Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN

A Laureate - and a Champion - for Change

Congratulations to former Vice President Al Gore (pictured), who received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize today for his "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." Throughout his time in public service, Gore has been a champion of change and an unwavering advocate for fairness and inclusion. In 2006, Gore called for an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and for the beginning of true equality for LGBT people:
"For God's sake, [gays and lesbians are] asking for monogamy and military service, is that too much to ask for?"
Al Gore's voice will be made even stronger by today's announcement from the Swedish Academy, and that is good news for everyone who believes that changing the way we live and co-exist on our planet - everyday - is essential to finding peace with our neighbors and ourselves . . . whoever they, or we, may be. - Steve Ralls

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Coming Out of Camouflage

As the LGBT community celebrates National Coming Out Day, a new generation of American military personnel are also coming out of the barracks room closet. More and more, proud lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops are serving openly to their fellow troops and, in some cases, their commands. In fact, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is aware of more than 500 men and women who are out, in some way, while reporting for duty in the armed forces. And, they are having a very real impact on the military's attitude toward our community. While many service members are still unable to come out, and while the military continues to fire two people under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" every day, there are encouraging signs that times are changing and old prejudices are dissapearing in our nation's largest employer. Consider the example of Marine Sergeant Brian Fricke. Sergeant Fricke (pictured) spent 8 months in Iraq, doing IT work for the Marine Corps. During his tour of duty there, he decided to come out to his fellow Marines. Their response? "No big deal." Fricke went back to work, the Marine Corps went back to war, and he finished his enlistment without incident. (Fricke decided against re-enlisting because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," making him one of the thousands of uncounted service members who decide against continuing their careers because of the ban.) Continue reading Coming Out of Camouflage at Bilerico.com . . . .

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Keepin’ It ‘Real’

Do you have a story about keepin' it real that you want to share? LOGO Network's series Be Real is gearing up for its new season, and the producers want to hear from you! Compelling real stories of all kinds from the LGBT community will be considered. And, the producers are especially interested in hearing from military veterans who have an experience to share. If you are interested in pitching your story for Be Real, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here for more information. All applicants must be 25 years or older. - Steve Ralls

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Clark:  “The Policy Needs to Change”

Retired General (and former presidential candidate) Wesley Clark (pictured) sat down with reporter Andrew Davis for an interview in the current issue of Windy City Times. Clark was promoting his new book, A Time to Lead, but Davis wanted to know about the General's views on gays in the military, too. Here's their exchange: Davis: Although I don't remember seeing it in the book, I also want to get your thoughts about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. General Clark: I was a battalion commander in Fort Carson and the C-company commander came up to me and said, "Sir, we're going to have to let the first arms driver leave the Army." I [asked] why and he said, "Because he brought his boyfriend into the battalion and he said that he loves this guy." Then I asked, "So why are we kicking him out of the Army?" and he said, "Sir, don't you understand? It's Army regulations, and if you say such and such, you have to be kicked out of the Army." I said, "No, I've never seen that regulation." The services have done a poor job of working with this policy. Some have respected this policy, and some have not. The truth is that we need people in the military who want to be in the military. There are gays serving in the military who simply are under the radar, so to speak, and there are others who would like to be in who don't want to compromise their values and look hypocritical. I think the policy needs to change. The policy I'm familiar with in the British army is called Don't Misbehave, and it defines specific misbehavior that is sexual orientation-neutral. I think we're moving to that kind of policy. The entire interview with General Clark - including his thoughts about the Iraq War, affirmative action and Rush Limbaugh - is online at www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com. - Steve Ralls

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CNN-Ciara Durkin 10/6/07

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Elaine Donnelly is Worried

On 4 October, the Center for Military Readiness held its “Twelfth Annual Celebration” at the National Guard Association Building in Washington, D.C. The conference featured two panels. The first focused on “Gays in the Military." The mood was not so celebratory. Elaine Donnelly (pictured), the President of CMR, is worried. “Depending on the elections,” she said, “things could change with startling speed. The military is about to be hit, if the elections turn out wrong, with a real tsunami.” She did not elaborate on her fears, but stressed the need for CMR supporters to remain on the alert. Well, at least she told the supporters who bothered to show up to remain on alert. Although the program for the CMR Celebration listed nearly 150 individuals as sponsors or members of the host committee, only 38 individuals actually attended the session. There was no color guard or pledge of allegiance. And close inspection of the audience did not reveal any racial diversity in the room, either. The “gays in the military” panel featured two speakers who have frequently appeared on behalf of CMR, Campbell University law professor William Woodruff, and Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis. Maginnis, who retired from the Army in 1993, began his talk by describing his ongoing access to Army G-3 personnel and his personal contact with soldiers in the field. “I talk with soldiers every day,” he stated. He also pointed out his role as a military analyst for Christian broadcasting networks. According to Maginnis, repealing the existing ban on open service by gays and lesbians would “destroy the indispensable glue” of unit cohesion by “introducing sexual tension and favoritism” into military units. He also stated that repealing the ban would result in less unit bonding, less leadership, more sexual diseases, and lower retention. “Soldier religious beliefs will cause retention problems,” he declared. According to Maginnis, “Forcing heterosexual soldiers to serve with open homosexuals would cause many to hang up their boots.” Maginnis described as “extrapolated nonsense” a recent Zogby poll which found most service personnel to be comfortable interacting with gays and lesbians. Asked about a recent New York Times article describing the success of open service in Great Britain, he launched a more detailed attack, starting with the claim that “I meet with the Brits all the time.” On this basis, he stated that the Times story was not accurate, because “British officers will not talk about this issue.” “They’ve been shut down,” he said. He added that in Britain “most gays are shoved into units that don’t deploy,” and that the British case held no lessons for the U.S. because the “British Army is very small.” Professor Woodruff focused on a different argument, relating to the effect and meaning of the 1993 law popularly known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." According to Woodruff, the legislative history of this statute proves that the law was intended to exclude gays and lesbians from the military. Woodruff claims that this goal was subverted by December 1993 Department of Defense enforcement regulations which provide that “homosexual orientation is not a bar to service entry or continued service…” In Woodruff’s view, this regulatory statement is a misinterpretation of the intent of the underlying statute. In remarks following Professor Woodruff’s talk, Donnelly agreed that the 1993 legislation was intended to bar gays and lesbians from service. “The case for gays in the military in terms of military necessity does not hold up,” she said, adding that the “Bush Administration should have gotten rid of the DA, DT regulations.” She went on to emphasize that the number of DA, DT discharges “is comparatively very small; that only a “trivial” number of military linguists have been discharged under DADT; that an Urban Institute estimate that 65,000 gays and lesbians are currently serving the in the armed forces is “phony baloney;” and that the 1999 murder of PFC Barry Winchell at Fort Knox was a tragedy caused in part by the military’s inability to ask questions about servicemembers’ sexual orientation. As for the British experience, statements that open service is working satisfactorily in Great Britain constitute “self-reporting by a powerful minority.” Lt. Col. Maginnis even went so far, during the question and answer period, to say that gay individuals who appear masculine “probably are not the people they say they are.” In Maginnis’ view a man is not really gay unless he displays feminine characteristics or otherwise acts gay. To him, a macho gay man is an oxymoron. As, too, perhaps, is a "celebration" with Elaine and her "friends" . . . but at least we have them worried. - COL Thomas F. Field, USAR (Ret.)

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Quote of the Day

"Anybody who is willing to serve our country and die on a battlefield for us and our patriots, that’s the criteria for whether or not they should be able to serve in our military. England doesn’t have this policy. Israel doesn’t have this policy. It’s an outdated policy." - Illinois Senator (and Democratic presidential candidate) Barack Obama, responding to a question about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during a rally in Iowa on October 5

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Family & Friends Mourn for Ciara

The Boston Herald has a report on the memorial service for Specialist Ciara Durkin. From The Herald: Hundreds of people yesterday turned out for the wake of the vibrant young Quincy National Guard member killed on an Afghan air base. Family and friends filed past photos of Spc. Ciara Durkin, the woman they fondly nicknamed “Ciaraweerabrat,” including one picture of her at the hospital beside a contractor whose life she saved. “She was amazing,” said one friend who remembered her quick wit and contagious smile, but declined to say more. “I don’t have the words to do her justice,” she said. “She knew her own mind and was a free spirit,” said a Dorchester woman whose daughter went to school with Durkin. “If the subject came up and she had an opinion about it, she wasn’t afraid to say it.” Mystery surrounds the death of the 30-year-old soldier who was found with a single bullet wound in her head last week on a secure military base in what the Pentagon so far will describe only as a non-combat incident. The eighth of nine children, Durkin had five sisters, three brothers and numerous friends. For nearly six hours yesterday, a steady stream of them pulled into the parking lot of Dennis Sweeney Funeral Home, so many a handful of police was dispatched to control traffic on an ordinarily quiet stretch of Elm Street. Durkin, who was openly gay, worked as a volunteer for Mass-Equality, an organization that promotes marriage equality. She was engaged to be married. A member of the 726th Finance Battalion, Durkin was decorated nine times by the military. At the funeral home yesterday, many of her medals and citations lay next to her flag-draped coffin, as a soldier stood on either side. “As Ciara had requested, her remains will be cremated,” a statement from the Durkin family said. “A portion of her ashes will be brought to Ireland to be buried with her father in Galway. Another portion will stay in Quincy at the home of her sister, Deidre. The remaining ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia with full military honors.” Photo by John Wilcox for the Boston Herald

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Where is the thunderous applause?

This week, from 365 Gay, the Ig Nobel Prize, a paradoy of the Nobel Prize, is awarded each year in early October in ten different fields of study that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." Organized by scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research and presented by a group including genuine Noble Laureates at Harvard University. The United States Air Force won this year's Ig Nobel Prize for Peace for their 'Gay Bomb' proposal that came to light earlier this year. The Air Force's Wright Laboratory in Dayton Ohio drafted a $7.5m request to creat a non-lethal weapon that would release a chemical rendering enemy combatants irrisistable to eachother. The documents, which date back to 2004 were obtained through the Freedom of Information ACt by the Sunshine Project-an organization that exposes research into chemical and bilogical weapons-exposing the military's research into non-leathals weapons that would disrupt discipline among troops. Yes, some people laughed. But at who's expense? More than 11,704 lesbian, gay, and bisexual personnel have already been discharged from the military under DADT, more than 65,000 are currently serving, and there are more than a million lgbt veterans in the United States. Are they laughing? How do they feel knowing that the military has been awarded for thier continued discrimination that is not only legal, but mandated by current US statute? “The Air Force’s proposal is delusional, homophobic and offensive,” said C. Dixon Osburn in January of 2005, a past Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Gays and lesbians serve in the United States armed forces and in the militaries of our closest allies. They do so as part of a formidable fighting force. The assertion that a gay opponent would be somehow less effective in combat is outrageous. No one questioned the battle prowess of Alexander the Great because of his sexual orientation.” A number of retired and active Air Force personnel were invited to accept the prize in person on behalf of the military. None would. "Who in their right mind would turn something like this down?" Cornell University professor Brian Wansink said. -Jason Knight

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An Update on Ciara

Many of our supporters have asked for an update on the case of Specialist Ciara Durkin (pictured), a lesbian National Guard soldier who died in Afghanistan on September 27. As the Associated Press reported last night, Army officials have now met with the Durkin family (following calls from SLDN for a thorough investigation) and the military seems to be taking some steps forward in investigating Ciara's death. We know, however, that some military personnel with information relevant to the case may be hesitant to come forward, out of fear that they, too, may be the target of an investigation, because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." As I told the AP, and wrote about on Bilerico yesterday as well, anyone who does have information to share can do so - safely and confidentially - by contacting the legal team here at SLDN. Your conversations with us are protected by attorney-client confidentiality, and we will never reveal the sources of information we obtain. It is of paramount importance that those who may know the events that led to Ciara's death come forward as soon as possible. As we saw in the 1999 murder of PFC Barry Winchell, it is often information obtained by groups like SLDN - and not by military investigators - that helps to bring the true facts to light. Anyone with information at Ciara's death can contact our legal team at (202) 328-FAIR, or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Ciara's family has also set up a website with more information about her life, service and death. And, we invite SLDN supporters to join the conversation about this case at Pam's House Blend, too. - Steve Ralls

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