Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) Wins Reelection

It's official: after a needlessly long post-election legal battle, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has defeated Tea Party candidate (and Sarah Palin endorsee) Joe Miller in her reelection campaign.

A few months ago, I would not have been particularly interested in the outcome of this senate race - I figured, a Republican is winning it either way, so so what?  However, Murkowski has proven - in voting to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and to pass the DREAM Act - that she is not in lock step with Republican leadership and is willing to reach across the aisle on important issues.  Miller certainly would not have been willing to work with Democrats on either of these issues, if on any at all.

So congratulations to Murkowski, a true "maverick," unlike the former half-term governor who had endorsed her opponent.  We certainly have not agreed on 100% of the issues (although who has?), but I - and many, many others - are grateful for the support you have given to DADT repeal.

Now, let's talk about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

President Obama Signs "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

President Obama signed into law today a bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that forbids gay people from serving openly in the military. The bill had previously been passed by overwhelming and bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate.

Onstage with Obama at the signing were such repeal leaders as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen.

Before signing the bill, Obama gave a stirring speech about repeal. Here is some of that speech:

This is a good day. I am just overwhelmed; this is a very good day. I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who has been working so hard on this – I couldn’t be more proud of you. This morning I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ It is a law that will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military because they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love. As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives: none of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well. That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military, that’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period.

I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans who put conviction ahead of politics to get this done together. I want to recognize Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Harry Reid. Today we’re marking a historic milestone, but also the culmination of two productive years of Congress. I want to thank Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and I think Carl Levin’s still working, but I want to add Carl Levin. They held their shoulders to the wheel in the Senate. I’m so proud of Susan Davis and a guy you might know – Barney Frank. They kept up the fight in the House. And I gotta acknowledge Patrick Murphy, a veteran himself. I also want to commend our military leadership. Ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was a topic at my first meeting with Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the Joint Chiefs. And finally, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States service.

In the coming days, we will begin the process laid out by this law. I have spoken to every one of the military service chiefs, and they are all committed to implementing this repeal swiftly and efficiently – we are not gonna be dragging our feet with this one. With any change, there is some apprehension – that’s natural. But as Commander in Chief, I am certain that we can affect this transition that only strengthens our military readiness. I have every confidence in the professionalism and patriotism of our servicemembers.

I want to speak directly to the gay men and women currently serving in our military. For a long time, your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice. You’ve been asked to carry the additional burden of secrecy. You’re not the first to have carried this burden. And while today marks the end of a particular struggle, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.  There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima; their names are etched into the walls of our memorials, their headtones dot the grounds at Arlington.  As the first generation to serve openly in our armed forces, you will stand for all those who came before you; you will serve as role models for all those who come after you.  I know you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor.

We are not a nation that says don't ask, don't tell.  We are a nation that says out of many, we are one.  We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot, that believes that all men and women are created equally.  Those are the ideals that generation after generation has fought for.  Those are the ideals that we uphold today, and now it is my honor to sign this bill into law."
While repeal has been signed into law, it has not yet been implemented: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will remain into effect until Obama, Gates, and Mullen sign off on the implementation plan, and until repeal is actually implemented after that.

Please call the White House Comment Line and tell them you want President Obama to sign off on repeal ASAP, and to tell Gates and Mullen to do the same as well.

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Senate Passes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

The Senate has passed repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy by a vote of 65 to 31.  The bill, which mimics that recently passed by the House, will now go to President Obama for his signature.

Eight Republicans - Brown, Burr (!!!), Collins, Ensign, Kirk, Murkowski, Snowe, and Voinovich - joined Democrats in passing the legislation.

The Senate had previously passed cloture earlier today, ending a filibuster led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), by a vote of 63 to 33.

Repeal had been introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) - sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and cosponsored by over 50 senators - last week after the Senate had failed to pass cloture on a repeal-inclusive National Defense Authorization Act.

Make no mistake: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not gone yet.  Obama, Mullen, and Gates must sign off on it once they are confident that they have a good plan to implement repeal, and then this plan must be put into effect.  But the fact remains that we have taken a gigantic step forward in ending discrimination towards gay people.

Here are some statements from the debate that took place prior to the vote:

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.):
"This policy has failed in its intended goals. It’s done a tremendous disservice to the men and women who want nothing more than to serve their country.  There are so many reasosn to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and to do it now.  This policy destroys lives.  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is depriving our armed services of talented men and women at a time when we need them the most.  We cannot afford to lose critical assets simply because they're gay.  We also know that repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' won't have an adverse impact on the military. Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is the right thing to do, it is the right thing for our country, it is the right thing for our military.  This afternoon, with an historic vote, this country will move a step forward in being proud of every man and woman who serves this country."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):
"We made some history today.  We did break a filibuster, a Republican filibuster, on the issue of ending discrimination in the military against gays and lesbians.  We voted to end that filibuster and take up the issue, and I do believe in a few hours that policy will be gone.  There are moments in history that come to us, and for me to be here at this time to cast a vote for civil rights, to cast a vote for justice, to cast a vote for equality, to cast a vote against discrimination, is a high honor. 

There's more work we have to do on this.  There's a lot of unfairness in our laws still about partners not being able to have the same rights as married couples - and that's a whole issue we will work on.  But I am confident that as Americans we will move forward.  When we started out, only white men of property can vote.  And we have struggled - all of this is a struggle, it's not easy.  The struggle for freedom is not easy.  But this will be a day that will go down in American history as a day that we lifted a barrier, and America is stronger because of it."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.):
"I am encouraged and I am hopeful.  There is sufficient bipartisan support to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'  It is well past time to put an end to this discriminatory and harmful policy.  For too long, we have said, let's vote 'maybe.'  Most Americans expect United States Senators to come here and vote 'yes' or 'no,' not 'maybe.'  A filibuster is voting 'maybe.'  It's time for every man and woman in this body to step forward and vote either 'yes' or 'no.' 

Gay and lesbian Americans already serve honorably in the US armed forces and they've always done so.  They display the same conduct and professionalism we expect from all our men and women in uniform.  Giving these troops the right to serve openly would not cause disciplined servicemembers to suddenly become distracted on the battlefield.  It is pandering to suggest they would be.  Gay soldiers and straight soldiers have fought and died for this country in Afghanistan.  Every member of our armed services should be judged solely on his or her contribution to the mission.  Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' would ensure we stay true to the principles on which our great nation was founded."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.):
"It's not often that the Senate gets this kind of an opportunity with a single vote to right a wrong.  but we have that opportunity here today.  This vote is an historic vote.  It is one for which the Senate will be remembered for a long time.  This is our opportunity to fix an outdated, discriminatory, and broken policy - and strengthen our security.  This discriminatory policy undermines our national security.  We need to most qualified servicememberswe can find, regardless of sexual orientation.  At a time when our military is stretched thin across the globe, we simply cannot afford to lose some of our finest soldiers. 

Not only is this policy costing us critical capabilities, it's also unnecessarily costing us a lot of money.  The military spends $43,000 to replace each individual discharged under the DADT policy.  It just doesn't make sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars to investigate, try, and replace American soldiers based only on their sexual orientation.

This is a civil rights issue, it's a moral issue, and it is a national security issue.  Today, the Senate as an historic opportunity to fix this broken and outdated policy."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio):
"It's important.  It's important for our military.  It's important for our values.  It's important for our country.  The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is inconsistent with our American values.  Important battles remain in our fight for human rights and justice in our country.  But we know for sure that history is on our side.  Today's vote will confirm that repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will make our military stronger.  Open service poses no threat to our military readiness or effectiveness.  The srength of our nation is measured not just by the size of our economy or the might of our military.  It's measured by acts consistent with our values.  The repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is a long overdue victory for our military, a victory for our American values, a victory for human rights, and most importantly a victory for the American people."

Senate Passes Cloture on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

Third time’s the charm as the Senate passes cloture on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal 63 to 33 on Saturday morning.  The Senate will now debate the bill, followed by an up or down vote.

Republican Senators Brown, Collins, Kirk, Murkowksi, Snowe and Voinovich joined Democrats in passing cloture, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against cloture with most of the Republicans.

Repeal had been introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) – with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as a sponsor and 50 senators as co-sponsors – as a stand-alone bill after the Senate failed to pass cloture on the full National Defense Authorization Act by two votes last week.

The House has already passed an identical bill, introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), meaning that if the Senate does pass repeal - which is now extremely likely - the bill will go directly to President Obama for his signature.

Before the cloture vote, several senators made powerful floor speeches in support of repeal.  Here are some statements from those speeches:

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.):
"We should end this policy because it is the right thing to do. This change is supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people. I’m not here for partisan reasons; I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died in this country, because they have their lives on the line right now for this country. The first casualty in the war in Iraq was gay. We cannot let these patriots down; their suffering should end, it will end, with the passage of this bill. I urge its passage today: it’s the right thing to do."

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.):
"Repealing this law is not about scoring political points or catering to a specific interest group – it’s about doing the right thing for our national security, especially during a time of two wars. We need every able-bodied man or woman who is willing to fight for his country. Our national security will be enhanced by this repeal. Our servicemembers are complete professionals: they will comply with repeal, and they will not allow open service to negatively affect the job that they do."

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.):
"We need to make adjustments to this policy: I say that after many years of thought and analysis.  We need to understand what this is and what it is not.  The question is not whether there should be gays and lesbians in the military: they're already there.   The question is whether this policy works today in a way that can protect small unit cohesion and allow people to live honest lives.  I have spent my entire life in and around the military.  With the notion that we need to be putting a policy into place that allows an open living with people of different points of view, I support this repeal."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.):
"We have an opportunity not just to right a wrong, not just to honor the service of a group of American patriots who happen to be gay or lesbian, not just to make our military more effective, but to advance the values that the founders of our country articulated in our original American documents.  If you play by the rules and work hard, you should be able to go as far as your talents take you, not based on any particular characteristic that is assigned to you. 

The existing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is inconsistent with American values.  It is particularly bad for the military because in our society, the American military is the one institution that still commands the respect and trust of the American people because it lives by American values, it fights for American values, it is committed to a larger cause and not divided by any division.  To force this policy on our mlitary is to force them to be less than they want to be and less than they can be. 

Under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, more than 14,000 members of our military have been discharged not because they performed their responsiblities inadequately, but simply because of their sexual orientation.  We spent more than half a billion dollars training those 14,000 - what a waste.  These people simply want to serve their country.  They want to go back and serve their country; does it make any sense to say no to them?

The fact is that removing the form of legalized discrimination from our books, allowing people to serve our military regardless of sexual orientation, is not a liberal or conservative idea, it is an American idea consistent with American values. Neither race or religion, ethnicity or gender, or sexual orientation should deprive Americans of serving our country as the patriots they are. It's time to right a wrong and put the military in line with the best of American values."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sixty-One Votes for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal?

General consensus seems to be that we now have 61 votes for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal: 57 Democrats – all of them save for Manchin of West Virginia – and 4 Republicans – Collins and Snowe of Maine, Murkowski of Alaska, and Brown of Massachusetts.

(In case you’re wondering why the number of Democrats is 57 and not 56, Sen. Lincoln of Arkansas made it quite clear, when she attempted to amend the record to include her in the “yea” column after the second failed NDAA cloture vote, that she supports repeal.)

However, two of those Republicans – Murkowski and Snowe – have indicated that they will only support repeal if, in Murkowski’s case, the Omnibus bill is passed first, and if, in Snowe’s case, the NDAA is passed first.

Now, the Omnibus bill was pulled by Sen. Reid because it didn't have the votes, and instead they're going to work on a continuing resolution to fund the government into early next year.  This will probably placate Murkowski, but it's not a certainty.  And while Sen. Levin and Sen. McCain are working on a compromise for NDAA, who knows if Snowe requires the vote to actually take place first?

Therefore, let us not rest on our laurels: we need to do everything we can to make sure we have the votes we need to pass repeal when it comes up for a vote tomorrow.

Call Majority Leader Harry Reid and make sure he knows we expect him to ensure we have the votes for repeal before the vote - there is no excuse for what he did last time, filing for cloture before he knew we had 60 votes. There are a lot of people who have put in a lot of time and effort into DADT repeal, and we expect the same from him.

Call the moderate Republicans – even the ones who have yet to announce they support repeal – and tell them you want them to help repeal this discriminatory policy that is dangerous to our national security. They need to know that we are watching them and are expecting them to do the right thing.

There is no doubt that we are closer than ever before to being rid of this ridiculous law once and for all.  Make these phone calls now to ensure all of our hard work will not be in vain.

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.): 202-224-3542
Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): 202-224-3954
Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.): 202-224-4543
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Senate to Vote on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Tomorrow

According to the Huffington Post, the Senate will vote on both the DREAM Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pulled the Omnibus bill - which funds the government - off the schedule, as it was going to eat up a lot of time and was unlikely to pass anytime soon, anyway; he will instead call for a continuing resolution to fund the government into early next year, when they'll pick up the Omnibus bill again.

Debate on the START Treaty will pick up next week once DREAM and DADT are out of the way.

Funding the government was something Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wanted to take care of before voting on repeal, so if the continuing resolution is passed today, we should be able to count on her vote tomorrow.

Adding Murkowski to the original 58 votes for repeal (which itself involves adding Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas to the official 57, as she was at the dentist during the vote), we now have 59 senators voting for repeal.  Add to that Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who has also pledged to support repeal, and we have the 60 we need.

Sen. Olympmia Snowe (R-Maine) also said she would support repeal, but she said in her statement that she wants to pass NDAA first.  I've read that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Mark Levin (D-Mich.) have come to a compromise on a much less controversial NDAA, so it's very possible Snowe will be placated by that, but I'm not sure when it will be on the schedule to come up for a vote, so we can't necessarily count on Snowe's vote tomorrow.

Still, things are looking extremely good.  Call these senators and make sure we have the votes we need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once and for all.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): 202-224-3954
Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.): 202-224-4543
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

House Passes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

By a vote of 250 to 175, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a stand-alone bill repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the discriminatory policy that bars gay people from serving openly in the military.

Fifteen Republicans joined Democrats in passing the legislation, with 15 Democrats defecting.
The House had already passed repeal as part of the National Defense Authorization Act back in May, but the Senate failed to pass cloture last week on NDAA: this stand-alone bill was introduced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) to mimic the one introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Before the vote, one hour of debate was allowed, as had been agreed upon by the preceding rules vote, which had passed 232 to 180.   Here are some statements from the debate:

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.):
"Conditions for repeal have been met.  Due diligence has been done, and the time to act is here.  Regardless of what cirtics say, the issue before us has been debated in Congress and reviewed by the Department of Defense.  Members of the House have debated repeal for some time.  The current policy does not work for our armed forces and is incosistent with American values. 

The DoD completed its study on implementing repeal, confirming our troops are ready for repeal.  In short, servicemembers and their spouses have essentially the same view as the American public: men and women in uniform who are gay should be allowed to serve openly.  Our top civilian and military officials agree with the American people.  With careful preparation, repeal poses low risk to the readiness and effectiveness of our forces.  I have great confidence in the leaders who are serving in our military and their professionalism.  After all, we trust them with decisions about our nation's safety.  We can trust them to put this transition into practice in a way that addresses the needs of our force. 

Change is never easy, but it is rarely as necessary as it is today.  Gay and lesbian personnel have the same values toward their service as servicemembers at large.  It's love of their country.  It's honor, it's respect, it's integrity, and service over self.  If we miss this opportunity to repeal this law, history will judge us poorly.  I urge members of this House to be on the right side of history and help end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
"It's been a long time coming, but now is the time for us to act.  Today we have an opportunity to vote once again to close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation.  Seventeen years ago, many of us were on the floor of the House; I had the privilege of speaking, calling on the president definitively to lift the ban.  Instead, we enacted the unfortunate 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy that has resulted in more than 13,000 men and women in uniform being idscharged from the military.  Thousands of more have decided not to reenlist.  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' doesn't contribute to our national security, and it controvenes our American values, and that's why the support for its repeal has come from every corner of our country. 

Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' makes for good public policy and a stronger America.  It is my hope that we will encourage the Senate to take long-overdue action.  America has always been the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We are so because our brave men and women in uniform protect us.  Let us honor their service, their patriotism, by recommitting to the values they fight for on the battlefield."

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.):
"This process was implemented 17 years ago.  We have studied it and argued about it ever since.  To argue we are rushing this completely misses the point.  Argue against the bill if you want, but don't hide behind process. 

Gays and lesbians serve in the military right now, and yet somehow they have functioned quite well.  This is not introducing a brand new concept. 

How does it make us safer to drive out of the military thousands of people who are serving our country well?  It doesn't; it takes away experience, expertise, and talent at a time when we desparately need that.  It is way past time to repeal this law, strengthen our military, and allow gays and lesbians to serve our country with the bravery they have shown."

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.):
"I have just two words for you, my colleagues: vote yes.  Vote yes to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Vote yes for equality.  Vote yes because discrimination is wrong.  Vote yes because every American deserves the right to serve their country.  Vote yes because the survey results said that troops are read.  Vote yes because on the battlefield, it doesn't matter who you love, only the flag that you serve.  Whatever your reason, I urge you, each of you, to vote yes today.  Vote yes because it is the right thing to do."

Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.):
"At no time should we be disqualifying dedicated servicemembers who are willing to serve and sacrifice for this nation.  The 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is ineffective and unnecessary, and its repeal clearly takes a major step towards ending discrimination.  At a time when our nation's military needs dedicated Americans to serve, clearly this is a time when we should repeal this policy.  Support our national security by repealing this outdated policy."

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to Support Repeal

According to the Portland Press Herald, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has pledged to support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' law."
Snowe voted against cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, which included repeal, both last week and in September.

Snowe had been one of a handful of moderate Republicans whose vote on the upcoming stand-alone DADT repeal bill, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) after the failed NDAA cloture vote, was not yet determined.  Her pledge to support repeal brings us yet one more step closer to the 60 votes we need to pass cloture. 

With 59 votes for cloture (unless any Democrats switch votes), we are clearly closer than ever before, but we still need at least one more Republican.  Call these Senators and tell them to support repeal:

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): 202-224-3954
Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.): 202-224-4543
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

House Moves Forward on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

By a vote of 232 to 180, the House has agreed to the rules for the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal bill (that being one hour of general debate), bringing us one more step closer to repeal.

Before the rules vote, one hour of debate was allowed.   Led by Rep. Chillie Pingree (D-Maine), some Democratic representatives made very strong statements in support of repeal; here are some of their remarks:

Pingree, who drew comparisons between allowing women into the armed services and repealing DADT:
“The time has come to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The men and women of the armed services have spoken. There are no more excuses not to reveal this misguided and harmful policy. There is no reason to delay this any longer. Just because someone is gay, doesn’t make them any less of a soldier, an airman, or marine. How many more competent, talented, and patriotic men and women will be kicked out of the service before this misguided and harmful policy is forever banned?  Don't Ask, Don't Tell threatens our national security, it wastes our precious resources, and it goes against the values of our armed forces.  This is the patriotic vote, this is the vote for national security, this is the vote for increasing recruitment for our military."

Rep Jared Polis (D-Colo), who warned against waiting for a court order to repeal the policy:
“I rise today in support of repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the only law in the country that requires people to be dishonest, or be fired if they choose to be honest. It’s a law that is hurtful to our national security. We already debated and voted on this issue earlier this summer. I personally feel we didn’t need to see [the Pentagon study], but I do understand that many members of this body from both sides of the aisle wanted to see that report. The report has come out, and it’s very clear that this change in policy does not represent a threat to the security of this country. Repeal of this policy is inevitable; it is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if.’ Today, we can allow the military to do the right thing to enhance military readiness and improve national security. Let us be on the right side of history and go forward with repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ today.”

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.):
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains the only federal statute mandating a person be fired based on their sexual orientation. Thousands of dedicated, honorable Americans have suffered discrimination while thousands more have been discouraged from even considering the military. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' removes highly-trained servicemembers out of the military at a time when we need them to fight two wars. All our servicemen and women are first and foremost Americans: we cannot with any true moral standing discriminate against courageous members of our military for living an authentic life.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who reflected on her time on the armed services committee when DADT was first put in place:
“I told the general that I thought 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was unconstitutional. I opposed it then, and I oppose it now. No good has ever come of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' but a lot of bad has. I have no doubt that america’s armed forces will successful transition to a post-DADT world. We’re hearing the alarm sounded about moralit, morale, unite cohesion and readiness. Be it race, gender, or sexual orientation, our military services have demonstrated their commitment and with this historical vote, we will allow all servicemen and women who are holding their breath in fear to breathe easier.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.):
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is outdated and it is unjust. No individual should be d iscriminated against based on their sexual orientation. Our troops fight honorably to protect our freedom: the least we can do is fight to protect their rights as well. This unjust and unnecessary practice is also unsound: it makes no sense for our military to discharge valuable servicemembers, especially during a time of war. My colleagues, this is the easy stuff.  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' does nothing to contribute to our national security. This practice should be repealed immediately, its time has come.”

Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.):
"As a former Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserve, I served with many brave, patriotic and dedicated men and women. I was never concerned with their sexual orientation, just their ability to serve this country. This policy has wasted over $1 billion. Military leaders have testified before congress in support of repeal. We must allow our military to recruit and retain any qualified, patriotic, and courageous American who wants to service this country."

All of these congressmen and women spoke eloquently and powerfully in favor of repealing the discriminatory and dangerous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  They should be commended for their strong and steadfast support for gay rights.

And now, we move on to the actual repeal vote...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Call the House: Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

According to Wonk Room, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) will be introducing a stand-alone "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal bill identical to the one introduced in the Senate earlier this week.

The vote may come as early as tomorrow, so make sure your representative knows you want this discriminatory and dangerous policy repealed.  You can find the contact information for your representative here.

For some talking points to help you with your call, feel free to read my recent  blog post, "Arguing Repeal: Why 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Must Go."

I assume/hope SLDN or some other organization will come up with a list of specific representatives whose votes are yet undetermined: if they do, I'll be sure to put a list here.

FIFA to Condone Anti-Gay Discrimination

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the selection of Qatar as the location of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, mostly centered on the fact that some of the judges of the selection panel may have accepted bribes before voting for Qatar.

But here’s another problem with choosing Qatar as the sight for an international sporting event: homosexual acts are punishable in the country by a five-year prison sentence.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has acknowledged that this could put a damper on the community spirit of the World Cup, saying that that gay fans attending the games "should refrain from any sexual activities" that are illegal in Qatar – those being sexual relations between gay, consenting adults.

Blatter added:

"It's another culture and another religion, but in football we have no boundaries. We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings, being on this side or that side, left or right or whatever.

Football is a game that does not affect any discrimination. You may be assured ... if people want to watch a match in Qatar in 2022, they will be admitted to matches."

Blatter does not understand the problem: the issue is not with whether gay people will be allowed into the stadium to watch the games. The issue is whether these gay people will be allowed to actually live their lives – as openly gay men and women – while in Qatar for the games.

Blatter expresses, quite clearly, that FIFA does not agree with the discriminatory behavior embedded into Qatar’s legal system; that is encouraging. However, by selecting a country that promotes anti-gay policies as the sight of the 2022 World Cup, FIFA is condoning this discrimination.  It would be a bold and brilliant statement for FIFA to only select countries where homosexuality is legal: even better if gays are treated at least somewhat equally there.

If FIFA wants to make sure that all players and fans of soccer feel welcome at the World Cup, it must ensure that it selects countries that are accepting of everyone, regardless of sexuality.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Call the Senate: Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

I won't be posting too frequently over the next few days, as my computer became infected with Malware, I have an essay to finish, and then I'll be flying back to the states.  However, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal certainly isn't going to wait for me, and in fact it is possible the Senate will be voting on the stand-alone bill tomorrow or Wednesday, so PLEASE call these senators and make sure we have the 60 votes we need to overcome a filibuster.

With Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on board as a co-sponsor, we are perhaps closer to getting this done than ever before: we have no reason not to try our hardest to repeal DADT this week.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): 202-224-3954
Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.): 202-224-4543
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chick-Fil-A Anti-Gay

Try this on for size: apparently Chick-Fil-A is a fervent supporter of Focus on the Family, a radical anti-gay organization which, among other ludicrous things, sponsors the "ex-gay" ministry program, Love Won Out.
Rev. James Dobson, leader of FoF, has made some absolutely insane statements, including “homosexuality will destroy the earth,” “gay marriage will lead to marriage between daddies and little girls,” and a comparison between gay marriage and Pearl Harbor. Yeah.

The George Washington University is so far above the mud Dobson slings that it amazes me that a restaurant that openly supports the man’s lunacy and bigotry is allowed to do business on our campus. To emphasize the vast difference between FoF and GW in their treatment of LGBT people: while FoF goes around actively opposing every single equal rights campaign in the nation, GW just announced that it will start allowing gender-neutral housing next fall. It could not be clearer: Chick-Fil-A does not belong at GW.

I call on President Steven Knapp and the GW Student Association to consider kicking Chick-Fil-A out of J Street. This should not have a profound effect on our contract with Sodexo, as we can fill the space with another Sodexo-partnered institution that doesn’t support such adamantly anti-gay organizations. I further ask that my fellow GW students refrain from eating at Chick-Fil-A (both as a boycott and for your personal health), and that all people not in the GW community stop frequenting their local franchises.

The bottom line is that Chick-Fil-A supports an organization that is disrespectful and hurtful towards LGBT people; it must be punished for this by losing the business of all people who compose and support the LGBT community, and that includes GW.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Introduced as Stand-Alone Bill

UPDATE: It looks like Lieberman, Collins, and Udall are introducing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal as a stand-alone bill, and Lieberman has tweeted that he is "confident" they have 60 votes.
@JoeLieberman: We are working with our colleagues and are confident that there are at least 60 Senators who support repeal.


This just in from Twitter:
@JoeLieberman: @SenatorCollins and I and others are introducing a free standing bill to repeal #DADT today.
@JoeLieberman: Senator Reid told me he will bring our free-standing #DADT repeal up for a vote before end of session.
It is my opinion that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would fare better as its own bill than it would attached to the National Defense Authorization Act.  Sen. Collins will definitely be on board, and we would also probably get Sen. Brown (R-Mass.) and maybe even Sens. Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ensign (R-Nev.).  In this case, we wouldn't need Manchin (Traitor-W.Va.) as we would almost certainly have the 58 votes we had for the most recent cloture vote (counting the vote Lincoln of Arkansas would have cast) and a few more from moderate Republicans as well.

However, it would probably still be contingent on a tax deal being cut, which is seeming less likely to happen within the next day or so given House Dems' rejection of the bill earlier today.  Optimism, then, is quite cautious.

Stay tuned, it's about to get even crazier...

Senate Rejects "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

By a vote of 57 to 40, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, effectively killing, most likely, any chance of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year.

Breaking with an otherwise-unified Republican front was Senator Collins of Maine, who before the vote had gotten into a somewhat-heated debate with Majority Leader Harry Reid over what seemed to be the break-down of negotiations between the two senators.

Siding with Republicans in defeating the motion was Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia.

Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas later said she would have voted for cloture, but was unable to be there for the vote and was not allowed to amend the record to add her vote.

Immediately after the vote, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont took to the floor:
"The last couple of years we've gotten into this habit where nobody wants to vote yes or no, they want to vote maybe, they want to block things from even being considered.  At a time when our nation's in two wars, we can't even get a yes or no vote, we get a maybe.  I find it frustrating."
Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, who highlighted Republicans' continued raising of the proverbial bar (a study, hearings on the study, amendments, debate, tax breaks, etc.) and the serious danger of not passing the NDAA:
"[Republican opposition] thwarts a serious discussion about serious national security issues.  Imagine that, we're in the middle of two wars and can't discuss issues of vital national security.  I don't think Americans all across the country understand such obstructions.  I remain hopeful that somehow this congress can somehow find a way to pass this Defense Authorization bill for the 49th consecutive year.  I'm willing to stay through Christmas to get this work done.  If we can't get "Don't Act, Don't Tell" passed through this bill, then I'm willing to stay past the holidays and debate it as a stand-alone bill."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion for a vote to invoke cloture on the NDAA bill around 8:15 pm, pretty much implying that negotiations had failed to work themselves out in time and that “it’s our troops who will pay the price for our inability to overcome our partisan politics.”

Sen. Collins, who had just arrived to the floor after hearing that Lieberman was moving for a vote, asked for clarification, and Reid informed her that he was not settling on a particular number of amendments and that Republicans - although he lavished praise on her specifically - were "not allowing us to do anything legislatively."

Collins seemed genuinely disappointed and frustrated by what she was hearing:
“It seems evident to me that unfortunately the majority leader is not pursuing the path that we discussed. I want to vote to proceed to this bill; I was the first Republican to announce my support for the carefully-constructed language in the Armed Services Committee that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  This is an enormously important bill… I do not understand why we can’t proceed along a path that will bring us to success and will allow us to get the 60 votes to proceed, which I am willing tt be one of those 60 votes. I thought we were extremely close to getting a reasonable agreement yesterday that would allow us to proceed... There was such a clear path… and I am perplexed and frustrated that this important bill is going to become a victim of politics. We should be able to do better and Senator Lieberman and I have been bargaining in good faith with the majority leader.”
This cloture vote was largely seen as the last chance Democrats had of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year - or, given a Republican takeover of the House next year, for the next several years to come.

Sources say, however, that it is possible DADT will be introduced as a stand-alone bill... Stay tuned.

Last Call for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

It has been confirmed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (or, rather, the cloture vote for the National Defense Authorization Act) will be brought up for a vote this afternoon.  Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has said we have 60 votes, but it is important that we continue to lobby the key swing votes (phone numbers at the bottom of this post) to make sure repeal is passed.

One person we need to lobby is Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).  Some advocacy groups seem to be indicating that Lincoln has changed her mind, but barring an official, Pryor-esque statement, I don’t think we should take her support for granted.  We need all Democrats on board if we’re going to repeal DADT, so give Lincoln a call and urge her to support repeal this time around.

But even if we do get all Democrats on board, we still need at least one Republican on our side (we were one Republican short in September, and we have since then lost Roland Burris of Illinois and gained Scott Brown of Massachusetts).  This vote could come from any of the following senators: Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Sen. Richard Lugar (Indiana), Sen. John Ensign (Nevada), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio).  Each of these senators should be called, as they have all expressed some degree (albeit in some cases quite small) of possible support for repeal.  Collins is the most likely, but she will only vote for cloture if a tax deal is cut first, and if a certain number of amendments and hours for debate are allowed for NDAA consideration.

That means that another person we really need to lobby is Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is responsible for deciding when the cloture vote happens and how many amendments/hours are granted for the bill.  If he doesn’t give moderate Republicans what they want, DADT repeal is probably dead.  Reid and Collins are in negotiations, but we can’t rely on good faith to make sure these negotiations are successful.  Please call Reid and make sure he does what he needs to do to get Collins and other moderate Republicans on board for repeal.

Lastly, we need to lobby President Obama.  The President of the United States is one of the most powerful lobbyists in the world: a call from the president can and will have an impact on moderate Republicans’ views on repeal.  Call the White House Comment Line and tell them you want to see Obama take a more hands-on role in the repeal process.

Our approach, then, is three-fold.  Tell the swing votes – including Democrat Lincoln and several Republicans – to support repeal.  Tell Reid to give Collins and others the tax deal, amendments and debate hours they require to support cloture.  Tell Obama to get more involved in pressuring the Senate to support repeal.

We are coming down to the wire; we don’t have another hour to spare.  Call these numbers NOW and demand repeal:

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.): 202-224-3542
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Importance of Coalition-Building

Reverend Jesse Jackson announced his support for gay marriage Monday at a rally hosted by Marriage Equality USA outside the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals courthouse. Courtesy of San Diego Gay & Lesbian News:
“We stand together today as equal members of the human family…. as consistent principled advocates for human rights for all people. We stand together today to uphold the principles of due process, of equal protection under the law, of fighting against discrimination against any and all people based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

We stand with you today to support Marriage Equality, and to declare that Proposition 8 must be struck down as unconstitutional. Peoples’ right to self-expression, self-determination be respected and affirmed. It’s time to challenge ignorance, a time to break the silence and the chains of hatred, of divisive and discriminatory bigotry. Marriage is based on love and commitment – not on sexual orientation. I support the right for any person to marry the person of their choosing.

If Dr. King and our civil rights movement has taught us anything, it’s the fundamental principle of that all people deserve Equal protection under the law. LGBT people deserve equal rights – including marriage equality – and equal protection under the law. Discrimination against one group of people is discrimination against all of us. The State – and the Courts - should not sanction discrimination.”
Do not underestimate the power of this statement. For a major leader of today’s Civil Rights Movement to come out in support of LGBT rights is a significant development. Given our shaky relations with the African American community recently (some of which is fueled by myth), suffice it to say that this announcement could go a long way in helping to mend the rather large rift that has formed between our groups.

Rev. Jackson’s bold statement presents us with an excellent opportunity to examine the importance of coalition-building. Coalition-building, in its simplest terms, is the process of reaching out to other communities to form a network of mutual advocacy much larger than our own group. It’s very quid pro quo, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” So for instance, we would support the DREAM Act and Paycheck Fairness Act, and expect in return support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from immigrant and women’s rights groups.

Why build coalitions with other minority groups? There are several reasons. First, it’s just smart politics, and given the fact that LGBT rights issues are always considered controversial (even when 69% of the country favors “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal), it’s sort of necessary. The LGBT community makes up less than 10% of the US population. There is no question that we are a minority. But when we team up with other minorities, we start to move from being a small minority to a significant one – and once we form an extremely diverse coalition and even start to get those who are not members of a minority group on our side, we become a majority. And it is when we become a majority that we will achieve our goals: no one will be able to stop us then.

Not only is coalition-building smart politically, but it is also just the right thing to do. As members of the LGBT community, we know what it’s like to be discriminated against, to be treated unequally. We see the Paycheck Fairness Act fail in Congress, and we relate to and sympathize with that defeat. We see young immigrants being arrested for speaking out, and we are reminded of arrests within our own community. We see African Americans getting arrested and prosecuted at a higher rate than any other racial group, and we are acutely aware of a time when we would be arrested just for being gay. Minority groups share in a common experience: tyranny of the majority, and inequality under the law. By standing united with one another, we can show the world the power of our solidarity and our determination to achieve full federal equality.

I am reminded of when I went to the Big Commit down in DC, a rally held last August to demonstrate intra-LGBT community solidarity. I was surprised, pleasantly, to see several people carrying signs with the National Organization for Women insignia. But this shouldn’t surprise me – it shouldn’t surprise me that members of one minority group (and I almost say that ironically, since women are actually 52% of the US population, but are disgustingly still treated as a minority) would come and support the campaigns of another. Frankly, we should have gone and looked up when the next NOW rally was and shown up there, just like members of GetEQUAL stood in solidarity at the DREAM Activists’ court hearing that same summer.

If we want to see equality become a reality, we must band together. No longer can we fight for just gay rights, or just transgender rights, or just women’s rights, or just immigrants’ rights; we must fight for equal rights all. Equality is for everyone – and we must welcome everyone into our movement and be welcomed into theirs.

And don’t just let this be another idealistic, rhetoric-heavy post that you read and say “hmm, good point” and move on from. Make it happen. Do a little research: go to different websites such as,,, etc, etc. Find out if they’re hosting rallies near you: go to those rallies wearing your LGBT pride garb. Make a presence, reach out to them, let them know you support their causes. Let’s all start working to build the coalitions we will need to tackle the challenges of the next decade. We have what it takes: let’s bridge the gaps, mend the fences, and do everything we can to make sure we have the strength in numbers necessary for attaining full equality for all.

Sen. Pryor (D-Ark.) to Support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) announced today that he will support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" within the National Defense Authorization Act.  Here is the statement, courtesy of AmericaBlog:
On many previous occasions, I have said that I would oppose repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell until I had heard from our servicemen and women regarding this policy. I have now carefully reviewed all of the findings, reports, and testimony from our armed forces on this matter and I accept the Pentagon’s recommendations to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I also accept the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ commitment that this policy can be implemented in a manner that does not harm our military’s readiness, recruitment, or retention. We have the strongest military in the world and we will continue to do so by ensuring our troops have the resources necessary to carry out their missions. Therefore, I support the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee and will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year.
This is hugely important.  Pryor was one of two Democrats (the other being Blanche Lincoln of the same state) to vote against cloture last time DADT repeal came up for a vote, which had put us three votes away from the 60 we needed.  His commitment to support repeal puts us one step closer to being rid of the discriminatory and dangerous policy one and for all.

We are closer to repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" than ever before, but take nothing for granted: pick up your phone and call these swing vote Senators now.

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Monday, December 06, 2010

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Appeal Begins Today

Oral arguments start today at 10am PST for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing of the Prop 8 gay marriage case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

First, the appealers (the Yes on 8 crew) have to prove they even have standing to appeal, as the state of California decided not to appeal Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision. If it’s found that they do have standing, it’s looking like the three-judge panel will probably decide the case by a split 2-1 vote (most analysts believe that they will probably rule in our favor), and either way it will most likely get appealed to a larger 9th Circuit panel, and probably the Supreme Court after that. The Los Angeles Times has a good run-down of what will be going on over at the 9th.

Additionally, Chris Geidner over at Poliglot has posted an excellent FAQ on the case, its background and possible future, and its potential impact on California and the rest of the US.

Law wonks might like to view the briefing of the case here, courtesy of American Foundation for Equal Rights.

You can watch the case on C-SPAN; if you’re unable to do so, a lot of people will be live-blogging the trial, but I’d recommend the Prop 8 Trial Tracker live blog, as they’ll be sitting in the court relaying information as it comes in.

AFER’s website is loaded with information on where you can watch the trial (including different TV channels, audio live-streams online, and watch parties across the country) . They will be doing a liveblog as well, with Andy Towle of Towleroad.

You can also get live updates on Twitter via @NCLRights, @KateKendell, @couragecampaign and @AFER.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Sen. Collins to Support Repeal?

This just in from the Kennebec Journal:
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, expressed support Friday for ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the policy that prevents gays from openly serving in the military, following two days of Capitol Hill hearings about its repeal.

“Like our closest allies, the United States’ Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country,” Maine’s junior senator said in a statement.

“I am impressed at the study the Pentagon did; it’s very lengthy, it reflects tens of thousands of interviews and surveys that were received and it concludes that a solid majority of individuals serving today believe that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would not have a negative impact on combat readiness,” Collins said in an interview Friday, after the hearing concluded.

“That doesn’t surprise me because many of our allies already allow open service and they have not seen any lessening in combat effectiveness or military readiness,” she said.

“I have made it clear that if the ... bill (comes) to the floor with sufficient time allowed for debate and amendments, I would vote to proceed to the bill,” she said. (Emphasis added)
This is extremely important: Collins is open to supporting repeal if sufficient time is allowed for debate and amendments.  Whether this happens is entirely up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  If we want repeal to happen, we need to make sure Reid allows time for debate: it will take a lot of pressure to make this happen, because he doesn't want the Lame-Duck session to run too long, but if we ensure there is time for debate and amendments, we can get Collins on board for repeal, and perhaps even Lugar, Murkowski, and Engisn, as well.

Please call Reid now and urge him to allow time for debate so that we can make repeal happen.

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.): 202-224-3542
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.): 202-224-2353
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Friday, December 03, 2010

Arguing Repeal: Why "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Must Go

As we make our way towards the end of the Lame Duck session – and our last chance to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for a long time – it is important that we ramp up our efforts to lobby our senators to support repeal. But telling them you want repeal isn’t enough: you must demonstrate that there are solid, legitimate reasons behind repealing the policy.

I argue that there are five main reasons why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” must be repealed as soon as possible: these reasons are fiscal responsibility, national security, military cohesion, equal protection, and respect for our military. Take a look at the arguments below; arm yourselves with knowledge. Then, pick up the phone and call the key Senate swing voters, and tell the aide who picks up exactly why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” needs to be repealed.

Fiscal Responsibility
Opponents of repeal argue that implementing repeal will cost a lot of money. However, let us not forget that implementing the policy itself costs us a lot of money. A Williams Institute study released earlier this year asserts that approximately half a billion dollars were spent on the policy through 2008, or upwards of $33 million per year. This includes a cost of $22,000 to $43,000 to replace each discharged soldier. So while repeal implementation may be costly, it will eventually pay for itself. Fiscal conservatives should be delighted by the fact that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal provides an easy way to reduce our deficit.

National Security
Opponents of repeal argue that implementing repeal, particularly when we are at war, is a national security risk. Actually, the truth is quite the opposite: that continuing repeal while we are at war is a national security risk. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, around 14,000 soldiers have been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since its inception in 1994. That’s more than 1/10 of the number of soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan, including the “surge.” What’s more, 750 soldiers who were labeled “mission-critical” have been discharged because of this policy (that’s through 2003; I would give a more recent number if I had one). When we’re discharging thousands of soldiers during a time of war, we have to seriously consider the legitimacy of such a policy. And when hundreds of mission-critical soldiers are being lost because of something that has nothing to do with their performance, we need to acknowledge the fact that we are putting upon ourselves a significant national security risk. For the sake of our national security, we must end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as soon as possible.

Military Cohesion
John McCain seems obsessed with the notion of “unit cohesion.” He believes that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will have profoundly negative effects on unit cohesion (a term so vague that it’s almost sort of impossible to debate about). But if cohesion means that every soldier in the unit has respect for one another and “has each other’s backs,” then I would say repeal would be very good for cohesion. What’s better for a unit than for every soldier to be open and honest with one another? In order to work well with someone, there can’t be lies, deceit, and issues of trust and discretion. To be open about who you are is

Equal Protection
The United States Constitution guarantees equal rights under the law (see, for example, the various clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment). When Judge Virginia Phillips ruled DADT unconstitutional two months ago, she asserted that the plaintiffs, the Log Cabin Republicans, "established at trial that Don't Ask, Don't Tell Act irreparably injures servicemembers by infringing their fundamental rights." The policy, she said, violates servicemembers’ due process rights, freedom of speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances guaranteed by the First Amendment. Phillips is right: our constitution was created to protect people, particularly minorities, from government tyranny; “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” clearly violates servicemembers’ rights. To support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is to support a policy that directly goes against our constitution and the founding principles thereof.

Respect for the Military
It is important that we respect those who serve in our military, even if we do not agree with the wars they are fighting. These are individuals who are prepared and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country: all Americans who wish to serve their country in this way should be, at the very least, respected for their decision to do so. It is estimated that at least 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently serving in the military, or about 2% of all military personnel. To put it simply, those who wish for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to remain in effect demonstrate a sheer lack of respect and appreciation for 2% of the military. That is unacceptable. We must respect everyone who is willing to wear the uniform with pride; let us treat each and every servicemember with the same level of respect.

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark): 202-224-2353
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Sen. Brown (R-Mass.) to Support DADT Repeal

Courtesy of, we have received word that Sen. Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, will support repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell:"
“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer. As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.

“I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the Secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”
One wonders if this will initiate a chain reaction, with other Republicans who were up until now on the fence about repeal being galvanized by the first Republican who was openly willing to go against McConnell's promise that all 42 Republicans would block DADT repeal until tax cuts for the wealthy were extended.  We are still waiting on Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John Ensign of Nevada, not to mention, of course, our two favorite Democrats, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Might this ripple turn into a wave? Stay tuned for updates...  In the meantime, here are those numbers one more time:

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark): 202-224-2353
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Thursday, December 02, 2010

GWU to Offer Gender-Neutral Housing

Starting next fall, students at the George Washington University (the school I attend) will be able to room with students of the opposite gender, so long as they request one another.  This system, known as Gender Neutral-Housing, is seen as pro-LGBT because many LGBT people feel more comfortable rooming with someone of the opposite gender (myself, frankly, included).  GWU joins approximately 50 other schools in allowing students to room with members of the opposite gender.  The new housing option will be available in all but the designated female-only dorms of Merriweather, Strong, and 2109 F St. Halls. 

From GWToday:
The university’s decision to expand housing options is a direct response to a student proposal which came through the GW Student Association in spring 2010, according to Peter Konwerski, senior associate vice president and dean of students.

A GW review committee convened earlier this year conducted extensive analysis of national best practices and solicited student, alumni and parent input on the issue. The committee, which included students, faculty, staff, alumni and parent representatives, recently recommended to senior management that GW offer a gender neutral housing option.

David Glidden, president of the student-run Residence Hall Association, says the flexibility gender neutral housing affords students is yet another example of the ways living in a residence hall constitutes “an extremely beneficial and meaningful part of student life at GW.”

“We are excited to continue to represent the interests of on-campus residents throughout the development of this program,” says Mr. Glidden.
And from the GW Hatchet:
Michael Komo, a former Student Association senator and president of Allied in Pride, led a highly publicized effort last year, urging the University to implement gender-neutral housing.

“To see my hard work and the hard work of all the students involved with this process come to fruition is very meaningful,” Komo said. “GNH is extremely important to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, many of whom feel more comfortable living with someone of a different gender. However, this decision is a monumental victory for everyone – LGBT students and their straight counterparts.”
I applaud GWU for its decision to join a rising number of schools in allowing its students to room with whoever they feel most comfortable with.  It is important that GWU remain a school that fosters learning and growth: Gender-Neutral Housing, despite what our school's very tiny conservative population (I think at this point it's Cynthia Meyer and one or two others) would want you to believe, is a major improvement for student life.  It is commendable that our administration has so quickly embraced the year-old campaign to bring Gender-Neutral Housing to our campus.  I look forward to seeing similar progress in the future towards embracing and accomodating GWU's LGBT students.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

HIV/AIDS Resources

In honor of World AIDS Day today, I thought I would share some resources relating to HIV/AIDS. HIV is more prevalent now than ever before: over 1.1 million people in the US have HIV, and 20% of people who have HIV don’t even know they have it. These numbers are startling, but this is a problem we can fix.  Please take a look at these websites to help keep yourself and others safe:

Where to get tested (US)

Where to get tested (UK)

Note: Getting tested for HIV is extremely easy, and in many cases very cheap, if not free. You don’t even have to get your blood drawn: you swab the inside of your mouth, and then you get your result in 10 minutes. It could not be simpler: you have no excuse not to get tested.

World AIDS Day website

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pentagon Study Recommends Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

The Department of Defense has released the long-awaited findings of its study on how best to implement repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  You can view the findings of the study here and all of the study-related news here, but here are the most important bits:

Fast Facts:
  • The study received survey responses from 115,052 servicemembers and 44,266 military spouses, and another 72,384 online comments from servicemembers and their families. The 68-member working group held 95 in-person forums with 24,000 servicemembers at 51 military installations, and held 140 smaller focus groups.
  • 70% of servicemembers said repeal would have a positive, mixed, or no effect on unit cohesion and readiness.  A "significant majority" of 30% expressed negative views or concerns with regards to repeal
  • 69% of servicemembers said they believed they had worked with someone who is gay. Of those who knew they had worked with a gay person, 92 percent said their experience was very good, good, or neither good nor poor.
  • 74% of spouses said repeal would have no bearing on whether they wanted their spouse to stay in the military; 12% who said they would want their spouse to leave sooner.

From the Executive Summary:
"Our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer below, the risk of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to overall military effectiveness is low. We conclude that, while a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will likely, in the short term, bring about some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention, we do not believe this disruption will be widespread or long-lasting, and can be adequately addressed by the recommendations we offer below. Longer term, with a continued and sustained commitment to core values of leadership, professionalism, and respect for all, we are convinced that the U.S. military can adjust and accommodate this change, just as it has others in history."
Recommendations for Repeal:

Courtesy of the Huffington Post:
  • Repeal needs to have "strong leadership, a clear message, and proactive education." Commanders in the field need to be equipped with the proper education and training tools to educate the force on the changes.
  • Military does not need to establish an extensive set of new standards of conduct for repeal, but does need to issue guidance making clear that all standards of conduct apply uniformly, without regard to sexual orientation.
  • A large number of servicemembers expressed religious and moral objections to homosexuality. While the report's co-authors noted that these concerns should not be dismissed, members of the U.S. military already serve alongside people of different faiths and values. An important message of repeal needs to be servicemembers "will not be required to change their personal views and religious beliefs; they must, however, continue to respect and serve with others who hold different views and beliefs."
  • Certain benefits should be accorded to same-sex partners and families of gay servicemembers, although full benefits cannot be legally extended because of the Defense of Marriage Act. For ones that are not barred by this law, the report's co-authors recommend "the benefit be refashioned to become a member-designated one -- in other words, to give the Service member, gay or straight, the discretion to designate whomever he or she wants as beneficiary."
  • Servicemembers who have been discharged under DADT should be allowed to apply for re-entry.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marriage: Just a Word?

A lot of people think that gay couples should be happy with civil unions or domestic partnerships and stop complaining that they aren't allowed to call their relationship a "marriage" (these are, by the way, the same people who don't think we should have civil unions in the first place).  They argue that since in some cases (such as Washington state) these domestic partnerships give full legal rights to those couples (which is in itself a fallacy thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act), there is no reason to demand marriage equality.

But marriage is more than a word with a dictionary definition.  Marriage has legal and cultural implications that get intentionally ignored by opponents of gay marriage.  To illustrate the point, let me ask my straight readers: how would you feel if you were married, and someone suddenly told you that you could no longer refer to your marriage as such, or to your husband or wife as such?  Would you not feel that something special was being taken away from you, like your relationship was somehow being deligitimized?

Civil Unions: A Love Story, recently posted by Ben Smith over at Politico, illustrates perfectly how deeply marriage is engrained in our society.  The idea, essentially, is that you never hear a little girl talking about how much she wants to be unionized civilly, or an old couple talking about the trials and tribulations of civil unionization.  And lest we forget our favorite movie, "My Big Fat Greek Civil Union."

Yes, marriage is more than just a word, much more.  We need to let all people, regardless of sexual orientation, partake in the joys of marriage, and the legal and cultural recognition that comes with it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who We Must Lobby for DADT Repeal

A few days ago, I wrote a post explaining which senators we must target our lobbying efforts at, based on which senators will be most important in determining whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal succeeds or fails. Those senators were Lincoln and Pryor of Arkansas, Manchin of West Virginia, Levin of Michigan, and Reid (Majority Leader) of Nevada. A lot has happened in the past few days, so I figured I should update what our strategy needs to be.

Very recently, four Republican senators have indicated that they are likely to support repeal. These senators are Ensign of Nevada, Murkowski of Alaska, Collins of Maine and Lugar of Indiana. Ensign and Murkowski are awaiting the Pentagon study, while Collins and Lugar are asking there be debate time so that Republicans can introduce amendments to the Defense Authorization bill.

I am very confident that Ensign and Murkowski will vote for repeal when the time comes given their previous statements. However, that would still leave us one vote short of cloture (we were three votes short last time). To further complicate matters, we will have an additional deficit of two votes because we don’t know how Kirk of Illinois and Manchin are going to vote: both of their predecessors' votes went to supporting cloture last time. That means we need three more votes. Therefore, we also need to target Manchin, Lincoln, and Pryor to make sure every Democrat votes for cloture. To be safe, we should also make sure Collins and Lugar are on board by ensuring that Reid allows time for debate. Therefore, our primary target for lobbying needs to be Reid: if we get Reid to allow debate, that’s two more votes, and if we can keep Manchin’s vote and/or move Lincoln and/or Pryor to the ‘yea’ column, that’s enough to put us over the top and them some.

In sum, we have four key senators: Reid, Lincoln, Pryor, and Manchin. And as always, we should be calling the White House to make sure Obama has a major role in this process; his advocacy could help some of those Dems switch sides.. Manchin doesn’t yet have a number, but below are the numbers for the other senators you should call. And please do call: if we demonstrate to these senators that voting for repeal will increase their support and not decrease it, we can shift the tally in our favor.

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.): 202-224-3542
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark): 202-224-2353

EXTRA (Republicans who may support repeal)
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.): 202-224-6244
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): 202-224-6665
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How DADT Repeal Can Be Won

Edit 3: Four Republicans - Collins, Lugar, Murkowski, and Ensign - have now expressed that they will vote in favor of a repeal-inclusive NDAA, so long as proper debate time is allotted.  Therefore, it is crucial that we call Reid to make sure hew gives it to them: with four Republicans on our side, we won't need Lincoln, Pryor, OR Manchin.

Edit 2: Kerry Eleveld reports that Levin has asked Reid to schedule a vote on a repeal-inclusive NDAA after Thanksgiving recess, which Reid will do.  Therefore, I am taking Levin off the list of key senators (who had been there after indicating he may strip NDAA of DADT repeal), bringing it down to four.   

Edit: We've just learned that Reid will bring the Defense Auth bill, with DADT repeal, up for a vote in December, after the Pentagon study comes out.  What this means is that we will have one more Republican (Mark Kirk) and one less Democrat (Roland Burris) in the Senate, so we will need two Republicans (I point out below that this is most likely Collins and Lugar) on board, making it all the more important that we make these phone calls.  Please call the numbers listed below - we can repeal DADT, this year, but we all need to chip in.

A few days ago, I wrote a post, both on here and over at Pam’s House Blend, urging people not to give up on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. I outlined five key Senators who hold the fate of lame-duck repeal in their hands. I will now go into further detail as to why I selected these senators, and how they can be persuaded to vote for repeal (or at least cloture). Phone numbers to call are at the bottom in case you want to scroll past all of this.

The first key senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, wasn’t in the Senate back in September when the cloture vote failed. The substitute for Robert Byrd voted for cloture, but we don’t really know whether Manchin supports repeal. Manchin has been distancing himself from Obama and congressional Democrats (or at least he was when he was worried he might lose his election), so his vote should not be taken for granted. I believe he can be persuaded to support repeal if we make a strong case: here, a call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates could make a difference, especially since Gates himself is a Republican who supports repeal. Manchin is also from a more conservative state, and the fact that repeal is being channeled through the Defense Authorization bill might make him more likely to support cloture. All this is to say we may be able to get him on our side, and frankly we need to just to be back to where we were in September (three votes short), so it’s important we lobby him and make sure he votes with the Democrats.

Key senators two and three are also Democrats, who were in the Senate in September but who did not vote for cloture: those are Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Their ‘nay’ votes came as a surprise to many, particularly myself, given that one of Lincoln’s aides told me she would vote for repeal. The circumstances under which Lincoln and Pryor voted against cloture are still enigmatic. My belief is that Lincoln voted against cloture in a last-ditch effort to shore up votes in a race that was heavily favoring the Republican: she may have asked Pryor to do the same. We really don’t know. It is within the realm of possibility that Pryor and Lincoln could switch their votes now that the election is over. If there is a chance of this happening, let’s not waste it: let’s call them up and make our voices heard, tell them that if they want to win an election, they have to give their supporters what they promise. My belief is that if we get one, we can probably get the other, but let’s play it safe and lobby them both.

Key senator four, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, wouldn’t normally be a lobbying target, but lobbying him would actually help us get two Republicans on board. See, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Richard Lugar of Indiana have both stated they would support repeal if Reid allowed for debate, which he did not allow for back in September. Levin has also asked him to allow debate, knowing that it would help shore up support if Republicans were allowed to try to add amendments to NDAA.  Were Reid to allow debate, we would get Collins and Lugar on board, without having to lobby them. Lobby Reid, get Collins and Lugar.  Both Collins and Lugar will be necessary in getting 60 votes, as Senator Mark Kirk takes Roland Burris’ Illinois seat after Thanksgiving. So call Reid and tell him to allow debate, putting us over the top for cloture.

While we’re at it, let’s call the White House – tell Obama to make some phone calls. We’ve received word that he did so today, calling Levin and advising him to keep repeal in the Defense Auth bill. That’s really important – the President is one of the most powerful lobbyists there is – but he needs to continue to show strong support for repeal if we’re going to make this happen. And to do that, he needs to know we are on his side and are expecting him to keep his campaign promise of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which he can’t do after the new Congress comes in.

So here are the numbers. There are four (I haven’t been able to find a number for Manchin yet – all the more reason to call Obama and make sure he’s lobbying the Democrats that need persuading), eight if you count the moderate Republicans who may switch their cloture votes. You could call all of them in less than 15 minutes. Please do so. While we don’t know for sure that it is possible to change these senators’ minds, there is no good reason not to try.

White House Comment Line: 202-456-1111
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.): 202-224-3542
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark): 202-224-4843
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark): 202-224-2353

EXTRA (Republicans who may support repeal)
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): 202-224-2523
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): 202-224-4814
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine): 202-224-5344
Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 202-224-3353