Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN

Re-Branding the Military: We Will Help

The U.S. military is thinking about re-branding itself, and a new report suggests the armed forces should even consider product placements - like those bottles of Snapple in Seinfeld - as part of its new strategy. From Reuters: Like the maker of an out-of-favor car or sneaker, the U.S. military needs a new "branding" campaign to earn civilian support in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots, a report for the Pentagon said on Tuesday. "We will help you" could be the pitch, said the 211-page survey by RAND Corp., a nonprofit research group that carries out many studies for the Defense Department. U.S. forces should heed product "positioning" and branding lessons from such consumer-savvy powerhouses as Lexus, Ritz-Carlton hotels and Nike, said the report. That made us wonder: Will Ellen be seen with an Army backpack, dancing across her talk show stage? Or perhaps Ugly Betty's ambiguously gay nephew will sign up for the Navy. What do you think? What are some of the gayest product placements you can think of as the military works to re-position itself as a friendlier brand? Leave your thoughts here in the comments section. - Steve Ralls

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Blogging on Bilerico

I'm very proud to say that I was recently invited to become a regular contributor to Bilerico.com, a newly revamped site for LGBT news, opinion and ideas. I've posted my first entry on the site this evening, and I hope you'll surf over and check out the site. For my inaugural post, I decided to write about why - to progressives, civilians and every other LGBT person - the military, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," should matter. Bilerico has a decidedly progressive viewpoint (as do I), but too often, progressives don't think about the broad implications of lifting the ban. So, I invite you to visit Bilerico and join the conversation about this and the many other eye-opening ideas expressed on the site. And if you have ideas for what my next post should be about, leave them here in the comments! - Steve Ralls

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Peter Pace’s Family Values

General Peter Pace, the out-going Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is concerned about families . . . but, one presumes, only the heterosexual ones. Explaining to reporters why he is now contemplating yet another "surge" of troops into Iraq, Pace said that extending tours for service personnel already in Iraq "has an impact on families." Suddenly, the General has found family values. That certainly wasn't the case earlier this year, when Pace referred to lesbians and gays as "immoral," and went out of his way to defend "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He didn't stop then to consider the impact of the ban on same-sex families, nor did he ever apologize to the families of lesbian and gay troops, many of whom were beyond offended. As SLDN recently pointed out in an article in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" makes a difficult situation almost impossible for gay troops. The Duke Journal article notes that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law “impacts -- emotionally, financially, and legally -- the lives of the partners and children of gay service members.” The plight of gay military families “has garnered little public attention because few families headed by a same-sex couple, in which one partner is currently serving in the armed forces, are willing to risk a career-ending move to tell their story, let alone face the loss of familial privacy by making such a public statement.” But those sacrifices, and the added burden the military's ban places on lesbian and gay service personnel, never registered on Pace's radar. If Peter Pace really wants to stand up for military families, he should stand up for all of them, and call on Congress to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Because, while there's no question that extending deployments "has an impact" on families, there's no question that discrimination and federally enforced silence does, too. - Steve Ralls

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Ron Paul Says He’d Change “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, known for a more libertarian view on politics than most of the Republican field, says he would change "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" if elected to the White House. In a Q&A with Google, Paul pointed to the recent dismissals of lesbian and gay Arabic linguists as evidence that the policy needs, at the least, a revision. Speaking about one of those discharges, Paul said that "He was kicked out, for no real good reason at all, and I would, I would want to change that, I don’t support that interpretation." Paul's remarks are a welcome step in the right direction for the GOP, but still leave some big questions to be answered. Does the Congressman believe it's time to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?" In re-iterating his views on "disruptive" behavior, is he suggesting that military rules & regulations be applied without regard to sexual orientation? And in that case, would he support open service? Or is the Congressman advocating a different change altogether? No one knows for sure yet, but at least one 2008 GOP contender seems to be taking at least one small step in the right direction, and that's good news, indeed. - Steve Ralls

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Spirit of Stonewall

This past Sunday I had the privilege to speak about my experience with Don't Ask Don't Tell at San Diego's 'Spirit of Stonewall Community Celebration' named after the famed 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York's Greenwich Village, which is considered to be the commencement of the contemporary Lesbian and Gay liberation movement. With music from Peech and Noah Sugarman, the event featured speakers that hit a broad range of topics affecting the LGBT community today. From CA law and gay marriage, to the elderly, the military, to a moving speech from 16 year old Missy Luber on the challenges of LGBT high school youth. Several Stonewall awards were presented including the Stonewall Service award to Chief William M. Lansdowne and the San Diego Police Department for its proactive stand against hate crimes, and Champions of Pride Robert A. Lehman & Thomas D. Felkner who co-founded Stonewall Citizens' Patrol in an organized response to the escalating crimes that occurred in the past year against the LGBT community. Set against the historic Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park coupled with the beautiful July weather, the event brought renewed commitment to the LGBT equal rights movement and an opportunity to stand together and celebrate a shared vision of freedom and equality. Stay classy San Diego. smile -Jason Knight

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Join SLDN’s Jason Knight in San Diego

If you're in San Diego, or will be visiting for the city's pride festivities, be sure to come out and hear SLDN communications associate Jason Knight at The Spirit of Stonewall Community Celebration on Sunday. The festivities kick off at 3:30pm at Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. - Steve Ralls

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Gravel:  I’ve Just Begun to Fight

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel is making headlines again. As has been reported around the blogosphere, Gravel was not invited to the upcoming presidential debate being hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and the LOGO Network. The former Senator from Alaska, clearly unhappy about not being included in the candidates' forum, has released a statement this afternoon on HuffingtonPost.com. In it, he addresses his unwavering support for repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," his condemnation of General Peter Pace's remarks about gays, and calls on the other candidates to join him in making a unique pledge: "I have also challenged my fellow candidates to join me in publicly pledging that whoever gets elected, he or she will issue an apology on behalf of the federal government to the 100,000 gays and lesbians who were discharged by the military for their sexual orientation," Gravel writes. "No other candidate has joined me in that pledge." In fact, an apology would not be unprecendented. The British military recently did just that: an explicit apology to those who were discharged under their (now repealed) ban on open service. As we reported in the early days of Gravel's campaign, he stopped by the SLDN offices to meet with our staff and learn more about how he could be helpful in pushing for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We're enormously grateful for his outspoken support and for lending his voice to the campaign for repeal. In today's posting, Gravel notes that ". . . I'm going to rejoin the battle with even more determination to advance the gay rights discussion during the other debates. So stay tuned, because this old soldier has only just begun to fight." All of us at SLDN are proud to have him fighting on our side. - Steve Ralls

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Who’s Blogging

The Washington Blade has a great article about LGBT organizations (including SLDN) entering the blogosphere. Our community's leading organizations are realizing the importance of blogs in communicating with members and the public. SLDN is proud to have been one of the very first groups to launch a blog on our website. As The Blade points out, we are also one of the few who allow users to join the conversation by leaving comments: "The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s blog, Frontlines, focuses entirely on the repeal of the military’s 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy. Like the Immigration Equality blog, Frontlines allows user comments, which adds to a sense of community found within the activist blogs." All of us at SLDN have always believed in an open forum, where our supporters and other visitors can be part of the conversation, whether in agreement or dissent. Just as we disagree with the military's 'Don't Tell' provision, we also believe it is important to be able to 'Tell' in the blog discussion, too. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read and commented on our blog. Please continue visiting us for the latest updates on SLDN's work. - Steve Ralls
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SLDN Takes Time Out With Stephen Benjamin

SLDN staff members had the distinct privilege to spend time with Former Naval Petty Officer Second Class Stephen Benjamin, an Arabic linguist recently dismissed under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law, and featured in a video in the documentary unveiled by Brave New Foundation and SLDN as part of a campaign to Lift The Ban. Hurdling the military's discriminatory policy, Stephen has come out on the other side with a bright smile and high spirits. We thank him for his selfless service to our country and wish him luck as he turns to the next chapter in his life; planning to go back to school and finish his degree. -Jason Knight
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Join Reichen & SLDN in New York

SLDN invites our supporters in Manhattan to join Reichen Lehmkuhl at SPLASH as he unveils the Fly Naked with Reichen Jewelry Collection from LoveandPride. The festivities kick off at 7pm sharp on July 19th. (10% of the Fly Naked collection's revenue is donated to SLDN.) Also on hand will be SLDN client, and former Marine Sergeant, Brian Fricke. Cocktails are by Stoli & Bud Select; sounds are by DJ DeMarko and the bling is by Reichen. Guests can also enter to win a trip to Las Vegas, courtesy of Luxor and American Airlines; learn more about SLDN; and get a sneak peek at the Fly Naked collection. SPLASH is located at 50 West 17th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. For more information, or to shop the collection, click here. - Steve Ralls

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