Senate repeals "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

Today the Senate voted to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and sent the meseaure to President Obama, who is expected to sign the legislation into law next week.

Please note: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is still in effect and will remain in effect for sixty days after Obama signs the bill into law. Please visit our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for more information.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Report Release & Key Points

UPDATED WITH REPORT RELEASE:
SURROGATE TALKING POINTS:

WARNING TO SERVICE MEMBERS:

As the U.S. Senate is poised to take up repeal, service members still cannot come out. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national, legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT), has a free, confidential hotline for anyone with questions or concerns.  Hotline information and a warning to service members can also be found atwww.SLDN.org/StillAtRisk (the hotline is 202-328-3244 x100.)

A general just approved the separation of an SLDN client serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force.  This service member now faces an administrative separation board.  If the discharge moves forward, the fate of the service member’s career will ultimately fall to Secretary Michael B. Donley, Dept. of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson, and Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel Dr. Clifford L. Stanley.

THE PENTAGON REPORT AND SENATE HEARINGS

(An update will be sent for this section after 2 pm ET / Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010):

This exhaustive report is overwhelmingly positive and constructive.  The Pentagon validated what repeal advocates and social scientists have been saying about open service for over a decade.

Some initial resistance may come from one or more of the service chiefs – the very leaders who will be charged with  implementing this change.  Those chiefs will need to salute and lead in bringing about this needed change.  Fortunately, the chiefs have already made it clear they will do precisely that if Congress acts.  

 KEY REPORT POINTS:

  • When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s "ability to work together" was "very good," "good," or "neither good nor poor."
  • 89% for those in ARMY combat arms units and 84% for those in MARINE combat arms units.
  • When asked about how having a service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to "work together to get the job done," 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.
  • When asked "in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual," 69% of Service members reported that they had.
  • In communications with gay and lesbian current and former service members, the CRWG repeatedly heard a patriotic desire to serve and defend the Nation, subject to the same rules as everyone else.
  • The CRWG is convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war.  They do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated Service men and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our Nation with the military capability to accomplish any mission.
  • The CRWG found "the risk of repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell to overall military effectiveness is low."
  • The CRWG believes this to be the "largest, most Comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the department of defense has ever undertaken."

 CALL THE SENATE NOW:

  • Congress needs to catch up and the Senate should immediately act to on repeal. 
  • A Pentagon report shows a clear majority of service members are okay serving side by side with their gay comrades. Sen. John McCain, however, rejects those findings and insists repeal language be stripped out of the defense bill. 
  • It is critical that repeal advocates be urging their senators to act in December to pass legislation repealing ‘Don’t Ask’ before Congress goes home for the year.  ACTION ALERT LINK / LANGUAGE BELOW IF ON RADIO/TV: http://bit.ly/dBKRcd

Call both your senators at the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to:

  • Stop using gay and lesbian service members as political pawns.
  • Stand up for national security and all our troops.
  • Pass the defense bill during the Senate’s lame-duck session in December.

 -         As Sec. Gates said, we don’t want to be fighting this in the courts – but if the legislature doesn’t do its job and repeal the law, advocates will continue an aggressive campaign in the judicial branch.

 -         Service members need finality.  We urge the U.S. Senate to act swiftly on repeal now.

 THE KEY FLOOR VOTES TO WATCH:

There will be at least two key votes to watch for when the Senate acts.

  • THE FIRST VOTE: SLDN and other repeal advocates are working to shore up a filibuster proof majority, 60 Senate votes, to proceed again to consideration of the NDAA.

Even with a filibuster proof 60-vote majority, SLDN and our repeal allies will be closely watching for any crippling amendments offered on the floor and a "motion to strike" that could allow repeal opponents to remove the repeal language from the defense bill.

  • THE SECOND VOTE: Sen. John McCain is expected to make an attempt to strike repeal from the larger defense bill.  SLDN is working closely with Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin to guard against any attempts to strike repeal or weaken its provisions. 

EXAMPLE OF A HARMFUL AMENDMENT: For instance, we will vigorously oppose any amendment to expand the certification process in the "compromise." Opponents of open service may be considering an amendment that would require all of the Joint Chiefs to sign off on the certification process.  This killer amendment is designed to delay open service for years.

 KEY SENATORS WHO NEED TO HEAR FROM REPEAL SUPPORTERS NOW:

 –Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Mark Pryor (D-AR.);
–Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Joe Manchin (D-WV)
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
–Mark Kirk (R-IL)
–James Webb (D-VA)

 

Responding to recent "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" developments

Our friends at Servicemembers Defense League put together information for us regarding the recent action around "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell", the military policy which prohibits openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals from serving.

  1. Tuesday’s announcement that Judge Phillips of the Log Cabin case has ordered a stop to discharges was positive news. However, the government will likely appeal the decision, and it is still not safe for servicemembers to come out. We must keep the pressure up to repeal DADT through Congress during the lame-duck session. SLDN’s most recent release (from last night) about these events is at this link.
  2. Election season is upon us, and DADT repeal can play a role in local discussion. Organizations can encourage membership to check on where their elected officials and candidates stand on DADT repeal and bring up the issue with these candidates. Here are links to the Murphy amendment roll call in the House, the Senate Armed Services Committee vote, and the Senate floor vote on cloture so people will know where their elected officials stood when it counted.
  3. These talking points still apply for letters and other communication with senators. They emphasize holding the Senate accountable for the failed cloture vote and looking toward the lame-duck session.

We hope this helps!

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Vote Delayed: Take action today

Thank you for your support on the attempt to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Senate Republicans blocked the bill that contains the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" from even receiving an up-or-down vote. Not a single one broke ranks.

It’s an outrage. But this doesn’t mean the fight is over. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has committed to bringing the bill back up after the November elections – and we’ll have a fighting chance to get it passed then – so we’ll put everything we have into that effort.

The Human Rights Campaign is collecting signatures on an open letter to the Justice Department asking them to refuse to defend in appeals court. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was recently ruled unconstitutional and barred its enforcement. If Attorney Justice Eric Holder does not appeal the law, it could soon become a relic of the past.

Add your name to the letter here.

Executive Director to Join Dialogue with Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network

Two weeks ago, Soulforce Executive Director, Dr. Cindi Love and Soulforce Founder, Rev. Mel White, went to Washington, D.C. to meet with eleven LGBTQ advocacy groups, including the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network.  Dr. Love has been invited to join the conference calls with SLDN to provide insight regarding the influence of fundamentalist religious leaders within and on the armed forces.

We want you to have the background on this dialogue provided in summary by MRFF.  America’s civilian Commander in Chief issued a directive that changes are to occur in the US military. This includes specific expectations of how changes will be put in place to ensure justice and a respect for Constitutional and privacy issues for persons based on sexual orientation. These changes will come about in the future, and it is critical for the military to be ready to understand how this evolution is part of accepting the pluralism of the world in which they function.
Many young and gifted recruits turn to the armed services as a step toward adulthood. Not surprising, many do so with struggles and questions about who they are as a person just as about their spirituality.

Soulforce is grounded in our commitment to ensuring that policies such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and outdated philosophies regarding sexual and gender orientation do not interfere with any soldier’s free expression of their rights. As you are aware, fundamentalist Christian organizations are fighting the repeal of DADT and we need your help to nonviolently resist the pressure of these organizations.  Please write your representatives in Washington and ask them to repeal DADT now.

Soulforce Responds to Cancellation of Gay Navy Vet’s Memorial

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 13, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Arlington, TX) –Last week High Point Church, a nondenominational megachurch, canceled a memorial service for Navy veteran Cecil Howard Sinclair because the deceased was gay. According to the Dallas Morning News, High Point’s pastor defended the decision to cancel on Sinclair’s grieving family a mere 24 hours in advance, saying that the church "cannot glorify homosexuality as a lifestyle."

Statement from Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director

"Many of America’s megachurches and emerging evangelical leaders have become more politically sophisticated and have toned down the antigay rhetoric that emanates from the pulpit. But this shameful action by High Point Church demonstrates that their toxic theology is often no different than that espoused by Dobson, Robertson, and the late Jerry Falwell.

I hope this incident will inspire some much-needed national reflection about the dangers of religion-based bigotry. We should stop giving churches a pass when they preach God’s unconditional love and then ask gay and lesbian members to suppress an integral part of themselves in order to be worthy of that love."

Statement from Chaplain (Col.) Paul Dodd (Ret.), Soulforce volunteer

"Not long ago, the governor of Texas told gay veterans to go live elsewhere if they want to get married. Now, fundamentalist leaders are telling a grieving family that they must ‘go elsewhere’ if they want to remember and honor their son, a gay veteran. I call on the fair-minded people of Texas to cry out for justice and make it clear that love and compassion must always triumph over religion-based bigotry – every single time."


Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Six Vassar Students Arrested in Times Square Protest Over "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 5, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(New York, NY) — Six Vassar College students were arrested at 3 p.m. Friday at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square. The students were holding a peaceful sit-in to protest the federal policy that denies openly gay Americans the right to serve in the military. They were charged with criminal trespassing and released Saturday evening.

Five of the arrestees — David Rodriguez, Pete Whinn, Julia Golomb, Clare Ciervo, and Leslie Hamilton — were inside the recruiting station to support a sixth student, Curt Peterson. Peterson, a gay man, entered the station at 1 p.m. and attempted to enlist in the Army without hiding who he is or whom he loves. When his attempt to enlist was denied on the basis of sexual orientation, Peterson and 12 supporters commenced the sit-in. Sixty additional students from Vassar held a simultaneous sit-in in Times Square.

The Vassar students are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a nationwide effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze discussion about the human and national security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Since the beginning of the summer, 43 openly gay young people affiliated with Right to Serve have attempted to enlist in 17 cities. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Previously, Peterson was one of three gay Americans who attempted to enlist in Times Square on September 25. When Peterson and his fellow enlistees arrived at the office, they found the country’s busiest recruiting center locked and dark. The would-be recruits held a sit-in with more than eighty supporters from area colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that recruiters had cancelled appointments without notice in order to avoid gay Americans who wish to serve their country with honesty and dignity.

More recently, three young people were denied the right to serve on October 10 in Los Angeles. Among them was Vincent Cervantes, a student at Azusa Pacific University. Cervantes and five other Azusa Pacific students were arrested in the sit-in that followed. The following day, Cervantes posted his testimony as a gay student on the conservative Christian campus, claiming that the experience of standing up for social justice had made it impossible for him to live in the closet. Cervantes has since withdrawn from Azusa rather than "repent" in accordance with school policy.

Right to Serve Campaign Returns to New York

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 3, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(New York, NY) — At 1:00 pm today, Curt Peterson will walk into the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square for an appointment with an Army recruiting officer.

He hopes the recruiter shows up.

Peterson was one of three openly gay Americans who attempted to enlist in Times Square on September 25. When Peterson and his fellow enlistees arrived at the office, they found the country’s busiest recruiting center locked and dark. The would-be recruits held a sit-in with more than eighty supporters from area colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that recruiters had cancelled appointments without notice in order to avoid facing gay Americans who wish to serve their country with honesty and dignity.

Peterson is part of the Right to Serve campaign, a coordinated effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze national discussion about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Since the beginning of the summer, 43 openly gay young people have attempted to enlist in 17 cities. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Three young people were denied the right to serve on October 10 in Los Angeles. Among them was Vincent Cervantes, a student at Azusa Pacific University. Cervantes and five other Azusa Pacific students were arrested in the sit-in that followed, bringing the total number of arrests in the campaign to 54. The following day, Cervantes posted his testimony as a gay student on the conservative Christian campus, claiming that the experience of standing up for social justice had made it impossible for him to live in the closet. Cervantes has since withdrawn from Azusa rather than submit to "reparative" therapy in accordance with school policy.

Today in Times Square, Peterson, who is a student at Vassar, will be joined by supporters from that institution. If Peterson is again denied the right to enlist, he and his fellow students plan to stage a second peaceful sit-in in Times Square.

The Right to Serve campaign is a project of Soulforce, an LGBT social justice organization dedicated to using nonviolent direct action to expose injustice and call attention to the real costs of homophobia.

"In Our Nation’s Best Interest?" – 43 Arrested Across the Country as Gay Youth Confront Discrimination in the Military

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 29, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(Minneapolis, MN) — Since the beginning of August, 32 openly gay young people have attempted to enlist in the military as part of the nationwide "Right to Serve" campaign.

All 32 have been denied the opportunity to enlist. Several have been denied the chance to speak with recruiters at all, as military recruitment centers in New York, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, and elsewhere locked their doors in order to avoid confronting the federally-sanctioned discrimination of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The Right to Serve campaign seeks to ignite a national conversation about the 13-year-old federal policy. In order to draw public attention to the human and security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the rejected recruits are returning to the recruitment centers to hold sit-ins this fall.

According to campaign Co-director Haven Herrin, "Right to Serve is showing America young, physically fit, competent adults who genuinely want to serve their country, but bigotry is barring them from joining the armed forces. We hope people will ask themselves, ‘is this in our nation’s best interest?’"

Thus far, 43 enlistees and community supporters have been arrested at sit-ins in 17 cities.

Three students at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville were the latest Right to Serve campaigners to hold a sit-in. Rachel Miller, who hoped to enlist in the Air Force, made an appointment at a Charlottesville recruitment center on Wednesday. When Miller and other enlistees arrived at the center, she was informed that she did not have an appointment and barred from the recruiting officer’s office. The enlistees and their supporters began a sit-in, which continued on Thursday and resulted in two arrests on trespassing charges.

In coming weeks, the Right to Serve campaign will spread to Tampa, Providence, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Seattle. Eventually, this youth movement will instigate dialogue and reflection in 30 cities nationwide.

The Right to Serve campaign is sponsored by the Minneapolis-based youth office of Soulforce, a national civil rights organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

Military Recruiters Lock The Doors on Gay Americans

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 25, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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Last Tuesday, when Rebecca Solomon and Jesus Sanchez approached an Army recruitment station in Austin, Texas, they found the doors locked at mid-morning. That same day, Meg Sneed came to a recruiting center in Phoenix with the intention of enlisting in the Coast Guard, but found the office locked and dark. And on Wednesday, three more potential recruits traveled to the Armed Forces Recruitment Center in Times Square — reportedly the busiest recruitment center in the country — only to find the center empty and the doors locked for the duration of the day.

These would-be recruits are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a coordinated effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze national discussion about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The campaign comes at a pivotal moment, as military recruiters have eased standards in order to admit some recruits without high school diplomas and even some with criminal records. Since the beginning of the summer, twenty-five openly gay Americans have attempted to enlist as part of the Right to Serve Campaign. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Last week marked a turning point in the campaign, as recruiting offices across the country closed their doors rather than offer recruiting interviews to openly gay youth.

In New York, the Armed Forces Recruitment Center, which is normally open every day of the year, was closed without warning. When Right to Serve campaigners Curt Peterson, Kamal Davis, and Rhonda Davis found the center empty, they held an all-day vigil and sit-in outside the center. They were joined by more than eighty supporters from nearby schools and colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that their scheduled appointments had been cancelled without notice.

In Austin, Solomon and Sanchez had both attempted to enlist in recent weeks, but were turned away because of sexual orientation. They returned to the recruiting center with the intent of holding a sit-in with their supporters. Although the doors were locked, recruiters were plainly visible inside the office, and Sanchez and Solomon were able to slip inside when one of the recruiters exited. After a brief sit-in, Solomon and Sanchez were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

Greensboro, North Carolina was the only city where openly gay youth were given the opportunity to sit down with recruiters last week. Four young men and women began the interview process, but the interviews were terminated when the enlistees revealed their sexual orientations. The enlistees were promptly joined by community supporters, and they commenced a sit-in inside the recruitment center. The four recruits and supporters were arrested and removed from the center in handcuffs.

In Phoenix, Meg Sneed — an out lesbian with a longstanding dream of joining the Coast Guard — will return to the recruiting center another day to try to enlist again.

Throughout this week, Right to Serve campaigners will keep "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" in the public eye with attempted enlistments in Washington, D.C., and Spokane, Washington, on Tuesday and Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday. In addition, enlistees who have already been denied the Right to Serve in Madison, Wisconsin, and Charlottesville, Virginia, will gather supporters for sit-ins at military recruitment centers.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.