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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for September, 2010

Bill Clinton disavows DADT

Timothy Kincaid

September 22nd, 2010

Bill Clinton is not pleased when reminded that he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy into law. Talking to Katie Couric following the failure of yesterday’s repeal effort, Clinton recalled his role as being a cork tossed on the storm.

The president said he resorted to “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it became apparent that both houses of Congress would enact an absolute ban on gay people serving in the military unless he did something else. He also said that Powell misrepresented how the policy would work.

I agree that Clinton does not deserve to be saddled with the blame for the policy, but his role was perhaps not as passive as he is now presenting. I seem to recall the White House advocating for a “compromise”.

Clinton also claims that he misunderstood exactly what Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would mean.

Now, when Colin Powell sold me on ‘don’t pass, don’t tell,’ here’s what he said it would be: Gay service members would never get in trouble for going to gay bars, marching in gay rights parades as long as they weren’t in uniform, getting gay materials for any of the places they went or any of the things they did, as long as they didn’t talk about it. That was what they were promised. That’s a very different ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ than we got. What we got as soon as Gen. Powell retired was this vicious mid- and lower-level officer feedback where they, for a year or so, made it worse than it had been before. Then they sort of settled down. But, the reason I accepted it was because I thought it was better than an absolute ban, and because I was promised it would be better than it was.

Well, rather than get snarky, I think I’ll just note that times have changed. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was considered too much of a concession at the time by many Americans and now, 17 years later, most everyone (except Republican legislators) consider it to be ill advised and discriminatory.

Bill Clinton Shifts on Marriage Equality

Timothy Kincaid

September 25th, 2009

Former President Bill Clinton has taped a discussion with Anderson Cooper which will run tonight in which he explains his shift on same-sex marriage.

While the endorsement certainly could have been more stirring, let’s welcome this influential voice into the marriage equality camp.

Bill Clinton Talks About His Role On DADT and DOMA

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2009

Former president Bill Clinton spoke yesterday as the keynote speaker at the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh. His speech was interrupted by a question from LGBT activist Lane Hudson, asking Clinton about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act.

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Clinton was definitely put off about being interrupted, but when he finally got around to answering the question, Clinton pointed out that DADT passed Congress by a veto-proof majority in both houses, the result, he said, of inadequate LGBT lobbying in Congress at the time. I think he’s right on this one. He has gotten the blame for DADT’s passage, when it actually came about by a Democratically-controlled Congress acting to block his initiative to allow gays to serve in the military. And indeed, DADT did pass with a veto-proof majority, which removed his role in the matter.

But that doesn’t hold true for DOMA. Clinton says that he “didn’t like signing DOMA,” but did so to head off “a very reactionary Congress” which, he said, was set to pass a constitutional amendment. But he didn’t address why his 1996 presidential campaign purchased advertising on Christian and right wing radio bragging signing DOMA into law as proof of his “pro-family” credentials.

Update: Lane Hudson posted on Firedog Lake about why he interrupted Clinton’s speech:

I love Bill Clinton, but we all make mistakes. Sometimes we even are forced to do things we don’t want to. That’s why I was prepared to ask Bill Clinton a tough question last night as he delivered the opening keynote address at Netroots Nation 2009.

But it became clear there would be no questions. As I sat in the audience thinking about how Netroots Nation is about celebrating the most open forum of discussion ever to exist, it occurred to me that we were nothing more than a captive audience being talked to. One way communication was NOT what we were there to celebrate and advance.

Lane is certainly right about one thing: It’s pretty dumb to expect bloggers to sit down, shut up, and just listen. It’s even dumber when that same message comes from fellow bloggers and activists:

The immediate response shocked me at the time and still does. Those surrounding me yelled at me, booed, and told me to sit down. One elderly lady even told me to leave. While I was among the supposed most progressive audience in the country, they sought to silence someone asking a former President to speak out on behalf of repealing two laws that TOOK AWAY RIGHTS OF A MINORITY. I was shocked.

What was that expression about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?

Click here to see a partial transcript of Pres. Clinton’s remarks

“Better Late Than Never”…

Jim Burroway

July 14th, 2009

…is a cliché that’s rarely spoken of with any real sense of satisfaction. More often, it’s said in exasperation over the fact that the late is just barely better at all than the never. And there are times when you don’t even want to acknowledge that much, like when former President Bill Clinton says this:

Asked if he would commit his support for same-sex marriage, Clinton responded, “I’m basically in support.”

This spring, same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire. In his most recent remarks on the subject, Clinton said, “I think all these states that do it should do it.” The former president, however, added that he does not believe that same-sex marriage is “a federal question.”

Now he says he’s “basically in support.” He’s out of office, his political career is over, and what he says and thinks carries all the weight of the latest Elizabeth Hasselbeck outburst on The View. This president, who now believes that same-sex marriage is not “a federal question” is the very president who made it a federal question when he signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law — and then he used that to brag about how “pro-family” he was in campaign commercials on Christian radio.

But now he’s “basically in support” and does not believe that it should be “a federal question.” The president who hasn’t held power in almost nine years is now better on the issue than the one who does. Thanks. Better late than never, I suppose.

Bill Clinton Will Cross A Picket Line To Collect His Speaking Fees

Jim Burroway

February 13th, 2009

We asked yesterday whether Clinton will honor a boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, or speak before the International Franchise Association which is holding a convention at the hotel. The other alternative, of course, would be to move the venue for his talk as others have done.

The Manchester Hyatt boycott began when it was revealed that Doug Manchester contributed $125,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign to strip thousands of Californians of the right to marry. Manchester owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt as well as the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina, which are also being boycotted. Yesterday, eight prominent supporters of organized labor and gay marriage released an open letter to Clinton requesting that he call off or move the speaking engagement.

But a spokesman for the former president said yesterday that Clinton will speak at the Hyatt. I wasn’t aware that franchisees were one of his favored causes. It can only be his exorbitant speaking fees. Money before principle.

Former Pres. Clinton To Break Manchester Hyatt Boycott?

Jim Burroway

February 11th, 2009

Former President Bill Clinton makes a lot of speeches and gets paid a lot of money to speak. This Sunday, he’s scheduled to speak before the International Franchise Association in San Diego, which just happens to be meeting at the Manchester Hyatt.

The Manchester Hyatt has been under a boycott ever since it was learned that Doug Manchester contributed $125,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign to strip thousands of Californians of the right to marry. Manchester owns the Manchester Grand Hyatt as well as the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina, which are also being boycotted.

A coalition of advocates and community leaders have signed an open letter asking President Clinton to move his speech so as to not violate the boycott.

Bill Clinton Opposes Prop 8

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2008

On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) into law. He then promptly turned around and bought radio ads on Christian radio stations to brag about it during his re-election campaign against Sen. Bob Dole. That betrayal has been a huge source of anger and resentment in the LGBT community towards Clinton ever since then.

This week, the former president made a very big step in making up for that. In a telephone call to California voters yesterday, President Clinton delivered the following message:

“This is Bill Clinton calling to ask you to vote NO on Proposition 8 on Tuesday, November 4th. Proposition 8 would use state law to single out one group of Californians to be treated differently — discriminating against members of our family, our friends and our co-workers.

“If I know one thing about California, I know that is not what you’re about. That is not what America is about. Please vote NO on 8. It’s unfair and it’s wrong. Thank you.”

Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2008

Ten years ago today fell on a Saturday. For four days now, Matthew Shepard has continued to cling to life. He’s comatose, and breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

This day was also Homecoming Day for the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where Matthew had been a student. The homecoming parade consisted of the usual procession of floats and marching bands, but the final group to march in the parade was a late addition. It consisted of a disorganized group of about a hundred people — students, teachers, university employees, and townspeople. Many of them wore yellow and green armbands. As they marched quietly by at the conclusion of the parade, spectators began to step off the sidewalks and joining in. By the time the parade reached campus, somewhere between five hundred to eight hundred people had joined the march.

Later that day, there was a moment of silence at War Memorial Stadium just before the start of the game. UW players bowed quietly as they held their helmets at their sides. The helmets bore special emblems designed by the University Multicultural Committee in honor of Matthew.

Ten years ago today was also Homecoming Day at Colorado State University in Fort Collins — the very city in which Matt lay comatose and surrounded by family. CSU’s parade however was a little different. A float co-sponsored by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and the Alpha Chi Omega sorority carried a scarecrow decorated with anti-gay epithets. The signs hung on the scarecrow reportedly read “I’m Gay” and “Up My Ass.” CSU quickly punished eleven students and banned the two organizations from campus.

Meanwhile, Poudre Valley Hospital continued to issued medical updates on Matthew’s condition, like this one at 3 p.m.:

Matthew’s major injuries upon arrival consisted of hypothermia and a fracture from behind his head to just in front of the right ear. This has caused bleeding in the brain, as well as pressure on the brain. There were also approximately a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck.

Matthew has a massive brain stem injury. The brain stem controls vital signs, such as heart beat, body temperature and other involuntary functions.

Matthew’s temperature has fluctuated over the last 24 hours, ranging from 98 to 106 degrees. We have had difficulty controlling his temperature.

Hospital actions have included the surgeon inserting an intraventicular drain into his brain to relieve pressure by draining spinal fluid. The drain remains in and functional.

We are also continuing to control Matthew’s temperature. He remains on a ventilator which is assisting his breathing.

That was followed by another medical update at 9 p.m.:

Since our last medical update at 3 p.m. October 10, Matthew Shepard has remained in critical condition.

Matthew is in the surgical-neuro intensive care unit in our Regional Neuroscience Center located within the hospital. He remains in critical condition with severe head injuries. Respiratory support continues to be provided. He remains on a ventilator.

Matthew came to us on October 7 from Ivinson Hospital in Laramie by way of ambulance. He was admitted in critical condition at approximately 9:15 p.m. October 7. When he arrived, he was unresponsive and breathing support was being provided.

Matthew’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, remained by his bedside and continued to refuse all requests for interviews. Instead, they released a statement thanking “the American public for their kind thoughts about Matthew and their fond wishes for his speedy recovery. We appreciate your prayers and good will, and we know they are something Matthew would appreciate, too.”

The statement went on the recall Matthew’s life and the values that he held:

“Matthew has traveled all over the world. He speaks three languages: English, German and Italian. He loves Europe, but he also loves Laramie and the University of Wyoming. We feel that, if he was giving this statement himself, he would emphasize he does not want the horrible actions of a few very disturbed individuals to mar the fine reputations of Laramie or the university.

They thanked the sheriff’s department and the hospital staff, and they asked the media for privacy, saying, “Matthew is very much in need of his family at this time, and we ask that you respect our privacy, as well as Matthew’s so we can concentrate all of our efforts, thoughts and love on our son.”

While Matt’s parents focused all of their efforts on their son, an estimated five hundred people gathered outside the hospital to keep vigil for him. The hospital has received so many flowers that nurses had started to distribute bouquets to other patients.

In Washington, D.C., President Bill Clinton and House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt both issued statements contemning the attack and calling on Congress to amend the hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.

Very little has changed since ten years ago. Pi Kappa Alpha was reinstated at Colorado State University about a year and a half after that infamous homecoming parade, only to be expelled again in 2005. Alpha Chi Omega’s charter for the CSU house was permanently revoked by the national organization. It now appears unlikely they will ever return to CSU.

Ten years later, the federal hate crimes law continues to cover race and religion. It still doesn’t cover sexual orientation.

And ten years later, Wyoming still doesn’t have a state hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation either.

See also:
(Oct 16) Today In History: Rest In Peace
(Oct 13) Today In History: “Something In the Culture”
(Oct 12) Today In History: Matthew Wayne Shepard (Dec 1, 1976 – Oct 12, 1998)
(Oct 11) Today In History: The Vigil
(Oct 10) Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows
(Oct 9) Also Today In History: Details Emerge
(Oct 9) Today In History: “We Just Wanted To Spend Time With Him”
(Oct 8) Today in History: Two Men Arrested
(Oct 7) Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie
(Oct 7) Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”
(Oct 6) Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard