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Posts Tagged ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’

Change is Afoot

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What a difference a week makes.

Just a week after GetEqual’s first direct action, the Pentagon announced today that Sec. Robert Gates is taking “unilateral action” ahead of congressional action in order to relax the enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

From the Washington Independent:

Gates told senators that he would put together a study group, led by Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham and Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, to study the least-disruptive ways to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

That study hasn’t concluded. Nor has the Senate taken up Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) bill to repeal the ban. But Gates has some unilateral tools at his disposal, and this week he intends to use them.

“He will announce changes to the way the current law is being enforced that make it more difficult to begin investigations and kick people out,” said a defense source who would not speak for the record ahead of Gates’s announcement. Spokesman Geoff Morrell hinted in his briefing yesterday that Gates would make some changes, but did not specify any.

The announcement comes the same day that long-time gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was instrumental in organizing last October’s National Equality March, published a conciliatory open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the letter, Jones Jones makes an appeal for Speaker Pelosi’s skills as an artful and persuasive politician and leader.

We’ve seen the passion you’ve brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community — especially young people — are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

It is clear that the gay rights movement has no plans to ease up on its pressure to act on ENDA and DADT this year. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. House Dems may have been chanting “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” at the health care reform bill signing ceremony, but I’m just not that confident they have it in them to work on immigration and climate change much less ENDA and DADT. I just don’t have that much faith in them, I guess.

Despite that, I still plan to do my part to keep up the pressure. If there’s anything the health care debate has taught us is that for change to happen with this administration and this congress it’s going to take everything your side has for anyone to react.

Choi’s actions were criticized last week by some because of his apparent ignorance to the debate du jour, health care. I think it was smart, though. After all, the Pentagon has not ceased operations because of that debate. In the midst of all the health care craziness were hearings and testimony from military brass before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Each who for the most part were in solidarity on the need to put an end to the inane DADT policy.

Surely Choi’s behavior caught the notice of his superiors who were no doubt put in an ackward situation because of him. Better to just urge Sec. Gates to do something now in order to curb more and more similar actions by other LGBT servicemembers who are certainly growing tired of this policy, too.

I know Congress would like to coast from here on out until November, but the reality is there is still so much more to get done and the community simply must keep vigorously applying the pressure. I am admittedly skeptical to whether Congress will do anything for the rest of the year, but I’ve never wanted to be proven so wrong before.

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It’s Time to Take Action

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

So, it turns out Lt. Dan Choi’s action yesterday was what GetEqual.org, the new group behind the actions, says was the first of “many more actions planned for the coming weeks and months.”

GetEqual.org launched today and included video of Choi’s arrest as well as coverage of coordinated efforts in Speaker Pelosi’s DC and district offices.

GetEqual.org’s founders, Robin McGehee and Kip Williams, were also lead organizers behind the National Equality March last October. That march had many supporters, most notably Equality Across America, which McGehee and Williams have since left. This new effort includes Will Phillips, the 10-year old Arkansas boy who has become a new advocate for equality. I gotta say. I love this kid.

In their press release today, McGehee says GetEqual.org is doing exactly what the Obama administration and congressional supporters have said they should.

“D.C. politicians, including President Obama, have said they need pressure in order to move the right policy forward — and if they don’t live up to their promises, we promise to be back.”

I don’t really write much about DADT, but I definitely support its repeal and I’m behind all the efforts to make that repeal happen. I don’t understand why conservatives like Sen. McCain don’t get it, especially since they’re all about national security. How does it make sense to discharge an Arabic interpreter in the middle of a war and during a recruiting crisis?!

My thoughts on GetEqual? Well, a friend put it best when he said, “you gotta love those agitators.” I think he’s right. We need them.

There are other pressing issues, it’s true. Equality is no less pressing and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is an easy lift for the federal government, despite what McCain says. I’m all for making sure the public doesn’t forget that this is a real fight happening. There are real men and women in uniform who just want to be recognized as an equal citizen in the eyes of the government they serve.

So, fight on GetEqual.org. Don’t let the public forget.

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Griffin was Awesome. Dan Choi Stole the Show

March 19, 2010 2 comments

It was a great day for a protest in Washington.

The official news: Kathy Griffin led the call for the immediate repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at a rally in downtown DC. She was a crowd-pleaser for about 1,000 people. Surely the gorgeous weather the nation’s capital is enjoying helped. It was a cool experience and I for one am grateful to have her on our side.

The big news, though and surely much to the chagrin of HRC, was the arrest of  Lt. Dan Choi, which followed a last-minute request to HRC President Joel Solmonese to deliver remarks.

From Choi’s statement:

You have been told that the President has a plan. But Congressman Barney Frank confirmed to us this week that the President still is not fully committed to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year. And if we don’t seize this moment it may not happen for a very long time. Some may tell you that I am one of the lucky ones. I have been welcomed back by my unit with open arms.  And it would be easy for me to stay quiet and hope that change will happen.

But what I was taught at West Point and learned in war is — hope is not a strategy. As officers, James and I both find it a dereliction of our moral duty to remain silent while thousands of our brothers and sister are not allowed to serve openly and honestly.

HRC explained the situation on its blog:

There’s been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi’s role in the rally.  As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn’t his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans.  After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks.

It was in an interesting cap to the event and Kathy’s performance was awesome. I’m glad I was there to see her, if nothing else because it was fabulous to see Kathy’s reaction to Cher’s text right before she was about to wrap up. “That’s why I love you, bitch.” That’s why WE ALL love you, Kathy.

Choi’s move was a dramatic one for a Lieutenant whose discharge is under review.  After seeing him arrested I can’t help but wonder if Lt. Choi knows of an impending discharge coming down the pike. Did this action mark his last stand as a currently serving member of the Marine Corps? A final stand in defense of human rights and for a change in a policy ensconced in hate?

I sure hope not.

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