Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
In his most recent Huffington Post article
, SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis reflects on the irony of Congress holding historic hearings on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” the very same day lawmakers attended a ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of President Truman’s integration of the armed forces.
In his article, Sarvis notes
, “The very same arguments that were made in 1948 against mingling the races in the military were made Wednesday against mixing homosexuals and heterosexuals...But there was a major difference: this time the two witnesses testifying to the hotbed of sexual license that our armed forces would instantly become should homosexuals be allowed to romp freely through the barracks looked, to put it charitably, foolish.”
to visit Huffington Post
and learn what Sarvis is saying about "Irony in the House.”
Labels: Hearings, Huffington Post
07-25-08 Comment (0)
(Gen. Coleman, Capt. Darrah & S/Sgt. Alva)
Yesterday’s hearing couldn’t have gone any better. I for one could not have felt more elated and impressed by the response from the subcommittee members. Based on the questions and comments from the Congressional members present, I think we will see repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the not too distant future. What a great feeling. And, I have new heroes in Congress. After spending over eight years under that policy, it heartens me that one day no one will have to feel like those of us who served under it felt.
Representative Ellen Tauscher ranks high on my list of favorites. She is lead sponsor the Military Readiness Enhancement Act in the House, which drives her to the top of the list. Her appearance at the hearing yesterday only helped to lift her in my eyes. She suggested that the issue of gays in the military presented the last civil rights hurdle for us to over come.
Representative Patrick Murphy presented some very pointed questions and as a fellow, former service member, I am very proud. He asked if our service members had the professionalism to serve with members of differing sexual orientation, adding that he found it insulting for Ms. Donnelly to suggest otherwise. He definitely has a place on my list of heroes.
Representatives Shays and Snyder also belong on my list of heroes. Shays said he thought the policy was not only unpatriotic and counterproductive, but “downright cruel.” Truer words could not have been said. Snyder, equally impressive, pointed out the fear mongering attitude presented by Ms. Donnelly’s argument that HIV infection would somehow spiral out of control if the ban disappeared.
I would be terribly remiss if I did not mention the outstanding performance of the witnesses who support repeal. Staff Sergeant Eric Alva gets my deepest thanks, not only for his testimony, but what he has given to this country, and this fight. He has given more than I can ever understand, and I can only hope my meager thanks somehow help. Captain Joan Darrah, was amazing and presented a clear picture of what it means to be gay in the military. General Vance Coleman showed us how the arguments against repeal have already been used and defeated with his comparison to the desegregation of the armed forces. He was poignant and evocative. Thanks and kudos goes out to each one.
What an exciting day, and what an exciting future that lays ahead. No doubt more work still needs done, and servicemembers still need help, protection and representation. I can’t even begin to explain my excitement helping to take some of these steps to equality, but we still have to fight on and win. Hooah.
-Former Army Sergeant Daniel Pond
SLDN Legal Intern
07-24-08 Comment (0)
(Gen. Coleman, Captain Darrah and Former S/Sgt. Alva Testifying Before Congress)
This morning's Washington Post
offers up a scathing critique
of Elaine Donnelly's performance during yesterday's historic Congressional hearing on the impact of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, accomplished what many of us working to lift the ban on lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the military could only dream of -- consensus.
According to reporter Dana Milbank, "Donnelly treated the panel to an extraordinary exhibition of rage. She warned of 'transgenders in the military.' She warned that lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower. She spoke ominously of gays spreading 'HIV positivity' through the ranks," and her testimony "had the effect of increasing bipartisan sympathy for the cause."
Excellent testimony supporting repeal was provided by U.S. Army Major General Vance Coleman (Ret.), U.S. Navy Captain Joan E. Darrah (Ret.), and former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric F. Alva.
to watch the video webcast of the hearing.
Labels: elaine donnelly, Hearings, the washington post
07-24-08 Comment (0)
Yesterday, the National Review published a strong and thoughtful article
by the magazine’s contributing editor, Deroy Murdoch, calling for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a Clinton-era relic. It belongs in the Museum of the 1990s, wedged between the Nirvana CDs and shares of WorldCom stock,” writes Murdoch.
to read the article in its entirety.
07-24-08 Comment (1)
I am excited to hear that Congress is finally looking into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After having served more than eight years in the Army, I can tell you about the difficulties of living under this very tough law and policy. The fact that Congress decided to look at it again shows the changing attitudes towards lesbians, gays, and bisexuals serving openly.
Although I had an atypical experience in the Army, I know many people that did not. I did not serve as openly as I would have liked, however I also did not face the threats, harassment or abuse that many face today. I felt the love of serving outweighed my desire to come out, and therefore kept my sexual identity to myself. I knew many other gay or lesbian service members who served similarly. The need for this law, if it ever really existed, passed long ago.
I can only imagine an Army where I wouldn’t have to hide or dodge questions about with whom I hang out, date or even share a meal. I could attend a formal gathering with a date instead of making up lies about not having anyone to bring. I could actually have a normal conversation with people without constantly analyzing which pronouns I choose or taking care not to mention names. I could just let people know me for me, and not the me I put forward to protect myself and my career. To lift this ban, would lift the incredibly heaving burden weighing down all lesbian, gay or bisexual service members. And again, right now I can only imagine that Army.
This hearing before the House this week, while a step forward, remains only a step. Many more steps must follow in order for those things I can only imagine to become reality.
-Former Army Sergeant Daniel Pond
SLDN Legal Intern
07-23-08 Comment (0)
On the eve of historic Congressional hearings, SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis shares with the Huffington Post
, the identities of the three patriotic men and women who will step forward and give testimony on the urgent need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
In his article
, Sarvis discusses the importance of the hearings and predicts, "in the not too distant future the era of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will seem part of a sad and dusty past, vaguely unreal, like a dream, almost quaint." Click here
to visit Huffington Post
and learn what Sarvis is saying about "The Testimony of Three Witnesses.”
Labels: Huffington Post
07-22-08 Comment (0)
As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, former Marine and most senior director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (“SLDN”), the hearing before the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee is a very significant and historic event to me. I am confident it is the beginning of the end of the misguided law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
When candidate Bill Clinton announced to some of my friends in Los Angeles that he would lift the ban on GLB servicemembers, little did he know the firestorm that would erupt during the first months of his administration when he tried to fulfill this pledge. He faced open opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as leaders of both parties. As Congressional hearings began, the late Tom Stoddard, who was leading the Campaign for Military Service, an organization supporting lifting of the ban, asked me to come to Washington to help lobby Congress. Since the late Sen. Strom Thurmond had appointed me to the Academy, I was asked to meet with his staff and the staff of former Sen. Sam Nunn. This was not a pleasant mission. It was apparent to me, from the comments of these staff members, mostly retired military officers, that the best we could hope for was the compromise proposed by the late Charlie Moskos, which became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. It was clear to me that this law was bankrupt from its inception for one simple reason- it was contrary to the military’s highest core values of honor and integrity.
In 1996, SLDN’s co-founders, Michelle Beneke and Dixon Osburn asked me to join the Board. I gladly accepted the invitation with the knowledge that the road ahead would be difficult and often painful. SLDN was at that time, as eloquently stated by retired Commander and present Board co-chair Zoe Dunning, the 911 for Servicemembers who ran afoul of this new law. Over the past 15 years SLDN has helped over 8,000 troops. During that same period nearly 12,500 have been discharged under the law and tens of thousands have left the service because they could no longer live a lie. I have met hundreds of these patriots- these are not mere numbers to me, but human beings who have suffered loss of careers and often abandonment by family and friends. Those who were discharged under the law are branded forever by their discharge certificate which states they were fired because of “homosexual conduct”, even though they did nothing more than tell the truth when asked about their sexual orientation. One of my closest friends, also a Naval Academy graduate and former Marine, became so depressed by the loss of his career, he took his own life. They are all casualties of a law that is un-American and must be repealed.
Thankfully, the American people get it. In several recent polls, 75 percent support open and honest service. There has been a sea change since 1993, and now is time for Congress to carry out the will of the people. With our country engaged in two wars and the land forces stretched to the breaking point, we need every patriot who wants to serve their country. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR1246) would repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. This bill has 143 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. The hearing this week is the first step in the process of educating members of Congress about why the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” must go. I have great faith in the innate fairness of most of my fellow citizens-including members of Congress. This is their opportunity to right a wrong. If they listen to the compelling testimony about this injustice, I am confident they will find their way to do what is clearly in the best interest of the country we all love- repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law by enacting the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.
Labels: Hearings, MAC, MREA
07-21-08 Comment (3)
I care deeply about repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that prohibits lesbian, gay and bisexual service members from serving openly in the US military. But then, I am just a little biased. I retired from the Air Force last year after a 22 year career and a first-hand view of the impact of serving in the closet. The pretentious duplicity of gays and lesbians pretending not to be gay while the military pretends they don’t know we are serving is absolutely ludicrous and serves no one. Not the gays and lesbians who can’t bring their whole self to work, and not the military that is forced to waste precious resources on the discharges of those who are found out (often by someone else outing them out of retribution). That’s why, once I retired, I volunteered to support the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). SLDN provides free legal services to service members who get into trouble due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and they are leading the fight to repeal the failed law.
Maybe you don’t care that 12,500 service members have been discharged since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law was implemented in 1994. Neither are you impressed that DoD had spent some $400 million in implementing the law. Finally, so what if 24 other nations (including Great Britain) have full open service for their gay and lesbian servicemembers?
I’m guessing that even if you don’t know any gay and lesbian servicemembers, if you are LGBT or a straight ally, you care about equal rights, don’t you? Did you know that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the only law in the US that mandates someone be fired for being gay- just for being who they are? Repealing this law is not just a military readiness issue, but also a civil rights issue. Just as the military led the way to abolish racial segregation (by President Truman’s executive order in 1948), it now finds itself on the front lines in the fight to end legal discrimination of the LGBT community. The good news is, that once given the charge; the military can make anything happen. In fact, once mandated to desegregate whites and blacks, integration in the Army took only five years to accomplish. That’s largely due to the nature of military life…superiors issue orders and subordinates follow them or get weeded out. A National Defense Research Institute (RAND) report also found that the military is very capable of changing “how troops behave toward previously excluded (and despised) minority groups, even if underlying attitudes toward those minority groups change very little.” They pointed out that “leadership” is what makes the difference.
Today, there are more than 65,000 LGB service members serving on active duty and the Guard and Reserves today; many of them in critical job skills and, they’ve served in every conflict since the Revolutionary War. There are also over one million gay veterans in the US today
A new study, recently released by the University of California’s Palm Center and conducted by four retired military officers, including the three-star Air Force lieutenant general who was integral to the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, said that “evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion”. Navy Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan said he was struck by the loss of personal integrity required by individuals to carry out “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Seventy-five (75) percent of Americans in a new Washington Post–ABC News poll said that gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve openly, up from 62% in early 2001and 44% in 1993.
HR 1246, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, has 143 Congressional co-sponsors. This bill would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination in our armed forces.
So, I ask you to care about repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law because it is just the right thing to do, and it can lead the way to providing complete civil rights to our entire LBGT community. The hearing that will take place on Wednesday is historic and a major step in the right direction. It is only the beginning though. It is up to each of us to exercise one of the rights we currently enjoy…freedom of speech, to gain the rest of the rights we are entitled to. Click here
to take action and sign SLDN’s petition to Congress telling them to pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act and click here
to join the grass roots effort. Each of us really does have the power to make a difference. Take a stand and make your difference today.
Labels: Hearings, MAC, MREA
07-21-08 Comment (0)
With the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates finally confirmed, attention is turning towards who Senators Obama and McCain will choose as running mates. One of the names being suggested as a possible Vice Presidential material for Sen. Obama is former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, one of the architects of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
In his most recent Huffington Post
article, SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis takes on the rumors that Nunn will be selected by Obama as his running mate. Sarvis notes, "Nunn has got to go all the way on opening the military to qualified gays and lesbians who want to serve – not half way, as he’s been doing lately."
to visit Huffington Post
and learn why Sarvis is saying that this is “Senator Nunn’s Last Chance.”
Labels: Barak Obama, Huffington Post, Nunn
07-18-08 Comment (0)
This past week has seen a number of newspapers, from across the country, weighing in on the need to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” With Congress likely to hold its first hearing into the liabilities of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since the law was enacted in 1994, communities from coast to coast are taking the opportunity to remind lawmakers that the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members needs to be repealed.
Late last week the editors at the Washington Post
backed repeal as did the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
. This weekend the Roanoke Times
, Seattle Times
, Boston Herald
, and the Oregonian
each tackled the issue in poignant and intelligent editorials calling for an end to discrimination in the ranks.
Poll after poll
shows that the public overwhelmingly believes gays should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. This weekend’s flurry of editorials reinforces the fact that Red and Blue America are in agreement – Congress must repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Labels: in the news
07-14-08 Comment (0)
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