the bill that included repeal, Major Almy also testified that he’d return back the day repeal is certified.”

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

North Texas’ Danny Hernandez now opening for Lady Gaga on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ speaking tour

We’ve told you about Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez, the North Texas native and Texas A&M University graduate who was discharged from the Marines under “don’t ask don’t tell” after being outed by a fellow Marine.

Hernandez, who’s from a small town northwest of Fort Worth, is now working with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and he spoke at the rally Monday in Portland, Maine, where Lady Gaga would later deliver her “Prime Rib of America Address.” Watch video of Hernandez’s remarks at the rally here.

Hernandez was also interviewed by MTV for a story about the rally yesterday. Video from the MTV interview is above.

Hernandez told MTV that he was initially skeptical about Lady Gaga’s advocacy for DADT repeal, until he got a chance to meet her and tell her his story.

“It was then that I realized she’s serious about making this an issue that people learn about,” Hernandez says. “People were not that aware about ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’ There was a group of people that thought it was repealed already. … She definitely brought light to an issue that many people had no idea was still going on in this county, and so I think a lot of that support has come form the Little Monsters that are so adamant about supporting Lady Gaga. If it’s something she supports, then of course they’re going to support her 100 percent behind that as well.”

And on that note, here’s the latest advisory from SLDN that hit our Inbox at 9 a.m. Dallas time Tuesday:

The final hour has arrived. Today at 2:15 PM ET, the full Senate will determine whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal will move forward this year. For repeal to happen, we need 60 votes to break Senator John McCain (R-AZ)’s expected filibuster. All supporters must call their senators now.

Call both your senators at the Capitol switchboard right now and urge them to vote to end the filibuster and move on to a real debate on the Defense bill.

(202) 224-3121

These senators are currently uncommitted on breaking the filibuster and particularly need to hear from us today:

–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Mark Pryor (D-AR);
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Jim Webb (D-VA);
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO)

Don’t let opponents of open service hold up critical funding for our troops and prospects for repeal. Supporters of open service must make their voices heard today. If you have already called your senators, call both of them again.

Call the Capitol switchboard and tell both your senators to follow the lead of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) to stop the filibuster and begin debating passage of the Defense bill.

(202) 224-3121
Speak up for all our service members today and spread the word to your friends: www.sldn.org/gaga
We are almost out of time to contact senators before the vote today. We must call now.

Thank you.

Aubrey Sarvis
SLDN Executive Director

—  John Wright