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Archives – March, 2010

Let the Bigots Leave

by Brian Leubitz

Much has been made about DADT, and whether the army will be able to survive in tact. Or at least, much has been made of that from the Right. In reality, when there are no restrictions like DADT, other nations have fared remarkably well. There has been very little impact on the military, and soldiers just get used to it. But that would be additional normalization of our community, and that’s really what the Right is fighting.

But, President Obama and his commanders have let everybody know that they have an option if they don’t like serving with openly gay Americans: They can leave.

Mullen said if uniformed officers disagree with President Barack Obama’s call for a repeal, the answer for them is ”to vote with your feet.” (New York Times blog)

This arises in the context of one general, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, writing a letter to the Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, asking his fellow bigots to let everybody know how ignorant they are. Traditionally, military officers, especially those close to, but not at, the top levels speak through their commanding officers, rather than going public with their positions on the issue.

In the letter Mixon wrote: “Now is the time to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.” (FoxNews)

Adm. Mullen, the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has had town halls with service personnel across the globe, and the issue just doesn’t come up. In the end, most of the military either doesn’t care that much about the issue, or they just want to end the charade. Leaders such as Colin Powell are also now speaking against the policy, now finally acknowledging what everybody has known for decades. There have been gays and lesbians in the military, and there will be gays and lesbians in the military. The question is whether you let them live their lives openly and honestly, in a manner that befits an American service member, or if you force them to lie about their personal lives.

President Obama has called for the repeal of DOMA this year, and for political reasons, that is even more important with elections looming. The next Congress might not be as friendly to our community. But instead of decisively acting, the President has been slow walking DADT repeal by waiting for a Pentagon study. Today they announced some changes around the margins in DADT investigations, but the heart of the policy remains solidly intact.

It’s time to quit studying already. Let’s join the bulk of our NATO allies and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Not in 3 years, but now.

83 Comments March 25, 2010

More on Judge Walker’s Ruling Yesterday

by Brian Leubitz

Yesterday’s ruling was a bit of a setback for the No on Prop 8 campaign, but probably won’t result in any major change in the legal proceedings. It will perhaps give the Yes on 8 campaign operatives a bit of information that they would otherwise not have access to, but much of the top-level communications will be private.

Basically, it’s the same deal that the Yes on 8 Campaign got. The logic is a bit different, though. The Yes on8 Campaign was trying to get the populace to buy their logic. And they did. The No on 8 Campaign was trying to dissuade Californians, and they didn’t. And that’s the argument the No campaign and the ACLU are making in this debate.

Karen Ocamb has a good recap of Judge Walker’s ruling ordering the No on 8 Campaign to comply with Magistrate Spero’s order. And the AP’s Lisa Leff also covered the story:

“We do believe this decision is incorrrect,” said Geoffrey Kors, Equality California’s executive director. “A core issue in the case is whether the motivation of those who put Prop. 8 on the ballot is animus (dislike for gays). Why people opposed Prop. 8 is not relevant.”

In rejecting the groups’ arguments, Walker said Magistrate Joseph Spero took substantial steps to make the task easier, including listing specific search terms for culling relevant material from computer files and limiting the material to documents dealing with campaign arguments formulated to fight the gay marriage ban.

“To the extent the ACLU and Equality California argue the magistrate’s order imposes an undue burden on them, they have failed to substantiate the burden,” Walker wrote.

Protect Marriage, the group that sponsored Proposition 8, already has been required to hand over similar campaign materials to lawyers representing two same-sex couples who sued to invalidate the ballot initiative that passed with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008. (AP)

As Julia noted yesterday, the No on 8 Campaign will likely appeal the decision. However, given the precedent, they are basically solely relying on the fact that they lost. Thus, their arguments were not those of the people and are not relevant to the case. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that Judge Walker’s ruling is overturned, but the odds seem slim.

So, what does this order cover? Basically it requires the campaign to do a search on a couple of computer databases. Magistrate Judge Spero even included search terms in his order. However, communications of the “core group” of the campaign are exempted. For the No side, that group is a little fuzzy at this point, so there might be a little wrangling on that as well. So, the end result is a continued delay in proceedings as the last of these discovery details are ironed out. I wouldn’t expect any sort of closing arguments until the end of April at the earliest, but probably later.

215 Comments March 23, 2010

Walker upholds disclosure ruling

By Julia Rosen

Today Judge Walker upheld the ruling by a federal magistrate mandating that Prop 8 opponents (the good guys) turn over internal documents and emails to the other side. It looks like the issue over though. SFGate:

Walker’s decision could delay a verdict.

The American Civil Liberties Union, one of the three groups that must turn over the campaign materials, has said it would appeal if Walker upholds the magistrate’s order.

While it looked like it would only be a few weeks between oral arguments and the scheduling of closing arguments, it has been fights like this one that has been slowing down the process. The wheels of justice move slowly. We could be into summer by the time there is a ruling.

74 Comments March 22, 2010

San Mateo Area High School Students Stand Up to Bigots

by Brian Leubitz

Hateful Signs of Fred Phelps
Hateful Signs of Fred Phelps
Fred Phelps Hate
As the “Laramie Project” is performed across the nation, it frequently draws the ire of the right-wing. Frequently, the star of the freak show is none other than Topeka, KS, “preacher” Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist “Church.” And they have their sights set on San Mateo for the March 27 performance. But rather than backing down from the controversy, the students have organized a counter protest likely to dwarf the anti-gay bigots.

Hillsdale High School students are preparing for a real-life drama. They are organizing a counterprotest to an anti-gay church’s planned picketing of the school’s production next week of “The Laramie Project,” a play about the town in Wyoming near where 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was kidnapped and severely beaten in 1998 because he was gay. Shepard died a few days later from his injuries.

Members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church are expected to picket outside Hillsdale on March 27 before the start of a performance. When Hillsdale senior Meghan Souther first learned about the church’s protest, she said, “I was a little bit shocked.”

But now she’s looking forward to it. “I’m more excited now they are coming (because) we want to show people in San Mateo and our high school that we don’t tolerate hate,” said Souther, 17, a stage manager for the play, which runs several days. (SJ Mercury-News)

Good for these students for standing up to Phelps. Phelps is a hateful, vitriolic man. He’s protested soldiers funerals, as you see in the photo above, because apparently his god is a rather offensive one who favors death and dismemberment. I’ve had my run-ins with the man, and his rhetoric is disgusting. While I support free speech, his speech nears the line, and occasionally crosses the line, where it becomes dangerous to others.

These students are right to show that their community favors tolerance and inclusion for everybody. Despite the hate speech of this cult, the response makes me optimistic for the future.

62 Comments March 22, 2010

Legacy Exclusions

by Brian Leubitz

When you look at some of the anti-gay bias, there are two real kinds out there. First, you’ve got the hard biases, the marriage bans, the DADT’s of the world. But, then you have some more subtle discrimination.

Gay men and lesbians are barred from taking part in many clinical trials that deal with sexual functions and occasionally from other studies as well, researchers are reporting.

Writing in this week’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, the authors say the scientific rationale for the exclusions, if any, is not at all clear. “Researchers should be held to careful scientific reasons,” they add, “when they develop exclusion criteria that are based on sexual orientation.” (NY Times)

For many of these researchers, it’s not so much an issue of consciously excluding the LGBT community. It’s more just what has been done in the past. This may seem to be a kind of petty issue, but it has real-world implications. In some medical issues that this study reviewed, there can be differences between an opposite sex-couple and same-sex couples. Ignoring our community does us a disservice.

The fix is simple, really. Instead of just doing what has been done in the past, researchers should take a few minutes to thoroughly review their research design. Does that LGBT exclusion really impact the research or is it just there because it’s there? And that’s pretty much it.

But, then again, if we were all conscientious beings, the world would be a much better place overall.

90 Comments March 21, 2010

History Through the Bigot Lens

by Brian Leubitz

In some recent DADT hearings, Retired General John Sheehan came out with this whopper:

Sheehan said at the hearing that the Netherlands’ decision to “socialize” its military “led to a force that was ill-equipped to go to war.”

He added: “The case in point that I’m referring to is when the Dutch were required to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs. The battalion was understrength, poorly led, and the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone poles, marched the Muslims off, and executed them.” (Washington Post)

And if you are going to lie, why not go big? And that’s just what this general did. Thing is that not only did he revise the history of the incident, he went the additional step of applying his own misguided morals on the story. The Dutch were having none of this however:

On Friday, Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop called Sheehan’s comments “scandalous, and unworthy of a soldier.” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said, “Toward Dutch troops, homosexual or heterosexual, it is way off the mark to talk like that about people and the work they do under very difficult circumstances.”
**** **** **** ****
Sheehan said Gen. Henk van den Breemen, former Dutch defense chief of staff, had suggested to him that allowing gays to serve openly in the Netherlands’ military had undermined its readiness. But the Dutch Defense Ministry said that van den Breemen had never expressed such sentiments and that he considered them “absolute nonsense.” (Washington Post)

It’s worth noting that the Big Lie probably actually ended up backfiring on Sheehan. As the Senate committee seemed absolutely incredulous, and Sheehan lost all credibility. It’s really telling the lengths that anti-equality forces are willing to go. The lies tell you a lot about how much they think of their actual “case.”

67 Comments March 20, 2010

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