NCLR, DADT Repeal Partners in Letter to Senators: Vote against Efforts to Filibuster, Strike or Add Amendments to the Repeal Language as it Stands

September 20, 2010

Dear Senator:

We write to urge your support for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the current law prohibiting lesbians and gays from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Forces. Right now, one of the greatest threats to securing equality and strengthening our national security are possible amendments designed to delay and kill repeal language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

As the recent cases of Log Cabin Republicans vs. U.S. and Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach demonstrate, DADT undermines national security by disrupting the work of well-qualified and experienced service members. A 19-year combat aviator with over 2,000 total flying hours and 25 million dollars in training, Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is now about to be drummed out of the Air Force after being outed by a spiteful civilian.

This situation not only harms military readiness but also disrespects a combat veteran’s selfless service. DADT is the only law in the country that requires people to be dishonest about their personal lives or face the possibility of being fired. Poll after poll shows that the attitudes of today’s service members have changed and they care more about their fellow service member’s ability to help in accomplishing missions than who they are as a person. Further, the American public stands with them – 79 percent, a majority of Republicans, Independents and Democrats, support repealing DADT and allowing gays and lesbians to serve with integrity, openly and honestly.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen have told Congress that it is time to repeal DADT. Adm. Mullen testified that “we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.” In addition, Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, both former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former Vice President Dick Cheney, defense secretary in the first Bush administration; and retired Gen. James Jones, former Marine Corps Commandant, have all indicated their support for repealing DADT.

Furthermore, the Comprehensive Review Working Group at the direction of the Department of Defense is currently assessing how best to implement a repeal of DADT. Their report is due December 1, 2010 and the repeal language currently before the Senate states that the report must be reviewed and certified by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that repeal will not harm the military before any change in the DADT law would be enacted.

We urge you to support the Commander-in-Chief, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and vote against any effort to filibuster, strike or add amendments to the repeal language as it stands.

National Center for Lesbian Rights
African American Ministers in Action
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Anti-Defamation League
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American Veterans for Equal Rights
Association of Flight Attendants – CWA
Campaign for America’s Future
Center for American Progress
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Human Rights Campaign
Immigration Equality
Knights Out: An Organization of LGBT West Point Grads and Allies
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Log Cabin Republicans
Metropolitan Community Churches
National Black Justice Coalition
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Stonewall Democrats
National Women’s Law Center
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National
People For the American Way
Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association
Service Employees International Union
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Servicemembers United
Service Women’s Action Network
Third Way
Truman National Security Project
United Church of Christ

Even When You Can’t See The Scars, They Are Clearly Visible: Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

September 20, 2010

“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

—Epitaph of Leonard P. Matlovich, the first gay service member to fight the ban on lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the military

I have never been to war and will never know just how horrific and traumatizing it can be. I have friends and family who went to war, and what I do know is that they were never the same. Even when you can’t see the scars, they are clearly visible.

The loss of life of our service members, coupled with the staggering civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, have anyone with an ounce of humanity wishing and working for an end to these deadly conflicts. Yet, against this backdrop, we are pushing Congress for a vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)—ending the practice of discharging lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members.* If DADT is repealed, which many in our community have long been working to achieve, it will surely mean that more of our literal and figurative brothers and sisters will be in harm’s way. But despite that sobering reality, when the ban is finally lifted, one of the most damaging sources of political and economic harm to our community will be gone.

DADT stigmatizes us, traffics in the most offensive stereotypes, and perpetuates the notion that we cannot be trusted or counted upon to do the hardest, most risky, and dangerous work. And if that human toll were not bad enough, the ban has a devastating economic impact on those who can least afford it—because they already face discrimination based on their gender and race, as well as their sexual orientation.

Many people do not know that the U.S. military is one of the largest employers in the country, and may well employ more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals than any other single employer. According to a study released last week by The Williams Institute, nearly 71,000 lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals are currently serving in the US military.

Many people also do not know that the impact of DADT falls most heavily on women and people of color. Even though women make up a much smaller percentage of soldiers in every branch of service, women are discharged under DADT at much higher rates than men.

In 2008, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) reported that while women comprised only 15% of the armed forces, women made up 34% of the service members discharged under DADT. Some branches of service are worse for women than others. In the Air Force, women made up only 20% of members, yet accounted for 62% of Air Force discharges under DADT. The disparity is even more pronounced for people of color. According to SWAN, non-white active duty service members represented 29.4% of the total military population, but comprised 45% of all DADT discharges in 2008.

According to the new Williams Institute study, the disparate impact of DADT on women and minorities has only gotten worse: “It is clear that women and racial/ethnic minorities now bear a larger portion of the burden imposed by the policy than they did when the policy was first implemented in 1993.”

In my perfect world, war would never be the answer, and the military would be a fraction of its current, bloated size. But my vision is not our present reality. Excluding lesbian, gay, and bisexual citizens from the opportunity we give to any other willing individual to serve in the military serves no interest. So long as the ban continues, it will transmit the powerful message that our very existence is shameful and that we are unfit to participate as full citizens. And it will inflict the most economic harm on those who can least afford it.

Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not lessen the ravages of war or end the gross economic disparities faced by many Americans. But it will end the cruel and counterproductive discharges of fine soldiers, and put a stop to one of the most blatant and stigmatizing forms of workplace discrimination against our community. That is a result worth fighting for.

Learn more:
•    The Williams Institute
•    Service Women’s Action Network
•   Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
•    Servicememers United
•    Palm Center

In solidarity,

*Appallingly, even if DADT is repealed, transgender people would continue to be barred from military service. Clearly, there is much work yet to be done.

UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon Urges Repeal of Anti-Gay Laws

September 17, 2010

from the Associated Press

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has called on countries to abolish laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

read more

Gay Students and College Employees Face Significant Harassment, Report Says

September 15, 2010

by Sara Lipka | Chronicle for Higher Education

Whether they are students, staff members, professors, or administrators, people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender report significant harassment at their colleges and discomfort with the overall campus climates, according to a new national report.

read more

More Seniors in Poverty Than Previously Thought – Especially LGBT Seniors

September 14, 2010

by Daniel Redman, Esq., NCLR Elder Law Project Fellow

A recent report out of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows that many more American seniors are impoverished than the Federal Poverty Guidelines suggest.  “This new…data shows that the cost of living for California seniors far outpaces the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPL) in every county in California.”

For LGBT elders, the true numbers are even worse.   According to a SAGE and MAP Project report, “LGBT older adults as a group are poorer and less financially secure than American elders as a whole.”  Older lesbian couples suffer poverty at double the rate of straight couples.  Federal agencies don’t recognize our relationships and – as a result – treat LGBT people differently for  Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare, harming many low-income same-sex couples.

It’s time for the federal government not only to update its yardstick for measuring poverty but also to stop discriminating in a way that pushes so many LGBT people into it.

For more information on how LGBT elders can protect themselves, click here for links to our publications.

2009 National School Climate Survey: Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT Students Experience Harassment in School

September 14, 2010

from GLSEN

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today marks the culmination of 10 years of pioneering research documenting the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students with the release of The 2009 National School Climate Survey.

The 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

read more

Make the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a Priority

September 13, 2010

Last Thursday, a federal district court declared the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy unconstitutional, saying it violates both the First and Fifth Amendments. While we celebrate this victory, we know the fight is not over. Join NCLR, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and our allies in making sure that our Senate leaders continue their fight to end this discriminatory policy.

Congress returns to Washington, D.C. this week, and the full Senate has its first opportunity in 17 years to do away with DADT when it votes on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains provisions that would allow for repeal of this law.

Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to make the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a top priority for the week of September 20th. Ask them to urge their joint leadership (Senators Reid and McConnell) to schedule this vote.

A full Senate floor vote is one of the last major legislative hurdles that stands in the way of the repeal. Unfortunately, Senator John McCain has been a vocal opponent of repeal from the start. He has indicated that he, along with other repeal foes, will pull out all the stops in coming weeks—from attempting to strike repeal language from the NDAA to offering weakening amendments, or threatening to filibuster the entire defense budget. We cannot let this happen.

Together we can make it clear to the Senate that repealing DADT should be a top priority this month. Together we can end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In Solidarity,