Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
Time to scrap obsolete, oppressive ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy
By Robert Schumacher
Since 1992, the armed forces have lived with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and since 1992, we have been asking gays to live a lie to serve in our Navy.
Many Western military forces have scrapped anti-gay policies, replacing them with strict policies on sexual harassment.
Why do we still have this outdated, discriminatory policy? To quote DoD Directive 1332.14 (from 1981, the policy prior to “don’t ask”): “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission. The presence of such members adversely affects the ability of the armed forces to maintain discipline, good order, and morale; to foster mutual trust and confidence among service members; to insure the integrity of the system of rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment of service members who frequently must live and work in close conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members of the armed forces; to maintain the public acceptability of military service; and to prevent breaches of security.”
I’ve wondered for years how the presence of a gay service member “seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission.” Does being gay prevent one from fighting fires, operating reactors, flying fighters or serving in a combat unit?
Integrity of rank and command? We have been able to accept women in command of ships, and co-ed carriers, and minorities represented in all communities of our armed forces and every rank.
Conditions affording minimal privacy? If you have issues with lack of privacy, you picked the wrong career.
Public acceptability? It’s the 21st century.
Breaches of security? I’ve read the stories of many former service members who were gay, and the breaches of security simply aren’t there. So, it’s down to “the ability of the armed forces to maintain discipline, good order, and morale; to foster mutual trust and confidence among service members.” Here’s where we get to the real reason for the military’s continued discrimination.
It’s not homosexuals who are the problem, it’s our straight members — those who fear what they don’t understand, who bring with them their prejudices and misconceptions of homosexuality. The ones who harass, humiliate, intimidate, assault and discriminate against those who are doing nothing more (or less) than any of the rest of us.
Homosexuals serve for the same reasons as the rest of us: for the college money, for the travel, for patriotism and service to our nation. Some came to the Navy because of the Sept. 11 attacks. Some simply needed a good job.
Our service values honor, courage and commitment. Where is the honor in telling those who serve with us to live a lie? Where is the courage in refusing to accept change? Where is the commitment to equality, the commitment we’ve shown in breaking down barriers for women, minorities and even foreigners who now serve in our ranks?
We have the ability to track our enemies from outer space, put missiles on target from under the ocean’s surface, to field the best-equipped and best-trained ground forces in the world. We certainly should be able to accept those who live a different sexual lifestyle and be able to realize that they are no different in any truly important way.
The writer is an electronics technician first class stationed in Hawaii.
09-26-07 Comment (1)
Posted on Military.com's forum, this declassified 1942 document
from the Chairman of the General Board W.R. Sexton to the Secretary of the Navy is a 'tell-all' of just how discriminatory our country was and in some ways still is.
On Negroes being enlisted.
"How many white men would choose, of their own accord, that their closest associates...be of another race? How many would accept such conditions, if required to do so, without resentment and just as a matter of course? The General Board believes that the answer is "Few, if any," and further believes that if the issue were forced, there would be a lowering of contentment, teamwork and discipline in the service."
Wait. Haven't we heard this same argument recently?
It goes on.
"One of the tenets of the recruiting service is that each recruit for general service is potentially a leading Petty Officer." And get this. "If Negroes are recruited for general service, it can be said at once that few will obtain advancement to petty officer." And that officers in general "will not recommend Negroes for promotion to positions of authority over white men."
If you continue to read it, it will only make you angry that we were ever that evil to one group of people. But has anything really changed? The Chairman goes on to say that it is much more important "that we have the full-hearted cooperation of the thirty million white southern Americans than that we satisfy the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People."
We hear discrimination along these same lines against 65,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members that are serving today, which is an extremely low underestimate. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace said in March that homosexuality is “immoral” and that he supports Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because “we should not condone immoral acts.” In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Pace also compared homosexuality to adultery, claiming that the military should “not tolerate” homosexuality just as it rejects “military members who sleep with other military members’ wives.”
The same underlying reason-discrimination-is used against groups of people that long only to serve the country they believe in, to protect the freedoms they live by, and to hold on to that glimmer of a great nation.
09-25-07 Comment (0)
There goes Duncan Hunter.
Yes, it's true. The notoriously homophobic Congressman from California - who steadfastly refused to appreciate or even acknowledge the service of the LGBT Americans in our armed forces - is retiring
But, as the saying goes, there will always be another Duncan Hunter. And as The Hill
reports, old Duncan (pictured) is stepping down just as "his 30-year-old son prepares to mount a race for his father’s seat."
Welcome to The Old Adventures of New Duncan Hunter.
[New] "Hunter says he will soon formally announce his candidacy, but not on April Fool’s Day," the paper reports. "'Not April 1 of course,'" he said, laughing. "'Maybe a day after.'"
Actually, April 1 may be all too appropriate for starting a new Duncan Hunter campaign.
If, like his father, 'New' Duncan thinks LGBT service members haven't earned the respect and admiration of our country, he's another fool, too. And if he thinks Americans will allow him to treat our men and women in uniform so dismissively, the joke's going to be on him.
Here's hoping the voters of Hunter's district are no fools, either. One Duncan Hunter seemed one too many; two Duncan Hunters would be much too much for sure.
The Hunters' anti-gay antics are becoming very, very old.
And while there may not be anymore dates for me
with Old Duncan Hunter, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if I just don't have to put up with the 'New.'
- Steve Ralls
Labels: 2008, Congress, in the news
09-25-07 Comment (0)
Thanks in large part to the pioneering efforts of Cher, no one in LA actually looks their age. That fact was definatly true for the guest of honor at last week's party celebrating the 40th Anniversary of The Advocate
-- the magazine itself!
Always topical, never boring -- The Advocate remains, forty years after its first publication, young, hip and relevant.
First published in 1967 by founder Dick Michaels, the Advocate gave voice to a community of men and women who had long been relegated to the fringes of society. Through the 1970's The Advocate helped to cultivate the LGBT community's sense of personal pride and in the 1980's The Advocate helped to bring national attention to the plight of our community as we suffered through the AIDS crisis. Today, the Advocate stands as America's preeminent LGBT magazine, attracting readers from all walks of life interested in a gay perspective on issues and events of the day.
As testiment to the important place The Advocate holds in the LGBT community, presidential aspirent Sen. Hillary Clinton will grace the cover of next month's issue and discuss, with reporter Sean Kennedy, political issues affecting the LGBT community and what is at stake in the 2008 election (including repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell").
Thank you to the editorial staff at the Advocate for hosting this event and for giving us all the opportunity to pause and reflect on just how far
our community, and our nation, has come in 40 years. When you think about it, that should be celebrated!
Labels: 2008, Hillary Clinton
09-24-07 Comment (0)
The Alexandria Commission for the Arts
has put together the “First Annual Alexandria International Film Festival” for this coming weekend. The festival's inaugural event will feature Tell
, a film about
the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" ban (details below).
The film screenings are free
, and all films will be shown at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
, Madison Building, 600 Dulany Street (close to the King St. Metro). The complete line-up of films can be viewed here
is the only GLBT-related film selected for the festival.
Here are the complete details:
Saturday, September 29
2 pm: TELL
– The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy started well over a decade ago and banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Director Tom Murray adds a human face to the debate as he set out across the country to talk with gay and lesbian veterans and their allies, about the struggles faced by dedicated and patriotic Americans who want to serve their country, but can only do so while not being honest about who they fully are. Directed by Tom Murray; 1:23; 2007
3:30 pm: Presentation by CAPT Joan Darrah USN
(Ret.) and Paul Tschudi U.S. Army Veteran Spec. 5 and Asst. Professor at George Washington University who appear in the film Tell
and will share their experiences, both with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and in making the film.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: arts, community events
09-24-07 Comment (0)
A memorial service for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered men and women who died serving our country - in all our nation's wars - will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Veterans Day, November 11, at the Congressional Cemetery
in Washington, D.C. I am honored to be leading this year's service, which is sponsored by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance
and the American Veterans for Equal Rights
. The service will take place at the grave site of Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich
, a Vietnam veteran, on whose stone is carved these words: "They gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."
The entire community is invited. For more information, contact Mike at
- Mike Rankin, M.D., Capt, MC, USN, (Ret.)
Labels: community events
09-24-07 Comment (0)
All this week, LOGO
will be broadcasting a special news documentary speaking with "Los Otros,"
members of the queer Latin and Hispanic community who define themselves as "The Others." Former SLDN client Sonya Contreras
is profiled sharing about her five years of service in the U.S. Army and her dismisall from the service in 2003 because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
The thirty minute special airs (all times are EST):
Friday: at 5am and again 8pm
Sunday: 4:30am, again at 12pm and again at 8:30pm
So tune in to hear Sonya tell her story and learn more about the real costs inflicted on America's armed forces because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
to find LOGO programing in your area.
Labels: in the news, sldn clients
09-20-07 Comment (0)
Today's New York Times has the story
of Army Sergeant Denise A. Lannaman, a native of Kingston, Jamaica who joined the U.S. Army and, by at least one account, became a stellar service member who, in the end, may
have also been the victim of a blackmail campaign aimed at exposing her sexual orientation and drumming her out of the armed forces.
A veteran of the war in Iraq, Lannaman (pictured) was most recently assigned to a desk job at a procurement office in Kuwait. She carried out her duties there with "superb performance," according to one superior, and her steadfastness "eliminated misuse of [military] funds by 36 percent."
But some evidence also points to the possibility that another soldier - more intent on laundering money than saving it - may
have tried to use Lannaman's sexual orientation as a way to blackmail her into silence.
From the Times
"Sergeant Lannaman originally had been scheduled to leave her Kuwait assignment on Aug. 27, 2006. But 10 days earlier, the top logistics officer, Lt. Col. Marshall Gutierrez, was arrested outside a restaurant in Kuwait. He was accused of shaking down a laundry contractor for a $3,400 bribe.
After his arrest, Colonel Gutierrez was released to his quarters. He was found dead on Sept. 4, next to an empty bottle of prescription sleeping pills and an open container of what appeared to be antifreeze, according to military records."
Then the story becomes seemingly more complicated.
"On Oct. 1, [Lannaman] had a private meeting with a superior officer, said George Roach, a retired Army sergeant first class who served as the military liaison with the family," the story reports. "A military investigator later told the family that at this meeting, Sergeant Lannaman was told that she would be sent home in disgrace, according to Lannaman's sister. "We were not given a reason," the sister said. “Were they trying to scare her, had she stepped on toes of people who were profiteering, did someone threaten to expose her homosexuality?” she asked.
There don't seem to be any clear answers.
Did Gutierrez use the threat of an 'outing' to scare Lannaman into silence? Was her guilt over not holding Gutierrez responsible for his theft the reason behind her suicide? Was Lannaman the latest example of the untenable position LGBT service members are put in because of the ban on their service?
No one seems to know for sure.
"An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. William Wiggins, said yesterday that Sergeant Lannaman had not been teh subject of any contract investigations, and that he could not say whether she had been threatened with dismissal from the service," the Times
Indeed, it doesn't appear that the full set of facts in Sergeant Lannaman's case have surfaced yet.
Stay tuned here at Frontlines
for more information. SLDN will continue to monitor the case and try to find out more about what led to Lannaman's death.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news
09-20-07 Comment (1)
is out with its 40th anniversary issue, highlighting the LGBT community's top 40 heroes
, as selected via an Advocate
poll. Ellen DeGeneres
(yep, she's gay) topped the list, and there are three entries in the top 40 of particular interest to SLDN supporters.
Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer
, a member of SLDN's military advisory council, clocks in at #9. "Why should we be good enough to be cannon fodder but not good enough to serve at home?," Cammermeyer asked the magazine in 2001. "Twelve years earlier, as a colonel in the Washington State National Guard," the magazine writes, "she became the highest-ranking official in the U.S. military to come out of the closet while still in service. The result was an honorable discharge, a decision Cammermeyer fought until a federal judge ruled that the ban on gays and lesbians in the military was unconstitutional and reinstated her."
Colonel Cammermeyer also tells The Advocate
that gay troops can have another impact. "Imagine if every gay military person said 'If I can't be open, I'm out of here - send the straight people to war, and I'll stay home and go to gay pride parades," she said. "Now is a good time to leave the military - the very time we are needed the most. The impact would be phenomenal. Maybe then we'd get rid of this stupid, half-assed law."
, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, ranks #36 on the list. Matlovich was featured on the cover
magazine in 1975, and was the palintiff in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the ban on gays in the military. He won an honorable discharge and settlement in 1980.
And author Randy Shilts
is #31 on the top 40 heroes list. Shilts is the author of Conduct Unbecoming
, the definitive history on LGBT military service. (And, each year, SLDN presents its Randy Shilts Visibility Award
to someone who has singificantly increased the visibility of gay service personnel.)
Congratulations to everyone who made the list of 40 heroes! And for more information on The Advocate
's special 40th anniversary issue, click here
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news
09-19-07 Comment (0)
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