Veterans Make Calls to Scott Brown’s Office: Repeal DADT

Last night, HRC volunteers made phone calls to veteran households and transferred 131 supporters to Senator Scott Brown’s voicemail box.

We were joined by three veterans who shared their stories with the volunteers.  Mike Young, who served as a Marine, told about serving overseas in an anti-terrorism security team alongside a bisexual Marine. “There was no negative effect on morale, effectiveness, or readiness in my unit.  The men and women in the Marine Corps are the best of the best… All troops, gay and straight, will work and live together exactly as their superiors tell them, because that’s what Marines do. The military leaders have recommended repeal. It is absurd to think that a service as efficient and professional as the Marines would face any considerable negative impact when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is repealed. We’re the Marines. We will improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

This morning we were excited to see that Scott Brown’s hometown paper printed an editorial today calling on the senator to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Sun Chronicle indicated Brown is:

“on the fence regarding repeal… Practical considerations should lead him to back the repeal. The proposal comes from the Pentagon, to which Brown has been loyal throughout his career in politics and in the National Guard. And the Pentagon has made it plain that it expects a losing battle in the courts if the policy is not repealed. Brown’s position, according to a statement from his office, is that ‘we should not implement any new policy until we have assurances it can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military.

…Not repealing [the law] would pose the larger jeopardy by opening implementation of new policies to court oversight. But mostly we expect Sen. Brown to decide on backing the repeal, after this week’s hearings by the Armed Forces Committee, on which he serves, because it is the right thing to do.”

With similar mainstream newspapers writing editorials, such as the Boston Herald and the MetroWest Daily News, the pressure on Senator Brown is building. Calls, emails and handwritten letters are tallied by Senate offices so don’t forget to add your voice to the call for repeal.


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Ohio Veterans Meet with Senator Voinovich’s Staff

For the past two weeks, gay and straight veterans in Ohio have been meeting with Senator Voinovich’s senior district staff to tell their stories of serving under the discriminatory regime of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and to urge the Senator to make ending this discriminatory law a part of his legacy.

The stories they told are ones I’ve heard from veterans across the country—and they are chilling. One man had planned his whole life to serve in the United States Army and proudly enlisted after high school even though he knew he was gay. He believed he could keep his identity hidden and still serve his country. Yet, after years of secrecy, where even his closest friends were kept at arms distance, he turned suicidal. Gratefully he lived to tell his story, but sadly others don’t.

Another young former Marine talked about how proud she was to carry on her family’s tradition of serving in the armed forces. After years of service in a job she loved however, she chose not to reenlist because of the grave emotional and mental strain of always lying. Both of these highly- trained and accomplished veterans are eager to return to uniform when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed.

We learned in these meetings–which built on previous meetings earlier in the year both in Ohio and during the HRC/Servicemembers United Veterans Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.– that Senator Voinovich has come to understand that we are hurting our military readiness by not allowing smart, capable, trained men and women to serve. We believe that he is inclined to vote for repeal, but he still needs to hear from veterans and family members across Ohio to ensure that his vote will indeed be one of which he can be proud—one that will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces of the United States of America and will do away with, once and for all, a shameful legacy of discrimination. Please call Senator Voinovich today to tell him your story.


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Veterans in Massachusetts Put a Face on the Cost of DADT

This week, 40 students took time before finals to hear from military veteran Travis Hengen at an event organized by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Wheaton College Libertarians.

In 2003, Travis was discharged as a Chief Warrant Officer under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, ending a nearly 12-year career in the U.S. Army as a counterintelligence agent.  Travis shared his experience and urged students to remember his story when they spoke to legislators. Travis was joined by Wendy, another veteran discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Wendy served as a nurse, and during the event she reminded students that her sexual orientation didn’t matter when she was treating someone’s injuries.

After the discussion, students handwrote letters in opposition to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and addressed them to Senator Scott Brown’s Boston office. With the Senate now on track to bring this to a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress, it is more important than ever for you to contact your Senators to ask them to do everything that they can to repeal this failed law now.


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Meeting with Indiana Veterans Who Support Repeal

This weekend, with all of the events honoring our nation’s veterans, we were out in full force, urging people to tell Senator Lugar to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and honor all of our veterans. In addition to language that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” this bill includes important provisions that would give pay raises to our military and support for wounded veterans, allow for new equipment for National Guard and Reserve units and much more.

This weekend, we spoke to vets at the Veterans’ Day Parade and at the Veterans’ Appreciation Day Fair at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Lawrenceville, Indiana. We met vets from every war and each was supportive of making sure that repeal happens this year.

Make sure that you contact your senators and urge them to vote for the NDAA in this lame-duck session of Congress.

If you’re in the Indianapolis area and want to get involved repealing this failed law, contact me at Adrian.Matanza@hrc.org.


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Fighting for DADT Repeal with West Virginia Veterans

It is 11 a.m. on Veteran’s Day, and I just got off the phone with former U.S. Army Sergeant Pepe Johnson. We’ve spent the four days since I returned to West Virginia strategizing and reaching out to West Virginia veterans who favor repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  Seven years ago, despite an excellent record and the award of Soldier of the Year at Fort Sill, Pepe was discharged under the discriminatory DADT law.

We have less than 2 weeks to make sure that Senator-elect Manchin hears about DADT. Ask Senator-elect Manchin to honor Senator Robert Byrd’s legacy by supporting the repeal of DADT. Can you write a letter? Make a call? If you’re in West Virginia, e-mail me right now to find out the best way to make your voice heard.

There’s no time to lose. Pepe and I are making sure the Senator-elect Manchin hears the voices of fair-minded West Virginians.  That’s why we’ve teamed up once again with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Fairness West Virginia to write letters, make calls and even videotape the stories of real Mountaineers who have been affected by DADT.

Can you help us send a message to Senator-elect Manchin before the Senate reconvenes next week? If you are a West Virginian with a story about how DADT has affected you or a loved one and you’d like to share it, contact me TODAY at Christine.sloane@hrc.org.

If you’re not in West Virginia, send a message to your senators today by visiting hrc.org/repealDADT.


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Standing With Veterans in Maine for DADT Repeal

The following post comes from HRC Regional Field Director Sultan Shakir:

Yesterday, I met with Maine veterans about the critical importance of letting Senators Snowe and Collins know about the need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act and to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  I have a deep respect for the men and women have who have served our country and was appreciative of the overwhelming support for repeal expressed by these vets.

Many expressed that they have firsthand knowledge of what military service is all about and how sexual orientation was never a factor in someone’s ability to do to their job.  One gentleman remembers serving alongside gay troops before and during DADT.  He expressed that he always felt that those troops were just as qualified and just as dedicated, if not more because of their willingness to serve, even under DADT.

Across the state, HRC will be meeting with vets to provide them with opportunities to reach out to Senators Snowe and Collins.  Both senators are key votes in the US Senate and can help to end discrimination against lesbian and gay  servicemembers by voting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

If you or someone you know is a vet or a family member of someone currently serving, please email me at Sultan.Shakir@hrc.org


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Veterans Day Reflections and a Call To Action

Today is never easy for me. On the day when we are supposed to honor our veterans, those still with us and those who have gone before, my head is always filled with memories. For over ten years I was part of a family that only 5% of Americans ever know. Sometimes I miss it – the uniform, the unique family dynamic, the sense of mission. I wish I could go back to that. Then I think about how soul-crushingly hard it was, what I endured, both as a servicewoman and later as a silent partner. I think about what it is to live as a lesbian veteran with a disability. Then I take a deep breath, let it out, and try to let the memories, the anger and bitterness, go with it.

Today is a day to honor all our servicemembers. As we here in the LGBT community know, not all of our servicemembers or their families will be honored today. Many are still serving in silence and fear, toiling under the burden of lies and bigotry that is “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” Those of us who are now out and can speak of it are often erased, invalidated, our stories smothered because the Powers That Be don't want us to be heard. This is especially true for women and minority LGB veterans. 

Rep. Patrick Murphy has been our staunchest ally in Congress for lifting the ban on honest service by LGB troops. In collaboration with Courage Campaign, he is collecting signatures of Americans who want to see the Senate vote for the NDAA bill with the DADT repeal amendment intact. I'm asking that each and every one of you, if you haven't already, sign the appropriate petition, and then pick up the phone and call the offices of your Senators, and Sens. Carl Levin and Harry Reid. Tell them to honor the service of ALL troops, and bring the full NDAA bill to the floor for a vote. Call the White House and tell them there that the Commander-in-Chief has to get off his chair and lead.

See below the fold for Rep. Murphy's message, links to the petitions, and phone numbers.

Blessed Remembrance Day/Veterans Day/Armistice Day to all.

 


After September 11, I volunteered to fight for my country. I became a Captain in the U.S. Army and was awarded a Bronze Star while serving in Iraq. While in Baghdad, I counseled many active-duty servicemembers who came to me with tortured souls, concerned that their sexual orientation might end their military careers, as a result of the military's discriminatory “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.

One particular soldier's internal conflict was profound. I can still remember his pained and heartbreaking questions. Should he lie? Should he tell the truth and then be kicked out of the Army? What would he do if he was wounded and couldn't tell the person he loved?

When I ran for public office in 2006, I became the first Iraq war veteran to be elected to Congress. Unfortunately, my time in the House of Representatives will be coming to an end soon — but I still have some unfinished business. Last May, I promised those young men and women whom I counseled that I would do everything in my power to put an end to DADT so they could serve their country openly and proudly.

That's why I led the fight in the House to repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” passing historic legislation in May that is now in limbo in the Senate. With Veterans Day coming up on Thursday and only a few weeks left until the Senate's lame-duck session ends, the clock is running out on repeal — perhaps for years to come.

Now I'm asking you to help me finish the job. With the lame-duck session starting Monday, I need you to sign the Courage Campaign's petition to Senators Reid, Levin, McConnell and McCain immediately. Once the U.S. Senate is back in session, I'll deliver your signature — and nearly 600,000 other signatures collected by Courage supporting repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”

To amplify the voices of those most impacted by this policy, we're looking for veterans — and their friends, family and neighbors — to take action before Veterans Day. Whether you are a veteran, or just want to sign on in support, please click one of the following two links:

OPTION 1: Are you a military veteran, a member of a military family, or do you know a veteran? CLICK HERE TO SIGN.

OPTION 2: If you are NOT a veteran, CLICK HERE TO SIGN.

Even though a CNN poll showed that 78% of Americans think the ban should end and even though the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have said it should end, John McCain and others still think this is a political issue.

It's not a political issue. It's a matter of national security. It's a matter of integrity. It's a matter of honor.

We've worked hard over the last two years to end this discriminatory policy. Let's get the job done.

Representative Patrick Murphy

Phone numbers to the offices of the Senators who need a push (202 area codes are the Washington, D.C. offices; the Senators will be back there Monday):

MARK PRYOR
D – ARKANSAS
202-224-2353
501-324-6336
The River Market, 500 Clinton Ave Ste 401, Little Rock, AR 72201

BLANCHE LINCOLN
D – ARKANSAS
202-224-4843
912 West Fourth Street, Little Rock, AR 72201
 
EVAN BAYH
D – INDIANA
202-224-5623
317-554-0750
1650 Market Tower, 10 West Market St., Indianapolis, IN 46204

SUSAN COLLINS
MAINE
202-224-2523
207-622-8414
One Canal Plaza, Suite 802, Portland, ME 04101

OLYMPIA SNOWE
R – MAINE
202-224-5344 
207-786-2451
3 Canal Plaza, Suite 601, Portland, ME 04101

SCOTT BROWN
R – MASSACHUSETTS
202-224-4543

617-565-3170
2400 JFK Federal Building, 55 New Sudbury Street, Boston, MA 02203

GEORGE VOINOVICH
OHIO
202-224-3353
216-522-7095, 513-684-3265, 419-259-3895
1240 East 9th Street, Room 3061, Cleveland, OH 44199

LISA MURKOWSKI
ALASKA
202-224-6665

907-456-0233, 907-271-3735
101 12th Ave, Room 216, Fairbanks, AK 99701

DICK LUGAR
INDIANA
202-224-4814

812-465-6313 317-226-5555
180 Market Tower, 10 West Market St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

JIM WEBB
VIRGINIA
202-224-4024
804-771-2221 276-679-4925 757-518-1674 540-772-4236
507 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23219

KIT BOND
MISSOURI
202-224-5721
816-471-7141 314-725-4484
7700 Bonhomme, #615 St. Louis, MO 63105  

MARK KIRK
ILLINOIS
202-225-4835 (Congressional office)
847-940-0202 (local Congressional office)
707 Skokie Boulevard, Suite 350, Northbrook, IL 60062

JUDD GREGG
NEW HAMPSHIRE
202-224-3324
603-225-7115, 603-622-7979
125 North Main Street, Concord, NH 03301

JOE MANCHIN
WEST VIRGINIA
1-888-438-2731 (governor's line)
304-205-5889 (senate campaign office phone)

LINDSAY GRAHAM
SOUTH CAROLINA
202-224-5972
803-933-0112 864-250-1417 803-366-2828
508 Hampton Street, Suite 202, Columbia, SC

HARRY REID
NEVADA
202-224-3542
702-388-5020 775-882-7343 775-686-5750
Lloyd D. George Bldg., 333 Las Vegas Blvd S, Suite 8016 Las Vegas, NV 89101

CARL LEVIN
MICHIGAN
202-224-6221
517-377-1508 313-226-6020
124 West Allegan, Suite 1810, Lansing, MI

 

Call the White House at 202-456-1111. Let the Commander-in-Chief know that he isn't off the hook.

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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.
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Monday: Veterans, Lady Gaga to Maine to press Sens. Snowe, Collins to break DADT filibuster

BREAKING VIA TWITTER: @ladygaga 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

– Lady Gaga to her 6.3 million followers today

And she is marshalling her forces with focus — on Maine, a state with two Republican senators — who may be convinced to vote with Dems to break any McCain filibuster on DADT repeal language in the Def Auth bill. (SLDN):

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), will be holding a grassroots rally with young people near the University of Southern Maine campus on Monday, September 20, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. ET, at Deering Oaks Park, Portland, ME, in a major Senate push to break the expected filibuster by Sen. John McCain of the National Defense Authorization Act, to which repeal is included.  The key U.S. Senate vote is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

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,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.  ”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.”

As we saw during the VMAs, Lady Gaga attended with service members affected by DADT (photo), and SLDN director of communications, Trevor Thomas, has acknowledged that the influence of Gaga on the lobbying process has made a substantial impact, and it’s needed again to reach out to even more people in the next 48 hours. (via Kerry Eleveld):

“We know that Lady Gaga can move young people,” Thomas said, noting that she has more followers on twitter than the president (@ladygaga edges out @BarackObama by nearly a million followers). He added that SLDN had been sending action alerts to its 80,000 subscribers asking them to call their senators for the past several weeks. Short of the Gaga intervention, he said his organization would simply be sending out the same action alert on Monday that it did on Friday.

The power of celebrity combined with the reach of social networking has changed the game for activism and spreading the word on short notice. It’s a larger reach than a press release or mailing list when you’ve got a clock ticking down on a critical legislative matter like this. Lady Gaga deserves incredible kudos for harnessing the energy of young people out there to press allies — and potential allies — to act.

Note: 1,000,000+ watched Lady Gaga’s call to action online; and 237,131 people visited SLDN’s action Site as a result — 91.62% were first-time visitors.

For tomorrow’s event, follow the Twitter hashtag: #4the14k – “For the 14,000″: A Rally for the 14,000+ Discharged
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—  John Wright

Air Force Academy’s alumni group cancels Veterans Day dinner honoring history of LGBT service in AF

This breaking news is not only discriminatory, it’s simply a no-class decision by the United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates.

OutServe, the network of actively serving gay and lesbian military members, was to be the sponsor and host the dinner along with Blue Alliance, an organization of gay and lesbian alumni of the Air Force Academy. The deposits on location had been made — the organizations had an agreement with the Association of Graduates to use the Association of Graduates building on Air Force Academy property for the event, and invitations had already been extended to Congress members, allied military officers, and leaders in the lesbian and gay community.

Just so Blenders know, Outserve had invited me to the event as a supportive member of the LGBT blogging community. I was looking forward to the dinner to honor those who have served in silence and to be able to liveblog the event for you. Now that’s not going to happen. Here’s why. (Denver Post):

A spokesman said the event placed the school’s leadership in the tough spot of appearing to endorse repeal of the current ban, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The turnabout has set off a fusillade of charges and countercharges, focusing attention on the institution that is known as the most conservative of the service academies just as the military studies the possibility of welcoming openly gay fighters.

A spokesman for the group OutServe, one of the dinner’s sponsors whose members include gay Air Force Academy graduates currently serving, called the cancelation “blatant discrimination.” The event was meant not as a political statement but to recognize the contribution of gays and lesbians to the country’s armed forces, said the spokesman, who is a lieutenant in the active-duty military.

Gary Howe, executive vice president of the alumni association – known as the Association of Graduates – said the groups are trying to embarrass the Air Force Academy at a delicate moment in the debate. “To think that holding such an event on the United States Air Force Academy (campus) would not be political, I think they’re blowing smoke,” Howe said.

Howe’s comment is ridiculous – his problem is the dinner would have highlighted service by those in the Air Force who put their lives on the line for this country, even at the risk of being discharged for reasons that have nothing to do with performance or patriotism. The Air Force should be embarrassed at DADT, and holding the dinner would at least suggest that understands this sacrifice. It is turning the page and facing reality.

“At a time when we’re honoring veterans, we wanted to recognize probably the most ignored veterans in our country: gays and lesbians,” said OutServe’s active-duty co-director, who goes by the pseudonym JD Smith. “It was made clear this dinner was not to be an event regarding ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ it was to be a night to honor the LGBT history in the Air Force. All in attendance would fully comply with Air Force policy – including ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ ” A program outlining the dinner was sent to the administration to assure the association that the dinner was not to be political in nature.

“Veterans Day is for all veterans, including gays and lesbians,” stated Ty Walrod, co-director of OutServe. “Intentional or not, this sends a message that their sacrifices were not, and are not, valued. OutServe members who are currently serving their country, the Air Force Academy graduates, and most importantly all those who have given their lives in defense of this country who happened to be gay or lesbian, deserve better.”

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—  John Wright