Dustin Kight

Will Scott Brown stand up for LGBT servicemembers, too?

Filed By Dustin Kight | January 26, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, gay soldiers, LGBT servicemembers, Massachusetts special election, National Guard, Scott Brown

My local NPR station, WBUR, had a (somewhat inappropriately sanguine) profile of Scott Brown on this morning. The feature included references to his troubled childhood: his single mother, the time spent on welfare, his rocky relationships with authoritative men, er, stepdads, as well as sultry descriptions of his famed athleticism. Brown, who is fifty years old, has been a member of the Massachusetts National Guard for nearly 30 years. He loves military-type service - really loves it - and not just the tough, fighting side of service, but the soft, brother-to-brother side, too. From the WBUR story:

Like all storybook heroes, Brown is definitely a dude, but he also has a soft side, according to his friend Vallee. Brown is an attorney inside the National Guard. Because he's a Republican, you might expect him to be a law-and-order guy and represent the prosecution. But instead, Brown represents guard members who face getting kicked out.

Represents guard members who face getting kicked out, you say? Don't get too excited. The irony starts now, for despite his love for service, Brown does not seem to support letting his LGBT counterparts serve openly - with dignity and respect.

Extensive Google searching didn't dredge up any Scott Brown quotables when it comes to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but it did unearth a link to the Massachusetts Family Organization's Candidate Scorecard for this oh, so "special" election.

According to the MAFO, Brown supports "the current 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' armed forces policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military."

Status quo bigotry, the hallmark of a true "Independent-minded" Republican (who's either a closet bigot or just plain scared to step out of his party's big, hateful shadow in support of justice and equality).

So Scott Brown is toeing the DADT party line - no witch hunts, no justice - so what? There's still, like, 59 Democrats (or at least Caucus-ers) in the Senate, right? I mean, I know 60 is the new majority, but it's not like Brown can successfully lead a charge against DADT repeal and successfully put the issue to rest, can he, making inroads against all that great public opinion we've been building for years?

Unfortunately, I'm not so sure. It appears that Brown's love for all things camo is motivating him to seek lots of military-related appointments in the Senate. He's committee shopping! Carl Levin (D-MI), Chair of the Armed Services Committee, seems open to DADT repeal, and since Levin's counterpart in the House, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), just recently came out against repeal, it looks like the Senate is where the leadership will come from, if any, making Brownie's assigned seats more important than one might think.

House Democrats are already looking at maneuvers to repeal DADT that don't rely on the Skelton's Armed Services Committee, but party wrangling aside, Scott Brown could heavily influence the DADT debate, if he so chooses. Here's why:

  1. He's incredibly popular right now (except, you know, among lots of progressives, die-hard Dems, etc.)
  2. He's seen as a voice for commonsense moderation and "the people," whoever they may be.
  3. His good-natured service in the Guard (which is tied to his athleticism, which is tied to his looks, which are tied to that photo spread...) gives him credibility on the issue, especially when it comes to "unit cohesion".
  4. He might get these military-related committee appointments, not only giving him a platform but also enhancing the power of his vote.
  5. He apparently has the ability to reverse polling and public opinion with four simple words, "I drive a truck." (Well, he had some help from the other side on this one, but I'll refrain from going down that road...)

Yet there's also no reason - none that I've found, at least - to believe that Scott Brown will make DADT one of his "issues". I'd rather leave that guessing game up to folks who have lived longer in Massachusetts than I have, and, you know, people who are better Google searchers than I.

Let's hope he doesn't, though. Right now, DADT repeal's friends are starting to look a lot more like enemies - frenemies, for sure - than fierce advocates. The last thing our beleaguered DADT repeal effort needs is a poster boy on the opposing side - be it pinup or two-page spread.

Oh, and did I mention that President Obama is rumored to speak about DADT in his State of the Union address? Let's hope Scott Brown isn't giving the rebuttal.

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The smartest thing the Republican's could do would be to reverse course and be supportive of LGBT rights which follow traditional conservative values such as the importance of family (i.e. reverse the DOMA), patriotism (reverse DADT) and the work ethic (support ENDA).

My prediction is for every bigot's vote the Republicans would lose they'd gain two or more votes from LGBT members and progressives who were disappointed by the lack of support for the LGBT population by the current administration.

I wouldn't hold my breath, but the one thing he has going in his favor is that he ran as a "buck the trend" type of candidate. This is an issue he could buck the Republicans on - especially coming from Massachusetts - and earn himself more street cred and goodwill from the LGBT community. It would be a net positive if he did. Maybe we shouldn't mention it to him!

Oh, Nerissa, as Bil has already said, I'm not holding my breath either. The "traditional conservative values" you cite might be framed the way you describe --- but yours is actually the libertarian framing, not the conservative one.

The conservative framing includes that: (*) "importance of family" implies "men only fuck women, and ideally only their wives"; (*) "patriotism" implies "our country can't be trusted to men who are 'faulty', and only men who fit the perfect definition of masculinity are fit to serve their country"; and (*) "work ethic" implies "all the good jobs are to be reserved for men who have (heterosexual) families to support" and "we don't care if men who are queer don't have jobs because they don't deserve to eat, either".

(As an aside, it is also readily apparent how incongruent these attitudes are with feminism, even though conservatives have somehow done a better job at accepting (straight) women in the military --- but it also goes far to explain the entrenched military problem with sexual assault and mistreatment.)

Very important but rarely pointed out, it will be disasterous to this conservative worldview when gay men are allowed to serve openly, because the usual percentage of these men will prove to be valuable and even heroic, and this in turn will lead to military honors going to openly gay men --- when openly gay men (and lesbians) start receiving purple hearts and medals of honor, this will be an absolute travesty of the entire conservative mindset about what is "masculine" and "honorable". The ultimate nightmare will happen to conservative parents when their children begin to notice that gay men and lesbians can earn such military honors, causing them inevitably to "grow up sexually confused".

Ultimately, conservative opposition to gay/lesbian service has almost nothing to do with our fitness to serve. They claim that we are a "threat" --- and in a way, they are exactly right. We are not a threat to our country, but we are a potent threat to the way that they think about their country, and the way they think in general. The fact that their opposition to us is tied so inextricably to their notions of "God" and "family" and "country" is what makes them so impenetrable to our efforts to educate them.

(My focus on contrasting ideas of masculinity with gay men in military is mostly to keep the discussion manageably short --- lesbians, bi's, and transfolk all validly play into this discussion, but I limited this comment to the core mechanisms.)

I think we should take him at his word that he does not support repeal. I would be shocked if he suddenly saw the light and did. Don't count on it. Let's get the Dems to stick with what they say...now that's a trick worth seeing!

My prediction [and I pray hourly to St. Judy that I'm wrong] is that the nation's skies will be blackened by gigantic herds of flying pigs before either Brown supports ending DADT ... or before Obama announces any ACTION on ending DADT in the State of the Union.

On the other hand, the one thing working in our favor is the seniority system in Congress. Whatever committee apointments he gets, Brown will be left for some time with his only strength, huffing and puffing. For example, despite a couple of decent things he did, Obama made virtually no national impression during his short time in the US Senate so it was no help to him when he decided, two years in, to break his repeated promise of finishing his first term before running for the Presidency.

And, sorry, but, with respect Dustin, you're totally wrong to assume that Brown has great "credibility" regarding DADT. Despite his fondness for uniforms, going "commando," and GI Joe dolls, Brown's long "military career" was 95% as a stateside "weekend warrior." Though millions of Americans have served in the National Guard only those who have served in a war zone get any respect from other veterans—something Brown has never done, though, like countless others, he could have VOLUNTEERED to do multiple times over this three decades in the Guard. Yes, he would probably never hesitate to preen and pontificate about it but "unit cohesion" over one weekend/once a month as a legal officer during a pretend exercise at the local armory with a motley assortment of far less Spartan-looking fellow pretend soldiers is meaningless compared to what it involves in combat.

By contrast, the lead sponsor of the DADT repeal bill in the House [with still no companion bill in the Senate], Cong. Patrick Murphy is both an Iraq veteran and has three years of Congressional seniority on Brown. He also served in Bosnia and taught at West Point.

In an imaginary pissing match for influencing voters, veteran or not, with OPEN minds regarding what to do about DADT, based on military affairs credibility, Murphy could easily discredit Brown.

PS: Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee doesn't just "[seem] open to DADT repeal." In 1993, he was one of the few Democrats to actively support lifting the ban, oppose its transformation into DADT. While reports that he supports a study to "update" the pro-out gay service 1993 Rand Study are troubling, he deserves the benefit of the doubt that it's a part of a strategy he feels unavoidable to try to get repeal out of gridlock.

Further, he has insisted that he wants to hear in his upcoming DADT hearings from rank and file servicemembers and not just brass known to be unilaterally against repeal. And he has emphatically stated that repeal will be impossible without LEADERSHIP from the White House.

Which brings us to a far greater concern than Brown but somewhat related to him: the air that has been sucked out of the room for attempting anything "controversial" resulting from Obama having snatched defeat for progress of all kinds from the jaws of his own election victory.

I think it'd be great for him to oppose DADT, but I have little hope he will. Then again, he's going to have to do some weird stuff over these next few years. He can't vote like a rightwing Republican, even though that's how he won. He's a Senator from Massachusetts, and if he wants to win in 2012, he'll have to show some moderation.

And I do think he has credibility on this issue Dems don't, mainly just because of the R next to his name. For lots of people, that means he's an expert of the military or something, no matter his background.