Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover, the smart philanthropists behind the important eQualityGiving.org donor-focused website, started a short-term endeavor called eQualityThinking - a series of panels convened by telephone - to promote open, intense and thoughtful dialogue about issues facing the LGBT community.
On Monday morning, Feb. 14, from 9:00am-10:00am Pacific (noon-1:00pm EST), Tom Carpenter and I will be moderating a conference-call panel entitled "The Truth Behind the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal." Our panelists are former Congressmember Patrick Murphy, the Iraq War veteran who took the lead on repealing DADT in the House; Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; Allison Herwitt, Legislative Director for the Human Rights Campaign; Dan Woods, partner in White & Case, lawyers in the Log Cabin Republican's federal challenge to DADT; and former Lt. Dan Choi, West Point graduate, Iraq War vet and GetEQUAL protester who was fired under DADT.
As we saw on Friday when the Defense Department released its plan for implementation, the Pentagon appears to be making a good faiht effort to work towards the actual repeal of DADT. But the plan is "conditions-based" and there are no deadlines for training and certification.
They've also been upfront about what they are not going to do: suspend discharges during the perhaps year-long process nor include a non-discrimination policy, nor confer family benefits on married gay servicemembers. So even when the outrageous law is finally repealed and fully implemented, gays can still die for their country as unequal, second-class citizens.
We want to ask about the unfinished work ahead and how we ended up with a law that is a skeleton of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.
You are invited to post questions online, before or during the call.
Tom and I have our own questions, as well. Since we only have one hour, please keep your questions as concise as possible. Also - please be advised that Rep. Murphy is only available for the first half-hour so we will divide the hour up into what happened with the DADT repeal bill and the second half to what is expect to happen next. And in anticipation of someone asking - yes, we did invite HRC President Joe Solmonese and his top lieutenant David Smith, giving them numerous dates and times from which to chose, but they were unavailable for all of them.
Please go to the eQualityThinking website to get free dial-in information to listen to the panel and ask questions online. The audio of the discussion will be made available on that site later.
About your moderators: Tom Carpenter attended the Naval Academy at the same time Admiral Mike Mullen, Sen. Jim Webb, and Lt. Col. Oliver North; former Marine Captain and longtime SLDN boardmember. Long before the 1993 DADT "compromise," Tom fought to lift the military's regulatory and policy ban enforced through horrendous and unfair witch hunts. I am an "Air Force brat" - my father was one of the first Americans in the RAF and became a "lifer" after World War II (including heading procurement for the Air Force), retiring as a Colonel to join the military industrial complex. I started covering the issue when David Mixner brought it up to presidential candidate Bill Clinton.
One other note: we feel it is important to conduct an "After Action Report" to document exactly who did what, when and how during the repeal process to see what, if any, lessons can be learned, as well as recording this critical time in LGBT history. Tom has sent a proposal to several academic institutions to see if they would assume this endeavor as an independent undertaking.
Please see the commentary by Michelangelo Signorile in The Advocate about why this is important. Here's the opening:
"Don't ask, don't tell" is on its way to becoming history. And there are two things about history I feel compelled to point out: It's often unpredictable (I never imagined it would take nearly 18 years for the United States to dump this embarrassing policy) and it's often revised.
Look no further than false narratives about what the White House, Congress, and leading gay organizations did to make repeal happen. Some say it doesn't matter now how it happened, that we should sweep it all under the rug, thank the president, and move on. I say not so fast.
Here's Tom's After Action Report Proposal:
The purpose of this After Action Report(AAR) would be primarily to provide an analysis of the effective strategies which led to the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. The AAR could be used by organizations to prepare strategic plans for their continued efforts to obtain true equality. Donors and supporters would also be able to determine which organizations were most effective. The following organizations clearly had an impact on bringing about repeal of DADT:
1. American Civil Liberties Union
2. American Veterans for Equal Rights(AVER)
3. Center for American Progress(CAP)
4. Courage Campaign
5. Forum on the Military Chaplaincy
6. Gay Military Signal
8. Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
9. Knights Out
10. Log Cabin Republicans(LCR)
11. Military Outreach Committee
13. Palm Center
14. People for the American Way
16. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)
17. Servicemembers United (SU)
18. Soul Force
19. Stonewall Democrats
20. Transgender American Veterans Association(TAVA)
21. USNA Out
To yield a comprehensive, useful AAR from the successful DADT fight, it is recommended a third party, with no major involvement in repeal of DADT, conduct a thorough evaluation. In addition to historical fact-gathering, the third party must also conduct gap analysis and effectiveness review. Academic institutions would be effective third parties for this important endeavor.
The AAR should start by focusing on the activities and undertakings during the first 15 years of DADT. It should then look closely at the first two years of the Obama administration. It should identify the strategies and contributions of (at minimum) the key groups, CAP, HRC, LCR, Palm, SLDN and SU. It should ask other secondary groups to also submit reports regarding their actions and the results they believed they achieved. This evaluation should include, but not be limited to, strategic planning, lobbying efforts and impact on congressional votes, grassroots organizing, public awareness and education, litigation, funds committed and spent, staff resources committed and expended, below the radar undertakings and work with the Pentagon's CRWG and DOD.
The final report would be made public for all to see.
These groups should cooperate fully with this undertaking because it would provide transparency, show which leaders and groups were most effective in terms of resource utilization, and return on investment of time and money, thus allowing supporters and donors to determine where they are getting the "best bang for the buck."
Only if we learn from the past, can we succeed in our inevitable march toward the full equality promised to every American citizen.