Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

AZ Activist Group Stages DADT Sit-In At Sen. McCain's Office

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 26, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, military

Five HERO protest.jpgprotesters affiliated with a Phoenix-based group, H.E.R.O., demonstrated today at Sen. John McCain's office to urge him to support repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. According to twitter messages issued this afternoon by GetEqual, a separate group, the five refused to leave McCain's office unless he spoke to them personally.

One activist said "We will only leave when he speaks to us so I guess arrest us," according to GetEqual's twitter message. The five were arrested and then released. According to local activist Bobby Parker, the police and media were alerted in advance, and both the protest and the police response were very respectful.

The organization, Human & Equal Rights Organizers (HERO), is asking people to contact McCain's office (602-952-2410) to voice their support for ending the ban on gay and lesbian service members serving openly. There is also a rally being held at 5pm today Arizona time in Phoenix. (McCain HQ, 16th St. and Missouri)

Details and video after the jump.

According to Mr. Parker, the five arrested today were First Class Petty Officer Allen Howard, Jimmy Gruender, Luisa Valdez, Meg Sneed, and Lee Walters.

Officer Howard's story is detailed in the video below.

Parker also clarified their mission in staking out Sen. McCain's office. "They are accusing John McCain of 'flip-flopping' on the issue after saying he would follow the lead of the military command officers in our nation, he is now opposing DADT. Shortly following President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in January, in which he announced he wanted to repeal the ban, McCain issued his own statement, calling repeal a 'mistake.'"

The Dallas Voice has an interesting article, noting that McCain is not one of the Senators targeted by more mainstream groups.

Here is Petty Officer Howard's story in his own words:

I was in the U.S. Coast Guard for seven years. I would have actually had ten years this past June. I was married, to a woman, and had kids and when I actually came out we were working through all of that and she was using it against me, started to get vindictive and was threatening to out me to my commander. My record was impeccable. There was no reason if she had gone to my command officer and if they had asked me I could have denied it and they would have believed me. There would have been no reason for them not to believe me because there would could have said that she was just a disgruntled spouse.

But, I was a drill instructor. I was instilling honor, respect, devotion to duty into recruits, telling them to live up to integrity, to live up to honor. Then here I am struggling with a battle: do I take a chance and let somebody have a blackmail situation over my life for the next for the next 15-16 years, or do I say something now?

I will tell you that is the hardest decision I had to deal with. I wrote a letter and pretty much told my commanding officer that I was gay. When everything first happened and transpired and I sent my letter, word spread really fast. I was on the training base at Cape May, which is the only training base center for the whole U.S. Coast Guard, nowhere else. So it spread fast. I didn't know what kind of reaction was going to happen. If people were going to come after me...not one person had an issue. I had drill instructors that wrote 25 letters of recommendation.

I had to go in front of a board of three officers who said that you can just go through and we'll process you and everything else. I said, no. I want a guaranteed honorable discharge. I have no reason not to have an honorable discharge. To guarantee that I had to go in front of a board of three officers and I had to tell them why I deserved to have an honorable discharge. I had to tell them again my process, what happened to me. I actually had to write it out because I was so emotional. For me, wearing that uniform wasn't like wearing clothes to go to work. Wearing that uniform was an honor, it was a privilege, a right that I could stand up and fight for my country. That was taken away from me. It was pulled away from me and it was like -- if you imagine yourself, each of us have functions or things that make us who we are, we have pillars -- whether it is organizations, or clubs, or whatever it is that makes us who we are. Imagine someone saying you have to take that away.

I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest and it was like -- you can't do this because you are gay. But yet everybody I worked with, they were like -- there's no reason for this. We don't see why you can't serve, why you can't be here with us. You are better than some of the other straight drill instructors. I said, you know what, all I need is your support. When I had to go into my board meeting it was closed. There was no media, no recording, no witnesses. Nobody could be in there but me and my lawyer. I had ten drill instructors outside of that room waiting when I got out so they could be there for me and support me. Even to this day I have people who are talking to me and are behind me 100%. I feel that taking such a negative situation, as what happened to me -- I need to turn it into a positive. When I left, I vowed to my friends who are gay and lesbian, I said, you know what -- I will do everything in my power to be your voice. To be the voice that you can't be and to make this policy known and what it is doing.

I run into people on a weekly basis that say "what is Don't Ask Don't Tell?" What do you mean -- they can still do that? People don't even know. I feel that by me sharing my story and by me doing this it can make a difference. It can make changes, because that's all we need. We need to get the American people fired up that this is still happening. This is wrong and we need to come on board with the rest of the other countries that we are allies with.

Picture credit from first page: Luis Garcia

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Some people do things the hard way. All they had to do to get Senator Mc Cain to change his mind was tell him he'd get reelected.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | April 26, 2010 8:01 PM

McShame would not change even if Goddess herself appeared in a burning bush and told him to. But every story of the injustice of DADT that reaches the public is a good thing.

The unforgivable thing is that even McShame, and certainly the six Dem Senators holding out on the Senate Armed Service Committee, could have been given political cover....and the nongay public engaged...if the Commander-in-Chief had repeated in his SOTU what he said repeatedly in the primary and general election to seduce our votes and told LGBTs at the White House last June:

"These [discharges of patriots who often possess critical language skills and years of training and who've served this country well] underscore the URGENCY of reversing this policy not just because it's the right thing to do, but because IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY."

And the little gays oooed and aaaahed and wet their Calvins all over again ["He STILL loves us! He still LOVES us!"] and failed to miss the later report by LT COL Victor Fehrenbach that Obama told him immediately afterward, away from the podium, that it was going to take time because of a "generational" issue. GUESS who he meant by that.

If he sent a public message to Congress that he WANTS repeal inserted in this year's defense authorization bill, to absolutely NOT wait on the [phony] "study," because it's unjust AND weakens national security AND wastes MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars to recruit and train the replacements for shitcanned gays AND is a JOBS bill...then maybe even McShame would be too ashamed to keep opposing it.

Kathleen of Norfolk | April 26, 2010 8:42 PM

While I appreciate their passion, did this group realize that there is an issue in Arizona that has sucked all of the air out of the room? If you are going to protest and get arrested to gain media attention, it would be better if you planned the event when you are not up against the "Let me See Your Papers Act."

Additionally, asking Sen. McCain to support repealing DADT when he is fighting for his political life against far far rightwinger, JD Hayworth is not overly strategic.

There's no good time and no right action. Who should they protest - those who support us?

Protesting doesn't change any minds or generate any support.

I agree we should all respond when something happens and i believe MOST of us would, but protesting for the sake of protesting doesn't accomplish anything. The chosen target doesn't change that reality.

You do realize the protestors they were competing with could walk into the recruiters office and get accepted into the military? Not only that but would be put on the path to citizenship? Isn't it nice to be worth less than an illegal immigrant?

Just another silly publicity stunt.

John McCain's position on LGBT-issues is non-negotiable. This just helps McCain fire up his anti-gay supporters.

I'm not sure if it's progress, but GetEqaul is now going from atsrategy of pissing on our friends, to just pissing on everyone.


Demanding, without any real threat is useless. In fact, it makes us look even weaker.

Barney Frank was correct - "these stunts are childish, immature and stupid - they don't change any minds."

These sill publicity stunts might promote self-proclaimed activists - but they don't accomplish anything.

Wait a minute, Andrew. I respectfully disagree.

When GetEqual protested at the committee hearing or at Boxer's event, you complaint was that they targeted our friends. Now they've targeted someone who was supposedly our friend, but decided to change his mind due to his election chances. But you're still not happy?

GetEqual is a direct action group. It's not a lobbying org (which you don't like either), it's not a think tank or policy group. They protest. You've said you're not opposed to civil disobedience, but you've not been happy with any yet. You're not opposed to getting legislators to change positions, but you oppose lobbying as worthless.

I realize this has already been asked a million times, but what do you support? Giving the standard answer you prefer of, "I want to win," isn't good enough. I want to win too and you don't win just by saying, "I want to win." Give me something concrete you support. That "I've invested a bajillion dollars to come up with a winning strategy," isn't going to win either because you miraculously have nothing to report on that either.

It's really starting to look like you've got nothing to put up when folks tell you to shut up. What's up with that?

It's just as stupid as pissing on our friends Bil. As has been noted above, John McCain is not going to change his mind because "we're upset." Like other Conservatives he is against us on moral grounds and that is non-negotiable.

Complaining doesn't change any minds/votes.

This was another publicity stunt designed to create attention, not RESULTS.

I don't think pissing on anyone is an effective strategy.

Search my comments on Bilerico Bil - I have suggested the ways for us to "win" several times. That starts with accountability for EVERY idea, strategy, method or organization.

You endorse "direct action" in the form of civil disobedience or protest. Yelling at a US Senator is NOT civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is defying an unjust law by disobeying THAT law. Rosa Parks disobeyed a "bus company policy" that was supported by the Law at that time.

Protest is useless without numbers.

Direct Action has a place - reaction to an event. When there is an injustice (Matthew Shepherd, Police abuse at Gay businesses or other actions) we SHOULD respond and WE do.

Many of these organizations, like GetEqual, are just trying to get attention. We don't need attention, we need support. We need people to join us, not avoid us or (lately) laugh at us.

Barney Frank was correct - these events are "childish and stupid" and they "don't change any minds."

If you believe these actions help us "win," please explain HOW. If you want to endorse and promote this behavior, substantiate their value. Explain to us how they help us succeed.

Kathleen of Norfolk | April 26, 2010 11:12 PM

With respect to whom we should protest, it is clear that Sen. McCain cannot support us at the moment (even if he wanted to...which I doubt) because of his intraparty challenger. While repealing DADT could be a popular issue in a general election, this is a closed primary and gay rights doesn't really play well to the base. Better timing would have been to schedule the protest after the primary.

Also, the new law in Arizona creates an opportunity to build bridges with people of color and other immigrants.

Uh, hello AndrewW - GetEQUAL had nothing to do with this protest, but thanks for the shout out.

They were very involved.

Unrelated question...

What is going on with ENDA? I thought it was going to come up last week or this week and it looks like the committee isn't going to take ENDA up this week...

Anyone who has been a P.O.W. has, by the very nature of their experience, become different from those people who have never had that experience. If you think for one moment that McCain can relate on the same level to basic human rights the way most people do you are sadly mistaken.

Some people are strengthened by adversity and some weakened. The person bullied as a child may grow up and work to protect the weak or to bully them. The person sexually assaulted as a child may grow up to fight for child safety or to abuse children.

Sen McCain's P.O.W. experience helped make him the weakened bully he is today. Rather than have the backbone to fight for human rights he seeks to block them. He did not learn from his experiences in Vietnam but was defeated by them.

I held the megaphone speaker and stood beside Petty Officer Howard as he told his story on the street in front of John McCain's HQ tonight. He was overcome with emotion as he told about his fellow officers and their willingness to support him, and of how much it hurt to have to out himself to prove to those he instructed that you must stand up for your rights and the rights of others. He is doing this for himself and the other gay men and women in the military who cannot or will not stand up for themselves. He is articulate and an excellent representative of the kind of men and women we want in our military. He is principled, has integrity, and is courageous. DADT is on the front burner and no matter what else happens in Arizona, Howard has the right to talk to his Senator about it. That's what he wanted. When McCain wouldn't come to his office or talk to him, he decided to stay until he could. After five hours he was asked to leave and refused. So, he and four friends from HERO were arrested and will have a trial date set. You can pick nits all you want, but this man is doing something when so many are not. And that others were willing to be civilly disobedient and get arrested to stand with him should be admired also. We have not seen the last of Lonnie Allen Howard...and that's a good thing!

Tell Howard that he can make progress talking to neighbors, friends, co-workers and even strangers. His story should be told, but it would be more effective with listeners. Talking to McCain is like talking to a wall - it isn't helpful.

The fact that McCain won't listen isn't a surprise to anyone or even newsworthy.

Excellent point, Andrew.

So I rang my neighbor's bell and told him my story and asked him to support ENDA. I told a couple of strangers in the local supermarket too. After the police came, I talked to them too. While they booked me, they promised to support ENDA. I mentioned this to the judge who signed the restraining order, but he didn't answer. I'll stop by his house with a bundt cake tomorrow, and see if I can get him to listen.

Childish, Jillian. We expect better.

I just knew somebody (hmm I just wonder who? Who could it be? I just don't know could it be... ) would call this a publicity stunt. I agree it was to get publicity but when it is called silly that is insulting to the intentions of these patriots acting up for our rights. I am with you Jillian. We must push now and try all options!

Please explain how "acting up" changes any minds or votes. How does it add to our chances of success?

Some believe these stunts are ONLY to create "publicity," and while i believe we do not need attention we need results - why do you think we need attention? Especially in this confrontational matter? People know we're unhappy, they've known for centuries.

Explain how this helps.

People have been acting up for years including at lunch counters, on buses, in streets, etc. And it has changed some things. I am not going to detail them for you. You can do the research if need be. But it would not matter and I am not going to try to convice you because you have your mind made up and have your opinion. I disagree, but so be it. I just wish instead of always saying no and what does not work, you would be positive in your approach to solutions but I think we have a better chance at seeing Palin endorse Obama in 2012 than that happening.

You have chosen a few historical references Rann. There was a day when Blacks were not welcome at certain "lunch counters" or they had to give up their "bus seat" to a white person and the laws supported that discrimination. That was 46 years ago. What Rosa Park (and others) did WAS civil disobedience. Blacks were oppressed by the Jim Crow Laws that mandated racial segregation. People responded to THOSE laws.

Nothing comparable is happening today. We are not facing segregation and we are not being oppressed. It's much different than those times and I would concede that during THOSE times civil disobedience was helpful, perhaps even effective.

We have a long history of being repressed, not oppressed and the world has changed a lot since the 1960s. We all want our equality. To that end we need support - political and popular. When GetEqual and others resort to public displays of anger it may feel good, but it doesn't accomplish anything.

Barney Frank understands the political game and he called it "immature, childish and stupid." He also judged these stunts by the same measure and suggested "they didn't change any minds."

GetEqual has a responsibility to make some sense of these stunts. It's 2010 and we don't employ a tactic just because it worked in a different world and under much different circumstances. It's very easy to just grab a tactic from the past, but as I'm sure you are aware people don't write even letters anymore.

Accountability is important. It isn't about what I think, it is about what makes sense and what tactics, strategies and even organizations can demonstrate how effective they are. Many people have expressed concerns about GetEqual's stunts - not just Barney Frank. A large segment of the community has been suggesting these stunts are not helpful and even embarrassing. Those employing or even promoting these actions must provide some reasonable justification for them or just stop doing them. We don't need attention, we need results.

I'm glad you are giving thought to this issue and I appreciate your comments.

You should know there is a group that is taking our Movement very seriously and looking for real, sustainable solutions. They have no objection to accountability. They want to win.

Allison Sinclair | April 27, 2010 9:32 PM

Jillian, love it girl. I could have not thought of a better rebuttal towards Andrew. Andrew before you speak get your facts together, nothing like a armchair quarterback from another city that wasn't there. Get Equal wasn't even a part of this nor was there anyone from their organization present. This rally was put together a week ago by the Phoenix group H.E.R.O ( Human and Equal Rights Organizer), three of the arrested that are friends of mine belong to this group. They stage rallies for a cause and DADT is a cause. Its people like you that are whiners and benchwarmers, rather than go out and do something positive on the issues. I was at this rally and I will keep going to support a cause if it means going 100 times till they get sick of me. Because it is principle and my right to fight for my god given Human Rights. I will not be anything like you and rollover and play dead.

Please tell us HOW it is helpful Allison. Your participation doesn't make it effective or helpful.

Tell us how pissing on McCain's office helps us achieve our full equality. I understand the anger and frustration, but how does it help?

Like Barney Frank and many others have said these stunts are "childish and immature" and they "don't change any minds." If irritating people or simply screaming in the streets worked, we would have succeeded a long, long time ago.

We need people to join us, not laugh at us.

Andrew, I guess you will never get it then. If you want to pander to politicians and share the same bed with them be my guest. Try reading Austen Crowders post today, then maybe you will get the big picture. The more you show number in forces, the more you are noticed, the more media exposure, the more people will get to know your causes, which will inevitably lead to results. Let me ask you this with all the demonstrations going on in Arizona right now over SB 1070 Show Me your Papers Bill. Do you think their demonstrations are for naught? Because if you think they are, you are totally wrong because it has gotten alot of peoples attention in this Country. If you are true to your beliefs and your rights your going to do whatever it takes. Even if it means getting slapped with a misdeameanor for a peaceful sit in. Nobody at yesterdays rally got boisterous, vulgar or causing unrest. It was a peaceful rally. It drew media attention in Phoenix and was aired on 3 TV channels newcasts not to mention one being the ultra Conservative FOX which actually reported it unbiased which was a shock. I work at the VA Hospital and I am a Veteran and people that I work with said they saw me on the news. Most of them are Cis and said they agreed with the cause. So don't go and say nothing is accomplished because it may not be now but these people can be your allies at the polls when it comes to voting on officials running for election.
And McCain is definitely in a precarious position trying to keep his head afloat in Arizona. I'd rather be a player on the field than be a cheerleader on the sidelines. And personally Andrew I think you are in the latter group.

Like other comments above, you failed to demonstrate "how" these publicity stunts help us. Just because you believe they do is not evidence or even a fair rationalization.

Like a typical self-proclaimed "activist" you suggest that anyone who doesn't yell in the streets and act "stupid and childish" (Barney Frank's words) that they are "pandering to the politicians" or "sitting on the sidelines." That ability for you to express anger at a fellow LGBT person that simply suggests "accountability," helps me understand why you think it is helpful to piss on politicians - you don't care about results or effectiveness, you care about attention or publicity.

Andrew, I don't know why I waste my breath with you. I suppose your ideas are much better. Like Jillian stated what would you do? Bring a Bundt cake? Because I am starting to believe that is your approach, to sit and talk about the good times that will not get you anywhere. Oh and don't forget if the person goes to the restroom to follow them so you can wipe their behinds. I am sure that will bring a lot of results, so I have a problem with your logic. Not all people respond the same way, sometimes dealing with certain individuals like the "Maverick" , one has to tip the ship because diplomacy does not work with all individuals. With your approach we may as well wait another 100 years for any rights. What is the difference in having a rally and informational protest than calling a politician on the phone and being in disagreement with his policies? Of course, we know you would not do any of these things. So tell me Andrew, how would you solve all our situations and whoas? Please make it short though because we are in the planning for Part II in front of McCain's office. So stay tuned.

Again Allison you avoided any rationale for HOW these stunts HELP. Tell us HOW these public expressions of anger change any minds or votes.

I'll help you:

Protesting John McCain and getting arrested for interfering with his office helps the LGBT Community because it ____________.

I will concede it brings some "attention" to the matter, but we have plenty of attention. We need people to support us, not laugh at us.

I have not seen one person in regards to that protest in front of McCain's office laughing at us, including the arresting police. In fact the efforts over the years have helped to change the percentage of those in support of repealing DADT to increase quite a bit. Those are results. We have the support Andrew now we need to hold the leaders accountable. You always want us to be accoutnable. What about them? Obama made direct promises. So what should we all do, besides the bundt cakes, to hold him and them accountable?

The Repeal of DADT was on track before and maybe after these publicity stunts.

How have these efforts - public expressions of anger and frustration - "helped change the percentage of those in support of repealing DADT?" What's the evidence, besides wishful thinking?

Find some evidence of people admitting they changed their minds because of these childish stunts. Surely it must be readily available.

The LGBT Community are the ones laughing at GetEqual and the other "protesters" looking for the title "activist" and some publicity. I'm sure our enemies are laughing too. We have our very own TeaBaggers now. It is funny.

"So what should we all do, besides the bundt cakes, to hold him and them accountable?"
An answer please Andrew?

Also you keep talking about the LGBT community and your organiztion. Are you part of this community you seem to refer to in the third person and also what is your organization?

I am not laughing at GetEqual and I will proudly say I am part of the LGBT community. why would you d othat? It is very cruel. The protestors want to change the laws and not get a title. Why do you have to personally insult them and their efforts? It makes you seem like you do not care about the good intentions of others. I really think you would have said the same things about Rosa Parks and the others in the black civil rights movement. Yo uwould have belittled all they did as well. Your use of the words oppressed and repressed do not cut it with me.

I know you're not laughing at GetEqual because YOU believe they are effective. But, nobody has provided any evidence or even simple rationale.

The majority (perhaps most) of the LGBT Community is against and/or laughing at these tactics - they are just "protest for the sake of protest."

Read some of the editorials against GetEqual's tactics and asking them to STOP:


It's not 1964 Rann. Activists always use that because they have no other justification for these publicity stunts.

I have outlined on Bilerico what needs to be done as a movement and what has to happen before that can begin. Until we embrace accountability we will continue to struggle and continue to lose. Even Bilerico has not endorsed accountability. I find this odd because every other organization or community or business understands the importance of accountability.

Until we decide to be honest and objective about tactics, strategies, plans and organizations we'll keep "trying anything" and dreaming of winning "one if these days." Throwing shit against the wall and hoping some of it sticks is not much of a strategy. We've been doing that for 50 years. It isn't working.