Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN

A Message of Thanks from SLDN

As our nation takes time to give thanks for our friends, family and loved ones, I also want to thank each of you for your extraordinary support of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. As a former service member, I understand just how critical SLDN’s work is. Your generosity and partnership with SLDN ensured that, when I needed them, the SLDN team was there. This Thanksgiving, more than 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans are reporting for duty in our armed forces. I join SLDN, and each of you, in expressing tremendous gratitude for their service and dedication. And we all owe a debt of thanks to the millions of LGBT veterans who have given so much to our country and our armed forces. Because of their service and sacrifice, we are all safer and more secure. Your kindness ensures that SLDN is always there –answering calls for help from service members, like me, who depend on them. I know, first-hand, what a significant difference that kindness makes. President John F. Kennedy once reminded us that, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Each of you, through your steadfast support of the freedom to serve, have lived up to that call. We cannot thank you enough. From the SLDN family to yours . . . Happy Thanksgiving. Sincerely, Former Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Knight SLDN Communications Associate
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On Bilerico: Hillary Got it Right

There have been some curious headlines in the LGBT press following remarks Senator Hillary Clinton made during a campaign stop in Tama, Iowa on Monday. Answering a question from Air Force Major Gary Mathis of Cedar Rapids about privacy and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Senator Clinton reiterated her long-held position that the ban on gay troops must be repealed. "I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they’re a patriot, if they comply with the code of military justice and they have the appropriate behavior, they shouldn’t be disqualified from serving simply because they’re gay," Senator Clinton said. She took exactly the right position: Opportunity for gay Americans to serve in our armed forces, and a level playing field for every service member, regardless of their sexual orientation. So why did the LGBT blogosphere, Major Mathis - and even The New York Times - miss the point? Continue reading Hillary Got It Right on Bilerico.com

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CandidateFive Wants You!

CandidateFive, the nation's leading provider of GLBT recruiting products and services to Fortune 500 companies, is looking for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who hold a security clearance. CandidateFive is currently recruiting GLBT employees for Raytheon, a major defense contractor that is interested in increasing its diversity and bringing more GLBT people onto their staff. CandidateFive helps companies implement a strategy towards recruiting gay and lesbian professionals. "Our goal," says Regional Client Director Kip Reynolds, "is equality at work." Former LGBT service members who were honorably discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and hold a security clearance, may be a perfect fit for these positions. If you hold a security clearance, and are interested in learning more about CandidateFive's current opportunities, please contact Kip at (310) 657-6555, ext. 222 or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) . For more information on CandidateFive, click here.

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Remember

SLDN joins our friends and allies in the LGBT community today in observing the 9th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 kicked off the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Since then, the event has grown to encompass memorials in dozens of cities across the world. SLDN takes a moment today to also remember the transgender veterans of armed forces, who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. We salute the Transgender American Veterans Association, and all groups in our community working to end bias and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. For more information on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, click here. And for a list of events around the country, visit Pam's House Blend online. And today, please join SLDN in remembering. - Steve Ralls

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What the Pentagon Doesn’t Tell

I recently read an article about the rise in Army desertion rates since 2003. And it was interesting to see that "saying you are gay" was listed as one of four main reasons for a soldier to be discharged without completing his or her enlistment contract. There it was, ranked #3 on the list: 1) a soldier’s inability to meet physical fitness requirements 2) a soldier’s inability to adapt to the military life 3) a soldier saying he or she is gay and being required to leave under the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy 4) a soldier going AWOL This list, presumably, came right out of the Pentagon press office. In the past the DoD has also insisted that service members are mainly being discharged from the military under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" because they are "telling." Pentagon leaders have also often implied that service members view the law as an easy "get out of jail free" card. But while DoD likes to report numbers, they are less enthusiastic about reporting what lies behind data. For example, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" discharges are broken into three categories: "statements," "marriage" or "acts/conduct." The Pentagon doesn't tell us, though, that pretty much any circumstance that does not include a sexual act or marriage between members of the same gender is counted by DoD as a "statement" that violates "don't tell." The reality I've seen in SLDN's case work is much different then how DoD spins the "statements" discharge number. Almost half of SLDN’s clients this year have been service members who were "outed" or threatened with outing. Unfortunately, many of those cases ended up with the service member being discharged under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" with a "statement" discharge . . . even though they never really made a statement in the first place. DoD also does not report on the number of people kicked out under the ban who try to re-enlist but are denied that opportunity because their discharge papers won’t allow it. Yet SLDN probably gets a dozen calls a month from discharged veterans seeking any means possible to go back to the jobs they love. And despite the implication that soldiers are "saying they are gay" merely to leave the service, overall "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" discharge numbers keep going down – by nearly 50% since 2001. It's doubtful that is because the military is really only kicking out the true gay service members; I'm not even sure what the test for determining that would even look like. It's far more likely that commands are increasingly caring little about who their troops date . . . and their desire to keep highly trained and functional service members where they need them – on the front line and in support of all who are making a difference in the world. But that may be another story behind the story that the Pentagon isn't ready to tell yet. - Kathi S. Westcott

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Quote of the Day

"I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they're a patriot, if they'll comply with the code of military justice and have appropriate behavior, they should not be disqualified simply because they are gay." - Senator Hillary Clinton, answering a question from an Iowa vet on Monday

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12,000 Flags on the Mall

SLDN is proud to partner with Servicemembers United (formerly Call to Duty), the Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans and Liberty Education Forum for a 3-day salute to the 12,000 men and women dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Beginning November 30th (the date "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" became law), 12,000 flags will be exhibited on the National Mall in our nation's capital. The 12,000 flags are an extraordinary, visual tribute to the service members who have been victims of this unjust and un-American law. The flags will be displayed from November 30th through December 2nd here in Washington, D.C. Also join us for one (or more) of these events: Friday, November 30 "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" Community Reception 6pm @ Bar Helix (Cash bar, light hors d’oeuvres) Saturday, December 1 "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" Community Conference 9am-Noon @ HRC’s Equality Forum 1640 Rhode Island Ave NW Saturday, December 1 Army Navy Game Football Party Noon @ Nellie's Sports Bar Sunday, December 2 Military Chaplains’ Prayer Service 11am on the National Mall Make plans now to join us in Washington as we honor lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans who have served in our nation's armed forces. - Steve Ralls

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Don’t Let Them Distort the Truth

Usually when large, anti-gay groups go on the attack against our community groups, they neglect to include SLDN in their line-up of targets. As a single issue organization with a relatively small budget, we aren't the target that our larger allies are when it comes to spears being thrown from the right. Peter LaBarbera (pictured) of Americans for "Truth" - a far right group that conducts "undercover investigations" of gay events, among other things - increasingly likes paying attention to us, though. First, he gave us the flattering but much un-due credit for writing a recent episode of the ABC series Boston Legal. And now Peter is heaping more compliments on us, saying SLDN is among the groups that "focus like a laser beam" on getting our job done. We're feeling the love, Peter. We're feeling the love. LaBarbera's latest rant comes in the form (of course) of a fundraising letter. Employing the political scare tactics that some on his side of the fence love to use to raise money and votes, Peter implores his supporters to send in $100 to "keep Americans for Truth in the battle for truth and God’s morality." And he goes on to say that, "We need 100 supporters to give $100 towards our goal of raising $150,000 by year’s end." And in a display of complete tastelessness, he even invokes the abolitionist Wendell Phillips, writing in his appeal that, "As a great abolitionist once said, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." How low can you go, LaBarbera? So let's one-up Peter and give him something to be really worried about. Let's get 100 SLDN supporters (or more) to give $100 (or more) to counter-balance AFT's campaign to distort the "truth." You can send a powerful message to Peter LaBarbera that we're proud, capable, patriotic Americans who aren't going to give up the fight to serve openly. You can prove to him that we can beat him at his own game. So let's do it. Let's get 100 (or more) of you to give a tax-deductible contribution of $100 (or more) to SLDN, and dedicate your gift to the brave service members that Peter wants to defame and dishonor. Click here to make your gift, and send Peter LaBarbera an unmistakable message: We won't let him distort the truth. - Steve Ralls

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Skelton: Readiness “Is Our Insurance Policy”

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, says he is worried about a "hollow army," and is especially concerned about military readiness, given the war in Iraq, saying the U.S. military is "strained like never before." In an interview with the Sedalia Democrat in Missouri, Skelton says that "We’re trying very hard to increase readiness in the military. I’m very concerned about readiness in the military." And the armed forces, he says, are "stretched much too thin." In a Veterans Day speech in Jefferson City on Monday, Skelton said that, "Today’s Army soldiers — both officers and enlisted — are absolutely first rate professionals. However, this is an Army that is stressed and strained and experiencing readiness shortfalls among the non-deployed forces. . . . I worry that today’s lack of readiness is similar to what the U.S. Army experienced in 1980." That year, Skelton said, military leaders "described a 'hollow Army,' with tactical forces under strength and companies and platoons that had been zeroed out." "Why should any of us worry about a military readiness crisis?," Skelton asked. "The lack of readiness of our Army forces that are not currently deployed is of great concern because we depend on those forces to be able to answer the nation’s call in the event of some unforeseen future conflict. Make no mistake, the American military remains a formidable force, even when stretched. But the way things are now, it would be difficult for those forces to respond in a timely manner. Readiness is our insurance policy for national security." One option to boost military readiness, of course, is to pass The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, and repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." According to one estimate, at least 41,000 lesbian and gay Americans would be willing to enlist, without a ban in place. And with repeal, we'd stop the counter-productive practice of discharging two people - every day - because of the law. It's always in the best interest of military readiness to retain good people, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" makes that incredibly difficult to do. And while Skelton has not spoken, to date, on the issue of repeal, he is known as a fair-minded lawmaker who keeps, as his first priority, the best interest of our service members at heart. As more and more members of his committee - and more and more Congressional veterans - enlist in the fight to repeal this law, we hope Congressman Skelton will take a look at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" again, too. "I know in my heart that as Americans, we have the strength to face today’s challenges, fulfill our duty, and do what is necessary to preserve this great country of ours," Skelton said on Monday. One giant leap in facing those challenges and preserving our military's readiness would be to topple "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once and for all. And if you are a constituent of Congressman Skelton's, log on now and send him a message encouraging him to support repeal. - Steve Ralls

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“Out” and About at the Out 100

Friday night I had the honor of attending Out Magazine's Out 100 Party at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Having forgotten my special wrist bands back in the office, I was stopped at the VIP entrance by a man we will call "Bruno". He obviously was a contract bodyguard from Russia who was not going to let me in until I pointed out that my photo was hanging on the wall. Entitled "The Rabblerousers", I was photographed with HRC's 'Defender' Joe Solmonese, ACLU's 'Liberator' Anthony Romero, and 'Provocateur' Lane Hudson. (They titled me the 'Revolutionary', where they got that - I do not know.) Once inside, I was ushered to the VIP lounge, a balcony that overlooked the spacious hall filled with people. I bumped into Project Runway's Tim Gunn in the drink line and we chatted for a few minutes before he scurried off behind stage to prepare for his speach. There were so many celebrities there! Jennifer Hudson, Mary Louise Parker, Chaka Kahn, Tori Spelling, and so many more - that I completely felt out of place. I am no celebrity, and I certainly did not belong in a room with so many big names. It wasn't until I finally made it through the crowd to the photo wall that something hit me. Of course I am no star, but I realized that I had done something that I had never expected of myself - something that I hadn't known would make such an impact. So I guess that was something to be proud of. I know now that because I stood up against a discriminatory policy that affects so many of my fellow service members, and in that I can be proud. With more and more attention to the absurdity of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and its impact on the military and service members, the closer we will come to an inclusive military that bases it's members on their charactor and not their status. -Jason Knight

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