Sunday, January 31, 2010

Senate Armed Service Committee to hold brief hearing on military gay ban Feb 2; CMR "don't ask don't tell" is a misnomer

On Tuesday February 2 the Senate Armed Service Committee with testimony from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen on the possible repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”. Defense Secretary Robert Gates may also appear.

The column Politics edited by Marc Ambinder on the Atlantic Wire has this story.

I received an email on AOL from “newsissuetalent” quoting the Center for Military Readiness as saying “ As CMR has been predicting for months, the Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue of gays in the military—mislabeled with the catch-phrase “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” on Tuesday, February 2. The only witnesses will be Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Given the very public arm-twisting from President Barack Obama in his State of the Union Speech last week, we do not expect either witness to defend current law, Section 654, Title 10, which states that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military. They are duty bound, however, to provide honest answers if their personal opinions are asked.”

I could not find this statement on its website yet. Here is the closest reference.
The closest I could find there was two links with archives of articles: “Problems with Gays in the Military”, here and “Homosexuals in the Military” here.

My gut reaction is that, if you are disqualified from participating in common defense for essentially a “private choice”, then you are a second class citizen, and other rights could be expropriated later. Ironically, that’s part of the story of my own life (amd I am 66 now). That’s why CMR’s belligerence disturbs me.

CMR’s president is Elaine Donnelly.

CNN has featured some interviews on "don't ask don't tell" over the weekend, with Don Lemmon interviewing Ed Rollins and former defense secretary William Cohen. This morning NBC Meet the Press interviewed Rep John Boehner from Ohio, who opposed changing the policy in the middle of "two wars".

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pentagon to start moving on recommendations on how to end "don't ask don't tell"

With a definite change in tone from earlier stories (as in the Washington Times), Craig Whitlock and Ed O’Keefe report in The Washington Post today (Jan 29) that the Pentagon will present recommendations for graduated and incremental steps in reversing “don’t ask don’t tell” to Congress. The link for the story is (web URL) here.

The recommendations would be likely to deal with subtle problems such as Internet profiles, as well as enforcing rules against fraternization.

The hackneyed problem has always been modesty of “privacy” in the barracks, back to Sam Nunn’s speeches back in 1993. But in practice this is rarely an issue. The problems are more subtle: among men, sometimes a man who seems less conforming and displays little heterosexual interest is perceived as an indirect or “existential” threat to the heterosexual capability of others because of layers of meaning.

In his 1992 book “Honor Bound”, Joseph Steffan reported spending his pre-senior summer cruise on a submarine with no hint of discomfort at all despite the close quarters and hot bunking; there were plenty of chess games.

The New York Times has an editorial today Jan. 29, "Ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell':, link here. The Times writes "The 1993 law was always pointless and cruel, but today, when numerous polls show that a solid majority of Americans oppose it, “don’t ask, don’t tell” feels ever more like the relic of a bygone era. There is evidence that the attitude of military officers is shifting. All that is lacking is political will."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

LLDEF challenges idea that saying a professional athlete is gay, is defamatory

Lambda Legal has sent a letter to the Parks Law Firm in Georgia asking it to reconsider its cease-and-desist letters sent to owners of several websites maintaining that a particular NFL football player had a sexual relationship with another male. LLDEF maintains that claiming that this is “defamation” (even if false) would be demeaning to LGBT people, especially in light of Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

The pdf for the letter is here.

If someone were in the US Armed Forces, such a published statement (alleging "homosexual conduct"), if false, could lead to defamation claims until “don’t ask don’t tell” is repealed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Study shows number of gays serving in US military is slowly increasing; Obama promises to work for repeal of DADT in State of Union Address

The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law has published a study stating that the number of lesbian and gay people serving, mostly covertly, in the United States military has increased slightly. About 13000 are on active duty, about 1% of those deployed, and about 53000 are in National Guard and reserve units, for a total of about 66000.

The news story appears on p A17 of the Wednesday Jan 27 Washington Post, here. The title is “Survey shows slight increase in reported number of gays serving in the military”.

Greta Cammermeyer, who wrote “Serving in Silence” (Viking) made into a television movie in 1994, was an officer in the Washington State National Guard.

The most recent statement that I could find on the Williams Center web site (in conjunction with the Pal Center) appears July 27, 2009 here where a Working Group on the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy corrects statements made by public officials.

At 10:13 PM, EDT, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama said he would work with Congress to repeal the law that keeps gay Americans (and lesbians) from serving openly in the military. The TV camera focused on the JCS, which looked mum.

Friday, January 15, 2010

JCS Chief advised to put repeal of DADT on hold -- political strategy calls for repeal by 2012

The bottom of the front page of the new $1.00 Washington Times on Friday, Jan. 15, bore the byline “Military ban on gays to stay for now; Mullen advised to hold off on internal Pentagon effort,” p A11. But the actual story (heading the Washington Times “Geopolitics” Page), by Anne Gearan, came from the Associated Press (Times link here). The facts are equivocal. Admiral Mile Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) was indeed told “now is not the time” to “lift a ban allowing gays to serve openly in the military”, that is, to repeal the more onerous provisions of the 1993 “don’t ask don’t tell” law. However Mullen has received other advice to move now, and of course Congress has bills on the floor to repeal the policy.

The gist of the thinking is that serious work could start in 2011, and a new law regarding military service and sexual orientation, probably much more in line with Rand Corporations 1993 recommendations (the Internet would have to be taken into consideration) could pass and go into effect in 2012. The repeal of DADT seems to be shaping up in coordination with Obama's 2012 reelection and the anticipated time of drawdown of forces particularly from Afghanistan.

In the mean time, we wonder why a few individual citizens who have prevented presidential assassinations or stopped terrorist attacks over the years would be so unsuited to wear our uniforms.

The New York Times has a story Friday Jan. 15 on p A17 by Elizabeth Bumiller, "Pentagon steps up talks on ending 'don't ask don't tell'", presenting the same facts with a much more "positive" spin, link here. The article, however, mentions concerns like, what happens when units are deployed to countries like Saudi Arabia that condemn homosexuality. However this has not been a problem for the British military since lifting the ban.

History can change things quickly.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Historic constitutional challenge to Proposition 8 and anti-gay-marriage amendments starts today in San Francisco

Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, who live in Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, who live in Los Angeles, are the two plaintiff couples bringing about a formal constitutional challenge in US District Court to California Proposition 8, with a trial that starts today, Jan. 11. The proponents of Prop 8 can defend their position in court because both Gov. Schwaznegger (Rep) and attorney general Jerry Brown (Dem), formal defendants, refused to defend it. The trial, held in San Francisco, will be heard by Judge Vaugh Walker, and is likely to wind up eventually before the US Supreme Court.

Defendants are claiming that this (equal access of couples to marriage regardless of gender) is not a civil rights issue so much as questioning a natural institution of society for raising children and perhaps providing way to resolve naturally occurring differences among persons in a social unit (including other caregiving).

The trial will provide a long list of live witnesses.

The trial will be lengthy. By way of comparison, testimony in the COPA trial in Philadelphia in 2006, which I went to for one day, lasted three weeks.

Lisa Leff has the AP story appearing this morning in the Washington Post, here.

Karl Vick also has a similar large story on p A3 of the Post today.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Lambda Legal will force New Jersey back to court

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund will go back to court after the New Jersey Senate failed to pass a same-sex marriage bill, in accordance with the results of Lewis v. Harris in 2006 before the New Jersey state supreme court. In 2008 the New Jersey Civil Union Commission and found that civil unions fall short of the equality requirements of the 2006 decision. The story (sent by email today) is (web url) here.

Courts sometimes return controversial matters to legislatures with general guidelines as to what the legislatures must do to comply with constitutional law.

The Facebook page for the New Jersey gay marriage "fight" is here.

The most recent story from the Newark Star Ledger came Dec. 7, when the bill was still being debated, here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Immigration: both marriage and political asylum are big issues

The organization “Immigration Equality” addressed LGBT immigration issues, particularly for the purposes of seeking political asylum for countries with anit-gay atmosphere, in culture or in laws or both. The link is here. There is a section on the U.S.'s recently lifting an HIV immigration ban.

One of the worst countries in practice is Jamaica (curiously presented as a romantic spot in James Bond movies), where gay-bashings are common.

Another such country is Uganda, where “evangelical” pastors have been stoking the fires of hate, presenting gay culture as an enemy to be feared in Africa, claiming that it is an “evil institution” aiming “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.” As a result, the Uganda parliament considers a bill to impose the death penalty by hanging for “homosexual behavior”, a kind of “Ugandan lynching”. Jeffrey Gettleman has a story on all this in the Jan. 3 New York Times, “Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push”, link here.

Update: Jan. 7

The Washington Post has an editorial "Uganda's Barbaric Proposal: Uganda's bill to imprison gays for life is an outrage that should be rejected". The bill even requires neighbors to "name names." The editorial rehearses the collectivist "rationalization" for the bill, in protecting the privileges and power of marital sexual intercourse. The link is here.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Couples in NH wed; complicated VT custody case unravels

Fifteen couples wed in Concord, New Hampshire at 12.01 AM Friday morning Jan. 1, on the state capitol steps, with the CNN video here. Don Lemon covered the ceremony Saturday night on CNN, and interviewed one of the participants, Jeffrey Neil. The video is here (embed was off the screen).

And Ben Nuckols has a complicated story about a lesbian couple that broke up from a civil union in Vermont. Here the natural mother had renounced homosexuality but was ordered to turn over her daughter to her partner in Virginia, but did not show up as required; link here.

Wikipedia attribution link for Mt. Washington NH Tuckerman Ravine picture.