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Filed under: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

70 years later, a welcome change for a Navy veteran

Thanks to Kathleen for passing this story along

By Adam Bink

What an interesting and heartwarming tale:

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Nearly 70 years after expelling Melvin Dwork for being gay, the Navy is changing his discharge from “undesirable” to “honorable” — marking what is believed to be the first time the Pentagon has taken such a step on behalf of a World War II veteran since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The Navy notified the 89-year-old former corpsman last month that he will now be eligible for the benefits he had long been denied, including medical care and a military burial.

Dwork spent decades fighting to remove the blot on his record.

“I resented that word ‘undesirable,'” said Dwork, who was expelled in 1944, at the height of the war, and is now a successful interior designer in New York. “That word really stuck in my craw. To me it was a terrible insult. It had to be righted. It’s really worse than ‘dishonorable.’ I think it was the worst word they could have used.”

For Dwork, victory came with a heartbreaking truth: Last year, when the Navy finally released his records, he learned that his name had been given up by his own boyfriend at the time.

The decision to amend his discharge papers was made by the Board for Corrections of Naval Records in Washington.

In its Aug. 17 proceedings, obtained by The Associated Press, the board noted that the Navy has undergone a “radical departure” from the outright ban on gays that was in place in 1944. The board pointed out Dwork’s “exemplary period of active duty” and said that changing the terms of his discharge was done “in the interest of justice.”

Navy officials declined to discuss Dwork’s case, citing privacy reasons.

“I think that with the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ there is a growing realization within the military that not only gays be allowed to serve openly now but this was probably the wrong policy all along,” said Aaron Belkin, an expert on gays in the U.S. military at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He added: “This illustrates, at least in the case of one person, that the military is trying to set things right.”

About 100,000 troops were discharged between World War II and 1993 for being gay and lost their benefits as a result, Belkin said. Under the more relaxed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allowed gays to serve as long as they kept their sexual orientation to themselves, about 14,000 troops were forced out, but most were given honorable discharges that allowed them to draw benefits. The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” officially takes effect Tuesday.

Wrong made right, nearly 70 years later. Amazing.

20 Comments September 17, 2011

Labor Day 2011 weekend LGBT round-up

By Adam Bink

A couples of pieces of interest from the weekend round-up:

  • The NYTimes looks at the challenges facing those who want to re-enlist after being kicked out under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
  • A look at the attempt to put an initiative on the ballot to ban discrimination in Anchorage, Alaska.
  • At the LA Times, Maura Dolan previews tomorrow’s arguments before the California Supreme Court on standing.
  • Disagree on SB 48? You get kicked off church property.
  • Pam Spaulding looks at public opinion in North Carolina on the upcoming marriage amendment vote. Jeremy Hooper has more.
  • The Washington Blade’s Kevin Naff looks at the tenure of HRC’s Joe Solmonese and what might be improved.

What have you been reading?

8 Comments September 5, 2011

The trial of Dan Choi

By Adam Bink

JUDGE FACCIOLA: Now, if jeopardy has attached and, therefore, if you don’t proceed and — Well, let me ask you. You are going to seek mandamus. And if mandamus is denied, you are going to go forward or are you going to dismiss this action?

MS. GEORGE: Your Honor, I have not discussed this with my supervisors. But government believes we have sufficient evidence to prove the defendant guilty. So, without discussing it further, I would have to say no.

JUDGE FACCIOLA: You may or may not. But what you cannot do is convict him in a manner that offends his constitutional rights. It is my job to figure out whether that has occurred.

[Source: Firedoglake transcript]

The trial of Dan Choi has captured attention around the country this week as Dan has taken a stand.

For background, Dan was charged with a minor Parks violation related to his protests at the White House over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Choi was not obstructing the sidewalk; he was on the ledge at the fence. He was not endangering the public. Choi also has hearing loss from his time in Iraq and with bullhorns and protesters and the crowd, had trouble hearing orders.

But perhaps most central in this case, and yesterday’s development, is that Choi is being singled out by the government. He has been arrested before related to Lafayette Park (in front of the White House) protests and always tried in DC Superior Court. In fact, according to a 22-year veteran of the park police who testified, everyone is tried in DC Superior Court. People who strip naked and run around in Lafayette Park are tried in DC Superior Court. People who are being arrested for protesting the Tar Sands pipeline this week are. People protesting “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are. That’s procedure.

Instead, Choi is being tried in federal court which carries jail time of up to 6 months or a $5,000 fine. Not exactly a slap on the wrist. In fact, as the Judge Facciola ruled yesterday, and as the exchange quote above between Judge Facciola and Assistant US Attorney Angela George refers to, the Judge noted prima facie evidence of what he called “vindictive prosecution” by the government, and allowing Choi’s defense to request additional documents from the government to prove that case.

In Choi’s defense, Courage’s Rick Jacobs mailed a letter to Judge Facciola. We asked some of our members yesterday to sign on, and 15,270 people and counting have done so.

Please co-sign Rick’s letter in Dan’s defense. Regardless of how you feel about knowing what you are protesting and accepting consequences, Dan should not be allowed to be singled out unfairly and go to prison.

Courage Campaign

Dear Adam,

Dan Choi needs our help NOW. He’s on trial for protesting the failed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy outside the White House many months ago, and faces 6 months in prison or a $5,000 fine. Dan put himself on the line for our country and equality, and he deserves better than this.

Please see the letter I wrote below to Judge Facciola, who is presiding over the case of United States of America v. Daniel Choi. Can you co-sign it today and share with 5 friends? We’ll make sure the Judge knows about your support. -Rick

Re: United States of America v. Daniel ChoiCase No. 10-739M-11, formerly US v Raphael Farrow et al.

Dear Judge Facciola:

I write in support of Lt. Daniel Choi, whom I have known since he “came out” as openly gay.  Lt. Choi exercised his right to free speech and in so doing, represented hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who have been voiceless for decades.  His crime, if there is one, is for waiting as long as he did to act, but if that were a crime, I should stand before you, not he.

Lt. Choi served his nation admirably, again standing up and in for millions of Americans who did not or could not.  This man of conviction returned to a nation that would acknowledge and thank part of him, but not the whole Dan Choi.  When he “came out” as the whole Dan Choi, he was drummed out of the service. His life has never been the same.  But Lt. Choi chose to serve in other ways. His selfless actions once back in the United States helped galvanize a national movement to push our politicians to act even as the public in repeated opinion polls had long since concluded overwhelmingly that the Dan Chois of the world should serve as Americans, not liars.

I am not a lawyer, but I am a tax-paying patriot who knows that this nation was founded on the spirit of those who take chances to advance liberty.  Lt. Choi has done no more, but also no less.  The harsh and extremely unusual charges leveled at him uniquely have the effect of disempowering any citizen from protesting in a like manner, for fear of exaggerated retribution.

The Courage Campaign consists of over 700,000 members across the nation. We have stood with Lt. Choi again and again as he has stood for us.  Indeed, over 100,000 letters of support from Courage members are part of Lt. Choi’s official separation hearing file at the Department of Defense.  We have more than 500,000 petition signatures supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Dan Choi.

Your Honor, we know you will be fair and just in your judgment. We respectfully add to your deliberations our own observations as citizens that Lt. Choi has saved lives both in the military and as an activist. His work has no doubt stood as a beacon to countless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth that America is home to all.  He harmed no one.  I plead with the court to consider the foregoing as you determine Lt. Choi’s fate.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard D. Jacobs

Chair and Founder, Courage Campaign

Click here to co-sign Rick’s letter to Judge Facciola!

11 Comments September 1, 2011

White House, Pentagon certify repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

By Adam Bink

The final nail in the coffin:

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.  Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal.  As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country.  Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.  I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.  Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

On September 20th, 2011, servicemembers can serve openly.

You can read the official certification letter here.

What a great week.

76 Comments July 22, 2011

Report: Pentagon preparing to certify repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

By Adam Bink

My news alerts are lighting up with reports from the Wall Street Journal and NBC Pentagon reporters that the Pentagon is preparing to certify repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” According to the law, when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the new Secretary of Defense, and the President all certify repeal in writing, then after 60 days elapses (a provision demanded by the late Sen. Byrd to “thoroughly review the implementation policy once certified”), “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be no more.

More as the story develops.

Update: Statement from Alex at Servicemembers United:

“The timing of this announcement is in line with our expectations about Secretary Panetta waiting to settle into his new position at the Pentagon, surveying the landscape, and seeking feedback from his chiefs and commanders before making a move on certification. We are glad to see that just three weeks into his tenure as Secretary of Defense, he is already confident that this policy change can take place with little or no disruption to military readiness.”

And Aubrey at SLDN:

“This Pentagon certification received by the White House this afternoon is welcomed by gay and lesbian service members who have had to serve their country in silence for far too long.  The troops and their commanders are ready.  Our nation’s top military leaders have testified that commanders see no significant challenges ahead.  The official certification to Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’  should go to Capitol Hill tomorrow with the President’s signature.”


18 Comments July 21, 2011

Assemblyman O’Donnell: Agreement reached on NY marriage religious language

By Adam Bink

Nicholas Confessore at the NYTimes reports:

ALBANY– The Cuomo administration and legislative leaders have reached agreement on language that would protect religious institutions from obligations to recognize same-sex marriage, two people involved in the negotiations said on Friday afternoon, potentially paving the way for a vote on the marriage legislation.

Senate Republicans were still discussing the marriage bill among themselves in a close door meeting on Thursday afternoon. And it remained unclear whether — and even if — they would permit a vote on the broader legislation. Assembly lawmakers, which approved an earlier version of the same-sex marriage bill last week, would need to approve the new language in a new vote before the full bill could become law.

Emerging from a meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Manhattan Democrat who is sponsor of the gay marriage bill in the assembly, said that there was an “agreement in principle” on the new language. He predicted the new language would be adopted on Friday.

Gay-rights advocates were hopeful that the same-sex marriage bill, which had been approved by the State Assembly and supported by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would win passage before lawmakers ended their annual session.

As of Friday morning, the number of senators who had voiced support for the marriage measure — 31 out of 62, one short of a majority — had not changed in over a week. And negotiations over protections for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage had yielded no final agreement between Republicans and Mr. Cuomo, raising the prospect that the Legislature could adjourn without addressing the politically freighted legislation.

Most Republican senators say they strongly oppose the measure on religious or moral grounds. Still others are worried that it would provoke a spate of primary challenges — or low turnout among conservatives — next year, when Republicans will be battling to retain their one-vote Senate majority in newly redrawn legislative districts that could prove less hospitable to long-serving incumbents.

The question is whether Republicans themselves come forward to say they are comfortable with the language and whether they’ll bring up the bill.

118 Comments June 24, 2011

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