DADT Updates: GetEQUAL interrupts and flusters Obama during speech–Lt. Dan Choi on upcoming May 2 Rally: “It’s the Tipping Point!”–Pelosi Plans 2010 House Vote–“Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama”
It has been a very, very busy week for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Between speeches, protests, political promises, and more planned protests, Lt. Dan Choi’s (@ltdanchoi) tweet–“It’s the tipping point!”–is the best summation. With at least 443 discharges so far in the 2009 fiscal year, even if that shows a downward trend, the number of families and careers that are being upended by this unfounded and disgraceful policy is unacceptable.
I’m going to do my best to give you a quick summation of the events, add a quick bit of own commentary, and supply links to the news sources so you can delve deeper, if so inclined.
GetEQUAL’s significant displays of civil disobedience
GetEQUAL, an organization that recently sprung up in the wake of the National Equality March, is raising serious hell and making their presence known.
The first example: GetEQUAL confronts President Obama at a DNC fundraising campaign for California Senator Barbara Boxer. During Obama’s speech, the protestors completely interrupted the President’s normal flow as an orator, demanding to be heard. The Advocate ran an article covering the monumental event, capturing the effect of the event: it made sure Obama knew we were frustrated and “the pooler”—the message distributed to national media outlets—had a gay-centric headline rather than a message about the fundraiser.
You can watch the video here; the protestors get loud, causing a reaction from Obama at 1:05, 2:10, and 5:00.
What I really like about this demonstration is how clear the message had to have been to Obama: we are, seriously, not satisfied with only his words when his inaction says so much more. Obama tried to calm the protestors saying that he and Barbara Boxer were allies, that he agreed DADT should be repealed, and that he was on our side.
But Obama, who has said that he is in no place to tell the LGBT community to “wait our turn” for equality, must understand that he is one of the people standing in our way right now.
In a last gasp to get the protesters to shush, so he could continue with his speech, Obama said they should be hollering at those who oppose repeal, not those who support it. As if Obama knew what GetEQUAL already had planned…
The second example: just today, 5 people from GetEQUAL, and fellow advocacy group the Human & Equal Rights Organizers (H.E.R.O.’s website), insisted to speak with Arizona Senator John McCain at his office. McCain’s flip-flopping stance on DADT is well-documented (and mocked by Stephen Colbert).
The 5 brave protesters refused to leave his office until they could speak to McCain or were arrested. When given one last chance to leave on their own accord, they responded, “We will only leave when he speaks to us so I guess arrest us.” And they were arrested.
If you want to call McCain’s office to say he should support repeal of DADT or to call him a coward for not speaking to his constituents, here is his office number in Arizona: (602) 952-2410 and his office in D.C.: (202) 224-2235.
Rally in Washington D.C.: Sunday, May 2nd, 12pm noon at Lafayette Square
When I said that GetEQUAL was making their presence known, I was not kidding. Aside from their frequent displays of civil disobedience (there have been others I did not mention above), they are organizing a rally in Washington, D.C. for Sunday, May 2nd at 12:00pm at Lafayette Square.
This is the event that Lt. Dan Choi called the tipping point. He tweeted: “I’ll be there; it’s the tipping point! #DADT Protest Rally Noon May 2 (Sun) in DC. Spread the word! http://tinyurl.com/28bvh4n”
Promotion video for the rally:
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planning vote on DADT in 2010
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesperson, told the DC Agenda that Pelosi intends to have a vote on DADT this year. The DC Agenda’s article notes that this is promising because Pelosi has yet to put legislation to the floor that doesn’t have sufficient support for passage. The article continues to note how this small act makes the issue of repeal serious to the rest of Congress and to the President: “The hour for the president as well as for the leadership to become engaged is now.”
Hopefully, these pressures from various sources outside the political sphere and from within will lead to serious consideration and progress in the repeal of this silly law.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network launches letter campaign
This campaign by the SLDN presents the most personal message to Obama. The campaign titled, “Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama,” will sent a letter to Obama every weekday from a different person impacted by the discriminatory law. The campaign seeks to have repeal language included in the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
The first letter in the campaign was sent today, April 26th, from Major Mike Almy of the United States Air Force.
Almy opens: “Dear Mr. President, If you end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), I’d re-enlist the day you sign repeal into law.” He continues by describing his 13 years of service filled with accolades and awards. He discusses the military legacy of his family and how, growing up, he always knew he’d service in the military.
After his fourth deployment to the Middle East, where he was named one of the top officers in his career field for the entire Air Force, his work email was searched (personal emails were off-limits due to security limitations), revealing a correspondence with his significant other, a man. This “modern day letter home” led to Almy being relieved of his duties.
Even after being relieved of duty for a year and while his discharge was still under review, Almy’s Wing Commander recommended he be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. But instead, after 16 months, he was escorted off base and officially discharged.
And yet, Almy closes his email like a true hero: “Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.”
The fact that we keep great men and women, like Almy, from serving in our military is an absolute disgrace that will remain a scar on our history for every day DADT is in effect. The time for repeal is now.