BREAKING: Lady Gaga and SLDN will rally for DADT repeal in Portland, ME – targeting Collins & Snowe

This is BIG. Lady Gaga just tweeted:

Meet me in Portland, Maine 2moro, 9/20 to help repeal #DADT. I’m holding a Rally + speaking live in Deering Oaks Park http://bit.ly/cO4cY9

Yes, our truly fierce advocate is on her way to my hometown, Portland, Maine, to hold a rally with SLDN to push for the repeal of DADT. The targets are Maine’s Republican Senators: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

The rally, called “For the 14,000”: A Rally for the 14,000+ Discharged” is tomorrow at 4:00 PM Eastern in Deering Oaks Park. For you tweeters, the hashtag is #4the14k.

This is very, very strategic on the part of SLDN and Lady Gaga.

Here’s what SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis said, via press release:

The votes to break McCain’s filibuster are not there. We need Sens. Snowe and Collins on board; they’re key to us breaking the filibuster. With the vote less than 48 hours away, we need everyone supporting repeal to call the Senate. We’re bringing gay and straight service members to Portland to help make the case. And we’re proud to have the support of Lady Gaga to bring grassroots attention to repeal at a critical hour. Like Lady Gaga, all New England senators, indeed all 100 senators, Democrats and Republicans, need to engage in a real debate on this issue, and not just posture and spin this week over procedure and Senate rules.

So, that’s the situation. It’s dire.

As Aubrey notes, right now, we don’t have the 60 votes to break the GOP filibuster of the Defense Authorization. Senator Susan Collins already voted for that very bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 27, 2010. Collins is now playing partisan procedural games to rationalize her support for the filibuster. It’s gross. Maine’s other Senator, Olympia Snowe, should do the right thing, too. She is playing the same game.

The usual lobbying tactics aren’t working. So, desperate times call for new and innovative tactics. And, this is one of the most sophisticated lobbying efforts I’ve seen in a long time.

They’re taking the fight right to Collins and Snowe — in a way that no other issue or group has. This event will be noticed in Maine. It’s so much smarter than bringing another celebrity to DC, where political media is so cynical. Again, Gaga has over 6,390,000 followers on twitter. And, she’s got over 18,255,000 fans on Facebook. No political organization in DC has anything that compares to that kind of outreach.

The 14,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers who have been discharged under DADT and the 60,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers still serving have been waiting 17 years for this vote. It’s not a political or procedural game for them — it’s their lives and they’re willing to put their lives on the line for the rest of us. And, the time is now.

Lady Gaga has been using her extensive bully pulpit to elevate the DADT repeal issue for the past several weeks. It’s been very, very impressive. (Meanwhile, despite the impending vote and the GOP filibuster, President Obama has been largely silent on this issue, which, sadly, is not a surprise.)

This week, the action is in the Senate. Collins and Snowe are the targets. Now, they can’t hide. They’re going to have a very powerful spotlight on them, thanks to Lady Gaga and SLDN.

Maine is the best chance we have. If Collins and Snowe abandon the gay and lesbian servicemembers, it could be a long time before we get another vote.

I’ll have more as events unfold…the next two days are going to be wild.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Updates from SLDN, including news that Lady Gaga and Harry Reid exchanged Tweets over DADT

While I’m glad that Twitter (via number of followers) has shattered the myth that the 140 character social networking tool cannot affect the political landscape in this case. Via SLDN release, we learn:

THIS MORNING GAGA SENT HER NEAR 7 MILLION FOLLOWERS: “@ladygaga http://twitpic.com/2ocx9i – Gay Veterans were my VMA dates. Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. CALL HARRY REID to Schedule Senate Vote

MOMENTS AGO SEN. REID RESPONDED: Via @HarryReid – @ladygaga There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so http://bit.ly/9ucdIj #nvsen


This does make me wonder what it says in our culture about the celebrity vs. activist factor in effecting change. No amount of grassroots organizing trumps a committed celeb’s influence over his/her large fan base to break up a political logjam. Sheer volume alone can triumph if that base is handled correctly – even if the fans aren’t particularly knowledgable about the issue, note below). It’s not a complaint, just an observation that it is something to take note of and discuss. More…


PEOPLE TAKING ACTION: www.LadyGaga.com continues serving as an action page to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — The message to Senators: Vote on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal the week of Sept. 20!

JUST POSTED: PEREZ HILTON NOW SENDING HIS PEEPS TO TAKE ACTION: http://bit.ly/aiyYge

GAGA TO ELLEN ON SEASON PREMIERE SHOW: Take action and support DADT repeal http://bit.ly/9GpBFL

YAHOO SEARCH CONFIRMS GAGA IMPACT: “After the [VMAs] aired, Web searches soared on everything from “lady gaga guests” to “what does SLDN stand for” (it stands for “Servicemembers Legal Defense Network”). The official site for SLDN has posted a message encouraging those who feel “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be repealed to call their representatives in Washington. Lady Gaga is an outspoken supporter of gay rights.” http://yhoo.it/bDPc4J

BREAKING LAST NIGHT: SENATOR REID ANNOUNCES HE INTENDS TO HOLD VOTE ON REPEAL: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) confirmed last night that he intends to bring the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the senate floor next week. The NDAA contains the amendment to allow for the repeal of DADT.

STATEMENT FROM AUBREY SARVIS: “We applaud the Senate Majority Leader’s courage and his statement tonight to bring the defense bill to the floor. Now, we must deliver.”

–”Repeal proponents may well need 60 votes in the Senate to get to this important debate in September. We are now in the final stretch and we must prevail. Repeal supporters should not stop calling their senators.

–Sen. John McCain has been a strong and vocal opponent from the start and it is critical that we beat back any filibuster threat, defeat attempts to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments.”

NEW SLDN LEGAL TEAM SENDS PENTAGON FORMAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPLEMENT REPEAL: http://bit.ly/cuRXqv

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

SLDN asks supporters to call Senators: ‘Repeal is on the line’

Today, SLDN sent an action alert to its supporters urging calls to Senators to ask for a vote on the Defense Authorization in September. The action alert is here. SLDN’s press release lays out the case for a vote in September. If that vote doesn’t take place, we’re facing the prospect that even the compromise DADT bill won’t pass this year — and that could mean repeal won’t happen for years:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), issued a national action alert today urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to schedule a floor vote on repeal the week of September 20. The alert also targets Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who has been a vocal opponent of repeal. TWEET this action alert now: http://bit.ly/cJqRT2

“We cannot let the defense budget bill slide any longer. Repeal supporters need to call Senate leadership today and ask they move the defense bill to the Senate floor the week of September 20th,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Sen. John McCain has been a strong and vocal opponent from the start and it is critical that we beat back any filibuster threat, defeat attempts to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments. The focus will also continue on Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell; we need this bill up on the Senate floor the week of September 20th.”

WHY WE NEED TO PASS DADT REPEAL IN SEPTEMBER:

· If the defense budget bill doesn’t move in September and slides into the lame duck session, many Republicans have made it clear they will only agree to a Continuing Resolution to keep funding the Defense Dept.

· If a Continuing Resolution is passed, the hard earned House passage of repeal dies. Recall, repeal advocates made it to the House floor vote bypassing the House Armed Services Committee as we didn’t have the support of the Democratic Chairman, Ike Skelton.

· If the defense budget bill doesn’t move to the Senate floor by the end of September, DADT repeal may not happen for SEVERAL MORE YEARS.

· How will repeal die if there is no vote in September? If Republicans take back the House in November, as many are beginning to predict, SLDN doesn’t see Speaker Boehner pushing a vote on DADT next year.

SLDN knows what is going on. OVer the past couple days, Aubrey Sarvis has raised the level of concern. Over the past two days, we’ve posted on recent DADT developments here, here and here. This is a really serious situation. Call your Senators. The main number is 202-224-3121. They’re still in recess this week, so calls to the in-state offices help, too.

This is the closest we’ve been to repeal ever. And, even the compromise language isn’t a done deal. It really is on the line.

The only thing that can possibly change the current course is pressure — and lots of it.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

In Fehrenbach’s case, SLDN reports ‘negotiations’ are continuing with DOJ and Air Force

On Wednesday, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach went to federal court seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent his imminent discharge from the Air Force. The decision to discharge Fehrenbach had reached the desk of the Secretary of the Air Force. In addition to the TRO, Victor is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent his discharge. This news created a huge stir in the blogs and traditional media. People seem mystified that President Obama would allow the military to discharge a war hero Fehrenbach.

Well, there’s been no decision by the judge — yet. Just got this from SLDN:

“Negotiations between the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Air Force and the legal team representing Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach are expected to continue through at least Monday,” said Trevor Thomas, spokesperson for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Interesting.

That DOJ is even negotiating reinforces my view that the decision to move ahead on the TRO was great work by Fehrenbach’s legal team of SLDN and Morrison & Foerster (seriously, the url for the law firm is mofo.com. You wanna mess with them?)

If the Obama administration’s DOJ actually thinks that DADT will be repealed by Congress (which was argued to the Judge in the Log Cabin case as a reason to postpone the trial), this should be a no-brainer. There should be no need for “negotiations.” But, we’ve seen time and time again that the Obama administration continues to defend DADT even as it discharges servicemembers using that discriminatory policy. Actions here don’t match the President’s words or promises. This has got to end.

SLND has a website dedicated to this proceeding here, which includes this key point:

The discharge of Lt. Col. Fehrenbach would dramatically underscore that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is still the law and all gay and lesbian service members should be on notice.

A couple weeks ago, Dan Choi was discharged. Absent this legal action, the same thing could happened to Fehrenbach. This has to end.

I hope someone at the White House — maybe the two people we were told by Melody Barnes are the tip of the spear for LGBT issues, Tina Tchen and Brian Bond — are paying attention. If Victor gets kicked out, it’s going to reflect badly on the President. After all, on June 29, 2009, Obama looked Victor “right in the eye and he said, ‘We‘re going to get this done.’” Still waiting.

Enough already, Mr. President. As Rachel Maddow said on Wednesday night:

If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is going to end, the President could stop enforcement of the policy pending that change. Why isn’t he?”

When Robert Gibbs wonders why progressives are upset, this is one shining example.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Call your senators about DADT repeal, even if there isn't a chance in hell they'll support it

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has issued an Action Alert calling for people to contact their senators and urge them to support the amendment that would begin the process of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell.”

The 2011 defense spending bill that includes the amendment is expected to come to the floor of the Senate this summer, possibly as early as the next few weeks. Republicans are reportedly scouring for the 41 votes needed for a filibuster. There are 41 Republicans in the Senate, but two moderates are expected to support the DADT repeal plan. Which has left opponents trying to recruit a few Democrats to support a filibuster. They may also try to craft an amendment to the amendment that would significantly weaken the DADT repeal compromise.

Anyhow, for those of us in Texas, the SLDN Action Alert may seem like nothing but a call to conduct an exercise in futility. That’s because it’s highly, highly unlikely that either of our two senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, would support anything approaching a DADT repeal — or even choose not to join a filibuster of the amendment.

I’ve left messages for the press secretaries of both Cornyn and Hutchison, inquiring about the senators’ official positions on a DADT repeal, which has never before been voted on by the Senate. I’ll post their responses if and when they provide them.

In the meantime, if you really believe that it can’t hurt to try, the number for Cornyn’s Washington office is 202-224-2934, and the number for Hutchison’s 202-224-5922.

—  John Wright

House passes defense bill with DADT repeal attached

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives  voted, 234 to 194, to approve an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military. (Read our story here.)

This afternoon, the House voted to approve the defense bill in its entirety. The vote was 229 to 186.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted last night to approve the same amendment to their version of the defense bill, but Republicans in the Senate have vowed to keep fighting the amendment when it comes to the Senate floor for a vote. They have said they will filibuster the whole defense bill to try and kill DADT repeal.

Even if the amendment passes in the Senate, too, the policy will not be immediately repealed, thanks to a compromise requiring implementation of the repeal to wait until the Pentagon completes a study on its impact — expected in December. Then the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have to certify that the repeal wouldn’t hurt military readiness.

THEN, when all those hoops are jumped through, there would be a 60-day waiting period before the policy is actually repealed.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, while applauding the compromise that got the positive votes in the House and in the Senate committee, are warning closeted servicemembers not to come out because they can still be fired under DADT.

Read the warning at SLDN.org/StillAtRisk.

—  admin

DADT: 'Miles to go, and so little time'

Dave Guy-Gainer, CMSgt, USAF (retired) and a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was in Washington, D.C., recently for the SLDN Lobby Day, board meetings and annual dinner.

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

With Congress teetering on the cusp of actually repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — which keeps gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military and which has prompted the discharge of more than 14,000 men and women since it was enacted 17 years ago — this trip was especially poignant for Guy-Gainer, who lives in Forest Hills, near Fort Worth, with his husband.

Here is his account of the trip:

Last week, we made our annual trip to Washington, D.C., for the whirlwind four days of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Lobby Day, annual dinner and board meetings.

This is our fifth and hopefully last trip in the fight to repeal “Don’t ask don’t tell.” We went up there a day early so I could have time to visit with staff and the 140 people who came from across the nation to lobby. I saw many of those who have crusaded for the last 17 years and, not surprisingly, scores of new faces.

Sitting just inside the office door when I arrived was Lt. Col. Victor  Fehrenbach. His energy, hope and perpetual smile nearly overshadow the fact that his 18-year career as a decorated fighter pilot is under attack. We laughed at the fact that I was the first Air Force chief to ever introduce his husband to him.

The tone of Lobby Day this year was very focused and all work. No rally was held. Meetings were prearranged for the lobby teams who worked even through lunch. The mission: Seek out and confirm more co-sponsors for House Bill 1283 (191 co-sponsors) and Senate Bill 3065 (26 co-sponsors).

—  admin

If you want Obama to talk about DADT tomorrow night, leave him a message

Will he or won’t he? That’s the question.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, indicated yesterday that he expected President Barack Obama to talk about repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” during his State of the Union Address tomorrow night. But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reportedly sidestepped questions about the matter today, saying only that the ban on openly gay servicemembers is under consideration for inclusion in Obama’s speech.

In any case, local gay veteran Dave Gainer says he’s tired of all the delays on DADT, and he’s urging people to call the White House switchboard to make their voices heard. Gainer, a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network whom I profiled last month, sent over this link.

—  John Wright