Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN

A New Debate at Ole Miss

I was excited to receive Aubrey Sarvis' invitation to participate in a forum at The University of Mississippi last week. Although not the Presidential Debate, this platform held national and regional LGBT leaders from across the country. ...Read More

By Retired Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett | Comment (1)

Welcome to Our New Site

SLDN LogoThank you for visiting the new SLDN.org!

Our new site provides all the important facts, figures, and history that SLDN clients and supporters have come to rely on from our previous website. But the new website takes our campaign to a new and more exciting level, providing an online action center for supporters and activists to become a central part of our growing campaign to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

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By Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN Executive Director | Comment (5)

The Outlook of Human Equality in a Small Mississippi Town

Traveling south for 2008's first Presidential Debate, I arrived in the small town of Oxford, Mississippi earlier this week. Never having been to Mississippi before, I found this quaint southern town to be just what I imagined of the American South. ...Read More

By Former Army Sergeant Darren Manzella | Comment (2)

Oxford, Mississippi: First Impressions

Tuesday evening in Oxford. I've been here barely two hours and already I've gotten the question of the day: What are you doing in Oxford? When I tell them I’m here for a discussion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of a conference on gay and lesbian issues sponsored by the university’s Gay Straight Alliance, and that I’m hoping we can get a question in at Friday’s presidential debate, the response is more surprise than anything else. Matan Drori, the head of the foreign desk at the Tel Aviv newspaper Ma’ariv, asks me, in effect, what that has to do with foreign policy and national security, the subject of Friday’s debate. The suggestion seems to be that I’m being a little naïve or maybe presumptuous to think anyone wants to talk about gays in the military in these debates.

They may not want to talk about it, but they need to talk about it. Yes, I care about other issues, too, including the ever-expanding financial crisis and what it’s going to cost us — and how it’s going to effect “my issue.” I care about health care. I care about the outcome of this election. I could go on, but I don’t. Instead, I head into town for a look at Oxford and supper, as we call it down here.

. . .

Oxford: The grass, all freshly cut; fine white frame houses; PRAY signs with an American flag planted on the manicured green lawns. Many McCain and Palin signs, too, not so many for Obama.

Early evening and already the Oxford square is abuzz, but softly. No horns or rude yelling, mind you. Folks strolling the streets, parking spaces already taken up all around the square, people drifting into restaurants. The lingering cocktail hour is happy but not loud. No one talks loudly here, not even on their cell phones.

Three polite ladies in white blouses perched on a wooden bench in front of Square Books featuring books by McCain, Obama, and Biden in the window. Nothing by Palin yet, but you can bet there will be. The ladies size me up — politely, of course — as I pass by. They ask if I'm from Oxford. Of course they know the answer. What they really want to know is my role in “the debate.” All minds in Oxford are on Friday’s debate. The ladies tell me they have just been interviewed — "someone from the Washington Post." Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe is standing behind me, peering over my shoulder. The first wave of the media has already arrived.

I ask the welcoming ladies if they will be around tomorrow.
They nod in unison and one says, "Oh, yes, every day until the end of week."

“I want you to meet some friends of mine tomorrow.” I tell them, “and then I'll tell you why I came to the debate." I wonder how they’ll react when I tell them I’m here because I’m part of the fight to get “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed.

"We'll be here," one says. She is a spry little woman of at least seventy, maybe more, a genteel lady of the South.

And then I ask where I should have supper. "City Grocery. Downtown Grill. AJAK. You can’t go wrong. Delicious." I decide on City Grocery.

I am back in the South of my childhood, and I see with a kind of double vision what I loved about it and why I left it.

By Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN Executive Director | Comment (6)

SLDN Board Member Achieves Milestone for Women

U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol Major General Amy Courter was recently elected the first female national commander in the organization’s 67-year history. As national commander, Courter will lead nearly 60,000 volunteers in the patrol’s three main Congressionally-assigned missions, which include emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education. Courter will work to expand the patrol-led flight program and hopes to increase the visibility of the patrol while also expanding partnerships with schools. The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer-based organization that provides leadership training to youth and adults, many of whom learn to fly for the patrol, which works in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force. First elected to the SLDN board in 2001, Amy Courter served as board co-chair from 2004-2006 and is currently Vice President of Information Technology for Valassis, Inc. Prior to her election as national commander of the Civil Air Patrol, Courter also received the Distinguished Service Award and served as Michigan Wing Commander for the organization from 1992-2002. SLDN congratulates Major General Courter on her tremendous achievement and wishes her success in her new leadership role.

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Supporter Donates Tax Stimulus Check

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network extends our gratitude to a generous donor from Fresno, CA, for recently contributing her $600 IRS stimulus check to our work.

This generous support comes at a critical juncture in the fight to lift the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban. The sacrifices of allies and generosity of donors inspire us to continue leading the fight to repeal this discriminatory policy while also providing legal assistance for servicemembers impacted by the ban every day.

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By Marijean Hall, Development Director | Comment (0)

Supporter Donates Tax Stimulus Check

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network extends our gratitude to a generous donor from Fresno, CA, for recently contributing her $600 IRS stimulus check to our work. This generous support comes at a critical juncture in the fight to lift the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban. The sacrifices of allies and generosity of donors inspire us to continue leading the fight to repeal this discriminatory policy while also providing legal assistance for servicemembers impacted by the ban every day.
With the help of individuals like our Fresno donor, SLDN will remain on the forefront of advocating for the 65,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform who cannot speak for themselves. The ongoing generosity of donors from across the country brings us one day closer to a time when all members of the armed forces can serve the country they love openly, honestly and free from the chains of fear and discrimination.
Visit this page to donate to SLDN today. Thank you.
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Dont Ask, Dont Tell Makes the D-List

In the recent season finale of Kathy Griffin’s “My Life on the D-List,” the Bravo series addressed the presence of gay soldiers during Kathy’s visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to entertain recuperating service members with a special stand-up performance. ...Read More

By Paul DeMiglio | Comment (0)

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Makes the D-List

In the recent season finale of Kathy Griffin’s “My Life on the D-List,” the Bravo series addressed the presence of gay soldiers during Kathy’s visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to entertain recuperating service members with a special stand-up performance. During the episode, she tours the hospital to chat with recovering soldiers and help them heal through laughter, as only Kathy can. In the course of her visit, she jokingly mentions “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and asks about the presence of gay troops in the hospital. Toward the middle of the episode, one officer responds that “There’s some in there, don’t worry.”

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GOP Platform: Homosexuality Incompatible With Military Service

The Log Cabin Republicans have put the best face on the Republican Party's 2008 platform, which won't leave many American gays and lesbians smiling.
They write on their blog, " . . . rather than squabble over the platform (which we could have done), we decided to go to Minneapolis-St. Paul at the Republican National Convention and show LGBT Americans in a positive light. We’re going there to engage in conversations with delegates and Republicans of all stripes. Some will agree with us. Others won’t. One thing we know for sure is that we’re going to the RNC with a positive message about gay and lesbian Americans. We think that’s important.”
I think that’s important, too. Very important. But however “symbolic” platform language may be, and even though every candidate need not support every plank in it, a party’s platform is still a statement on where a party stands on the issues of our time. The Republican Party Platform, which convention delegates approved unanimously on Monday, certainly does not advance the position Servicemembers Legal Defense Network advocates: the repeal of the statute known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the passage of H.R. 1246. When that inevitably happens – and it is inevitable – our country will finally acknowledge what is already a fact – that 65,000 gays and lesbians are now fighting in the armed forces of the United States – and allow them to serve openly without fear of discovery, discharge, and the loss of their benefits. We support this language in the Republican Party Platform: “Military priorities and mission must determine personnel policies.” You can’t have a man or woman in the infantry piloting a plane over Afghanistan, or a medic working as a navigator, etc., etc. And we strongly agree with the next sentence: “Esprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield.“
It’s the sentence that follows that saddens and angers me: “To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America’s Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.”
Our servicemembers need “protection” from roving bands of gays and lesbians? Let’s get real, people. Our servicemembers need protection from hostile fire, not from the 65,000 gays and lesbians that every soldier, sailor, and airman knows are serving by their sides now with no apparent damage to esprit de corps and unit cohesion.
And homosexuality incompatible with military service? Ask Israel, whose military generally gets pretty high ratings. Ask our NATO allies who’ve managed to find homosexuality compatible enough. Many of them are actively recruiting gays and lesbian to help fill their ranks. This kind of language, in the platform of any political party in 2008, is offensive, insulting, and out of sync with what polls show most Americans, military and civilian, believe: that sexual orientation is not a factor when evaluating a person’s qualifications to serve in the military. Fortunately for gays and lesbians everywhere, for Americans in general and for SLDN in particular, the majority of Republicans do not go along with the language of their own platform. A July Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 64 percent of Republicans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. I wish I could say that the party’s candidate for president was among that 64 percent, but I can’t.
John McCain’s currently beleaguered choice for vice president, Governor Sarah Palin, has taken no public stand on DADT that I know of, but it’s hard to be optimistic. She supported the 1998 Alaska constitutional amendment barring marriage equality. She has been governor less than two years but has already supported stripping away domestic partner benefits for state workers. From that record, it doesn’t sound as if she’ll be advocating the repeal of DADT – unlike her fellow Republicans who are co-sponsors of H.R. 1246, notably Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Maryland’s Wayne Gilchrest, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Like my friends in the Log Cabin Republicans, I’m not giving up on the Republicans in Congress. I’m not giving up on the Republicans at all. It’s clear from the Washington Post/ABC News poll that the language in the platform does not represent the views of the majority of Republicans – or the majority of Americans, for that matter. Party leaders just have to catch up with party members.
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is not an issue of one party versus another. It’s a matter of military readiness and what’s best for the country. The armed forces need all the qualified men and women they can get. It’s a matter of fairness. Bigotry is bipartisan, but so are civil rights. It comes down finally to military readiness and fairness. What’s fair for me is fair for you. Most of us, Republicans as well as Democrats, gays as well as straights, see that.
--Aubrey Sarvis

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