Posts Tagged ‘DADT’

Who’s Hiding Now?

September 23rd, 2011 4 comments

Since 365gay is shuttering after next Friday, I’ll be doing a lot more blogging back here. This is good, in a way, because I’ll be motivated to write on a broader array of subjects than I’d be covering for the past year or so. (I’m also told that the site will…disappear, along with all my work. I’m trying to figure out how to preserve it. Any ideas?)

Anyway, here’s today’s penultimate column; might as well reproduce the whole thing:

Who’s hiding now?

A couple of recent developments – one seismic, the other not so much – point to a tidal shift in the battle for LGBT equality and dignity.

The biggie, of course, is the long-overdue interment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” You’d have to be made of a certain kind of dense mineral not to be moved by the stories that we’re hearing of soldiers who can now go about their jobs without fear of being outed, then ousted. And the squawking of those on the hard-right who’d threatened to get repeal undone are dying away like the gasps of an almost-extinct species.

Yet the repeal creates problems more complex than the one it solved. Once these gay and lesbian (but not transgendered) soldiers stand revealed in the fullness of their identity, it’s also going to become almost immediately apparent that they’re still not equal. While they now are allowed to exist, their relationships are not, because these soldier are not considered legally married for federal purposes. So all the benefits that straight service members take for granted – including housing for their families and spousal death benefits – aren’t available to sames-sex couples. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) that’s true even if the couple is considered legally married in their state of residence.

This glaring inequality has the potential to do some serious damage to the anti-equality forces. Soldiers not only enjoy tremendous respect, but they live in such stifling proximity to each other that these inequities can’t be missed. In short order, this new set of stories – told now neither by ex-soldiers, nor by soldiers concealing their identities, but by open and proud service members – will create a compelling narrative that should accelerate the momentum toward the repeal of DOMA. Equality and openness beget more of the same.

This could finish even better than you’d think it might. Because members of the military are constantly on the move, and often overseas, it won’t do to have their marriages recognized some of the time (when they’re in states that allow same-sex marriages) but not always (when they’re anywhere else). So the move to pass something like the Respect for Marriage Act (“RMA”) will also gain steam. Under that proposed bill, once you’re legally married in any state that allows it, you’d be forever deemed married for federal purposes. While the RMA still won’t force states to recognize marriages from other states, the pressure on them to do so will increase dramatically.

No other approach makes sense for the military – it would be a logistical nightmare for the government (and the same-sex couples) to move in and out of legal marriage as they changed location. This is already a problem with same-sex marriages under state law: try dissolving your Massachusetts marriage in Texas, for example. But the military setting brings the problem into sharp relief.

So the reality of our lives, as we push further and more boldly into the open, has created irresistible pressure for equality. Look no further than recent polling data on marriage equality for evidence that the message is getting through.

And that brings me to the second development, which is a sort of flip side. As our openness and equality become an increasingly tight and strong braid, our opponents find themselves on the defensive. That’s not a good place to be when you have no good arguments for your position.

So, once again, we had the Prop 8 opponents trying – but failing – to keep the videotape of the trial from being made public. (An appeal has been filed, of course.) And a couple of weeks ago, the lawyers working for the House of Representative on the DOMA case politely refused to consent to the videotaping of oral arguments before the federal appellate court. They gave no reason for their refusal, but let me suggest one:

They know their arguments are neither sympathetic nor compelling.

The more they say, the worse — the meaner, frankly — they seem. David Boies, one of the attorneys on the Prop 8 challenge, said it succinctly: “The witness stand is a lonely place to lie.” (Watch the video, especially around the 3:00 mark. Boies is devastating.) Indeed, the Prop 8 defenders’ witnesses were such a disaster that the release of the videotapes would be a huge boon for our side. Better to keep it – and all opposition arguments – under wraps. I’d be begging for the same result were I the lawyer representing them.

Who’s hiding now?

John Culhane is stepping up the pace of his own blogging at as his work on this site rockets toward its conclusion next week. You can also follow him on Slate, Twitter (@johnculhane), or through his legal scholarship. He’s also working on a book about civil unions, and invites your stories.

Blogging Equality Forum 2011

April 25th, 2011 No comments

Equality Forum 2011 The Global LGBT Event

Starting very late tomorrow night, look for my blog posts — both here and over at — on this year’s Equality Forum. Here is the link to this year’s site. There will be a whole bunch of these posts, and it will probably take me a few days after the event to catch up.

I’m especially looking forward to the panels on LGBT rights in Latin America; the family panel; the TG panel; and the International Equality Forum dinner, where I’ll likely be interviewing Patrick Murphy (of DADT fame), Dan Choi (same, with a very different approach!), and Daniel Hernandez (the young man who probably saved Rep. Giffords’s life in Tucson, AZ).

The Gloves Are Off!

December 20th, 2010 No comments

As right-wing, anti-gay crazies continue to get buried alive in the culture war, their positions increasingly discredited (and sometimes laughable-if-they-weren’t-scary), expect the rhetoric to turn increasingly nasty. They’re caught in a downward spiral, where each advance for LGBT rights and (in the bargain) dignity occasions more desperately out-of-touch fulminations, which, in turn, will continue to marginalize them and lead to further advances. Here are a couple of representative reactions:

Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council:

Or this, from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, bearing the hysterical title: “Benedict Arnold Republicans Destroy Military and Our National Security” (not “compromise,” or “weaken” — destroy! Our military, as of now, is no more).

The Saturday morning cloture vote on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the critical vote. It needed 60 votes and got 63, because of Republican renegades Scott Brown, Mark Kirk, George Voinovich, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. If these traitors to national defense had voted in line with the Republican Party platform, the cloture motion would have received just 57 votes and would have failed.

The final vote on the bill itself, requiring just 51 votes, was a mere formality after the cloture vote.

“Esprit and cohesion are necessary for military effectiveness and success on the battlefield.  To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America’s Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, For those who say the Republican Party does not need a litmus test for its candidates, you just lost the argument and frittered away the strength of the U.S. military at the same time.

The armies of other nations have allowed gays to serve openly in the military. The reason they could afford to do this is simple: they could allow homosexuals to serve in their military because we didn’t allow them to serve in ours.

They knew they could count on the strength, might, power, and cohesion of the U.S. military to intervene whenever and wherever necessary to pull their fannies out of the fire and squash the forces of tyranny wherever they raised their ugly heads around the world.

Those days are now gone. We will no longer be able to bail out these other emasculated armies because ours will now be feminized and neutered beyond repair, and there is no one left to bail us out. We have been permanently weakened as a military and as a nation by these misguided and treasonous Republican senators, and the world is now a more dangerous place for us all.

It’s past time for a litmus test for Republican candidates. This debacle shows what happens when party leaders are careless about the allegiance of candidates to the fundamental conservative principles expressed in the party’s own platform.

Character-driven officers and chaplains will eventually be forced out of the military en masse, potential recruits will stay away in droves, and re-enlistments will eventually drop like a rock. The draft will return with a vengeance and out of necessity. What young man wants to voluntarily join an outfit that will force him to shower naked with males who have a sexual interest in him and just might molest him while he sleeps in his bunk?

I don’t even need to analyze this one.

Many more, along the same lines, are collected here for your reading…pleasure? horror? disbelief?

It’s going to keep getting uglier, but that’s because it keeps getting better.

The Unconstitutionality That Dare Not Speak its Name

October 26th, 2010 No comments

Brian Bond, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, says in an email to activists in advance of today’s DADT meeting:

Obviously this meeting has gotten out. We are expecting the content of the conversation today to be off the record and to help us figure out how to move forward with the lame duck session.

Also as previously mentioned, there can be no discussion of current court cases or legal strategy or Counsel’s Office will end the meeting. The focus is repeal and the lame duck session. This is also a non-partisan meeting where we want everyone’s help.

So the meeting was supposed to be secret, and it’s still “off the record.” Maybe that makes sense politically.

Then the hammer: the meeting will end if the judicial challenge is so much as mentioned. Not surprising, since one of the participants might try — again — to get an Administration official to say what, so far, hasn’t been said:

We think this law is unconstitutional.

An Up-to-the-Minute DADT Primer…

October 21st, 2010 No comments

…in this week’s column.

Subject to change at any moment.

Categories: military Tags: ,

Refinements and Update to DADT Ruling Post

October 14th, 2010 No comments

Over at, I update and tweak my post from Tuesday on Judge Phillips’ issuance of an injunction against the further implementation of the DADT policy.

Categories: military Tags: ,

What DADT Ruling Means

October 12th, 2010 3 comments

Federal judge Virginia Phillips has just issued a permanent (as in, “forever”) injunction against enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Does this really mean that the discharges will stop? Can a lone judge in California really effect a change of this magnitude?

Yes. She just did, and there’s no legal — as opposed to political — reason preventing this step. Her decision on a question of federal law, absent appeal, holds for the entire nation. After reiterating her judgment that the law violates constitutional protections of fundamental rights, free speech, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, the brief order makes clear its reach and effect. The court:

(2) PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense, their agents, servants, officers, employees, and attorneys, and all persons acting in participation or concert with them or under their direction or command, from enforcing or applying the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command;

(3) ORDERS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, or pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this Judgment.

This means what it says. The policy is gone, and even those DADT-based investigations or discharges that are in process are to stop. Immediately.

Before issuing this final ruling, Judge Phillips had solicited input from the Obama Department of Justice about the effect of her proposed injunction. But their arguments about the harm of such a ruling failed to persuade her, so the law is now history, unless the Obama Administration appeals. Even in that case, they would have to ask for and be granted a stay (both of which would be quite likely) for the injunction to  be lifted.

What to do? This is perhaps the worst-case scenario for Obama: If, as expected, he appeals, he gives the LGBT community and disgusted progressive voters another reason to stay home next month.

Should he take advantage of the sixty-day period allowed for appeal, putting off reckoning until after the mid-terms and counting on the lame-duck Senate to pass the repeal measure? Under ordinary circumstances, this approach might have some promise, but not in this case. The problem is that the repeal measure, even if it passes, isn’t a repeal at all, but the result of a compromise “vote-now-repeal-later-(maybe)” approach. (For the repeal to become effective, a host of actors and institutions, apparently including the local Rotary Club, would have to certify that repeal wouldn’t harm military readiness.) Even with this “repeal” law, DADT would remain in effect for the time being, so that the issue of whether to appeal Judge Phillips’s ruling would have to be confronted in any case.

Does it pain me to say that Obama has only himself to blame? To an extent, yes, because I still believe that his deepest instincts are grounded in a basic notion of equality. But too often, those instincts are submerged beneath a cautious political calculus that ends up deferring or defeating the very initiatives he backs. Still no ENDA, no reasonable prospect of DOMA repeal, and now this situation — where even if the Obama DOJ doesn’t appeal, he’ll get, and deserve, only limited and grudging credit.

Well, too bad. That even this flawed measure didn’t get through the Senate is nothing short of appalling, and a sad testament to Obama’s inability to bring his own party to heel (as by slapping down Harry Reid’s parliamentary tricks, which served only to alienate the few moderate Republicans he might otherwise have counted on).

If I’m a gay or lesbian service member, though, I’m not coming out: yet.

Reaching Out

September 30th, 2010 No comments

This week’s 365gay column recounts my story of reaching out to a straight soldier, whom I met on a plane. I hope you find that it buoys you, in some way.

Categories: 365gay column, military Tags: , ,

The Army Reservist

September 16th, 2010 No comments

In today’s column over at 365gay, I relate the DADT issue to my experience chatting with an Army reservist on a flight from Atlanta to Philly.

How DADT Supports Marriage Equality

June 3rd, 2010 No comments

I make the argument in this week’s column, just posted, over at