Servicemembers United’s Alex Nicholson responds to Gov. Perry
December 9th, 2011
Not only is Perry’s statement bigoted, it has almost no reflection on reality. While Barack Obama was in favor of repealing the Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the change did not originate in the White House nor was it a significant priority of the President.
Most know of the December 2010 vote in Congress and it goes without saying that much credit is owed to Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) who orchestrated a bipartisan effort that eventually gained the support of eight Republicans and all but one Democrat. But less known is the impetus behind the change, the lawsuit brought by Log Cabin Republicans against the Military and its policy.
Those of you who followed the efforts towards that repeal either here at Box Turtle Bulletin or elsewhere know that the repeal process, which had been of little interest in Congress, suddenly took on a new life after September 9, 2010 when U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips sided with Log Cabin Republicans in their lawsuit against the military and its anti-gay policy. Her injunction the following month led to a brief official cessation of the policy (until appeals were filed) and was the unofficial end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a hiring and detaining policy.
But even so, this ruling did not work alone. Significant lobbying efforts in Congress provided Congressmen and Senators with the information about public attitudes on the repeal effort. And those attitudes were impacted by a steady stream of ejected service members who refused to quietly go away in shame.
In fact, if one looks at the parties most heavily involved in the change of policy, the one thing that becomes clear is that this was not in any way an attack on religion nor were the leading advocates for change particularly “liberal” (though that is undoubtedly the dismissive label that Rick Perry would assign to Senator Collins, Log Cabin Republicans, and the men and women risking their lives for his freedom).
One man at the heart of the effort was Alex Nicholson. As both the plaintiff in Log Cabin’s case and as the founder of Servicemembers United, Alex had his feet planted in both the legal and the legislative efforts to end this discrimination. And Alex, writing a guest column for CNN, reminds the Governor that not only was the repeal not a “liberal attack on religious heritage” in its implementation, but that it did not speak only to the wishes of liberal Americans.
The ad begins: “I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Christian. But you don’t need to be in the pews every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” What’s really wrong with that statement is that solid majorities of his fellow Republicans, self-described conservatives, and even weekly church-goers disagree with him on open gays and lesbians serving in the military.
Among these demographics, independent polling more than two years ago demonstrated surprising levels of support for repealing that archaic law, including 58% of Republicans, 58% of conservatives, and 60% of those who attend church weekly. Those numbers are likely significantly higher now that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has come and gone without the U.S. military falling apart at the seams as predicted. Indeed, even the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, who predicted disaster if the law were repealed, has come around, recently admitting that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been smooth sailing for the Marine Corps, as it has for the other branches of the armed forces.
So not only does Gov. Perry now find himself at odds with the majority of the American people and even his own conservative base on the righteousness of us being finished with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but he is also at odds with the senior defense leadership. It was, after all, a Republican-appointed secretary of defense — Bob Gates — and a Republican-appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — Adm. Mike Mullen — who called for an end to the ban on known gay men and women serving in the military.
Rick Perry suffers from a delusion, a common one really. He believes that people who identify in the same way that he identifies must share the same bigotries and hatreds that he has.
We’ve seen it many times before. Someone in a cocktail party will assume that due to your skin tones that you’ll find her racist humor funny. Or because it’s all ‘just us guys’ that the room will agree with his demeaning comments about women.
And Rick Perry, being a Texas Republican who has never had any electoral cost to pay for his long pattern of blatant homophobia, thinks that all Republicans hate gay people the same way that he does. But that day is gone.
It is true that Republicans, on the whole, are significantly less supportive of gay issues and that they, on large, start from an adversarial position. But like other Americans, this demographic too is coming to discover that people whom they know and love are gay and, even more important, they are recognizing that unbased bias carries a social cost.
Rick Perry may have been well served by appealing to fear and loathing of gay people in a national Republican primary as recently as a decade ago. But after this ad, I think that Rick Perry is going to discover that he’s not in Texas anymore.