Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama and DADT

LGBT people have been serving ably and well in every war the country has fought, from the very beginning.

The documentary Before Stonewall tells how in WWII, when they needed us, they looked the other way, and queer people served with no problem. However, then with the McCarthy era and the Red scares of the 50’s came the “homosexual menace,” and suddenly people who had been in the Service since WWII started being thrown out just because of their sexual orientation.

President Clinton promised to allow queer people to serve openly in the military during his campaign, but instead signed DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) into law. This said that people could not be asked about their sexual orientation, but if they revealed that they were gay or bisexual, or committed gay acts, they would be discharged. And as Cliff Arnesen, President of the New England Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Veterans, Inc. has said, "As a bisexual in the military, there is no distinction in terms of punishment, no refuge in being bisexual. You get the same consequences; you don't get half a discharge."

Once again, President Obama promised to repeal DADT, but so far, since his inauguration, 265 servicemen and women have been discharged due to it. Lt. Choi, who has done nothing wrong but be honest, faces a discharge hearing on June 30th.

Congress has acted, in that 77 members have sent Obama a letter asking him to freeze discharges in the way that he could:

“we request that you impose that no one is asked and that you ignore, as the law requires, third parties who tell.”

Finally, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is calling for a March on the White House on Saturday, June 27. This will be led by the fighting Cook v. Gates plaintiffs (service members discharged under DADT), and will call upon President Obama to break his silence on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The first 265 marchers will be veterans and service members. This is the number of service members discharged since January 20 when the President took office. In addition, family and friends of service members will be attending to implore the president to lead the way with lawmakers to get repeal done in this Congress and to end discrimination in the military.

One doesn't need to be a veteran or on active duty to show up and support our LGBT troops, one only needs to be committed to equality for all. We will meet in Farragut Square (17th & K St NW) at 2:00pm and march to the White House from there.

· Call the White House switchboard on Saturday. While we’re marching to the White House, you can join us by calling the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414. Help amplify the call for President Obama to break his silence on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

· Call your members of Congress. You can also take action by calling your members of Congress to urge they co-sponsor the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1283) – the bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination.

Together, we have a real opportunity to deliver a powerful message to the White House, Congress, and to the American people, and to let our service members know they have not been forgotten.