In a recent interview, Pepe Johnson of Integrity in Service, a group dedicated to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', spent some time with former republican Congressman Bob Barr. The Georgia Congressman was better known as being an ultra-conservative among his colleagues and was one of the leaders in the efforts to impeach former President Bill Clinton. Shocking the media and his coworkers, Barr made a republican no-no when his Op-Ed was featured in the Wall Street Journal in June calling for the repeal of "Don't Ask , Don't Tell" and illustrated his support for open service.
"The fact is, equal treatment of gay and lesbian service members is about as conservative a position as one cares to articulate," he wrote.
He explains what he meant by this to Pepe saying, "At the core of the conservative philosophy of governance, is respect for the individual and respect for the rule of law. And that means you have the rule of law, and you don't have the rule of law that applies to this group and not to that group."
"The lack of integrity and the lack of consistency in applying the laws of our country to individuals regardless of some arbitrary criteria such as sexual orientation is really one of the reasons why I think a lot of Americans are becoming more and more dissatisfied with traditional political parties."
Noting that military leaders are "not just a bunch of old generals who cannot see the future," former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell (pictured) looks back at the 1993 debate on gays in the military in the current issue of Vanity Fair.
Powell, who has often been used as a 'go-to guy' for those who oppose open service, has been influential in the debate since Day 1. He was one of the strongest voices in favor of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and, since '93, hasn't waivered much on his position. But now, there's a glimmer of progress beginning to show.
First, Powell told NBC's Meet the Press earlier this year that change might be possible. And in his VF interview, he makes some honest observations about the issue, and some hopeful predictions about what's to come.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he says, "is still a discriminatory policy; it is prejudicial." He goes on to say that, "It's now fourteen years later, the country has changed, and the day may well come when it will not be a problem any longer."
And when asked by reporter Walter Isaacson "do you think that day will come?," Powell responds that "I think sooner or later it will come."
That will not be welcome news to John McCain, Elaine Donnelly or the other politicos who rely on Powell's staunch defense of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to help prop up their own views. But it is significant news to those who work for open service. Even one of the most (previously) hard-line opponents of open service can see change coming, and that's a sign of progress we can all appreciate.
Colin Powell, it seems, may be able to see the future after all.
- Steve Ralls
Congratulations to SLDN communications associate Jason Knight, who is among the 'rabblerousers' of this year's Out 100. Jason (pictured here, along with Lane Hudson, Joe Solmonese and Anthony Romero) has been chosen as "The Revolutionary" among this year's top 100 LGBT Americans.
Jason, who served openly during a Navy deployment to Kuwait, came out in the military newspaper Stars & Stripes to challenge former Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace's comments that gay troops were 'immoral.' In including him on this year's list, Out writes that:
"Our first round of honorees for the 2007 Out 100 includes a pair of kingmakers putting the spoils of a software fortune to good use, a couple of heads of gay state (and one honorable daughter), plus a trio of troublemakers who just can't keep their mouths shut -- a quality we're particularly fond of, especially among royalty."
You can see the full Out 100 list by picking up a copy of December/January issue of Out Magazine.
Photo by Francois Rousseau for Out.
- Steve Ralls
Former Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff, Navy Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., passed away yesterday at Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland. Admiral Crowe was 82.
Nominated in 1985 to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) by President Ronald Reagan; Crowe served through the Bush administration until he retired from the Navy in 1989. In 1994, Adm. Crowe was appointed Ambassador to Britain by President Bill Clinton, a job he held for three years. In 2000, President Clinton awarded Admiral Crowe the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Unlike many of his predesessors, Crowe used his retirement to speak out publicly on a variety of issues -- including weighing in on the issue of gays in the military. Calling upon his 47 years of experience in the Navy, Adm. Crowe became one of the highest ranking officials to ever publically criticize the Congressional "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.
PageOneQ.com and reporter Julie Weisberg have an update on the case of SLDN client Christopher Mastromarino (pictured).
Mastromarino, who was targeted for expulsion from the Army on charges deemed "trumped up" by his SLDN attorney, will now complete his enlistment . . . and will not be dismissed from the Army.
And, as Weisberg reports, there may have been a change of heart in Mastromarino's unit at the Old Guard.
"Mastromarino said he ran into the Old Guard's commander, Col. Joseph P. Buche, by chance while walking down a hallway," Weisberg writes. "If he was going to be removed from the military, it would have been up to the colonel to sign off on his discharge papers, Mastromarino said."
"He punched me on the shoulder and said, ‘I heard a lot of good things about you. Keep up the good work,'" Mastromarino said of his encounter with Col. Buche.
Mastromarino's career was saved by SLDN with more than a little help from media outlets like PageOneQ. The public attention on his story no doubt gave his command a (long) pause before making their final decision. And reporters like Weisberg helped make a very significant difference in the life of one soldier.
You can read the complete PageOneQ report online here.
- Steve Ralls
Major General Vance Coleman (USA, Ret.) spoke at a session of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Conference on September 28 entitled In the Name of Justice: Military Justice, or Injustice in the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. This moving five-hour event included tributes to African-American veterans, two panels on historical bias in the military justice system and how to remedy it, appeals for Congressional redress of past and current injustices, video, song, and prayer invocations.
Congressional Representatives Corrine Brown, Charles Rangel, Bob Filner, and Jim McDermott all gave moving tributes to veterans who have faced injustice. MG Coleman and SLDN staff thanked all these members personally for their cosponsorship of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which would repeal DA,DT.
In his presentation, General Coleman urged Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He said: “I am proud so many members of the CBC have bravely stood up to fight anti-gay animus in our armed forces by co-sponsoring the Military Readiness Enhancement Act…The men and women who wear our nation’s uniform do not give up. We must not give up on securing justice for them.”
DC insiders considered the CBC Conference a must-attend event, given “CBC members’ unparalleled power at the helm of committees and subcommittees and in the ranks of Congressional leadership.” (Roll Call, September 26, 2007)
31 (or 74% of) Congressional Black Caucus members in the House of the Representatives are cosponsors of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, demonstrating the outstanding support and leadership that African-American lawmakers have contributed to the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Last week, SLDN's communications associate, Jason Knight, came to me with a print-out of pages from GLEE.com, an online LGBT community. At first, I was a little curious about why my staff was cruising online during work hours . . . and then I saw what he had found.
The United States military was, in fact, recruiting on the site . . . despite "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
I immediately reached out to Andrea Stone at USA Today, a reporter who has covered us many times and who, I knew, would have a lot of fun with the story. This morning, the news made the front page of the paper.
From Andrea's story:
The Army, Navy and Air Force unwittingly advertised for recruits on a website for gays, who are barred from military service if they are open about their sexual orientation.
When informed Tuesday by USA TODAY that they were advertising on GLEE.com, a networking website for gay professionals, recruiters expressed surprise and said they would remove the job listings.
"This is the first I've heard about it," said Maj. Michael Baptista, advertising branch chief for the Army National Guard, which will spend $6.5 million on Internet recruiting this year. "We didn't knowingly advertise on that particular website," which he said does not "meet the moral standards" of the military. . . .
Most of the military jobs posted were hard-to-fill positions requiring advanced training, although some ads sought to fill core combat slots at a time when the Iraq war has challenged recruiters to meet goals. They included:
•Thousands of Navy openings for doctors, dentists, intelligence analysts, Arabic translators and others.
•Hundreds of Air Force jobs for optometrists, social workers, physician's assistants and nurses.
•Nearly 1,000 Army National Guard and active Army positions, including infantry and artillery.
Steve Ralls of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a gay advocacy group, savored the irony of the military's errant recruiting pitches.
"The majority of GLEE's members would not be allowed to be as open in the military as they are online," he said, adding that gays "have been drummed out of the armed forces simply for using sites like GLEE."
For complete coverage of the story, click here.
- Steve Ralls
If only it was that simple!
But alas . . . it is not. For service members who declare they are homosexual – regardless of rank, branch of service or MOS – once their commanding officers initiate separation proceedings against them, their discharge is, in most cases, imminent. While David E. Kelley valiantly attempts to shed some light on the preposterousness that is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he falls a bit short in the reality department. His factual legal arguments leave a bit to be desired; however, he does accomplish what I believe was his intended goal: He highlights the absurdity of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and educates the masses on the “quick and dirty” facts and figures surrounding the impact the law on our current national security and military readiness. Almost 12,000 discharges and more than $360 million dollars later, the military is discharging highly trained, decorated and courageous men and women – and yes, in this case even a General can be “struck down with gayness” – simply because he is “a member of the homosexual party.”
Despite the fact that there were zero references to Cook v. Gates, SLDN’s currently-pending constitutional challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (coincidentally located in downtown Boston!), David E. Kelly managed to (in less than 60 minutes) work in a reference to the infamous “shower” issue we hear so much about, a hilarious (albeit incredibly overly-simplified) analysis of Lawrence v. Texas and the virtual end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as we know it.
Candice Bergen managed to single-handedly bring about the collapse of the ban on gays in the military with just a couple of witnesses an only one day of trial.
Although, even she would have to concede that she may have had some assistance from possibly the single worst JAG attorney ever! I mean, really . . . was that guy for real? Did he really argue that the judge should rule in favor of the government because the military had a macho image to protect and was therefore justified in banning gays from serving openly? Does Boston Legal air in Great Britain or Israel? How about Canada or Australia?
Notwithstanding the incredible oversimplification of the legal arguments both in favor of and against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the incredible powerhouse cast of Boston Legal (Ms. Bergen can advocate on my behalf anytime!) successfully entertained as well as educated us while poking fun at an outdated and ineffective policy which serves no purpose other than to blatantly discriminate, encourage harassment and weaken our national security. We forgive you, Mr. Kelly, for not acknowledging SLDN’s work on this issue. Perhaps you and a few of your friends would like to join us for dinner in DC on March 8th?
- Emily HechtUPDATE: Read about the conservative controversy over last night's episode at Bilerico.com.
The Emmy Award-winning drama Boston Legal tackles discrimination, homophobia and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” tonight on ABC.
Tonight’s episode, titled Do Tell, involves the case of law partner Denny Crane’s Army buddy, General “Fitz” Fitzgerald. Fitz shows up at the law firm of Crane Poole & Schmidt to tell Denny that he is gay . . . and he’s being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” While Denny grapples with the surprising news about his friend’s sexual orientation, Shirley Schmidt (played by Emmy winner Candice Bergen) takes up Fitz’s case, suing the Army and challenging “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in court.
For more information, visit ABC’s official Boston Legal website, or read more about tonight’s episode at Frontlines or The Bilerico Project. And check back on SLDN’s blog tomorrow morning for a full analysis of Do Tell.
Boston Legal airs tonight at 10pm EST on ABC.
- Steve Ralls
For the first time in history, the House and the Senate are on the brink of passing a Bill that would protect gays and lesbians from being fired because they're gay. The "Employment Non-Discrimination Act," which has been around in some form or another for all of my life, actually has the votes to pass.
That means that a majority of Congress supports telling private employers that they can't fire someone because of who they are -- yet they're comfortable turning around and ousting two of us a day, every day of the year from the Armed Services. They did it to me.
If we're to tell corporations that gay people are "as good as" straights, then we should exemplify those same values in the institution that not just defends, but represents, the core values of our nation.