Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
In a recent article
for National Review Online, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" proponent Elaine Donnelly takes advantage of her role as guest blogger to remind us how intellectually bankrupt the arguements for keeping the ban on lesbian and gay service members have become. Locked in a time warp, Elaine focuses much of her attention on the nature of the political debate in 1993. The result is an argument that is worn, tattered and sadly unaccepting of the realities our nation faces today.
The meat of her "argument" lies within this 1994 poll
which shows that 49% of respondents either favored or were neutral to President Clinton's efforts to allow gays to serve in the military. This same poll indicates that 54% of Independents, 70% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans either supported or were neutral to Clinton's "liberal agenda, like gays in the military." This means that a majority of Independents and Democrats supported allowing gays in the military as far back as 1994!
She then descends into some ridiculous squabble about how we shouldn't call "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- as if this is a good enough reason to kick Arabic translators out of the service while we are fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq!!!
Finally she cites three (very unscientific) surveys
conducted by Military Times
newspapers. What she fails to point out is that the newspaper's polling (while self-selecting and heavily biased towards conservatives) goes back to 2003 and clearly shows that an increasing number of service members favor allowing gays to serve openly. Furthermore, she completely dismisses a 2006 Zogby poll which shows that 73% of military personnel “are comfortable with lesbians and gays.”
Sadly, at the heart of her silliness lies a very serious problem. Elaine and her cronies, do not want to accept the reality that we are a nation fighting two simultaneous wars. She cannot accept the fact that now more than ever we need to attract our best and brightest into the armed forces so that they can become the linguists
, intelligence officers
, and pilots
we need to protect our boys and girls fighting the War on Terror. We can not afford to kick out another 12,000 service members simply because they are gay -- too many lives are on the line.
The time to entertain women like Elaine Donnelly has past. The time to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is now.
to learn how you can get involved and help repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Labels: elaine donnelly
01-31-08 Comment (0)
On March 7, 2008, SLDN will be holding its annual Lobby Day. During Lobby Day, individuals from all over the country travel to Washington, DC to ask Congress to lift the ban against gays and lesbians openly serving in the military. It is an opportunity to educate congressional members and their staff about the very real problems created by the ban and to directly advocate for its repeal.
Lobby Day also presents an opportunity for law schools who allow JAG to recruit on campus to meet their mandated amelioration requirements. A little history is necessary here. The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) had required member schools to adopt a policy that prohibited discrimination against their students on a number of factors, including sexual orientation. As part of this effort, member schools were also required to withhold recruitment opportunities to any employer who could not affirm that it did not discriminate based on sexual orientation. In short, employers allowed to recruit on campus had to provide equal opportunity to all students, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, nation of origin, or sexual orientation. Because the military could not make such an affirmation, law schools routinely prevented JAG from recruiting on campus.
In the 1990s, Congress passed the Solomon Amendment. The Solomon Amendment essentially provided that if a college or university failed to allow the military to recruit on campus, it would lose federal funding from specified sources. Initially law schools fought the issue but the Supreme Court, in FAIR v. Rumsfeld, held that Congress had the authority to tie federal funding to on-campus military recruitment. To learn more about the statute and the lawsuit go to http://www.law.georgetown.edu/solomon/
As a result of the Solomon Amendment and the Supreme Court’s decision, every law school except three now allow JAG to recruit on campus. Only New York Law School, William Mitchell Law School, and Vermont Law School have maintained their non-discrimination policy although it means they are prohibited from seeking certain federal funding.
For those schools who allow the military on campus, the AALS required that they engage in “amelioration efforts.” You can find an overview of these requirements at http://www.aals.org/deansmemos/02-03.html
. In a memorandum to all law school deans the AALS specifically identified “[p]articipating in challenges to both the Solomon Amendment and the policy of discrimination by the military” as an appropriate amelioration action. Lobby Day provides a perfect opportunity for law students, faculty, and staff to directly seek the repeal of the ban.
Last year, several law schools participated in the event; there were students and faculty from Boston College, Columbia, New York University, New York Law School, Touro, Georgetown, and Vermont Law School to name just a few. This year Touro Law Center’s Career Services Office has posted a blog about Lobby Day and declared that students participating can count it as part of their pro-bono requirement. http://tourolawcso.blogspot.com/2008/01/dont-ask-dont-tell-amelioration.html
. At Vermont Law School over 30 students, faculty, and staff (and counting) have committed to attending Lobby Day and the school, the Board of Trustees, and members of the faculty are contributing to a fund to pay for travel expenses while Vermont alums in the DC area are opening their homes.
But law schools don’t need to attend Lobby Day to help in this effort. Schools can organize a letter writing campaign to members of Congress; engage at a local level by sponsoring a resolution; or raise funds to help SLDN provide free legal services to those affected by the ban.
01-30-08 Comment (0)
Below are remarks delivered by SLDN board member Cholene Espinoza at Friday's New York City Council hearing on a resolution calling on Congress to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
As a resident of the city of New York, a Veteran, and a very grateful citizen of this country, I thank you for your willingness to consider Resolution No. 1170A. This resolution calls for the end to federally mandated discrimination in our armed forces. As Amelia Erhart once said, “Courage is the price life exacts for granting one’s freedom.” Your courage today will not only expand freedom in this country, but it will also make our nation more secure.
I am also grateful to two groups, the New York Chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) represented by Denny Meyer who championed the first New York City Council resolution for open service and thereby began a national trend. I am also grateful to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) where I serve on the board. SLDN has two roles, one to end the ban on gays in the military and to provide free legal services to those adversely impacted by "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," regardless of their sexual orientation. SLDN has championed the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which will overturn the existing law known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We currently have 141 sponsors in the US House of Representatives and are awaiting a sponsor to introduce this legislation in the Senate. I believe your resolution will put pressure on those who are sitting on the sidelines.
To give you some background on me, the US military was my conduit to the American Dream. I was blessed to graduate in the seventh class of women at the United States Air Force Academy in 1987, and from there I went on to flight school. I was a jet instructor pilot for four years before being the second woman to be selected to fly the U-2 Reconnaissance aircraft. I flew missions all over the world to include combat missions over Iraq. I have seen Iraq alone from above 70,000 feet from the cockpit of a U-2. I have also seen Iraq at 5.5 feet as an embedded journalist with the US Marine Corps 1st Tank Battalion in an unarmored Humvee on the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and with the US Army’s First Armored Division in Baghdad in the summer of 2003.
The estimated cost to the American taxpayers for my training was close to $2.0 million dollars. Today, I am a commercial airline pilot and while I am grateful for my job, my heart is still with the men and women in uniform who are serving today. I wish I were one of them. I feel an enormous sense of responsibility to them as well as to the Iraqi people. They face a 360-degree threat zone that requires the finest human resources.
I did not violate the military’s policy prohibiting homosexual conduct during the thirteen years I wore the uniform. I left the military voluntarily. I believe that my country needs my service today, but my personal integrity is the most important value I hold. I cannot pretend to be someone I am not as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" requires.
The American people take that phrase “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at face value. Most believe that the policy allows a person to serve as a gay American so long as he or she does not tell anyone. Unfortunately, as we know from our SLDN client base of approximately 75 cases at any one time, men and women can be discharged because someone else “tells,” such as a mother who can’t stand the thought of her son returning to Iraq, or a jealous partner, or an intercepted innocent e mail from an admirer back home. And because the criterion for discharge is “credible evidence from a reliable source,” with no standard for what “credible” or “reliable” means, the policy is arbitrarily enforced at the discretion of the commander.
Personal vendettas are not uncommon. For example, SLDN could not save the career of a heterosexual US Air Force Officer who was wrongly accused of passing a dollar bill by mouth at the Squadron Christmas party even though several witnesses, including his wife sitting next to him all night, said it never happened. After nineteen years of service, he was discharged for “homosexual conduct,” which is permanently stamped on his discharge record—a record typically required by future employers. Another SLDN client was investigated after a random barracks inspection turned up a Melissa Ethridge CD. The thinking was that since Melissa Ethridge is a lesbian, this soldier must also be a lesbian. Over 8000 have reached out to SLDN since "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" became law in 1993.
On the other hand, SLDN client Sergeant Darren Manzella, who was featured in Leslie Stahl’s 60 Minutes
piece, was allowed to serve even though he showed his commander clear evidence that he is gay. Of course neither Sergeant Manzella, nor others who serve openly gay can be sure that they won’t be discharged when they are placed under another individual’s command.
The military has changed a great deal since I left in 1995. The younger generations are unwilling to live a lie. Collectively they embrace diversity and demand honesty and transparency, particularly as they lay their lives on the line each day. There is a bond of trust and intimacy between those who face the threat of daily extinction. Sergeant Manzella told me that he could not live a lie given the fact that he was facing life and death daily as a combat medic. His fellow soldiers were his family and honesty was essential.
None of the arguments that are put forth by the opposition in terms of gays reducing unit cohesion or readiness have ever been proven in the field. Ironically, now that we are fighting two wars, discharges for homosexuality are down and SLDN has been able to save a record number of careers. Even before "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" became law, the RAND corporation, which was commissioned by the Department of Defense to study the impact of allowing gays to serve openly, concluded that there is no evidence to support the hypothesis that gays reduce unit cohesion or readiness.
Since RAND’s initial study, we have data from 24 nations that strengthens RAND’s fifteen-year-old conclusions. But more importantly, our own combat tested troops on the ground reveal that homosexuality is a non-issue. SLDN knows of at least 500 service men and women serving openly. Ironically, those in the closet are the ones who experience the harassment. The sum of this data points to the fact that that the real reason for the continued policy is bigotry, not military readiness or cohesion.
"Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," not gays serving openly, is what is having a negative impact on the quality and readiness of our uniformed services. The policy was crafted at the end of the Cold War. The military was in an involuntary Reduction In Forces or “RIF” mode. Today, we cannot find enough fully qualified to keep up with the required deployments.
The Army had to reduce its standards in 2006 in order to meet its recruiting goals. Convicts and individuals previously unqualified physically and/or mentally are thrown in with our troops who met the original standards. Imagine showing up to work tomorrow and your new co-worker has a history of violent behavior, or can’t meet the mental standards required be a qualified team member? The cost of this reduction in standards has also tarnished the honor and reputation of our armed forces. It was disclosed, for example, that a member of the 101st Airborne Division had been a recipient of a “moral waiver” from the US Army after he was charged with a rape and quadruple murder in Iraq. Meanwhile, the US military discharges two members a day under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," and well over 4400 since 2001, with over 800 discharges of members in critical fields such as strategic languages, medical professionals, combat engineers, and explosives experts.
While the recruitment argument is compelling, the retention numbers have a much more damaging impact to readiness. It is estimated that approximately 4000 troops voluntarily walk out the door every year. Just as I did, they take their skills and never turn back. It takes one linguist, for example, to intercept a communication that would lead to a terrorist attack or detect the location of an Improvised Explosive Device. The military has discharged over 58 Arabic linguists that we know of. Many of these linguists are clients of SLDN and never practice their language skills after leaving the military.
The voices for change are exceptionally credible. Distinguished military and civilian leaders who were originally for "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" have changed their mind. Senator Alan Simpson, Retired Republican US Senator and member of the Iraq Study Group, General Shalikashvili, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and recently 28 Flag Officers are included in these distinguished voices for change. The voices of dissent that have based their position on their own internalized homophobia and/or political expediency are weakening in the military as well as the Congress.
The public is ready for Congress to pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. Three national independent polls indicate that approximately seventy-eight percent of the American people are in favor of gays being allowed to serve openly. This is almost the reverse of the number of Americans who opposed President Truman, (sixty-three percent), when he desegregated the military in 1948. Those in favor of ending the ban increase to over ninety percent for ages 18-29. In addition, a majority of self-identified conservatives and Republicans support repeal as well as regular church-goers and those who do not support any other measure related to civil liberties for LGBT citizens.
Finally, our nation is investing hundreds of billions of dollars into defense, but this investment is useless without quality people. No matter who the next Commander-in-Chief might be, the demand for quality men and women in uniform will not end. Over the years, I have learned that when we expand the liberty of the individual, we are collectively strengthened. Thank you for voting to give the 65,000 gay Americans currently serving our nation the freedom to serve. We will be a better and more secure nation because of your actions.
- Cholene Espinoza
01-29-08 Comment (0)
It was 15 years ago today that former President Clinton introduced the American people to the policy which soon became known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
In commemoration of this anniversary, Time
magazine's Mark Thompson reports
on the experiences of retired naval Captain and SLDN Military Advisory Council Member, Joan Darrah
, and talks to her about her time in the military both before and after the law was enacted.
Thompson also points out that 12,000 service members "have been booted from the military since the law took effect, including dozens of Arabic speakers whose skills are particularly prized by the military since the advent of the war on terror." He notes that "while the number discharged for their sexuality has fallen from 1,273 in 2001 to 612 in 2006, Pentagon officials insist they are applying the law as fairly as ever."
This stands in stark contrast to the experiences of gay Army medic and Iraq war veteran, Darren Manzella
. Manzella continues to serve today, with the support of his command and colleagues, despite the fact that he recently appeared on 60 Minutes
to announce the fact that he is gay. In fact, SLDN is currently aware of hundreds of troops who share similar stories of being ‘out’ to their co-workers and commanders. These men and women continue to serve without incident even after their colleagues learned that they are gay.
15 years after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" first became law; the United States finds itself in a very different place. In 1993, in the wake of the Cold War and in an era of unparalleled prosperity, America could afford to entertain its bigotries against gays and lesbians. But in 2008, fighting two wars simultaneously, the U.S. military needs to field the best fighting force it can muster, and kicking capable men and women out of the service because they are gay is a bigotry we can no longer afford.
Today, momentum for repeal is growing. Younger enlistees
as well as a growing number of senior officers
, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili
, agree that it is time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” 141 Members of Congress
currently support legislation to repeal the ban which according to Darrah, “[will depend] on who moves into the Oval Office a year from now."
- Victor Maldonado
Labels: 2008, DADT
01-29-08 Comment (0)
I’ve been a fan of the L Word
since it began, loyally purchasing Showtime every January for the past 5 years and then cancelling it a few months later when the season is finished (and after I’ve exhausted myself of reruns On Demand). It’s my guilty pleasure and I’m not ashamed. So here we are in Season 5 , and while we again have a great deal of ridiculousness (mixed in with some FABULOUS eye candy), there are also some important issues sprinkled in the mix.
I’ll get to the DA, DT stuff in a minute. But first, I can’t resist just a few words about the rest of the show. I must say -- I don’t know what Jennifer Beals has been doing, but she sure is looking F-I-N-E these days! Whew! And while I adore Marlee Matlin (and I hope she sticks around), I am happy to see Bette and Tina on the road to reconciliation. I admit it – I’m now in my early 30s and I want nothing more than for the lesbian moms to settle into their stable relationship and just live happily every after. Is that too much to hope for?
Pam Grier continues to be fierce
! Poor tortured Kit now has to battle being traumatized at gun point. Let’s face it, we all know where this storyline is headed. Kit gets freaked and buys a handgun. Never a good idea. My only hope is that little miss Jenny is the victim of whatever accidental shooting is about to occur. Truly, I can’t stand this character. I don’t even love to hate her. I just hate her. The only bright light that made her even remotely watchable this week was the introduction of the lovely Nikki Stevens (Kate French). H-O-T! I don’t know what Jenny’s problem is with casting her. What, she’s too good looking to play you in a movie? Good grief!
I’m surprisingly pleased with Max’s storyline and how the trans issues are being addressed (thus far) this season. In the past Max’s transition hasn’t been portrayed particularly well, but it appears there’s now some effort to explore how trans folks are treated not just by mainstream society but within our own community. I’m interested to see where this goes, and I hope that with all of the controversy around ENDA, etc. that we can have some thoughtful dialogue on this. But I’m not holding my breath.
We all knew Shane would fall off the wagon. The whole premise of these new Miami-esque club owners rolling into town is totally over the top, but that’s part of the reason why we love Shane.
Now on to DA, DT. So last week we got to see Tasha really let loose and express what it is that drives her to serve. Every day I deal directly with service members impacted by this law, and Tasha’s words were not at all unfamiliar to me. She conveyed what most of the men and women fighting DADT feel – they want to serve, they do so honorably and they are no less patriotic than their straight counterparts. Tasha is under investigation for Homosexual Conduct. She’s been served with paperwork indicating she’s being "chaptered out" which is how an administrative separation is handled in the military. Rather than just accepting the discharge, Tasha has chosen to fight this separation and will go to an Administrative Separation Board – kind of like a trial but much less formal.
This week Alice was confronted in her home by 2 military officers assigned to investigate Tasha. There are regulations governing the scope of a DA, DT investigation and while this kind of questioning of a civilian shouldn’t have occurred, it is important to remember that it can
happen. Tasha was completely justified in being angry with her military defense counsel for not warning her that the investigator might try to question Alice. Regardless of how Capt. Beech feels about gays in the military, it’s his job as an attorney to properly advise his client.
is where it would be helpful to have an SLDN attorney on this case. SLDN works in tandem with military defense attorneys all the time. The majority of them are very good lawyers who vigorously defend their clients, but the reality of the situation is, however, that most military defense attorneys have never dealt with a DADT discharge. SLDN handles these cases ever single day and we have valuable expertise in navigating the law. If Tasha had called SLDN when she received notice of this investigation, we would have advised her of her rights under Article 31 to say nothing, sign nothing and speak to defense counsel. We also would have warned her that investigators might try to question her girlfriend and that, as a civilian, Alice has no obligation to speak to military investigators. Rather than agreeing to answer questions and rather than inviting them in to snoop around her apartment, Alice should
have declined to answer any questions and sent them on their way.
It was nice to see Capt. Beech eventually come around and be all warm and fuzzy towards the end of the episode. How sweet. But honestly, I’m frightened to see what comes next. I hope Alice uses her internet savvy to get online and do a little research. I find it hard to believe that someone who is so plugged into the LGBT community has no
idea that SLDN exists. I’m holding out hope that the writers will do the responsible thing and let people know that SLDN is here, as the only organization providing free confidential legal assistance to service members fighting DA, DT – as we have been doing every day for the last 15 years.
- Emily Hecht
Labels: the l word
01-28-08 Comment (0)
This morning's Detroit News includes a story
by columnist Deb Price about the impact of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on families, and the extraordinary courage of three moms who have joined the fight to lift the ban.
Price profiles Nancy Manzella
, the mother of gay Army medic Darren Manzella; Dorothy Hajdys
(pictured), the mother of Navy Sailor Allen Schindler, who was murdered in 1992 by fellow service members in Japan; and Patricia Kutteles
, mother of Barry Winchell, a soldier murdered in 1999 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
From Deb's story
"His father and I are very proud of him," says Nancy, whose son [Darren] came out in 2006 to his superiors and fellow soldiers after receiving threats he'd be outed. "Darren really wants to continue serving his country. But he doesn't want to live a lie."
Patricia Kutteles, Barry's mom, and Dorothy Hadjys, Allen's mom, share a more painful story: Their sons were killed in anti-gay assaults.
Allen was kicked and beaten so badly that Dorothy identified his body by a tattoo on his arm.
"I made up my mind that I wasn't going to let this happen to any other mother's son," says Dorothy, who still takes anti-depressants to try to cope with her loss. "If I stayed quiet, I would have just been giving up on Allen.
"People think once a trial is over, that it's all over. But not for the family. You just can't go on with your life."
Patricia's son, Barry, was beaten to death in 1999 by a fellow soldier who assumed he was gay because he was dating a male-to-female transgender dancer.
"Barry's murder changed my whole life. You don't get over it," says Patricia, who gives an award each year to a service member or other leader in the effort to repeal the ban. "The hardest part was taking Barry off the respirator. He was brain dead. It was difficult to think that someone could join the military to represent their country and yet be murdered because of their perceived sexual orientation."
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' doesn't just hurt gay men and women in uniform," Price writes. "Congress needs to hear first-hand about the pain it causes their moms and dads."
To read the complete Detroit News
story, click here
- Steve Ralls
Labels: Allen Schindler, Barry Winchell, Darren Manzella, Deb Price, families, in the news, sldn clients
01-28-08 Comment (0)
Below are remarks delivered by SLDN client Brian Fricke at Friday's New York City Council hearing on a resolution calling on Congress to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
Thank you for taking the issue of discrimination in our military as a serious civil rights matter. The most immediate effects are on those who serve under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" while the ripple effect reaches all American citizens, gay, straight or otherwise.
We are an aggregated nation from all walks of life; all religions, all cultural backgrounds, occupations, colors, sexual orientations, marital statuses, gender, age and IQ. Fundamentally we are all Americans. If there is a better place to see the cross section of the conglomerate of people besides in New York City, it is in the U.S. military.
I served my country in the U.S. Marines from July of 2000 to July of 2005. I was deployed to Japan for twelve months and to Iraq for nine months. As my service began I knew there was an additional burden required of me than of any of my straight counterparts; I had to pretend to be something that I am not. I agreed to this "deal." I was given the privilege to serve my country, to become one of the Few and Proud, a Marine. At the same time I was taught Honor, Courage and Commitment were the ethos of our Corps. Such an ironic life, being gay in the military. Here we are willing to die for strangers, for our nation – honorable - as long as no one knows who we really are.
I cannot count the times when on R&R, off duty, (although a Marine 24hrs a day) that I could not let down my guard about what I said or even who I was seen in public with. I constantly looked over my shoulder, waiting for the Military Police, or another Marine to "catch" me out in public places with my boyfriend. I could never really rest. I had to guard my cell phone and personal computer as though I was a spy and that evidence of my relationship was a crime that of treason. We gay veterans love our country enough to bare that additional stress. We serve and defend our constitution because we BELIEVE that all men are equal and life isn’t just about us as individuals.
Meanwhile, unit commanders want us troops to bond and become a band of brothers. "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" prevents me and the estimated 60,000 active duty gay troops from assimilating as fully as we might otherwise, into our units. How can I console a comrade about his relationship troubles, when I cannot disclose I have a partner and share similar experiences? I have to lie. I have to say she instead of he; or say nothing at all. When I have my own troubles or during Iraqi deployments, I cannot take comfort in group talks- because I have to tip toe around the issue like a spy- because I am gay. There were many times we received mortar attacks, and the first thing I was doing was making sure none of my letters home to my partner would be discovered. I had to lie about who sent me packages and letters. Upon my return from war, amidst the "Welcome Home" banners, my fellow troops ran and greeted their mom's and dad's, husbands and wives; old friends and new babies. I had to take a cab home because my partner Brad couldn't meet me there on the tarmac. It was a slap in the face despite all of my dedication. My medals and awards meant nothing to me without equality.
Statistics will show that more than 12,000 men and women have been discharged under this policy; careers taken away. Statistics cannot show how many left the armed services (gay and straight) on their own free will because they didn’t want to work for a hypocritical employer. Statistics cannot show how many tears were shed, relationships ruined, families broken apart and even future jobs lost; after a person has "Homosexual" on official discharge records and is outed to the world when they may not have been ready for that private step in their life.
I was out about my sexual orientation to many of those I served with, although never my higher command. I never had any negative feedback and relationships improved at work because of it. I served with honor and received several medals for going above and beyond. There are medics and linguists, pilots and technicians and other critical job skills that leave or are kicked out for being gay. This is a civil rights issue at its core. The civil rights movement began an era that we are still living in today. The freest nation on earth doesn’t allow gays to defend her flag. Criminals and under educated persons, retirees and disabled personnel are all being allowed to join in order to boost recruiting numbers, while fully qualified and willing persons are scorned at. Our nation’s military readiness and honorable character is in a corrosive state, we must demand change.
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246) will not only right the wrong that is being done to honorable and good people. It will also pave the way for other civil rights issues. It is not
OK to discriminate against Gay people; as long as we are federally discriminated against, a clear message of hate is broadcast to the world. This is a Hoover Dam of an issue and it stifles the peaceful flow of our nation’s people’s right to the pursuit of happiness. It is no doubt unconstitutional. Please support Resolution 1170-A with as much dedication as we have to our nation’s freedom.
- Brian Fricke
Labels: brian fricke, resolutions, sldn clients
01-26-08 Comment (0)
Later this morning, the New York City Council will hear testimony on a resolution
- the city's second - calling on Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." NYC passed a similar resolution in May 2005
, and, if successful, today's debate will mark the first time any city has twice called for repeal.
The resolution is a result of much hard work by Denny Meyer of American Veterans for Equal Rights
and other NYC-based vets who have been rallying support in the Big Apple. SLDN board member Cholene Espinoza
will also testify at today's hearing.
The resolution, sponsored by openly gay Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, openly gay Council Member Rosie Mendez and Council Members Larry B. Seabrook, Chair of the Civil Rights Committee and Hiram Monserrate, Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, follows a similar resolution adopted by the city in May 2005. The resolution urges Congress to pass The Military Readiness Enhancement Act
(H.R. 1246), a Congress bill to repeal the law.
"I think this policy is counterproductive, and I think that allowing gays to serve in the military can only help our armed forces," another co-sponsor of the resolution, Council Member Tony Avella, told The New York Sun this morn
ing. "And especially in this time of need, where we don't have enough to volunteer."
"There are plenty of people who are LGBT in the military right now, so I don't even understand why it's such a fuss," Council Member Gale Brewer, also a co-sponsor, added. "They are extremely good officers like anyone else."
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Fighting discrimination has become a big deal in the Big Apple, and that's big step forward for the entire country, too.
Stay tuned here at Frontlines
for updates on the results of today's debate, and news on the resolution's status.
- Steve Ralls
Labels: in the news, resolutions
01-25-08 Comment (0)
Students stand in front of a Gay-Straight Alliance banner in the hallway of Robert D. Edgren High School at Misawa Air Base, Japan (Photo credit to Jennifer H. Svan/S&S)
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" affects more than just military personnel, its tentacles spread beyond the barracks and into the 199 DoD run schools which house the children of military and civilian families in 12 foreign countries.
When Congress passed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it enshrined into law the idea that bigotry against gays is ok -- that it is acceptable. After all, if discrimination is ratified by Congress and institutionalized in our armed forces it must be acceptable, right?
At least one young woman disagreed. Samantha Cannon, a high school senior at Robert D. Edgren High School on Misawa Air Force base in Japan, recognized the fact that some students at her school might not believe that gays and lesbians deserve to be silenced or marginalized -- so she formed a Gay-Straight Alliance at her school. Despite school official’s attempts to quash the organization, Cannon fought for the group and prevailed. Her fight garnered media attention, including a recent article in Stars & Stripes.
So, as a way of honoring her efforts and celebrating both her empathy and intelligence, SLDN has asked Cannon to share her story with our supporters, in her own words:
I am a senior and vice president of the student council at Robert D. Edgren High School on Misawa AB, Japan. Last September I founded a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at my school in an attempt to make our school a safe place for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. The group’s intentions are to promote tolerance and spread awareness, and to end the use of the word “gay” in derogatory ways. There are numerous GSAs in public schools all across the US, and I have found that even in some DODEA schools, such as Wiesbaden, Germany, GSAs exist.
Even before presenting the club to my principal at the beginning of the school year, I knew there would be some resistance to a gay-straight alliance on a military base, especially considering the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Initially, my principal told me to go ahead and start the group, and that the GSA would have the same rights as any other non-curricular club. I had already found a sponsor for the GSA, and there were at least fifteen students who had signed up to be involved in the group, so lack of interest was not an issue.
After a meeting of Edgren’s School Advisory Committee (SAC) following the start of the GSA, however, changes were made limiting our group’s access to school resources. It was determined that the GSA could meet within the school, but with the following restrictions: the GSA could not use the PA system, fundraise within the school or have access to school funds, meet during school hours, hand out or display flyers/posters within the school, advertise the group on the school website, or have page space in the school yearbook/newspaper.
At least three quarters of those who attended the SAC meeting (including my principal) were affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), attending the meeting for no other reason than to argue the formation of the gay-straight alliance. To me, this was extremely frustrating, mainly because the Mormons meet every morning in the school to learn about and practice their religion. Yet, when a group like the GSA wants to spread awareness within the school, we are looked down upon and resented not only by students, but by administration as well. These resulting restrictions also contradicted what other non-curricular clubs had been allowed in the past. Edgren High School’s paintball, ski/snowboard, and chess clubs have met during study hall, displayed posters and handed out flyers, and announced meetings as often as necessary over the PA system. At the same time I presented my principal with my plan for starting the gay-straight alliance, I also asked him if I could start an American Sign Language club. He thought this was a great idea and that students would find it interesting and beneficial. Ironically, the American Sign Language club was not subject to any of the restrictions imposed upon the GSA. This is when I knew that an injustice was occurring within my school.
Upon further inquiry, my principal told me that base leadership was responsible for the restrictions on the GSA. When I found out from one of my sources that base leadership had no say in what was to be allowed, or not allowed, within my school, I inquired again about why the gay-straight alliance had so many limitations. My principal then informed me that it was not, in fact, base leadership, but the Department of Defense Education Activity’s (DoDEA) legal department who had given him the order to restrict the GSA. He said that he doubted anything was going to change, and when I asked why he was making the gay-straight alliance’s existence so difficult, he said to me: "It would have been easy for me to tell you ‘no’ from the beginning.” I then told him he was not giving me enough credit.
Seeking more on the rights of organization to meet and exist within a public school, I began reading about the Equal Access Act and getting in touch with the ACLU, GLSEN, GLAD, the PFLAG Northeast Regional Director, the GSA network, and the SLDN (who have been most helpful), I was able to put up a fight for the GSA. I attended the next SAC meeting with a few other GSA members and several parents and teachers who supported the formation of a GSA at our school. We were all prepared to defend the group against discrimination. Our conclusion was that we were going to write a letter to the Superintendent of Japan expressing our concerns.
Days later, things suddenly turned around. My principal informed me that he made some calls, and the gay-straight alliance was now entitled to the same rights as all the other non-curricular clubs. GSA members and I were relieved, and have met regularly despite the backlash of negative comments from disapproving students.
I never would have imagined that students wishing to promote tolerance would have been faced with this much intolerance from administration. Keri Russell once said, “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” Had I not decided to press on despite the discouraging series of events, I would never know the intense feeling of accomplishment. For me, this experience has been extremely rewarding, and I am pleased to have been able to lead the fight against discrimination within my school.
If you are interested in learning more about Gay-Stright Alliences or are interested in forming a club in your school, click here
or visit www.glsen.org
Labels: guest blogger
01-24-08 Comment (2)
Some of you have called or emailed with concerns about recent remarks by President Bill Clinton
regarding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Last week, while on the campaign trail with Senator Hillary Clinton
, the former President was asked about the law, and responded by saying that his intention in 1993 was to allow service personnel to "be free to live their lives, as long as they didn't go marching in gay rights parades or go to gay bars in uniform . . . in uniform . . . and talk about it on duty, they would be all right." Former President Clinton then went on to note that the law became a way for anti-gay forces in the military to retaliate against, and dismiss, lesbian and gay personnel. (You can watch the full video, from CNN's Situation Room
, online here
As some of you have pointed out, there are disturbing factual inaccuracies in President Clinton's remarks. And I believe it's important to clarify the record.
Regardless of the intention behind the law, the reality is that it has not served the best interests of service members, our country or national security. Since its implementation, nearly 12,000 men and women have been dismissed
under the law. Since 2001, that number has declined significantly, as it historically does during a time of war. During the year 1994-2000, a total of 6,741 service personnel were dismissed under the law. Between 2001 and 2006, that total declined to 4,988. Still, an average of two people are fired under the law every day . . . which is two too many.
President Clinton, and all Americans, should be aware of the realities involved in serving under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." President Clinton's comments are at odds with the day-to-day reality of serving under the law. That reality is that military members cannot be out to anyone, at anytime, while serving under the law. Statements to friends, family members or anyone else are grounds for dismissal from the armed forces, as they have been since day one. The law, indeed, practically prevents any gay American, who is out in any way, from serving in the military. And, as Senator Clinton and the other Democratic presidential candidates have said, the law does not work, and should be repealed. (Former President Clinton himself has acknowledged that there is "no evidence to support" the law
.) Our next commander-in-chief should work with Congress to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
SLDN has, of course, made all of the candidates aware of our views on the law, and the reality of serving under it. In this particular case, we have already made sure that Senator Clinton's campaign is aware of our concerns regarding the President's inaccurate remarks. And, as always, we are committed to making sure that the facts about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and the very compelling reasons to support its repeal, are before our elected officials and other key stakeholders.
All of us at SLDN look forward to working with a new administration to end this law. Fourteen years of evidence has clearly shown there is no justification for maintaining "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
- Aubrey Sarvis
Labels: 2008, Bill Clinton, in the news
01-24-08 Comment (1)
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