Rev Irene Monroe

Obama shifting responsibly for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | June 03, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Dan Choi, Dignity Catholics, Don't Ask Don't Tell, James Pietrangelo, LGBT, military, supreme court

Last week, with a vote of 230 to 191, the House of Representatives voted to repeal former President Bill Clinton's 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy that bars lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer service members from serving openly in the military. On the same day the House passed to repeal DADT, so too did the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"This legislation will help make our armed forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity," President Obama told the Associated Press.

But at the end of the day of all this historic voting, last week, the plight of our LGBTQ service members remained unchanged.

Investigations and discharges for being an openly LGBTQ service member will continue on as usual. Why? Because the Pentagon has not completed its study, reviewing how to maintain the military's "unit cohesion" while integrating LGBTQ service members.

December 1 is the day the country will know the results of the Pentagon study. We will also know if the welcoming mat will truly begin to unfold for our LGBTQ service members.

So, with the military having the real power to either overturn or to uphold DADT, what was last week's voting in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee really about?

Pressure? Posturing? Or both?

"While the power to actually overturn 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains with military commanders, many see a congressional vote before the report is completed as political pressure," writes W. James Antle III at the American Conservative.

And the pressure comes from both conservatives and the LGBTQ activist community.

Polls have revealed that where the country was in 1993 with DADT is vastly different from where the country is today. As a matter of fact most Americans -- even Republicans -- are not opposed to the military having LGBTQ service members.

But with midterm elections just five months away and with a Republican anti-Obama movement aggressively trying to retake Congress, the chances of repealing DADT become slimmer.

In last week's House vote, 168 Republicans opposed repealing DADT and only 5 Republicans voted with the Democratic House majority.

For many in the LGBTQ community we are anxious about the repeal of DADT coming to fruition, and feel that last week's historic voting was more about posturing from the President and his administration than effecting real and substantive change on our behalf.

"For the two of us -- and many more who have been working for the repeal of this legislation for months and years -- this effort is simply a way for Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon to shift responsibility to one another indefinitely," DADT activists Cpl. Evelyn Thomas and Lt. Dan Choi wrote in an open letter.

And shifting responsibility on repealing DADT is what the Obama administration has been doing since the President took office.

For example, soon after Obama's inauguration in 2009, the LGBTQ community waited anxiously to hear that steps were being made to repeal DADT. But on June 8 of that year when the Supreme Court refused to review the Pentagon policy that prohibits LGBTQ service members to serve openly in the military, Obama's people added salt to the wounds of our community by stating in court papers that the ruling on DADT was correct because of the military's legitimate concern of LGBTQ service members endangering "unit cohesion" -- a concept totally debunked by a 2002 study.

While the Obama administration shifts responsibility on repealing DADT, Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. James Pietrangelo have begun a Dignity Fast [ed. - the fast finished last night after the Reverend submitted this post], bringing focus to last week's compromised vote that still maintains DADT rather than totally doing away with it.

"In response to the United States Senate and the House of Representatives voting on the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' forces are mobilizing for non-violent direct action and civil disobedience. ...Fasting will commence. The simple demands are (1) End DADT firings. (2) Enact non-discrimination. (3) End the insulting, wasteful study. The community knows that the President does have within his power to end the discharges immediately. The President has not responded authentically in ending the firings and inherent discrimination," Choi wrote.

To date, more than 13,500 LGBTQ service members have been discharged under DADT, and the number continues to grow. And African American lesbians have been discharged at three times the rate at which they serve.

The posturing last week from Congress was great theater. All the thespians performed their parts well, especially Obama. Why? If DADT is not repealed, it gives the President an easy out. It allows Obama to distance himself politically by shifting the responsibility and blame for DADT's outcome from himself to someone else.

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Angela Brightfeather | June 3, 2010 9:46 AM

Just as a point of fact, DADT does not include Trans and Intersex persons. It does not cover them and it does not mention them, therefore, instead of getting ahead of the game, the legislation last week did not mention them. This choice, not to cover them in this legislation last week came at the request and agreement of GLBT leaders in DC who did not want to add them to the legislation at a later date and never bothered to add them when the legislation was orginally drawn up.

In fact, as always, Trans and Intersex personnel are usueally discharged under the UCMC and charges of "behavior not fitted or becoming." Recent surveys by TAVA have also proven the fact that in the past, military commanders have used and have filed DADT cases to get Trans people out of the military, even though no one wants to recognize that fact, because then they would have had to include Trans people in the legislation last week and for fear of another ENDA incident where people like Lafferty start screeming at the top of their lungs about soldiers on the front lines fighting in dresses. Not wanting to fight that fight, Trans and Intersex was not added.

The military has always been very inventive when it comes to Trans people and getting them discharged. I personally know a top sargeant who served as a liason and aide to a four star General's office, who was accused of sexually exposing himself to a child and sentenced to one year in Leavenworth prison, stripped of all rank and benefits, and still has to report as a sex offender whenever she moves. The child was her own daughter, it happened in her own house when she was getting dressed to go out to a support group meeting. When she was found to be a crossdresser, the investigation brought this side evidence out and she was tried and sentenced in a military courts martial.

This will continue to happen to Trans people in the military, despite the fact that we continue to have a growing membership in the Transgender American Veteran's Association and fight to remind people, even in the GLBTI Community, that Trans & Intersex people have enlisted and fought in every major engagement and battle the military has been involved in.

Our allies in the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and a number of other countries, including Isreal, seem not to have the same problem with Transgender and Intersex people enlisting in their military however.

Instead of the president issuing an executive order, like Truman did when he desegregated the troops, the so called "compromise" forces the pentagon and the secretary of defense to sign off on it as well.
This only makes the process more time consuming and convoluted, while our "fierce advocate" will cry that it us up to the pentagon now.
Interesting how Obama has no problem fighting in court for the power to spy on Americans or to issue assassinations of US citizens without a trial.

"But at the end of the day of all this historic voting, last week, the plight of our LGBTQ service members remained unchanged."

"Investigations and discharges for being an openly LGBTQ service member will continue on as usual. Why?"

For the T part it's because DADT doesn't affect them at all, just for clarification.

Renee Thomas | June 3, 2010 11:35 AM

Therein exists the very loophole that the Defense Department will employ to continue the practice of discharges via General Courts Martial.

The charge?

If in any aspect of your life off-post or off-ship (I'll leave that to you to imagine how much ground that could potentially cover) you behave in a manner so as to bring dishonor to the uniform -the UCMJ (under Articles 134-27, 28 and 29) retains the provision to separate you from your career for “indecent behaviour and speech”.

So, in order to implement the full repeal of DADT, the Uniform Code of Military Justice must be amended to protect the gay and lesbian service member's reasonable behavior and right of free association should they on occasion frequent a gay bar or attend a pride festival.

Pay very close attention to the details of the DOD fine print . . . 'cause this is a very long ways from being over.

If indeed, we ever get to that place

Um, Rev. Irene, your title makes no sense. "Obama shifting RESPONSIBLY on "Dont Ask, Don't Tell"? Really? That doesn't jibe with your post. Perhaps you meant "...shifting RESPONSIBILITY..."?

Angela Brightfeather | June 3, 2010 10:07 PM

"For the T part it's because DADT doesn't affect them at all, just for clarification."

Well "A" that is exactly what we thought also until we did the TAVA swurvey a few years ago and found out that we and you are wrong.

As the survey and our follow up's proved, there have been T people discharged under DADT because they are Trans. Of exceptional note were thenumber of F to M's who were discharged undeer DADT.

Sometimes, when you did a little past your own nose, you come up with a few surprises as we did. Since then, we make special note that Trans people in the military have most definitely been negatively affected by DADT.

This is a tiring merry-go-round, isn't it?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 4, 2010 8:43 PM

When you get really, really tired, stop voting for Republicans and Democrats.