BREAKING UPDATE: Obama Administration Deals “Devastating Blow” Against DADT Repeal Advocates
**Aubrey Sarvis – Army veteran and executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network -- a group fighting to repeal DADT and representing active and former service members -- will join repeal activists at the White House protest TOMORROW at noon** (Excerpts from Sarvis’ prepared remarks follow below)
WHAT HAPPENED? Late Friday evening, the Obama Administration shot a simultaneous salvo – from the Pentagon and the White House -- at advocates fighting for repeal this year, appearing to reverse on the president’s commitment in his State of The Union Address to the American people: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”
EXCERPTS FROM AUBREY SARVIS’ SUNDAY REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:
“Harry Truman led; Barack Obama defers, kicking repeal down the road -- again.
“In his State of the Union message President Obama said repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was the right thing to do. But Friday evening President Obama did the wrong thing, and in doing so he and Secretary Gates delivered a devastating blow to getting repeal done this year. Their joint political decision showed a lack of respect for our LGBT service members who are on the frontlines every day risking their lives for our safety.
“As a result of the Commander in Chief's decision to defer to Secretary Gates' wishes and timeline, gay service members will continue to be treated as second class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade.
“The President did not sound like a fierce repeal advocate. He sounded like someone who wants to have it both ways. And that is not leadership. That is politics as usual.”
FROM CNN: “In a letter sent to the House Armed Services Committee's chairman on Friday, Robert Gates wrote he is "strongly opposed" to any changes to the "don't ask, don't tell" legislation before the military review is completed… The White House issued a statement Friday supporting Gates' position… "There is no need to bring the legislative repeal effort to a screeching halt to ensure that the views of the Pentagon Working Group are carefully and respectfully considered," Sarvis said in a statement. "It's time for the president and commander in chief to speak clearly and frankly on this issue," he continued. "The commander in chief sounds like he is deferring to his defense secretary, to a House chairman who opposes him on repeal, and to his political operatives." Continue reading: http://bit.ly/aC4uNS
MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA: Aubrey Sarvis is available for interviews on this developing story – contact Trevor Thomas: 616-430-2030 or email@example.com.
AUBREY SARVIS via statement last night: “The President of the United States appears to have reversed himself from what he told the American people in his State of the Union Address. We have the votes in the House and we’re close to having the votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee -- the President, however, is not helping us to get the votes we need. Service members around the world took the President at his word; we still do. It's time for the president and commander in chief to speak clearly and frankly on this issue. The commander in chief sounds like he is deferring to his Defense Secretary, to a House Chairman who opposes him on repeal, and to his political operatives.” Continue reading: http://bit.ly/dlkJrk
READ THE LETTER FROM GATES, SUPPORTED BY THE ADMINISTRATION: http://bit.ly/c1Elp8
**TOMORROW** WHITE HOUSE EVENT BY GetEQUAL/QUEER RISING/TALK ABOUT EQUALITY: On May 2nd at 12:00 noon (EDT), [groups] will gather outside the White House to demand that President Obama immediately include ‘Don¹t Ask, Don¹t Tell’ repeal language in his Defense Authorization transmittals to Congress to ensure repeal of the ban this year.
--Speakers Include: Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, Lt. Robin Chaurasiya, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, Spc. Jarrod Chlapowski, Maj. Mike Almy, Capt. Tanya Domi, Cpl. Brett Edward Stout, Sgt. Brian Fricke,
Sgt. Justin Elzie.
--Aubrey Sarvis, Vietnam veteran and executive director of SLDN will also address the crowd.
LEGISLATIVE OPTIONS ON REPEAL RESPECT PENTAGON WORKING GROUP:
--SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis in ROLL CALL: Recommendations for the committee leaders to consider:
1. DADT investigations and discharges will not end until the recommendations of the Pentagon Working Group have been received and considered; Secretary Gates will retain authority over this process.
2. Under the present schedule, the PWG will make its recommendations by Dec. 1, and 60 days later, DOD can issue directions and instructions to each service on how to proceed with open service.
3. An additional 60 days after that, each service can issue regulations.
4. Therefore, DADT would not be repealed until 180 days after the bill is signed.
5. And in early 2011, the committees can consider any additional recommendations from the Pentagon.
--Continue reading at RollCall.com: http://www.rollcall.com/news/45597-1.html
STORIES FROM THE FRONTLINES: LETTERS TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA / ONLINE CAMPAIGN GROWS:
--ANDREW SULLIVAN, CYNDI LAUPER, DAVID MIXNER, DAILY KOS all post letters from those impacted by DADT in growing national campaign…
--THE ADVOCATE, DALLAS VOICE, 365GAY.COM, join campaign bringing total to more than 35 participating blogs and websites: See the full list: www.sldn.org/letters
MORE THAN 150 ACTIVE/FORMER SERVICE MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILY/FRIENDS CONTACT SLDN TO TELL THEIR STORIES:
--“Many of the people we are hearing from are directly connected to an active service member,” said Trevor Thomas, communications director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “So many people located throughout the country and overseas want to tell their stories. One mother explained that she feels just as closeted as her son after we talked about the concerns of using her own name on a letter. As the President isn’t helping to get the key votes on the Senate Armed Service Committee, we’re going to continue sending letters on the behalf of those who cannot talk openly. We hope their stories are heard.”
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN:
--Servicemembers Legal Defense Network launched this past Monday “Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama,” a new media campaign to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal DADT.
--Every weekday morning as markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees draws near, a coalition of voices supporting repeal will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law.
DAILY KOS HOSTS LIVE WEB CHAT ON LETTERS CAMPAIGN: SLDN communications director Trevor Thomas participated in a live web chat at Daily Kos on Friday -- read the full chat here: http://bit.ly/9pCKeE
WASHINGTON POST’S ED O’KEEFE HIGHLIGHTS CAMPAIGN: “Tapping into President Obama's interest in reading letters from ordinary Americans, a group opposed to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for at least the next month plans to publish letters sent to the president from people impacted by the gay ban.”
--Continue reading: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/04/new_campaign_for_dont_ask_repe.html
FAITH VOICES SPEAK OUT IN SUPPORT OF REPEAL: A broad coalition of faith voices spoke out on Wednesday against the discriminatory “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” law that prevents some of the best and brightest women and men from serving their country.
--“As military chaplains, we routinely work with service members whose faith traditions and belief systems are different from ours. The idea that repeal of DADT will infringe on our religious liberty is insulting to all the serving chaplains who professionally minister to and with people of diverse beliefs every day,” said Captain John F. Gundlach, a retired Chaplain of the U.S. Navy.
--Continue reading: www.hrc.org/14345.htm
SPEAKER PELOSI WANTS HOUSE VOTE ON REPEAL -- VIA SPOKESPERSON: “It is the Speaker’s intention that a vote will be taken this year on [‘don’t ask, don’t tell’] in the House.”
--Continue reading at DC Agenda: http://www.dcagenda.com/2010/04/26/pelosi-plans-dont-ask-repeal-vote-this-year/
U.S. REP. TAMMY BALDWIN EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT WITH PRESIDENT ON REPEAL: From The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld: “Baldwin expressed disappointment with the White House for suggesting that Congress shouldn’t take action until the report is issued and said she wished President Barack Obama would weigh in… Baldwin: “He has the most powerful bully pulpit in the world, and I hope he uses it to advance equality,” she said.
“RARE STRATEGIC DISCUSSIONS” TAKING PLACE ON REPEAL BETWEEN SENATE AND HOUSE: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin to The Advocate: “Particularly on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ there have been strategic discussions already between the House and Senate on how to move that forward because it makes sense to incorporate it as part, ultimately, of the Defense authorization bill,” she said.
--“According to Democratic aides, the offices of Sens. Levin and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Murphy have been coordinating efforts on repeal language so that any attachments to the Defense funding bill will be similar in nature,” The Advocate reported.
--Continue reading: http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/04/28/Pelosis_Promise_for_Dont_Ask_Dont_Tell_Vote_Encouraging/
LIST OF CONGRESSIONAL SPONSORS SUPPORTING REPEAL GROWS:
--The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R.1283), the repeal bill in the U.S. House, has 192 cosponsors.
--U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, chief sponsor “has indicated repeatedly that he has the votes to pass it.” (The Advocate)
GAY CITY NEWS PUBLISHES COMPREHENSIVE INSIDE LOOK AT REPEAL THIS YEAR:
-- "The president can make a difference if he’s on the phone with some of these key House members and some of these key senators. Indeed, I would say whether we get this or not could well depend on the leadership that we see from the White House over the next several weeks,” said SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis.
--Continue reading: http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2010/04/29/gay_city_news/news/doc4bd9c2efdd048519770426.txt
LOBBY DAY CALLING FOR REPEAL MAY 11:
-- On May 10-11, hundreds of veterans from across the United States will descend on Washington, DC with one clear message for Congress: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) needs to go and it needs to go this year!
--The National Veterans Lobby Day on DADT will take place immediately before the National Defense Authorization bill – the bill that should contain DADT repeal language – is drafted on Capitol Hill.
--For a list of participating organizations visit the website: http://veteranslobbyday.org/
WHY THIS IS A CRITICAL TIME:
--SLDN and other coalition voices are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal.
--The House and Senate Armed Services Committees will markup the Defense Authorization bill in a few short weeks.
--The Defense Authorization bill represents our best legislative vehicle to bringing repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.
LAYOUT FOR REPEAL / HOUSE AND SENATE TRACKS:
--Sen. Mark Udall told the Denver Post the committee was “within a vote or two” of including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill. Udall is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
--Rep. Jared Polis, who holds a key position on the House Rules Committee, told the Denver Post he is willing to help insert a similar provision in the House version of the Defense Authorization bill with the help of Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is the lead sponsor of the House repeal bill.
EXPECTED CALENDAR DATES:
--The House Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense Authorization bill is expected May 19.
--The Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense Authorization bill is expected the week of May 24.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING:
--The House may move the Defense Authorization bill for a floor vote as early as the week of May 24.
RECENT WHITE HOUSE SIGNALS SHOWED STRONG REASON FOR CONCERN:
--White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs signaled from the podium that the president is likely not going to push for repeal this year.
--From the Advocate: “President Barack Obama is allowing the Department of Defense to run the course of its investigation as to how to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. The DOD's study is due December 1, suggesting legislative action will likely be ruled out until after the new year.”
--The question was asked by Advocate White House correspondent Kerry Eleveld: http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/04/21/Gibbs_Says_DADT_May_be_on_Hold_Until_2011/
DENVER POST: WHITE HOUSE LIKELY TO OPPOSE EFFORTS
--The Denver Post reported: “Congressional aides said both approaches are likely to face opposition from the White House, which in February laid a timetable built around an extensive Pentagon study that won't be completed until Dec. 1, pushing a final move on the contentious issue past what's expected to be Democrats' toughest election cycle in years.”
--Read the full story by Post reporter Michael Riley: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_14925042
KEY SENATORS ON ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:
Listed are senators the coalition is actively engaging to shore up support for repeal this year:
--Scott Brown, MA
--Evan Bayh, IN
--Robert Byrd, WV
--Jim Webb, VA
--Ben Nelson, NE
--Bill Nelson, FL
WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID IN THE STATE OF THE UNION:
--January 27, 2010: President Barack Obama tells the American people “this year” he will work to repeal DADT
--State of The Union address transcript: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."
PUSHING THE PRESIDENT:
--SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis sent a letter to President Obama on April 19 urging him to include repeal language in his defense budget recommendations.
--Read the letter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/30169921/SLDN-s-Letter-to-the-President
--Key excerpts from the letter:
“As you prepare to send your final defense budget recommendations to the House and Senate committees, this is both the time and place for you to reaffirm your strong commitment to repealing this law. … I am very disturbed by multiple reports from Capitol Hill that your Congressional liaison team is urging some Members of Congress to avoid a vote on repeal this year. The upcoming House and Senate votes will be close, and very frankly, Mr. President, we need your help now.
As a veteran, and on behalf of thousands of men and women who have served and want to serve their country openly, I ask you today to stand by your encouraging words to the American people in your State of The Union address: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”
NEW GROUP FIGHTING FOR REPEAL, “GET EQUAL” STOPS THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH:
--From the White House pool report as printed in Politico’s Playbook: “'Pool report 5 -- NEWS gay rights protesters interrupt' – WashTimes' Kara Rowland: 'At 6:17, several protesters among the crowd interrupted POTUS' speech, expressing anger over the slow progress on repealing the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gay service members. The crowd tried to hush them. 'What about don't ask, don't tell?' one protester shouted. POTUS yelled back 'we are going to do that.' POTUS kept talking, increasing his volume to speak over the protesters. The crowd then erupted into chants of 'Yes, we can.' ... [T]he protesters are from GetEQUAL, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group that also orchestrated protests outside the fundraiser. The group was also behind a protest last month at the White House, where activists Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. James Pietrangelo handcuffed themselves to a gate.'”
--The Los Angeles Times: “Reversing an earlier decision, the Air Force said Monday that it intends to discharge a lesbian Air Force officer who had remained in the military despite openly declaring her homosexuality. … In a statement, the Air Force said that its Air Mobility Command recommended Chaurasiya be discharged. A final decision will be made by Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley.”
--Read the full story: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/20/news/sc-dc-dont-ask20-20100420-14
WARNING TO ALL SERVICE MEMBERS:
--After carefully reviewing the new Pentagon Instructions, SLDN’s legal team sent a warning to service members serving right now: “Despite mainstream media reports that service members can no longer be outed by ‘third parties,’ it’s important that the 66,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members understand that they can still be fired under DADT – even if outed by so called ‘third parties.’”
--“We recognize that the new DoD Instructions further define what “credible information from a reliable source” may mean, but based on SLDN’s preliminary analysis, we cannot guarantee that service members are protected.
--The updated language does not change the fact that statements, acts, or same-sex marriage, are still grounds for discharge under DADT, including:
A service member can still be fired if outed by his or her parents;
A service member can still be fired for revealing his or her sexual orientation while making a statement to the police that would prevent or help solve a crime;
A service member’s middle school teacher can still out the service member 10 years after he came out to her in social studies class;
A service member can still be discharged if he reports that someone has threatened to kill him for being gay;
A service member can still be fired for hugging someone of the same sex;
A service member can still be fired for getting married; and
A service member can still be fired for saying she would like to return from Iraq to care for her dying girlfriend.
Continue reading: http://www.sldn.org/blog/archives/service-members-still-at-risk-under-new-dadt-instructions/
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF SUPPORTS REPEAL:
--At the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing February 2 – the first to discuss repeal -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen made it clear that DADT does not serve in the best interest of our men and women in uniform: "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity - theirs as individuals and ours as a nation.”
--From The Hill’s Roxana Tiron: “The nation’s senior military officials removed a huge obstacle to gays serving openly in the military by telling Congress on Tuesday that they support President Barack Obama’s decision to repeal the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.” LINK: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/79275-adm-mullen-repealing-dont-ask-dont-tell-is-the-right-thing-to-do
KEY VOICES SUPPORTING REPEAL:
--Current and former military and government leaders are fully behind repeal:
o Secretary of Defense Robert Gates;
o Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen;
o Gen. Raymond Odierno;
o Gen. David Petraeus;
o Vice President Richard Cheney;
o President Bill Clinton;
o Secretary of Defense William Cohen;
o Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones;
o General John Shalikashvili
o General Colin Powell
104 GENERALS AND ADMIRALS SUPPORT REPEAL:
--In addition, a letter signed by 104 retired admirals and generals was released in late 2008 and included a strong call for repeal: http://palmcenter.org/press/dadt/releases/104Generals%2526Admirals-GayBanMustEnd
RECENT QUOTES RELATED TO REPEAL:
January 12, 2010: SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis sends a letter to the President asking for repeal to be included in defense budget
“By proposing to repeal the law in your defense bill, you will make it clear to Congress and to the American people that we can eliminate this wrong in 2010,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. (Roll Call, page 11, January 12, 2010)
January 27, 2010: President Barack Obama tells the American people “this year” he will work to repeal DADT
State of The Union address transcript: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”
February 22, 2010: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dodges question on repeal happening this year
The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “Senator Lieberman is planning to introduce a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal bill next week. Would the president like to see Congress pass repeal this year?” Gibbs said that he believed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be legislatively repealed, but he stopped short of committing to passing the legislation this year.
March 15, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank says White House does not want repeal done this year
The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld noted to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank that the White House has failed to designate the defense authorization bill over a stand-alone bill as its preferred method for repealing the policy, Frank responded: “That’s because they don’t want it done this year, not because they want it done separately.”
March 15, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank clarifies statement and asks the Administration to “make clear” it supports DADT repeal this year
Later the same day, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank reframed his statement to Ms. Eleveld and released this following statement: “I believe that the Administration should make clear that it supports legislative action this year, and that while implementation is being worked out, it will carry out the policy in the way it was originally intended, which would reduce the number of discharges, in my view, by over 90%."
March 25, 2010: Defense Sec. Robert Gates says he does NOT support legislative action this year
DC Agenda’s Chris Johnson asked Defense Sec. Robert Gates: “Do you support a legislative change to DADT, whether it's a moratorium or outright repeal, this year before the Pentagon completes its study on the issue.”
Secretary Gates: “I do not recommend a change in the law before we have completed our study.”
March 26, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank says the White House is “ducking” on repeal this year
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank speaking to Metro Weekly on the White House working on repeal said: ''They're ducking. Basically, yeah, they're not being supportive, and they're letting Gates be the spokesman, which is a great mistake.''
March 30, 2010: SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis again presses the White House to include repeal in the defense budget
“When Congress comes back next month the White House should make it clear that repeal of DADT this year is a top priority for President Obama. One sure way to send that clear signal is for the President to include repeal language in his defense budget bill going up to Capitol Hill in a few short weeks. The President’s defense budget repeal language should mirror the words in his State of the Union speech to Congress and the American people.”
April 12, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank says he is “frustrated” and “disappointed” with the Administration on DADT repeal
Talking to reporter Karen Ocamb, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said: “I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed with the administration. …His not being for it will give people an excuse to not vote for it. Thing is – we’ve done hate crimes. We do ENDA. It’s a big agenda all at once. At this point – the President’s refusal to call for repeal this year is a problem."
April 13, 2010: House Majority Leader says he is waiting for direction from the Administration; adds there is no known time line for repeal
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Congressional Quarterly that legislative action on DADT “would await recommendation from the Pentagon, noting that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said that they support ending the policy.”
The same day, the Advocate reported: “To date, the House has not gotten such a directive from the Pentagon, nor has the White House weighed in on taking legislative action this year. House leaders do not plan “to tie changes to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’” to the Department of Defense authorization bill. Hoyer also said he had no time line yet for consideration of repeal legislation.”
April 14, 2010: The White House releases broad statement on DADT explaining repeal is not “off the table”
“…The Office of Legislative Affairs continues to engage lawmakers, and at no time has the White House asked any Member to take this issue off the table."
April 21, 2010: White House Press Secretary signaled from the podium that the president is likely not going to push for repeal this year
From the Advocate: “President Barack Obama is allowing the Department of Defense to run the course of its investigation as to how to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. The DOD's study is due December 1, suggesting legislative action will likely be ruled out until after the new year.” The question was asked by Advocate White House correspondent Kerry Eleveld: http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/04/21/Gibbs_Says_DADT_May_be_on_Hold_Until_2011/
FOR MEDIA HELP:
If you have questions related to repeal or would like to speak to a discharged or former service member, please contact SLDN.
Trevor R. Thomas
Director of Communications
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network