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DADT: Former Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom on the personal impact of serving in silence

DADT trial

Cross-posted at LGBTPOV.

By Karen Ocamb

Former Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom on the White House fence, Nov. 15, 2010

Over the weekend, Defense Sec. Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Admiral Mike Mullen put more pressure on the US Senate to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the lame duck session after Thanksgiving. Gates says he will now release the Pentagon’s survey on the impact of DADT repeal to help facilitate that vote.

Repealing the law paves the way for President Obama to lift the regulatory ban on gays serving openly in the military through an Executive Order – which Obama has promised to do. But until the repeal is a done deal and the ban is lifted – advocates for open service continue the fight. Last Monday, former Army Drill Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom got arrested with 12 other GetEQUAL supporters at the White House fence protesting the obstruction to DADT repeal. Ben-Shalom was angry. 17 years ago, she and 26 others had been arrested at the same spot, protesting the same antigay policy.

Ben-Shalom and I spoke after she returned home to Wisconsin from Washington D.C. and she revealed how difficult it was to stand on that fence again, managing anger that’s been burning for 34 years.

“We shouldn’t have to do this. Is this what our country has come to? Except for Greece and Turkey, everybody else allows gays to serve, including Israel, which has probably one of the best militaries in the world. But you’ve got [Republican Sen.] John McCain stuttering around like a mealy-mouth brainless fool saying, ‘Oh, we need another study.’ There’s been enough studies, going back to the original Crittendon Report [in 1957], which said it was OK for gays to serve. I fail to comprehend what the problem is. I don’t get it.

The military itself is saying it’s not going to affect anything. You’d think from John McCain’s statements that we were purple and green with little orange polka dots and ate raw meat twice a day. What does he think – that we come in and ogle and eye up everybody else? I don’t think so. What bothers me is that 17 years later, I have to be arrested and this stupidity is still going on!”

Ben-Shalom is not the only one still angry.


West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tem John Duran, a young civil rights attorney when he was arrested 17 years ago, is still annoyed. “It

Arrests at the White House in 1993

was wrong 17 years ago. It is still wrong today. Congress is so far behind the opinions of the American people who believe the ban should be lifted,” Duran told me.

California political strategist Diane Abbitt, who wore a dress to the 1993 DADT arrests, said: “The more things change, the more they stay the same! Even though attitudes have changed, a handful of states have same sex marriage and TV is chock full of programs with ‘normal’ gay people occasionally kissing each other, Congress and the Obama administration remain unchanged – still reflecting the small-minded bigotry that sanctions hate, discrimination and bullying. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!”

David Mixner first raised the issue of gays serving in silence with his friend Bill Clinton in 1991. The presidential candidate promised to lift the ban but after he was elected instead created the DADT “compromise” with Congress. Mixner became persona non-grata after organizing that DADT protest at the White House 17 years ago. Now he applauds GetEQUAL and criticizes President Obama for failing to lead on the possibility of congressional repeal of DADT. “I am in awe of the courage and sheer determination of this generation. Also I am stunned that this administration has been so stubborn and determined to do its way that we have lost the opportunity to overturn DADT. What a travesty on their part,” Mixner last Monday.

Late last week, the White House reported that Obama did reach out to senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid who said he would bring DADT repeal up for a vote after Thanksgiving. Sen. Joe Lieberman said he has 60 votes to overcome the expected McCain filibuster – but there might not be enough time before the next Congress reconvenes in January to actually repeal the law.

Repeal itself is still not the end of the process since the original military regulatory policy ban against open service is still in place.

It was under that ban that Ben-Shalom was discharged in 1976 – and then re-instated, only to be kicked out again in 1988, still before DADT. For vets like her, there’s a another, deeper layer of hurt that repeal advocates and young activists might not fathom. It’s the Post Traumatic Stress of having served in silence – sometimes under fire – and having your country spitefully strip you of your dignity and pride – simply because you are gay.

Ben-Shalom’s story underscores how little has changed over the past three decades.

Ben-Shalom says:

“34 years ago, I was asked the question: Sergeant Ben-Shalom, are you a homosexual? I was asked because I had seen Leonard Matlovitch’s picture on the cover of Time magazine in 1975 and I made the statement that I thought it was stupid – who cares what he did? Why did it matter? I was hauled into my commander’s office and I was asked the question and I refused to lie. I was not accused of misconduct nor was there ever an accusation of misconduct.”

On Dec. 1,1976, Ben Shalom was honorably discharge and she promptly went to federal court to fight it. On May 20, 1980, she finally won a Writ of Mandamus ordering her immediately re-instated.

Interestingly, District Court Judge Terence Evans in Wisconsin ruled that the military regulation banning gays from serving openly violated her first amendment rights of free speech and association as well as her constitutionally protected right to privacy. He encountered many of the same arguments heard recently by District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside in the Log Cabin v United States of America case – specifically that the military is different and should be given judicial deference. Evans, like Phillips this past September, didn’t buy the government’s argument.

But the Army ignored that Writ of Mandamus for years until Ben-Shalom finally went back to court and asked the court to enforce it. She was finally ordered re-instated in Sept. 1987, almost 11 years after she had been first unconstitutionally discharged.

“The Army paid me with a check for $1500 and claimed it was my pay – it was not and I never asked for pay. And finally the Eastern Federal District Court ordered them to take me back in and was going to fine them the magnificent sum of $500 a day. When they realized I was going to have to go back in, they ordered me to return the $1500 check because they claimed it was bollixing up the Army’s books. (Laughs) Go figure, OK. So I went back in and at that time, and historically, as of right now, I’m the only [actually, the first] person who won and got back in.”

For three years, Ben-Shalom served openly as a drill sergeant instructor, teaching people how to be drill sergeants. She said:

“Once the people I worked with realized that I didn’t do it to sashay down the main drag of a military base wearing lavender fatigues, that what I really wanted to do was soldier – that I really wanted my job back – I can say that with one or two exceptions, that I served with very good people. The 84th Division Training at that time would have been a good role model for how to deal with gay soldiers. For the most part, I was treated fairly.”

But because of all the media attention to her case, most people were leery of her. But not all.

“I sat at a lunch table by myself the first weekend that I went back in and it was African American – it was Black troopers that came to sit down and eat their lunch with me. I said to them, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ And somebody said to me, ‘Well, what else can they do to us?’ I owe a great deal to my Black brothers and sisters who sat and ate with me and I appreciated it and I think it’s important for people to know that it was enlisted people who came and sat with me.”

Ben Shalom’s period of enlistment was up in August 1988 and she tried to re-enlist but was denied based on the same verbal admissions that got her discharged in 1976 – not conduct. Meanwhile – the Army revised their regulations to make “status” on homosexuality a “nonwaivable moral and administrative disqualification.”

It is important to also recall the historical context: this was during President Ronald Reagan’s second term and the second wave of AIDS (at least 7 years before the breakthrough of HIV combination drug therapy) – and antigay evangelist Pat Robertson was running for president, backed by his Christian Coalition.

Ben Shalom went back to court and won an order to be reenlisted. But the Army bucked the court order and instead extended her prior enlistment. The Army was ruled in contempt of court on Sept. 1, 1988, and they reenlisted her, pending the outcome of Shalom v Marsh. And on Jan. 10, 1989, the District Court out of Wisconsin ruled “that Army Reserve Regulation AR 140-111, Table 4-2, be and hereby is declared unconstitutional on its face” and ordered that the Army continue her reenlistment without regard for her sexual orientation.

Ben-Shalom again served well – receiving a commendation and earning a promotion. She said:

“I was doing a really good job. I was told this – that when it came down to it, they actually tried to keep me in under the stop-loss program. But the Pentagon wasn’t hearing it. And so the second time around, I never even received a discharge. I was released from the custody of the Army as an ‘erroneous enlistment.’”

She appealed the release but the government won in the 7th Circuit with an incredible new twist: speech equals conduct because “forthright admission…reasonably implies, at the very least, a ‘desire’ to commit homosexual acts” and establishes homosexuality as an “identity.” The ruling said:

“Even if we assume that the present regulation does have a chilling effect on protected speech by discouraging proclamations of homosexuality among the military personnel, we cannot say that that infringement rises to the level of being unconstitutional. As we have noted, the branches of the military have great leeway in determining what policies will foster the military mission, and courts will rarely second-guess those decisions. This deference means, among other things, that policies that might not pass constitutional muster if imposed upon a civilian population will be upheld in the military setting. The Court explained this distinction in Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503, 106 S.Ct. 1310, 89 L.Ed.2d 478 (1986):

[Cut]

Ultimately, however, Ben-Shalom’s First Amendment argument fails because it is not speech per se that the regulation against homosexuality prohibits. Ben-Shalom is free under the regulation to say anything she pleases about homosexuality and about the Army’s policy toward homosexuality. She is free to advocate that the Army change its stance; she is free to know and talk to homosexuals if she wishes. What Ben-Shalom cannot do, and remain in the Army, is to declare herself to be a homosexual. Although that is, in some sense speech, it is also an act of identification. And it is the identity that makes her ineligible for military service, not the speaking of it aloud. Thus, if the Army’s regulation affects speech, it does so only incidentally, in the course of pursuing other legitimate goals.”

Ben-Shalom told me she lost

“because the silly 7th Circuit in Chicago ruled that speech equals conduct – although I was not accused of misconduct. So say, for example, I said you ticked me off so much, I could just kill you. Could you prosecute me for conspiracy to commit murder or attempt to commit murder because speech equals conduct? It’s a horrible decision and I don’t know why the Supreme Court didn’t hear it. They declined to hear it ‘without prejudice.’”

In fact, Ben Shalom’s case underscores just how much the federal government and military were at war with gays. Her adversary in court in 1989 was Solicitor General Kenneth Starr. According to the book Courting Justice by Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price, Starr was the reason her case was not heard in the Supreme Court, telling the Justices not to bother with the case “since the Army’s concern is with the potentially disruptive effect of homosexual conduct, it is obviously rational to exclude homosexuals while allowing heterosexuals to serve.”

Twenty-one years later, Ben-Shalom is still upset by how unfair the fight was. “Starr came in with some 18 Justice Department attorneys and some JAG court lawyers and I had me and my attorney. I didn’t get any help at all, at the time, from any national [LGBT] organization.”

Ben Shalom did, however, get legal support through amicus briefs, including one filed by lesbian attorney Nan Hunter with the ACLU. When Ben-Shalom came to Washington DC to work with the Campaign for Military Service to fight to lift the regulatory ban, she said someone from Lambda Legal Education and Defense Fund asked her why she didn’t ask them for help; she said she did – and indeed a Lambda attorney found her original letter asking for help. Ben-Shalom told me:

“I got no help from NGLTF [National Gay and Lesbian Task Force], not from HRC [actually, the Human Rights Campaign Fund at the time] – nobody. I would say we’re in the pickle we’re in today around Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because the national organizations did not step up. They raised a lot of money – but they didn’t do very much…..I’ve felt that way for a long time. They’re always asking for money, but when have we seen any significant change? The regimental tie, blue blazer, well-press khaki group didn’t do what they’re supposed to do. This is not going to be won by shaking hands and holding wine-and-cheesers or big fundraising events.

Perry Watkins was a Black man who won an estoppels case. Perry was a very educated, articulate

Sgt. Perry Watkins

man who was flamboyant and I watched the national organizations deal not only with sexism with me because I was not an officer, but I saw them be racist and somewhat anti-Semitic, as well.”

Nothing against gay white men, she said, but the national LGBT organizations are still touting white male officers to be the “face” of opposition to DADT – other than Lt. Dan Choi who “doesn’t go with any of them.”

“The burden of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is on enlisted personnel and primarily, enlisted personnel of color and women of color. The discharge rates for women of color under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are just horrific. So it is not an officers’ issue, per se, although sometimes they do get discharged. So instead of doing what they should have been doing, for the most part they wanted cutie-pie white boys….Yes, you have the anomaly of the Lt. Col. [Victor Fehrenbach] but primarily it impacts enlisted people – 14,000!”

I told Ben-Shalom about Admiral Mullen’s visit to the University of Southern California and my question to him about the link between DADT and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. She noted that among the increased numbers of military suicides might be women who have been sexually assaulted, including lesbians.

“And nobody is dealing with it. But once again, the national organizations failed, they didn’t step up. There’s no support system….It is a problem and I have suspected for a long time that some of these suicides may in fact be gay soldiers, LGBT soldiers who can’t say anything if their partner breaks up with them or whatever. And they can’t go anywhere and they can’t talk about it. And so in my opinion, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell kills soldiers, as well. It is a murderous policy.”

GetEQUAL protesters Nov. 15, 2010

Something in Ben-Shalom’s tone changed as she started talking about lives ruined and ended by DADT. She opened up.

“After I left Washington and the Campaign for Military Service shut down, I was so angered and so disgusted – I felt spiritually and psychologically and emotionally damaged by what I saw going on that I stepped back and didn’t do anything. I had never thought to do anything else again. When I got the call – do you want to come to Washington to be arrested in front of the White House again? – truthfully, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I have a life with my partner [Karen Weiss]. I am an Adjunct Professor of English at Milwaukee Area Technical College, part time.

What caused me to change my mind? I talked to the people with GetEQUAL and asked, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you calling me?’ And they said that so many people didn’t realize that this very same thing occurred 17 years ago and that historically, many young soldiers, many young activists didn’t know about this…. I thought about it and I had to ask myself honestly – why is it you don’t want to do it? And I thought, well, I don’t want to be hurt. I don’t want to go through this kind of emotional upheaval again.

Then I thought – ‘If I’m not for myself, to quote Rabbi Hillel – ‘then who is for me? And not now,

Former Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom and GetEQUAL's Dan Fotou

when?’ I did take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and to stand up for this country. And if I don’t go, then what does that say about my attitude about all of these young, good soldiers that are being discharged now and are standing up and fighting? So I decided to go because I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Ben-Shalom checked with her partner, whose love she is very grateful to have. Could she handle having a misdemeanor federal arrest record? Could she handle the flood of emotions?

“It’s a real personal thing with me. I’m sure I have PTSD. I was in the news and I had someone try to kill me with an ice pick; my brake lines were cut; I was shot at;I was threatened by Nazis – all of whom are vile cowards, in my book, because they would call me up anonymously and say, ‘You’re a fucking Jewish Queer’ and threaten me. My response unilaterally was, ‘I believe in what I’m doing. You know my name. My name and phone number are in the phone book. If you really believe in what you’re doing – why are you resorting to anonymity? If you really feel this way, come on over – let’s rock and roll.’ And none of them ever did it so as far as I’m concerned – they’re just bully cowards. But it’s something to get a phone call like that at 2:30-3:00 in the morning. I’m sure I have PTSD. And there’s not much that can be done about it.”

It wasn’t just the threats but the effect being kicked out of the military had on her life. She had a $55,000 legal bill. She lost her house and custody of her daughter, who she didn’t see for three years. The publicity resulted in her being denied jobs and an apartment. For a drill sergeant who taught others how to be a drill sergeant – it was deeming, a loss of dignity.

Former Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom being arrested at the White House Nov. 15, 2010

But Ben-Shalom decided to go to the White House fence again. She had taken an oath to defend her country and now that meant through non-violent civil disobedience.

“17 years ago, some people yelled and shouted when they were taken into custody and I believe some people yelled and shouted this time around. I could not because I was afraid I was going to lose it. What I had to do is go to that place inside of me – it’s my place of quiet solitude inside my heart or soul, if you will. When they finally put me up against the van, I’m not ashamed to admit I wept. One of the cops said, ‘Are you OK?’ And I said, ‘I’m angry and I don’t know what else to do beside cry because the other option is not something I want to consider.” I was really afraid that if I had yelled, I would have absolutely lost it and I would have struggled and fought back and that would have been a whole different thing. So I got arrested in absolute silence because it’s the only way I would deal with my anger.

I’m so aware of how close to the surface my anger lies that I’m very careful about what I do because I do not want to think about what would happen were I to lose self-control. It frightens me because the Army trained me very well. I believe non-violence is the way to go – but I believe it has to be done again and again and again….

America should be ashamed. Why isn’t this country ashamed? America treated all of these vets with – trampled on their pride, ripped their integrity, bruised their hearts, broke their hearts, bruised their souls – drove some people to suicide, drove others to drink or drugs – and still they want to serve. They love this country enough to do it. Doesn’t this country have a heart and a spirit big enough to let these people come back home? Restore their honor? Restore their pride? Is that so much to ask?”

All photos were taken by Sean Carlson, Talk About Equality, Courtesy of GetEQUAL – except the black and white photo of the 1993, which was taken by Jeremy Bernard.

48 Comments

  • 1. Alan E.  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Just get rid of the policy already!

  • 2. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:20 am

    yup, second that motion Alan!

  • 3. StraightForEquality  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I third it!

  • 4. anonygrl  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Motion carries!!!

  • 5. JonT  |  November 22, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I'll draw up the papers.

  • 6. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Thank you Jon. Can you make sure we have all the Gay Agenda paperwork ready so we can check that off the list too – when it happens. We want to make sure we keep our Gay Agenda list up-to-date.

  • 7. JonT  |  November 22, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Sure LLB. Just got the 2011 draft edition today. 🙂

  • 8. Ronnie  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Subscribing…reading later…I'm getting ready for the NO H8 photo shoot…..meanwhile here is a photo & video compilation of the protest from GetEQUAL…..<3…Ronnie:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm0hRq9YdhY

  • 9. Kathleen  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Wow. Thank you Ms. Ben-Shalom for all your sacrifice and thank you Ms. Oscamb for this great article.

  • 10. Sagesse  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Subbing to read later.

  • 11. Bill  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Off topic, but good news…

    Paul Cameron's hate -group has FINALLY been classified as such by SPLC.
    http://coloradoindependent.com/68105/colorado-spr

  • 12. DaveP  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:51 am

    I had never heard Sgt. Ben-Shalom's story until now. This is a very powerful story and it ought to receive a hell of a lot of visibility. A true hero, and VERY well spoken. I hope her words get into the mainstream media.

  • 13. Ann S.  |  November 22, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Very well-spoken she is, indeed!

    But you’ve got [Republican Sen.] John McCain stuttering around like a mealy-mouth brainless fool saying, ‘Oh, we need another study.’

    Well put!

  • 14. Chris in Lathrop  |  November 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

    That's what you get when you piss off a drill sergeant! 🙂 I'd never heard of her before, but SSG Ben-Shalom is on my "cool people" list now.

  • 15. BK  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Haha ditto. Imagine how much fun she would be as a grandma. 😉

  • 16. Sheryl, Mormon Mothe  |  November 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Also had never heard Sgt. Ben-Shalom's story. So, so sad and angering. I hope that her story is widely published for all to read. It is way past time for homosexuals to be serving openly in our military. Should always have been allowed to serve openly.

    Sheryl, Mormon Mother

  • 17. Straight Ally #3008  |  November 22, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Tammy Schultz, director of national security and joint warfare at the U.S. Marine Corps War College, was a guest on NPR's Talk of the Nation today. The audio will be available here. The majority of responses from callers in the Marines regarding DADT repeal was positive – it's worth a listen.

  • 18. fiona64  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:44 am

    The co-author of my first book is a professor at USMC War college, a veteran of Vietnam and both Gulf Wars, a retired Army officer with enough decorations to choke a horse — and he says it's past time for DADT to be long gone.

    Just as an aside.

    Love,
    Fiona

  • 19. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:08 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrMPeCioveI

  • 20. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Military recruitment isn't down at all…as a matter of fact…it's way beyond its capacity…

    Military Recruitment, Retention Unphased By Imminent DADT Repeal

    The year-to-date numbers are

    Active Duty
    * Army – 6,643 accessions, with a goal of 6,425; 103 percent
    * Navy – 2,291 accessions, with a goal of 2,291; 100 percent
    * Marine Corps – 2,457 accessions, with a goal of 2,448; 100 percent
    * Air Force – 1,511 accessions, with a goal of 1,511; 100 percent

    National Guard and Reserve
    * Army National Guard –4,973 accessions, with a goal of 4,504; 110 percent
    * Army Reserve –2,774 accessions, with a goal of 2,557; 108 percent
    * Navy Reserve –665 accessions, with a goal of 665; 100 percent
    * Marine Corps Reserve –1,154 accessions, with a goal of 889; 130 percent
    * Air National Guard –729 accessions, with a goal of 541; 135 percent
    * Air Force Reserve – 769 accessions, with a goal of 760; 101 percent

    of course I can't post the URL to the article here! thanks CC

    I will find a way shortly!

  • 21. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Let's see if this works – Not the article I was citing from above…
    http://www.dvidshub.net/news/60658/services-meet-

  • 22. Tim in Sonoma  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Yes a BIG THANK YOU to Ben-Shalom for everything she has done for this hatefull country!
    I'm getting so tired of all the lies that continue to spew from ignorant hateful people that have nothing better to do than oppress good human beings.
    This is off topic but I recieved an email today from a conservative group called "Townhall spotlight".
    The lies, outright lies are astounding!
    I felt I had to share this with my Trial Tracker friends.
    I don't know how to share the actual email I recieved but here is the link to their website. http://publicadvocateusa.org/
    Pay close attention the surveys. They were asking me If I supported the "Ratical Homosexual agenda" . It reeks Brian Brown! The hateful ignorant lies have me beside myself.
    Will you all join me in contacting this hate group and calling them out on the mistruths they spew?

  • 23. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Perhaps they need to also be on the SPLC list!

  • 24. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 8:01 am

    In 2009, 1,436 hate crimes against Sexual Orientation 'total offenses' were reported:
    Anti-Male Homosexual 798
    Anti-Female Homosexual 216
    Anti-Homosexual 376
    Anti-Heterosexual 21
    Anti-Bisexual 25

    I am a little surprised that the number of Anti-Female Homosexual hate crimes was that high. Perhaps it's time I move a little further out of my box.
    http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/data/table_04.html

  • 25. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Congratulations to Kristina Schake!

    AFER Co-Founder Goes From Fighting Prop 8 to Running Michelle Obama's Communications Office

    One of the co-founding board members of the organization bringing the historic challenge to California's Proposition 8, Kristina Schake, is resigning from the American Foundation for Equal Rights board at the end of the month to start a new job at the White House on Dec. 6 — the same day that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is to hear the appeal in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

    In a news release this morning, the White House announced that Kristina Schake is leaving California's Griffin-Schake public relations firm to come on as a special assistant to the president and communications director to First Lady Michelle Obama. Schake previously served as the senior communications strategist to California First Lady Maria Shriver.

    Chad Griffin, the AFER board president, said in a statement on Schake's new position, "She's one of the most intelligent and valuable resources the equality movement has ever seen."

    more: http://metroweekly.com/poliglot/2010/11/afer-co-f

  • 26. celdd  |  November 23, 2010 at 3:19 am

    In following the links, the White House had a pretty tepid response – "she was the most qualified". No mention of her past efforts in advancing civil rights for all.

  • 27. Rhie  |  November 22, 2010 at 8:16 am

    checking for later.

  • 28. Mackenzie  |  November 22, 2010 at 8:25 am

    this is amazing! I started crying…… thank you for everything you have done Sgt. Ben-Shalom.

  • 29. Lawrence  |  November 22, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Holy smoke! It is too easy to forget the past and I for one had not heard of Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom. She is an amazing patriot, soldier and woman. She is exactly right that we should be outraged and ashamed for America and I weep with her that brave soldiers who offer their lives for the rest of us should be treated this way. Time is long past to eliminate this bullshit. Step up, Obama.

  • 30. Rachel H.  |  November 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Thank you Sgt. Ben Shalom not just for your years of service, but for fighting for what's right. And even more for helping today's soldiers do the same.

  • 31. Alan E.  |  November 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Check out this letter that some republican-appointed judges sent to the GOP.
    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/11/20/gop-judges-le

    And guess who is on that list? Judge Walker of course =)

    Earlier this week, seven Republican-appointed federal judges co-signed a letter warning of the consequences of the GOP’s systematic obstruction of President Obama’s judges.

  • 32. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Interesting. I think the republicans were hoping to control the House, which is why they delayed any confirmations. They can't hold out another two years – although they may try.

  • 33. Ann S.  |  November 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    LLB, I think you may have meant the Senate rather than the House?

  • 34. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 23, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Yes, thanks…

  • 35. Lesbians Love Boies  |  November 22, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I think I will send my money to CC and HRC instead of the Salvation Army this season…

    Salvation Army would close soup kitchens over gay benefits

    The Salvation Army says it will close soup kitchens for New York's homeless if firms doing business with the city are required to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of their gay and lesbian staffers.

    A spokesman for the organization said the Salvation Army would rather walk away from $70 million a year in city contracts and abandon the clients it serves, including foster kids and people with HIV, rather than betray its fundamentalist Christian faith by providing the healthcare benefits.

    Earlier this month, New York City council approved a measure mandating that city contractors offer domestic partner benefits for their gay and lesbian workers. Although New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes the law, the council is likely to override his veto.

    The Salvation Army serves about five million people annually in New York. The group has multiyear contracts with the city totaling $250 million.

    In March, Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., dropped spousal benefits for all newlyweds and new hires in order to evade compliance with that city’s same-sex marriage law.

    More: http://www.wisconsingazette.com/breaking-news/sal

  • 36. Michelle Evans  |  November 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Since you brought up the Salvation Army, I would like to also urge everyone here to NOT support this bigoted organization. In December 2008, they were directly responsible for the death of a transgender person, Jennifer Gale.

    In January 2009 I wrote a column about what happened. For her full story, please go to my web page, and it is the third column from the top:
    http://www.mach25media.com/sexed101.html

  • 37. Richard A. Jernigan  |  November 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    You Go, Sgt. Ben-Shalom!

  • 38. grod  |  November 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Changing focus for a blog:
    On the AG election, as of 4:00 pm today Harris's lead is 51885. The substantial increase from Friday is a result of 7 counties reporting, 4 of which she had taken more than a majority of the votes. While this information gives the follower some appreciation of how her vote increase is building, population sizes and the vote splits in each county differ, making a simple comparison of the top two candidates impossible.

  • 39. Kathleen  |  November 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I imagine a big chunk of those votes are from L.A. County. They did a tally update today – everything that was processed over the weekend and through much of today. I've heard analysis that says it's L.A. that's going to basically determine who wins, and that will be largely based on the provisional ballots cast.

  • 40. BK  |  November 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Why is it taking so long?

  • 41. Kathleen  |  November 23, 2010 at 2:44 am

    It's primarily the provisional ballots that are taking so long. I forget the exact number, but I think it was approx. 200K provisionals in Los Angeles county.

    The process of deciding whether each of these votes is allowed to count is incredibly tedious and time consuming. It involves multiple layers of internal checks against registration records.

    Then, even if the person who cast the provisional ballot is legally registered, if it turns out s/he voted out of her precinct, the ballots require special handling to not count the part of the ballot that was region specific. For example, if a voter cast his ballot in Sta Monica, but isn't registered in that city, any part of the ballot that is specific to Sta Monica City residents must be discounted.

  • 42. BK  |  November 23, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Thanks for the explanation. But gah, enough with the tension! : )

  • 43. Martin the Brit  |  November 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I'll admit to being a long time lurker here at the trial tracker, but I feel like I need to break my silence to show some appreciation for Miriam Ben-Shalom. What an isnpirational woman. I may not American but I'd like to thank her for her efforts fighting for equal rights. Like others, I'm just sorry to say that I had never heard of her before I read this article.

  • 44. BK  |  November 23, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Hey, Lurker! Thanks for posting. : ) Hope you don't go back into the closet of silence after this–new input is great! And as for not hearing of her (neither had I), that is what this site is for! The gathering and disposing of ideas and information. Cheers!

  • 45. Martin the Brit  |  November 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks for the warm welcome, BK. Absolutely agree, this site has been invaluable for its coverage of gay rights issues as well as the fantastic commentary. I felt completely robbed when it was announced that Perry vs Schwarzenegger wouldn't be broadcasted so the trial tracker has been a lifeline.

    Thanks to everyone at the Trial Tracker ^_^.

  • 46. MJFargo  |  November 23, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Superb article!

  • 47. Bob  |  November 23, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Thank you Miriam Ben-Shalom , for choosing to come forward again, after such a long silence, thank you GetEqual, for encouraging her to so .

    And kudos to Courage Campaign, for such a well written, historically informative, and extremly timely piece, DADT needs all the attention it can get for the lame duck push.

    Further this article shows the history of our ancestors and gives us hope, it focuses attention on what needs to be done. Courage for our youth, so much better than the sess pool of hatred that recieves so much time here.

    Ben-Shalom's story, exposes the problems with lack of action from the HRC, among others,

    Why is this still happening, and why? when it did happen was there no back up, where were the masses, waiting to fill the paddy wagons and police stations. she's right, they bore the problem alone.

    A few weeks back in the U.K. there was massive rioting in the streets, broken windows and fires, and srrests, because of an increase in tuition fees.

    Where is the passion for our military service members, who will draw attention and educate the public with what lies at the base of the problem.

    When will the Rainbow people rise up and demand, attention and honor equally for those of our community who serve their country.

    Great and timely article

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