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Rachel Maddow: Lack of DADT questions at Obama press conference “weird”… But why?

By Eden James

On Friday, Rachel Maddow — one of the foremost opinion leaders on DADT since her program launched in 2008 — talked about the historic DADT decision by Judge Virginia Phillips on Thursday night and interviewed Major Michael Almy.

The 9-minute segment is well worth watching (h/t to ???î?????? for posting in last night’s comment thread):

At one point, Rachel talks about how “weird” it was that no reporters asked President Obama about the DADT decision at Friday’s press conference. It was indeed strange that on the morning after this historic decision, not one reporter chose to ask the President about it.

At White House press conferences, President Obama calls on reporters to ask questions. In some cases, he is aware that a reporter covering a particular “beat” — for example, the Middle East — is likely to ask a question about that particular beat. By calling on reporters, the President (Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc) can, to an extent, control the content of many questions.

That said, there were reporters from The Advocate (Kerry Eleveld) and Metro Weekly (Chris Geidner) — both publications that cover the LGBT community — present at the press conference. Geidner wrote about “The Presidential News Conference, And What I Didn’t Ask” on Friday:

“Although it was exciting to consider the possibility that I might ask President Obama a question at today’s news conference in the East Room of the White House, it apparently was more important to allow Fox News to ask the president about the “Ground Zero mosque” and the would-be-Koran burner than it was to allow an LGBT media outlet (or anyone else, for that matter) to ask about last night’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ruling.”

While Obama may not be familiar with Eleveld and Geidner, who write for less “prestigious” publications than the more familiar mainstream media outlets, the President is briefed ahead of time by Robert Gibbs and his press operation on which reporters to call on at these press conferences. And though Gibbs knows both Eleveld and Geidner, having called on them at several White House press conferences, I’m guessing Gibbs didn’t make a point of recommending that Obama call on them.

Still, the blame is shared by the “multi-issue” beltway reporters from traditional media outlets that are ostensibly responsible for addressing the most important issues of the day. And they failed to ask Obama a single question about one of the hottest topics in the news, on the day after this historic decision.

Perhaps it was because, until Friday, the DADT case had never been very prominent in the news, as Judge Virginia Phillips talked about in a New York Times profile piece yesterday:

“Honestly, I did not expect it to get as much attention as it did,” Judge Phillips said. “During the course of the case, there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to it.”

Indeed, the case did not receive much tradmed or new media coverage until the ruling came down, even from Rachel Maddow or in this forum (which is primarily focused on the Prop 8 trial and the right-wing organizations that made the passage of Prop 8 possible). In fact, aside from reporter (and Prop 8 Trial Tracker contributor) Karen Ocamb’s excellent coverage of the DADT trial on LGBTPOV, it seemed like the case was barely mentioned in the blogosphere either.

Karen wrote about the lack of attention on this case back on July 19:

Most of the LGBT leadership and equality activists yawned when LCR’s federal challenge to DADT commenced Tuesday, despite hours of testimony from DADT expert Nathaniel Frank and obnoxious objections from the Justice Department lawyers.

I drove up from West Hollywood for Tuesday’s opening arguments and was startled at how few non-attorneys showed up. After all, this is essentially the military equivalent of the federal Prop 8 trial – evidence in a court of law about how gays are officially treated as second class citizens by the federal government. But for all the high decibel attention over repealing DADT and the Pentagon’s homophobic survey – no one showed up with picket signs to demonstrate outside or packed the courtroom to support the plaintiffs in this serious David versus Goliath legal battle. What does this thundering absence tell the government about how much LGBTs really care about this horrendous law?

Was driving to hot Riverside just too inconvenient? Does the fact that the plaintiffs are gay Republicans play a role in LGBT and civil rights groups ignoring the case? Would there be a similar deafening silence if the plaintiff was photogenic Lt. Dan Choi or some fire-breathing progressive who wanted to stick it to President Obama, the Pentagon or the Department of Justice?

What does it say about the real principles of the LGBT movement for equality that no one but three local LGBT activists, a couple of Log Cabin members from Palm Springs and a handful of reporters showed up for part one of this trial?

For much, much more, read the rest of Karen’s post.

As a former reporter, here’s my take on why this case hasn’t received much coverage in the media:

The center of gravity in the repeal of DADT has resided in Washington, D.C. for years, as political pressure to overturn the policy has increased outside and inside the Beltway, driven by advocacy organizations as well as policy leaders. Unlike the Prop 8 case, in which the “action” was taking place in California, the “action” on DADT has been reverberating around Washington for years, from the White House and Congress to the Pentagon and inside the D.C. punditocracy. With the repeal of DADT seeming like a foregone conclusion to many traditional media reporters (who are fewer and farther between these days, due to the decline of the newspaper industry), this case failed to make it onto the radar of most “gatekeeper” editors and producers tasked with determining the day’s news. Without much news coverage emanating from the Riverside courtroom, many bloggers who rely on news accounts as the foundation of their content and analysis, took the tradmed’s cue and ignored the trial as well. And the negative feedback loop continued, as reporters, who rely on bloggers for news tips quite often, noticed the lack of coverage in the blogosphere as well.

There’s so much more to it than that, of course. But that’s my take, in a nutshell.

What’s yours? In the comments, tell us why you think there has been a lack of attention to the DADT case (until the ruling was announced)?

233 Comments September 11, 2010

Hi Louis! “One Man, One Woman” stance on DADT exposes NOM’s duplicity and hypocrisy

(Cross-posted at Good As You)

By Jeremy Hooper

You know how we’ve told you a million times about that “One Man, One Woman” offshoot organization? The one run by National Organization For Marriage tour personality Louis Marinelli? The same OMOW group whose Facebook page NOM now claims as their own official site on both their own Twitter feed and their spinoff site?

Yea, well check this out: In a surprising move, someone writing for OMOW (presumably Louis) has come out in favor of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal:

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Also, presumably-Louis has even joined this site, Towleroad, and Americablog in asking the DOJ to not appeal the recent court decision:

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Uhm, okay. So now just to remind you: This Twitter account (which was once called NOMUpdates) is the same Twitter account that, over the past year, has tweeted all kinds of targeted hits not just against marriage equality, but also against gays in general. There was the time that Louis, or whoever was writing for the account, declared all gays to be single. There was the time that the Twitter-er said that Peter LaBarbera and his fringe “Americans For Truth” group merely “tell the truth about homosexuality.” There were times when he or she flat-out called us an abomination, citing Leviticus. There was this one: “Deviance” describes actions or behaviours that violate cultural norms – homosexuality is far from a cultural norm. Therefore, it is deviant.” And this: “Homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong and harmful to society.” And this: “#iaintafraidtosay that there shouldn’t be any recognition of homosexual relationships because that is saying that homosexuality is OK.” There was this next one, accompanied by a smile: “What they do is blantantly [sic] immoral. 🙂” There were times when Mr. Marinelli or his ally compared our unions to that which might exist between a sterile brother and sister. And other times when our very character was assaulted, like this one: “#nevertrust activists of the homosexual agenda – they are deceitful people who care only about themselves and not what’s best for society.And so on and so on.

Plus, as we’ve seen time and time again, the OMOW Facebook page (which, again, NOM claims as their own in multiple places) hosts some of the most incendiary, blanketed comments on the ‘net. Comments that often go well beyond marriage and right into gays’ mental health.

So to have this site now coming out in favor of repeal? It’s kind of — something. Sure, it might be a naked attempt to say, “See we don’t really hate gays — we support their right to fight and possibly die on the battlefield.” But regardless of motivation, it’s certainly not a position that will sit well with the vast majority of organized anti-equality activists, as most of the socially conservative personalities and groups see the LGBT community’s every gain as an interconnected step down a slippery slope. So if OMOW is sincere, then we celebrate the dual takeaway: (1) The further evidence that even some “pro-family” peeps are coming around on basic rights, and (2) the further dissension that this support for basic rights will cause among those whose anti-gay “culture war” is an all-out “us v. them” battle rather than a series of tiered skirmishes with varying shades of nuance.


**True to form, OMOW is making yet another attempt to distance from NOM:

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But here’s the deal: It is 100% impossible for an organization to embed a Facebook page…

(NOM’s TwoMillion For Marriage site, with “OMOW” Facebook embedded within)


…and for that same organization to list that same Facebook page on their branded Twitter account…

(NOM’s official Twitter sidebar, with “OMOW” listed as official Facebook)


…and still claim separation. IT. DOES. NOT. WORK. THAT. WAY.

98 Comments September 11, 2010

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien talks DADT with soldiers both current and former

By Julia Rosen

This segment on CNN with Soledad O’Brien speaking with current gay soldiers in the closet, those who have been kicked out and SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis is well worth a watch.

Transcript from Pam’s House Blend:

SOLEDAD O’BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You may not be able to see it, but this man is nervous. He has every reason to be. He is one of an estimated 60,000 members of the U.S. military serving in the closet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wondering if this is the day that my secret is going to fly out. Is this the day.

O’BRIEN: You live like that? Everyday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, whenever you get the e-mail to come to the office by your boss or somebody is on the phone, and who is on the phone? I don’t know. You never know, is this that phone call.

O’BRIEN: The phone call that will kick you out of the military?


O’BRIEN: He is a 10-plus year veteran are army intelligence and currently serving overseas. He can’t reveal his identity because of the military policy “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but that is about to change.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R): The committee’s focus is today on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

O’BRIEN: The service members’ legal defense network has been lobbying Congress to pass the Pentagon’s military spending bill. It has an amendment that would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” You think you have it?

AUBREY SARVIS, SERVICE MEMBERS’ LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK: This bill will be close. We won the voting committee. We are going to win the vote on the Senate floor. Senator McCain has threatened to filibuster, and so we may have to come up with 60 votes. If we have to we will.

O’BRIEN: But some say that the military is not ready for openly gay service members. For former air force Major Mike Almy, the upcoming vote comes late. How did you find out that you had been caught?

MIKE ALMY, FORMER AIR FORCE MAJOR: My commander called me into his office for a routine meeting which was not out of the order and the first thing he did was to read me the DOD policy on homosexuality, just like and I’m sure I turned ghost white, because I was completely flabbergasted and as if somebody had pulled the rug out from under me.

O’BRIEN: Five years ago, a co-worker found his e-mails to a man he was dating. Almy was booted from the air force.

ALMY: I’m pissed off. I really am. I want my job back. I want my career back.

O’BRIEN: Can you get it back realistically?

ALMY: There have been about 14,000 men and women who have been thrown out under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” So you’ve got to figure there’s maybe two or 3,000 of those who want to come back in. How do you revive a career that’s been completely derailed like mine where I’ve been out for four years now?

O’BRIEN: The repeal won’t automatically lift the ban, and the services could take months to implement the policy. There is no guarantee that ousted members like Almy could return. As it moves forward what advice would you give the members of the military who are closeted? What do you tell them? Wait?

SARVIS: Well, they have to keep in mind that this law has not gone away and serve in silence until you get the green light.

O’BRIEN: When the time comes, breaking that silence will not come easily. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it is repealed soon, and I decide to come out, I think it will be some pushback from the colleagues.

O’BRIEN: Pushback in what way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pushback and major penalties from the co- workers.

O’BRIEN: You will lose friends?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I will probably lose some friends.

O’BRIEN: Make it worth it, still?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, because I am me. I am who I am.

O’BRIEN: For CNN in America, I’m Soledad O’Brien, Washington, D.C.

If you get a chance to watch it, vs. reading the transcript, do. It is always incredibly powerful watching someone who is serving silence speaking about how physiologically difficult it is to hide who you are on a daily basis and fear you are going to lose your career.

This is the type of clip that is so useful in changing the minds of Americans, as they hear from themselves the stories told by LGBTs about the impact of current laws and policies on their lives.

103 Comments June 25, 2010

DADT a done deal

By Julia Rosen

What a week for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the Hill. Just when many people started to believe that it was increasingly unlikely that DADT would be repealed this year in Congress, a compromise emerged.

Here’s where we stand now. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee added the repeal language to the defense authorization bill with a 16-12 vote behind closed doors. Later the full House voted 229-186 to add the identical repeal language to their version of the defense bill. The entire House voted on Friday to pass the defense bill. Now all we need is the full Senate to approve their defense bill, then it goes to reconciliation (where the bills get merged) and on to President Obama’s desk for a signature.

While the chiefs of the branches of the military are sending letters saying this is not a done deal, it is and here is why. The heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines do not set the policy of which sexual orientations are allowed to serve in the military. This language in the defense bill gives that to the Defense Secretary (Gates), the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Mullen) and the Commander in Chief (Obama). Gates/Mullen are working on a report on how (not if) to implement repeal. The military is getting input from service members for that report. More from Aravosis:

The train has left the station, and the cat is out of the bag. It’s over. McHugh and Casey lost, fair and square. The President, their boss, said what he wanted to do, Congress put its stamp on the proposal, and is in the process of enacting it into law. With all due respect to McHugh and Casey, it is now irrelevant that they think the repeal of DADT is not a done deal. The commander in chief and Congress have now spoken. Game over. They lost. They don’t get to revisit the issue, like some Argentine junta, simply because they disagree with the democratic outcome.

As the media made clear last week, everyone thinks that Congress voted to repeal DADT last week. And everyone in Congress thinks they did the same. That’s why people like Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) refused to endorse the compromise – because he thought the compromise would make DADT repeal a “done deal.” That’s why all of the joint chiefs wrote to McCain to stop the legislation from being passed last week – and it’s why two of the chiefs thought that the legislation outright repealed DADT. Because they thought that the compromise was in effect repeal, and thus made repeal a done deal.

I’ll say it again. Regardless of whether you think the compromise will lead to full repeal next year, all of the actors in this drama – from the President, to the Democrats and even Republicans in Congress, to the joint chiefs – all believed that a vote for this legislation was a vote for full repeal. That the intent of our elected leaders, was full repeal. Period.

Aravosis also asked Speaker Pelosi today about the current dust up over what the chiefs of the military are saying about the language that just passed in Congress. Her response “This is over.”

This could still get screwed up. We don’t know what will be in the Gates/Mullen report, but what is important is that we project strength. That way when things go wrong we can organize an outcry and say that was not Congress’s intent. Congress repealed DADT and told Gates/Mullen to finish what they started, finding a way to implement the repeal in accordance with the wishes of the President of the United States. Change isn’t easy or quick and we must stay vigilant, if we are going to ensure that service members can serve openly and proudly.

And don’t forget that McCain is vowing to filibuster the full defense authorization bill in the Senate. That will be a major battle.

40 Comments June 1, 2010

Where we are at on DADT

By Julia Rosen

Here is the deal. Senator Carl Levin and Rep. Patrick Murphy worked together and in coordination with the White House and Department of Defense to craft a compromise, which upon passage remove Congress as an obstacle to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. President Obama has always said that there needed to be an act of congress giving him permission to repeal the policy and this does that and not a whole lot more.

This piece of legislation gives no date for repeal. It states that it cannot happen until the Gates/Mullen are done with their review and are satisfied that it would not harm unit cohesion or readiness. Passage of this amendment does not put in place a policy of non-discrimination. For more background see this excellent piece in the Advocate.

All of that said, considering DADT repeal was nearly dead last week, it is impressive that this amendment is viable and due to a tremendous amount of grassroots pressure and the leadership by Levin and Murphy (check out this interview with Murphy).

How this gets passed through congress is a bit of sausage making. First, the Senate Armed Services Committee will vote on this language as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. It’s known as a “must-pass” bill, one that is unlikely to be vetoed and is tough to filibuster. We are thisclose on having the votes to pass it through the committee. Right now, either we need Sen. Bayh to vote for it (and he is believed to be a 98% certain yes vote) or Sen. Byrd not to show or to vote yes. Bryd has been ill for a while and does not always make it to vote.

That vote in committee is likely to happen tomorrow. Once the Senate votes to approve, the House will bring it up on the full floor with identical language. That is supposed to happen tomorrow as well, however, sometimes things take longer than expected when it comes to Congress. Shocking I know. That said, it’s a pretty safe bet that it all gets done by Friday, given that Congress can’t wait to get out of town for the recess.

That will leave a full vote on the Senate floor on the defense bill left to go. Senator McCain is now threatening to filibuster that bill, assuming the amendment gets attached to it in committee.

No matter what happens Thursday or Friday there will be a fight to make sure it passes the full Senate and that the Department of Defense and President Obama don’t drag it out indefinitely.

For more tidbits, see this good round up post from Adam Bink over at Open Left.

31 Comments May 26, 2010

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell – Don’t Live Your Life

by Brian Leubitz

I think we all can agree that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell needs to go. And a strong majority of Americans think the law needs to go. We’ve written about these poll numbers before, but it’s worth repeating for some background before I go forward:

Nearly six in 10, 57%, said gays should be able to serve openly in the armed forces, while 36% said they should not. An even greater margin, 66%-41%, said the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is discrimination. However, by 54%-38%, respondents said gays in the military should face restrictions on exhibiting their sexuality. (Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, offers his take on the poll results in a Capital Journal column.) (Wall Street Journal)

So, these are strong numbers of Americans who think it needs to go. That there are some people who think it is discrimination but shouldn’t be changed is extremely troubling, but shouldn’t change the underlying message to Congress: End DADT Now!

Supporters of DADT (are there really any?) say that it doesn’t ban gay people, just their being open about their sexuality. But clearly, it stops LGBT service members from living their lives. The service members are just supposed to not tell anybody about it at work and generally live as deep in the closet as possible. It’s not a winning plan for mental health.

Yet, typically, you don’t see other authorities going out of their way to out LGBT service members to military authorities. But that is what happened in Rapid City, South Dakota:

The 28-year-old’s honorable discharge under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy came only after police officers in Rapid City, S.D., saw an Iowa marriage certificate in her home and told the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base.

[Jene] Newsome and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the western South Dakota police department, claiming the officers violated her privacy when they informed the military about her sexual orientation. The case also highlights concerns over the ability of third parties to “out” service members, especially as the Pentagon has started reviewing the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. (AP)

The department defends their actions, saying that they “spotted the marriage license in the window.” When Newsome refused to come back and assist them in finding her spouse who was facing theft charges, they decided that they would tell the military. This is an outrageous violation of privacy that a straight couple would never had to deal with.

But this incident also emphasizes how the picture of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law by the media, and by the name of the policy itself, doesn’t truly do the policy justice. While the technical name given by President Clinton was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue,” that third commandment has never really been followed. Anyway, it should be “Don’t Live Your Life” instead.

When you read the law enacted by congress, you see just how pernicious this beast really is. It specifically bans homosexual sex, bans same-sex marriages, and generally being a gay person. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is simply a ban on gay servicemembers, there’s no other way around it.

I highly recommend that you read through the whole law. The fact that this law was passed by the Congress of the United States (and signed by President Clinton!) is outrageous. It is offensive in the extreme. The finding of facts are a series of rationalizations for discrimination, and the law in general treats being gay as immoral.

This policy should have never been enshrined in the law of the United States of America, and it needs to be repealed post haste. It’s time for the President to quit talking about wanting to end DADT and start vigorously pushing Congress to pass Sen Lieberman’s DADT repeal bill.

85 Comments March 14, 2010

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