Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
Four years ago, because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I became just another statistic. Two to three servicemembers are discharged each day for no reason other than being who they are, and I was one of them.
I have spoken to many people over the years about my experience, and the reaction is always the same....outrage and disbelief that this really does happen in America today. While it is reassuring to receive the heartfelt hugs, and to hear that I was wronged, it wasn't quite enough. I yearned to speak out in a way that could potentially inspire others to evoke real change.
This summer I have had the opportunity to join others with the same goal, and to contribute to making that change. By joining the Legacy of Service Tour
, it has been my honor to speak alongside a panel of veteran servicemembers, like Eric Alva, Antonio Agnone, Jarrod Chlapowski and Alex Nicholson.
During the most recent stop in Concord, New Hampshire, we spoke before a crowd of true changemakers, including: Sylvia Larsen
, New Hampshire Senate President; New Hampshire Senate Policy Director, Jennifer Frizzell; Delana Jones, Political Director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party; New Hampshire State Representatives Gail Morrison
and Mo Baxley
; NH House candidate, Harold Janeway
; and representatives from each of the major Democratic presidential campaigns.
The United States military continues to miss it's recruiting goal month after month. The shortage of qualified candidates for enlistment has forced the military to actively recruit convicted felons
. People who have been a burden on society are now being called on to protect it.
The argument for keeping the DADT policy in place is that an openly gay soldier would decrease troop morale and be detrimental to unit cohesion and combat readiness.
As a soldier first, it affects my morale to know that a known gang member can serve alongside other service members.
As a woman, it affects my morale to know that a convicted rapist can serve alongside female service members.
As a parent it affects my morale to know that a convicted child molester can serve and live alongside military families.
As Americans, it should affect all of our morale to know that Congress is forcing the U.S. military to choose convicted felons over competent, qualified and capable service members just because of their sexual orientation.
End Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Labels: community events, events, new hampshire
08-22-07 Comment (2)
Former Senator Sam Nunn, who famously tried to stop the integration
of openly lesbian and gay service personnel into the military in 1993, is hinting that he may run for president
reports that the Georgia Democrat is thinking about throwing his hat into the ring as either an Independent, or part of a 'Unity '08' ticket, being pushed by a group seeking a bipartisan ticket in the next presidential election. "It's a possibility, not a probability," Nunn said. "My own thinking is, it may be a time for the country to say, 'Timeout. The two-party system has served us well, historically, but it's not serving us now.'"
Nunn once toured a Navy submarine
, during the height of the 1993 debate on gays in the military, and proclaimed that no straight service member should be forced to share such close quarters with gay colleagues. It became the 'snapshot' seen 'round the world in the debate, and Nunn went on to support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," as a way to keep lesbian and gay personnel in the closet.
We hope Senator Nunn has revisited - and revised - his position during the last 14 years. After all, American troops are serving alongside openly gay allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with little incident. We hope the Senator will announce a change of heart about the ban, and become the latest public official to call for repeal.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: 2008, in the news
08-21-07 Comment (1)
As we recently reported
here at Frontlines
, PFC Christopher Mastromarino, a military police officer in the Army's Old Guard, was convicted
on three (trumped up) counts of assault after his superiors began asking fellow soldiers about Mastromarino's sexual orientation. SLDN - along with Congressman Steny Hoyer
and Senator Barbara Mikulski
- pressed the command in Chris's case to take a close look at the facts and carefully consider if his conviction should stand.
On Friday, the command at the Old Guard
appears to have 'rubber-stamped' the conviction, putting into play a series of events that will likely result in Mastromarino
being booted from the Army entirely. Chris, who had hoped to become a civilian police officer following his military career, now seems to be the victim of a new tradition in the Old Guard: ferreting out the gays and ignoring the facts.
According to information obtained by SLDN, Chris's command simply signed off on his conviction without reading pleas from SLDN, Congressman Hoyer or Senator Mikulski to consider the shaky nature of the evidence against him. There is no indication that Major General Rowe - who signed off on the conviction along with a stack of other paperwork - even glimpsed or gave thought to the arguments in Chris's favor. Instead, he seems to have gone along with a clearly anti-gay fishing expedition that is being used to fire a soldier who others believe is gay.
There is still the (slight) possibility that the Army Staff Judge Advocate will intervene and overturn Rowe's endorsement of the conviction. But that's unlikely, and in the end, the Army (and the Old Guard) will lose another dedicated soldier to anti-gay animus and antiquated homophobia.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news, legal aid, sldn clients
08-21-07 Comment (1)
Retired Navy Commander and Congressional Candidate, Eric Massa is doing just the opposite of most candidates and asking for the peoples support. Not in his campaign but in an issue that he feels strongly enough about to publish it on his home page and on the Daily Kos
Eric Massa is asking for the people to support H.R. 1246, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill introduced to congress that would do away with Don't Ask, Don't Tell and create a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Mr. Massa wrote a 5-point essay on the reasons why the current policy does not work, negatively affects the military, and the next steps in the repeal process.
Click over to Eric Massa's website
and see why more and more people are pushing for repeal.
- Jason Knight
Labels: 2008, Congress, other blogs
08-21-07 Comment (0)
The Associated Press
is reporting today that the U.S. military is, quite literally, running out of troops.
From the AP synopsis posted at Raw Story
"The Army's 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year," Lolita C. Baldor reports for AP
, based on interviews and military documents.
Without enough troops to sustain current troop levels, the Pentagon will face some painful decisions if President Bush argues for a continuation of the surge. It can accelerate deployments of National Guard units, break the military's pledge to keep soldiers in Iraq for 15 months or less or reverse its commitment to give troops a year at home with their families before returning them to a war zone.
"For a war-fatigued nation and a Congress bent on bringing troops home, none of those is desirable," the AP
And neither, apparently, is welcoming gay Americans who want to serve.
Nowhere in the AP
article is there any mention of military commanders considering a call to Congress in support of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Statistician Gary Gates estimates that
more than 40,000 lesbian and gay Americans would sign up for duty if the ban were lifted. And countless others, who quietly leave each year as their service ends rather than serve under the law, may be compelled to stay in a military that officially welcomes them.
Senator Barack Obama
decried the news from AP, telling reporters that "We know our troops will always answer the call to service, but we must issue that call responsibly. We need predictable rotations, we need to deploy troops at an appropriate state of readiness, and we must only send them to battle if we define their mission and define success."
Senator Obama has expressed strong support for ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," too, which could go a long way in addressing some of the problems reported by AP today.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news, recruiting, williams institute
08-20-07 Comment (1)
Today's Washington Times includes a response
to last week's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" op-ed
(by Major Daniel Davis) from two SLDN advisory board members: Retired Colonel Stewart Bornhoft
(pictured) and Retired Colonel Andy Leonard
. Bornhoft and Leonard question Davis's analysis of a recent Zogby poll
about lesbian and gay troops and point out that, indeed, gay Americans are already
serving in the armed forces without incident.
"Maj. Davis puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that 37 percent of the combat and combat support troops did not favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly, compared to 26 percent who did (with 32 percent being neutral and 5 percent unsure)," they write. "Yet . . . when these numbers are analyzed with respect to the personal knowledge of the existence of homosexual troops in their own unit, there is a significant shift in opinion toward allowing homosexuals to serve openly (unpublished data supplied by the Zogby poll analysts)."
"The bottom line is simply this: many homosexual troops are already serving openly in both combat and combat support operations," the Colonels say. "This fact is known by many of their peers. Nearly three-quarters of combat and combat support troops say they are comfortable working with homosexuals and lesbians. Unit cohesion and combat readiness in our military is the best in the republic's history, clearly not diminished by the known presence of homosexual troops. It's time for military leaders to call for an end to the outdated law that prevents capable patriotic Americans from honestly serving their country or, worse, forces the military to discharge much-needed highly trained and experienced personnel. It's long past time to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"
You can read the entire response to Major Davis at the Times
website, online here
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news
08-20-07 Comment (0)
Just to clarify: This is NOT
President Clinton signing the executive order about gays in the military . . . because "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" isn't an executive order!
It's a Congressional law.
This, however, seems to be a point that still eludes some people . . . even those who are on our side!
When my daily DiversityInc
email message popped up this afternoon, I was excited to see the magazine's Ask a White Guy
column dealing with the issue of gays in the military
. A reader wrote in to say, "As an active-duty member, there are items in the magazine that I personally can't do, such as condone or support gay/lesbian lifestyle. We are still "don't ask, don't tell" ... There are many good articles regarding race, gender and ethnicity, but I just can't support the other."
The White Guy
columnist did a good job for the most part, emphasizing that military - and political - attitudes are changing. But his opening remark was off the mark.
"The 'don't ask, don't tell' policy is an executive order from President Clinton's administration," he said.
Actually, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" marked the first time Congress codified
the military's ban on gays into law. That's why the law cannot be repealed by executive order, either. It requires an act of Congress (followed by a Presidential signature) to get rid of the ban once and for all.
We appreciate Diversity's
on-going, positive coverage of LGBT issues, but it's important for everyone to know the facts about how the ban became law . . . and how it can be toppled, too.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news
08-17-07 Comment (0)
So, I'm perusing the Selective Service web site
today and on a whim, decided to update my address. It wouldn't let me for technical reasons...
I get to the FAQ and suddenly realize that I'm no longer eligible for the draft anyway. OK, fair enough.
Of course, I know that I wouldn't be allowed to serve anyway given my "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" discharge, but hey, it was fun to think about the dilemma they'd face.
The remainder of my time on the site was spent picking up the following:
Did you know - that draftees must be between 18-25? (Isn't the Army taking folks up to 34 now
Did you know - that prisoners who fall into the Selective Service age range are required to register within 30 days of release?
Did you know - that illegal aliens are required to register?
Did you know - that refugees, asylees and parolees are required to register?
Did you know - that ANY former member of the Armed Forces, separated for ANY reason, must register if their separation falls before their 26th birthday?
Nowhere does it say anything about "the homosexuals." I was a little disappointed. I wanted to see "homos = no" on the registration requirement. Seems that despite our all volunteer preferences, the big boys in Congress realize that in a crisis, any BODY will do.
Oye. How are things in Iraq boys?
For more Selective Service fun facts, visit WWW.SSS.GOV
- Former Navy Petty Officer First Class Jeremy Johnson
08-17-07 Comment (3)
On August 14th, anchorwoman Erica Hill recapped
the story on CNN's Prime News
of Cecil Sinclair; the Navy veteran
who's memorial service was canceled at High Point Church in Arlington Texas after the church hierarchy discovered he was gay.
On whether the church was right or wrong on its decision to cancel the service, Raymond from Kentucky wrote in to CNN saying, "...This man was a veteran and we need to think of that instead of the church worrying about lifestyles. We are able to worship as we see fit because of our veterans."
So what were your thoughts when hearing this story? How would you react if it were your family member? Outraged? Sympathetic? Send in your thoughts
via email or video to Erica and let your voice be heard.
Labels: CNN, reactions, veterans
08-16-07 Comment (0)
The week's looking up after all . . .
I never miss an opportunity to talk about Elaine Donnelly's
latest rant in the news. Today she's upset about women again, and even though we generally focus on LGBT issues here, all of us at SLDN are greatly appreciative of the long history of stellar service to our country by female troops, too. And Elaine's newest insights on women in the services - which centers around their ability to win a push-up contest, apparently - shows just how out of touch with the best interests of our military Ms. Donnelly really is.
According to a (woefully sexist) report in
today's Pasadena Star
, Donnelly is upset about recent remarks by Democratic presidential candidates supporting women's registration in the Selective Service. Why's she in an uproar? The candidates, you see, had the audacity to suggest that women are equal . . . but Elaine (reportedly a woman herself) knows better.
"The Navy has male trainees do a minimum of 42 push-ups for a minimum score;" she reminds the Star
, while "women must do 17."
But it's not just push-ups, people!
"Men (ages 20 to 24) must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes, 15 seconds; women (ages 20 to 24) get 14 minutes to accomplish the same."
, this inequality of push-ups and backstrokes shows just how unqualified for service American women really are. (insert sarcastic smirk here)
But what I want to know is this: How many push-ups can Elaine do? I'm willing to bet, after carrying around all that guilt over stereotyping people and treating them unfairly, she's built up some pretty impressive muscles. And if she can get past that 17 push-up mark, she just might be able to prove herself
And if she can't get to 17? She should be damn grateful that the women who can are out there protecting her country and her right to say such absurd and patently ludicrous things.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: elaine donnelly, in the news
08-16-07 Comment (0)
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