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Twittering at Senator McCaskill on DADT

By Julia Rosen

Senator Claire McCaskill sits on the all important Senate Armed Service Committee that is going to be the key to passing a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), but she has not yet co-sponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. That’s Senator Lieberman’s bill, which was just introduced last week. The fair Senator from Missouri is also known for being a huge Twitter lover and often referred to as the best tweeting member of Congress.

This week the Courage Campaign decided that it was the perfect opportunity to start a Twitter based petition to Senator McCaskill, urging her to co-sponsor the DADT bill. Here it is:

petition @clairecmc co-sponsor bill to repeal #DADT. (via @couragecampaign) RT to sign #actly

Over 1,072 people have tweeted to sign the petition and Senator McCaskill saw it and tweeted about it herself! It’s now the 4th highest Twitter petition campaign on Act.Ly of all time. Less than 200 to go to the #1 spot!

It’s having a much larger impact than if the Courage Campaign had encouraged our members to lob calls into her office, all from a few clicks on the keyboard and mouse. These days it is not easy to actually get through to a member of Congress, but by innovating and using the new tools that they are using, we can break through.

61 Comments March 10, 2010

Don’t Lie, Don’t Misinform

By Julia Rosen

The right is incredibly effective at spreading lies and distortions in an attempt to stop change and reform. That’s why it is crucial that the truth gets out about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, especially when we have seen the enormous damage done to attempts at reforming health care, the banking industry and many more. The Courage Campaign proudly signed on to a letter and a great piece of research from Media Matters debunking a number of myths that the right is spreading in an attempt to stop the repeal of DADT.

The letter is below the fold, and was also signed by AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis, GLAAD’s Jarrett T. Barrios, Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese, Knights Out’s Becky Kanis, Media Matters’ President Eric Burns, National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Kate Kendall, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Rea Carey, National Security Network’s Heather Hurlburt, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Aubrey Sarvis, Servicemembers United’s Alex Nicholson, Truman National Security Project’s Rachel Kleinfeld, VoteVets’ Jon Soltz, and last but not least our friend and yours, Lt. Dan Choi, US Army Infantry Officer and Arabic Linguist. It’s not all that often that all of these folks sign on to the same letter and it is a testament to the excellent resource produced by Media Matters and importance of pushback on the lies.

Here are a few of the myths and links to sources that debunk the claims. I urge all of you to help spread around the accurate information whenever you see someone making an inaccurate statement about DADT.

MYTH: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is working

REALITY: Over 13,500 service members reportedly fired under law, including decorated officers and those in “critical occupations.”

MYTH: Repeal would undermine morale and unit cohesion

REALITY: Unit cohesion argument “not supported by any scientific studies.”

MYTH: Military experts oppose the repeal of DADT

REALITY: More than 100 retired generals and admirals have called for DADT’s repeal.

MYTH: The public does not support repeal of DADT

REALITY: Numerous polls find broad support for gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military

MYTH: Right-wing attacks on DADT repeal are not anti-gay

REALITY: Prominent right-wing figures opposing repeal have a history of anti-gay rhetoric.

MYTH: DADT repeal would adversely affect retention

REALITY: Myth defies experiences of several other countries that have allowed gay men and lesbians to serve openly.

MYTH: Experience of other nations aren’t relevant because “nobody counts on” their armies

REALITY: Several nations have fought in wars after allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly.

MYTH: Only progressives support the repeal of DADT

REALITY: Polls show support for repeal of DADT among many Republicans, conservatives.

MYTH: DADT repeal would expose servicemembers to greater HIV risk

REALITY: Military regulations and procedures already exist to prevent the spread of HIV.


85 Comments February 24, 2010

Asking and Telling: Lieberman and the DADT repeal

By Julia Rosen

Get ready for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be all over the media starting tomorrow. The Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator Levin will bring the heads of all four branches of the military to testify about DADT on Tuesday and Thursday. It is some will be in favor of repeal more than others. One of the big questions is just how strongly Gen. James Conway, head of the Marines, will oppose changing the policy. He is known widely as not being in favor of change to DADT. The Republicans have been looking forward to getting him on the stand.

Meanwhile, it appears that Senator Leiberman will be the lead Senator introducing repeal legislation in the Senate. The Advocate:

In a statement released by his office, Lieberman said, “I will be proud to be a sponsor of the important effort to enable patriotic gay Americans to defend our national security and our founding values of freedom and opportunity. I have opposed the current policy of preventing gay Americans from openly serving in the military since its enactment in 1993. To exclude one group of Americans from serving in the armed forces is contrary to our fundamental principles as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and weakens our defenses by denying our military the service of a large group of Americans who can help our cause. I am grateful for the leadership of President Obama to repeal the policy and the support of Secretary Gates and Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen.”

No specific details on the legislation have been released. The big question is the timeline and just how aggressive Lieberman will be in pushing to get legislation passed this year. There are secondary questions about just how this gets through Congress.

Nicholson said the stand-alone bill could also be incorporated into the Department of Defense authorization bill, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act, while the funding bill is still in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Repeal advocates generally agree that ideally a repeal measure would be included in the original draft of the NDAA — or the “chairman’s mark” — before it comes out of committee, as opposed to either trying to add an amendment to the defense funding bill later or passing free-standing repeal legislation.

“It’s of course possible for a stand-alone bill to be inserted into the chairman’s mark of the NDAA, and we hope that will be the next step because I think that’s safest option for getting ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed in 2010,” Nicholson said.

Got all that? The stand-alone bill would be the legislation that Lieberman will introduce and work to whip his fellow Senators to become co-sponsors. The reality is that it’s much easier to get repeal passed if it becomes part of a larger “must pass bill” like the defense authorization bill. That’s how hate crimes legislation got passed last year. Generally speaking, the earlier it gets attached to the authorization bill, the easier that path is (ie. needs less votes).

So, if this bill has a date-certain for repeal and gets added as a “chairman’s mark” in the Armed Services Committee, that Levin chairs that is the easiest path for passage.

Stay tuned this week as this story develops. There are a lot of unknowns right now. We should know a lot more by the end of the week than we do now.

163 Comments February 22, 2010

CPAC and the Gays

By Julia Rosen

The far right is holding their annual conference called CPAC. They are perhaps best known for their straw poll of presidential contenders to get a sense of how the conservative base feels at the moment. The event is packed with speeches and vendors. And yes, the homos have been a topic of conversation.

HRC managed to grab this video of a press conference about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

It’s hard to pick the most ourageous moment of that press conference. Is it Elaine Donnelly saying Admiral Mullen let down the troops? No, though I do love that she is wearing a rainbow pin. What about Tom Minnery from Focus on the Family calling the potential repeal of DADT a “social engineering debacle” and claiming that it will result in a bunch of “severely disappointed gay men”. To which I say: what about the lesbians? Or Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council who said this was not an issue of “two men or two women holding hands in camouflage”. Huh?

An even bigger head-scratcher was David Keene from the American Conservative Union to tried to draw analogy to health care reform and wall street reform, claiming that people who don’t know anything about the military are “telling us how it ought to be run.” This comes of course from a guy who has absolutely no military experience himself and has been a political hack nearly his whole life. Penny Nance of the Concerned Women of American thinks that repealing DADT means Obama is not serious about the War on Terror!!!

Last but not least is Admiral James “Ace” Lyons (ret.) who incredibly starts talking about 19th century history, claiming that there were so many gays in the military that mothers tried to keep their sons out of the service “rampant” he says, just “rampant”. That’s not something I ever learned in history class. My favorite part is when he starts comparing gays to “drug pushers”. Yes, really.

But this video is not all of the fun to be had at CPAC, when it comes to the gays. A new group GOProud (get it, they are Republicans who haven’t let their fellow party members make them hate themselves) signed up for a table, causing the Liberty Council (Jerry Falwell’s group) to throw a hissy fit and threaten to pull out. CPAC called their bluff. GOProud came and so did the Liberty Council. Mother Jones has the full story, but this was my favorite bit.

GOProud already sports 2,000 members and is apparently growing. Its CPAC booth, separated by a single table from the National Organization for Marriage, the anti-gay marriage group, drew some curious looks from conference attendees, but LaSalvia says people had been friendly.

I wonder if Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown’s heads exploded, when they saw their neighbors.

215 Comments February 18, 2010

Admiral Mullen stands strong in support of DADT repeal

By Julia Rosen

Today’s congressional hearing on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — the first in 17 years — turned out to be much more significant than many people had expected. For weeks we had been hearing leaks that the military wanted to “study” DADT. To many, it sounded like they just wanted to kick the can down the road and were not serious about ending this policy that forces countless honorable soldiers serving their country to lie every day about who they are and who they love.

It turns out that while the military wants to spend time studying DADT, they will not be asking “if” it should be repealed — but “how” it should be repealed. Let me repeat that: Admiral Mike Mullen, representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are on record as fully committed to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Mullen tweeted after the hearing, reemphasizing what he said quite clearly during the hearing:

Stand by what I said: Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity.

Here are more quotes from the NYT:

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said it was his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

But both Admiral Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the committee they needed more time to review how to carry out the change in policy, which requires an act of Congress, and predicted some disruption to the armed forces.

I was struck by how resolute Mullen was about repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when watching the hearing today. A friend of mine was at the hearing and ran into Rachel Maddow, who expressed the same thing to her. President Obama ordered them to take action on the repeal, but the statement by Mullen went way beyond that.

It would have been very difficult politically to overturn DADT without the support of the Joint Chiefs. We have that support now on the record. As a result, the military is on a path to allow gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals to serve their country openly and honestly. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it is a slow path and the reality is that it should not take an entire year to study this. The military should have spent last year doing this research, after President Obama made it clear that this was a priority. They should have a plan now for implementation, but they don’t and aren’t gong to have one for a long time.

That said, they are going to be making some smaller positive steps in the interim period to lessen the effects of this policy, while they a) do the research b) wait for Congress to repeal the law.

In the interim, Mr. Gates announced that the military was moving toward enforcing the existing policy “in a fairer manner” — a reference to the possibility that the Pentagon would no longer take action to discharge service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties or jilted partners, one of the most onerous aspects of the law. Mr. Gates said he had asked the Pentagon to make a recommendation on the matter within 45 days, but “we believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform.”

The things they are talking about do not go as far as they could. For example, a moratorium on discharging soldiers could be put in place until the law is repealed, not just limiting who can accuse people of being gay.

From a cold calculated political analysis view point and not as an advocate, the statements by Mullen and Gates today mean that passage of a DADT repeal this year in Congress is less likely, even though the Pentagon’s support means there is now a lot more momentum for repeal as a practical matter. Further complicating things, it is tough to argue that Congress needs to pass the repeal of DADT when the military is saying they are working on a plan, but aren’t ready for a repeal yet. In addition, this is an election year and the natural inclination of politicians is to avoid heated topics while they are running for re-election.

That said, Congress could pass a repeal of DADT this year, and instruct the military to have their implementation plan ready to go when the law goes into effect on a specific date. The likeliest vehicle for that legislatively is rolling it into a must-pass defense bill, which would not require 60 votes in the Senate, a fact that was pointed out by Senator Levin during today’s hearing.

This is all pretty fresh and momentum for repealing DADT in Congress this year will be easier to assess once more legislators respond to what happened during the Senate hearing today. The next hearing will be on February 11th and will likely have more time for the Senators to ask questions and speak. They were limited to just four minutes today.

65 Comments February 2, 2010

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