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Discharged Marine Justin Elzie: What to look for to repeal DADT

DADT trial

Cross-posted at LGBTPOV.

By Karen Ocamb

I met former Sgt. Justin Elzie in 1993 when he was the first Marine discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a result of coming out on ABC News to end the original gay ban on open service in the military. He was later re-instated after a legal challenge and served for four years as an openly gay Marine. Elzie was finally discharged in 1997. He’s written about it in his new autobiography, “Playing By The Rules” (available through Rebel Satori Press or by ordering it on
 For the past two years, Elzie’s been working on repealing DADT – including an op-ed he penned last week with former Army Capt. Tanya Domi for CNN. He’s now on the Hill lobbying for repeal and planning to attend the Senate Armed Services hearings on the Pentagon Working Group’s report on Thursday and Friday.

I asked Elzie via email about his opinion of Marine Corps Commandant General Amos, who wants to keep DADT, and what we should be looking for with the release of the Pentagon’s study.

Change is coming,” Elzie said, noting that the study reports that 70 percent of servicemembers “don’t mind serving” with openly gay servicemembers. Among Marines, number is 60 percent. Elzie said:

“So a majority of Marines don’t mind serving with openly gay servicemembers. I would hope that with this inevitable change coming that the Commandant of the Marine Corps would get out front and lead the Marine Corps, instead of embarrassing the Marine Corps with his obstinance. It is only hurting the Marines and not preparing them for the eventual changes that are coming. It is important that the Marine Corps live up to its ideals of promoting a diverse quality force that it says is essential to progress and mission accomplishment. It is hypocritical for an organization to claim to fight for the freedoms of all Americans while at the same time discriminating against a whole group of Americans already in its ranks. General Amos needs to lead the Marines and their culture forward in the right direction, not backwards.”

As to who to watch in the next few days as the Senate considers repeal, Elzie said:

Former Marine Sgt. Justin Elzie

“I don’t think [Republican Sens.] John McCain or Lindsey Graham will accept the findings. Let me first say, really, when you look at the important players this week, we know where John McCain and Secretary Gates are at on either end of the spectrum. So I don’t think what either of them says is so important verse watching those players in the middle. That said, I think John McCain will say that the report didn’t really answer whether unit cohesion or unit morale would be negatively affected.

As far as the other Republican Senators like Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and so forth, I think that watching what they say will be key.

I think over the next few days, the key people to listen to, as far as reactions to the report and the hearings will be, in order of importance:

1. The four service chiefs of the services, Navy, Army, Air Force and especially the Marines. If anything, their comments about the report’s findings that they have prepared and will share at the hearings will be key since they have all along been wanting to drag their heels – with the Marine Corp commandant not wanting to do repeal at all. I think McCain, who really isn’t important in the scheme of things, will try to amplify any negativity from the findings. But I don’t think he has sway over the moderate Republicans on this.

2. Republican Senators (other than McCain). These folks’ responses to the study over the next several days will give us a clue as to which way they will lean and whether we truly have the 60 votes for cloture [which will move the bill to the floor for debate] in the Senate on the Defense Authorization Bill [in which DADT repeal is included].

3. Senator Reid. How he decides to bring up the National Defense Authorization Bill will be key. If he brings it up with an open and fair amendment process – then that leaves no excuse for the moderate Republican Senators to blame voting against repeal on the process [as they did in September].

Everyone else comes down on either side. But it is the people who are in the middle and have dragged their feet already that will be key as to how things end up by the end of the week. The President will be pressured to play a role – but I think, as we have seen in the past, he will not put a lot of political capital in this, like making numerous phone calls or doing press conferences.

You can bet that by this weekend we will have a much better idea where everything stands with repeal and the political pundits will be placing bets on the vote on this weekend’s talk shows. Stay tuned.”


  • 1. Ann S.  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:22 am

  • 2. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Thank you Karen…nice interview and thought-provoking responses from Sargent Elze : ) This stood out for me:

    "It is important that the Marine Corps live up to its ideals of promoting a diverse quality force that it says is essential to progress and mission accomplishment. It is hypocritical for an organization to claim to fight for the freedoms of all Americans while at the same time discriminating against a whole group of Americans already in its ranks"

    What Ronnie and Alan say! Repeal DADT already!

  • 3. Kathleen  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Ditto what Gregory said.

  • 4. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:25 am

    Before I read this post…

    NOM is demanding Judge Reinhardt's recusal


    The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is calling on Justice Stephen Reinhardt, one of the judges in the Prop 8 trial scheduled for hearing next week in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, to recuse himself because his wife, Ramona Ripston, has been intimately involved in the case including advising the plaintiff’s counsel before the case was even filed. NOM is asking their 300,000 supporters to file official complaints with the Ninth Circuit court. The oral arguments for the Prop 8 case before the Ninth Circuit will take place on Monday, December 6.

    “Judge Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, has been involved in this case on numerous accounts, and what we’ve learned from Ed Whelan’s highly informative Bench Memo yesterday, posted on National Review Online (and updated here) is that there is no way Judge Reinhardt can rightfully remain a member of this hearing without making a mockery of the federal judiciary,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “We are demanding that Judge Reinhardt to step down immediately and call Californians to write an official complaint to the Ninth Circuit demanding that Judge Reinhardt be disqualified.”

    Federal law and the Code of Conduct for United States Judges provide a non-exhaustive list of circumstances in which a judge must disqualify himself on the ground that his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Those circumstances “includ[e] but [are] not limited to instances in which … the judge’s spouse … is (i) a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, or trustee of a party; or (ii) acting as a lawyer in the proceeding.” Ripston is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. The Whelan Bench Memo makes it clear that Judge Reinhardt must disqualify himself because of the intimate involvement of his wife on behalf of participants in this case. This involvement includes:

    According to an article in California Lawyer cited by Whelan, Ripston consulted with the plaintiffs' lawyers about the decision to bring this very case.
    The entity that Ripston heads took part as counsel to an amicus in this very case in the district court.
    According to media reports including those in the Los Angeles Times and respected legal blog, Reinhardt has a policy of recusing himself from cases involving the ACLU of Southern California.


  • 5. Ann S.  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:28 am

    It seems that Ripston's organization has had some involvement at the trial level. They're not involved in the case at this level, it would seem.

  • 6. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:30 am

    My first response: FU!!!! GRRRRR!!


    and then…. WOOT! Keep exposing yourself NOM for the Hate-group that you are!

  • 7. Kate  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Anonygrl, is the sky falling????

  • 8. Ann S.  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:14 am

    No, it's not falling. I have no doubt that Reinhardt has already carefully considered the implications of the ACLU of Southern California's slight involvement at the trial level.

  • 9. anonygrl  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Not in the slightest, my dear.

    This is the sort of noise we expected from them, and were we to follow suit and call for the recusal of Smith because he is Mormon (which, of course, we are not), NOM would scream bloody murder.

    Reinhardt does not need to reuse himself. His wife is not making the ruling, nor is she a lawyer on the case. In those sorts of circles, judges and lawyers sometimes marry. Sometimes a lawyer will argue a case in front of their own spouse as the judge. It is perfectly ok for that to happen, the judge is just careful in his or her ruling. In this case, Reinhardt's wife is not even that close to the case, she MAY have been asked questions about it at some time. Who cares? EVERYBODY and the brother in law who is involved in law in California was probably asked questions about this case at some point.

    NOM is trying to throw the idea of prejudice in so that WHEN THE RULING COMES DOWN IN OUR FAVOR, as it will, they can try to use it as a point for appeal and getting the ruling overturned. It is a blatantly transparent tactic, and no one at all is falling for it.

    So relax, Kate… we are ok.

  • 10. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Plus, its just another excuse for them to beg ask for more money!

  • 11. anonygrl  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I would bet that Cooper is sitting in his office banging his head against his desk wishing that NOM would shut the hell up and stop making it worse.

  • 12. Ronnie  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:13 am

    NOM needs to recuse themselves…in general…. ; ) ….Ronnie

  • 13. anonygrl  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:41 am

    THAT'LL be the day… 🙂

  • 14. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I didn't know the ACLU was the party to the proceeding (I know they aren't acting lawyers)…I thought the party to the proceeding was Perry et al. Silly me!

  • 15. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:40 am

    LOL! and a SNORT!

  • 16. Richard A. Jernigan  |  December 1, 2010 at 5:35 am

    And for all those who have been discharged under this asinine, archaic, discriminatory piece of garbage, I am praying for the cloture vote and the repeal to be favorable. We need to end DADT and we need to end it NOW!!!

  • 17. Ed  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:09 am

    NOM, it seems you are losing your influence, u P.O.S.!

    I know CU's are not equal, but it is a stepping stone.

    Congrats to Rebecca and her girlfriend, and to all the gay people in Ill. Now…..lets just hope for indiana and louisiana….(yeah right)

  • 18. Rebecca in Chicago  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Thanks, Ed!

    Everything feels very surreal to me. I think my girlfriend and I had resigned to "living in sin" (as she says jokingly) and not being able to get married. This is certainly not full marriage equality, but it's really important to us. Now we've decided to have a wedding ceremony when we get our civil union!

    Sadly the act won't take effect until July 2011, for what reason I can't tell. At least for me it means wedding planning time, but I feel for people who want to go out and get civil unions right away.

  • 19. nightshayde  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:31 am

    So you'll have a Summer wedding, then?

    I'm not sure why the law doesn't go into effect until July — but I'm pleased to see that Illinois civil unions can be used by straight couples as well as gays/lesbians. That's what equality is all about.

    I'd be totally fine with both civil unions and marriage being options for any couple.

  • 20. anonygrl  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:07 am

    Congratulations on your impending nuptials, and I wish you a long and joyous life of wedded bliss!

  • 21. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Congrats to IL! What an incredible start to Dec. 2010!

  • 22. Kathleen  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Congratulations Rebecca and everyone in Illinois.

  • 23. Ronnie  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Thank you so much Sgt. Elzie for your service to our country & for your continued fight for freedom & equality…….<3….Ronnie

  • 24. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:22 am

    IL senate passes civil unions

  • 25. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:22 am


  • 26. nightshayde  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Why the "ugh?" Was it just about not posting the link & re-posting to put it in, or are you displeased with the legislation?

  • 27. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:34 am

    yes, forgetting the link…I am very proud of IL!

  • 28. Ronnie  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:42 am

    The NOM followers are going nuts on their "Protect" Marriage Facebook……quotes:

    Melissa Nesbitt "Jesus, would You just please come back and set these people in their place and put them straight! (No pun intended.) I'm so sick of these wicked people."

    (me) well I agree on…Jesus please come back & put NOM in their place…just make sure you call first…nobody likes quests who show up announced…..

    Heather Hughes "Sick. Demented. Twisted. Same sex marriage is wrong. Man and woman. Thats it. Enough said."

    (me) hmm…the sick word shows up again in reference to innocent people…don't you just feel the love?…..& learn how to fraking read…CIVIL UNION…homophobic ignoramus…..

    Oh there is just a whole lot of preaching going on…but you know NOM is not trying to force the American people to follow their Bible, their "God", their religion…..yeaaaaaaahhhh….NO!!!…one look at their page & that lie is debunked…. <3…Ronnie

  • 29. Ronnie  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:48 am

    lol…forgot a fe letters…..nobody likes quests who show up unannounced…..

    ; ) …Ronnie

  • 30. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Ronnie, I read a comment yesterday on an article in the National Review…SPOT ON! I was wondering if this isn't some up and coming superhero lawyer! The name of the commenter is Incognito –

    I especially loved this part:

    Listen, here's the deal. If gay marriage isn't legal, gay people aren't just going to vanish. They will still exist. People like me will still love and accept them. Employers like Google will still hire them and give them benefits. They will figure out ways to have children. They will find lawyers to help them create their own legal system to mimic the protections of marriage. Their kids will go to public schools, where teachers will be polite and civil and not lie to everyone if Heather has two mommies.

  • 31. Chris From CO  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:36 am

    May i ask a question on the DADT, isn't it still part of the Defense Authorization bill, which is necessary for 2011. Why would any republican not sign off Defense Authhorization bill in the first place, when it has passed for 38 years till now. When discussing the DADT 2/3 of the armed services agree that lifting the ban would be fine. Hell it doesnt even require 2/3 of congress to approve a bill. Are they that disconected to reality. And furthermore do they not realize when they talk about our BRAVE men and women in uniform, who sacrifice every thing they are speaking to gay people to.

    Okay so I asked a question on DADT, and a little venting at the end. Sorry.

  • 32. Lesbians Love Boies  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:40 am

    It's my belief that politicians learned their tricks from used car salesmen. When I was in college I worked at a dealership and the finance department would tack on other lower qualified customers to get bulk deals through the banks.

    I believe that DADT repeal would happen easily if McCain and his pack of goons weren't so dishonest.

  • 33. Bob  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:27 am

    great point Chris we can't forget the two are combined, the dems will just have to hold out, that may be the answer to the repubs threat re tax cuts to the wealthy

  • 34. Don in Texas  |  December 1, 2010 at 8:50 am

    See the post above this one which relates that Senate Republicans will NOT consideration ANY legislation in the lame duck session until an extension of the Bush tax cuts for billionaires is passed.

    In effect, ALL 42 Senate Republicans are saying to Hell with the National Defense Authorization Act. They say screw the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and the nation's Reserve and National Guard members. They are saying NO MONEY for civilian employees of the Department of Defense; NO MONEY for military construction, equipment and supplies; NO MONEY AND NO SUPPORT FOR THE ARMED FORCES SERVING IN AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, KOREA AND AROUND THE WORLD until the billionaires get their payback for massive donations to the Republicans.

    That's what is happening right now in the United States Senate. Elections have consequences.

  • 35. DK  |  December 1, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Spot on! And if you have friends or acquaintances (as I do) who CHOSE TO NOT VOTE in the last election, point this little bit of news out to them!

    Sorry to vent, but the right to vote is a privilege that so many Americans treat like dirt.

  • 36. Alan E.  |  December 1, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Let's finish 2010 (The Year of the Gay) with a bang and repeal DADT already!

  • 37. Sagesse  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Scribing and running.

  • 38. JonT  |  December 1, 2010 at 8:43 am

  • 39. DK  |  December 1, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Off topic but hopefully of interest is this commentary at WaPo on the censorship of the Smithsonian exhibit "Hide/Seek", bowing to pressure by Catholic puritanism–exactly the type of Catholicism I escaped from! Gah!

    Against all odds, the stodgy old National Portrait Gallery has recently become one of the most interesting, daring institutions in Washington. […] "Hide/Seek," the show about gay love that it opened in October, was crucial – a first of its kind – and courageous, as well as being full of wonderful art. […]
    Now the NPG, and the Smithsonian Institution it is part of, look set to come off as cowards. Tuesday, after a few hours of pressure from the Catholic League and various conservatives, it decided to remove a video by David Wojnarowicz, a gay artist who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992. As part of "Hide/Seek," the gallery was showing a four-minute excerpt from a 1987 piece titled "A Fire in My Belly," made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987. And for 11 seconds of that meandering, stream-of-consciousness work (the full version is 30 minutes long) a crucifix appears onscreen with ants crawling on it. […]
    But that is the portion of the video that the Catholic League has decried as "designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians," and described as "hate speech" – despite the artist's own hopes that the passage would speak to the suffering of his dead friend. […]
    If every piece of art that offended some person or some group was removed from a museum, our museums might start looking empty – or would contain nothing more than pabulum. Goya's great nudes? Gone. The Inquisition called them porn. […]
    In America no one group – and certainly no single religion – gets to declare what the rest of us should see and hear and think about. Aren't those kinds of declarations just what extremist imams get up to, in countries with less freedom?
    Of course, it's pretty clear that this has almost nothing to do with religion. Eleven seconds of an ant-covered crucifix? Come on.
    This fuss is about the larger topic of the show: Gay love, and images of it.
    The attack is on gayness, and images of it, more than on sacrilege – even though, last I checked, many states are sanctioning gay love in marriage, and none continue to ban homosexuality.

  • 40. Don in Texas  |  December 1, 2010 at 8:52 am

    According to the American Prospect, this quote from the Pentagon's DADT study concisely summarizes the case for repeal:

    As one special operations force warfighter told us, “We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.”

  • 41. Kathleen  |  December 1, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Every now and then I step back and ponder…I expend a lot of time and energy fighting for peoples' right to enter into two institutions — marriage and the military — that I really want no part of. 🙂

  • 42. Hans Revaux  |  December 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I graduated MSG school at Quantico with Sgt Elzie, he was a great guy and a great Marine and I would have served with him anywhere.

  • 43. Rhie  |  December 2, 2010 at 10:46 am

    checkin the box

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