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Posts for April, 2014

A Marine speaks out

Timothy Kincaid

April 4th, 2014

Go read this op-ed (NewsTribune)

I slept with a gay man for six months in Afghanistan.

No one asked. He did not tell.

In 2005, I and 200 Marines in my squadron deployed to Afghanistan to support the global war on terrorism. We were stationed at Bagram air base, a deep bowl surrounded by snowcapped mountains, where it rained and snowed while the sun beamed, prompting one Marine to remark, “Welcome to Afghanistan, the only place on Earth where you get all four seasons and a rocket in the same day.”

A sad sad day for The Peter

Timothy Kincaid

January 15th, 2013


I think this one needs some imaginary context. So picture, if you will, a huge cruise ship pulling away from dock right on schedule. And if I can so direct you mind, place a passenger on the dock stamping his feet, furious that everyone dared, dared, to sail away and leave him behind.

Got it? Okay, now here’s Peter LaBarbera on the court settlement ensuring that (some) gay soldiers get the same discharge pay as heterosexual soldiers. (OneNewsNow)

“When the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal was first proposed, we didn’t hear anything about giving money to past soldiers who were let go under the policy of excluding homosexuals based on their homosexual behavior,” he tells OneNewsNow.

“Now we’re paying for discharged homosexuals as if we did something wrong. We did not do something wrong.”

Ah that’s a good piña colada. But wait, there on the dock, is that a little man screaming and waving his arms and throwing a fit? No, no, I’m sure you’re right. I’m sure it’s nothing.

Discharged servicemen win discriminatory military severance pay case

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2013

In 1993, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy went into effect. And while in some ways this policy was worse than the one it replaced, there were some ways in which it was an improvement. Under DADT, expulsion for homosexuality was generally processed as an honorable discharge, a rather important distinction for future employers, veterans benefits, and the morale of the soldier.

However, the Defense Department did not treat such discharges equally. While other servicemen and women who had been in the military for more than six years were entitled to a separation pay, those who were discharged under DADT had their separation pay cut in half. (Roughly dropping a $25,000 payment to $12,500).

In November 2009, the ACLU and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network contacted the Defense Department requesting that this discriminatory policy be reversed. They were denied. They sued.

On September 9, 2010, Log Cabin prevailed in their lawsuit against the government and in December 2010, Congress overturned the discriminatory policy. On September 20, 2011, the joint Chiefs of Staff certified that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was officially removed as military policy.

However, two days later, the Defense Department was in court asking that the ACLU lawsuit be tossed out. Their argument was that the Secretary of Defense has sole discretion over its rules on separation pay.

This position is baffling. Besides the issue of fairness, the money was minuscule, not even a blip in the overall defense budget. And it seems contrary to the administration’s views.

Judge Christine Odell Cook Miller (appointed by Reagan, reappointed by Clinton) did not seem much impressed with the DoD’s argument.

Your timing is exquisite – two days after the policy goes into effect eliminating ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ here we are.

So perhaps todays ruling is no surprise. (Windy City)

Former service members who are part of a class action lawsuit challenging a Defense Department policy that cuts in half the separation pay of those who have been honorably discharged for “homosexuality” will receive their full pay after a settlement announced today.

However, full justice has not been achieved.

The settlement covers service members who were discharged on or after November 10, 2004, which is as far back as the settlement could extend under the applicable statute of limitations.

This provides, I believe, an opportunity for the administration’s proposed Secretary of Defense to illustrate whether he, indeed, has changed views on gay and lesbian servicemen. As the Secretary of Defense has sole discretion, Chuck Hagel can – if confirmed – choose to extend the pay back for all who were subjected to unfair discrimination and not limit recovery solely to those who are covered by the lawsuit. I hope he illustrates his goodwill and announces his intention to honor those discharged before that date.

Servicemembers Kicked Out Under DADT To Receive Full Separation Pay

Jim Burroway

January 7th, 2013

This settlement of a class action lawsuit between the American Civl Liberties Union and the Department of Defense strikes me as a very big deal. According to this ACLU press release:

Former service members who are part of a class action lawsuit challenging a Defense Department policy that cuts in half the separation pay of those who have been honorably discharged for “homosexuality” will receive their full pay after a settlement announced today. 

…Under the settlement, all service members covered by the lawsuit will be contacted by the government and notified that they are eligible to opt in to the settlement and receive 100 percent of the separation pay that they would have received had they been discharged for any other honorable reason. Federal law entitles service members to separation pay if they have been involuntarily and honorably discharged from the military after completing at least six years of service in order to help ease their transition to civilian life.

The settlement covers service members who were discharged on or after November 10, 2004, which is as far back as the settlement could extend under the applicable statute of limitations.

It’s one thing to repeal DADT. It’s quite another to go back and compensate those who were wronged by the discriminatory law. The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff was former Air Force Staff Sgt Richard Collins, a nine year veteran who was dismissed under DADT after a co-worker saw him exchanging a kiss with his boyfriend — while off base. It doesn’t completely fix the problem — Collins’s career is still over — but it is nevertheless very good news.

Paul Ryan: Reinstating DADT Would Be “A Step In The Wrong Direction”

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2012

GOP Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan told a Florida TV station that while he voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, he believes that DADT should not be reinstated now that so many gay soldiers have come out:

“Now that it’s done, we should not reverse it,” Ryan told WPTV NewsChannel 5 during a visit to Miami. “I think that would be a step in the wrong direction because people have already disclosed themselves.”

…”I talked to a lot of good friends of mine who are combat leaders in the theater and they just didn’t think the timing of this was right to do this when our troops were in the middle of harm’s way in combat,” Ryan said. “I think this issue is past us. It’s done. And, I think we need to move on.”

Two weeks ago, Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chairs the influential 170-member Republican Study Committee, told an audience at the Values Voter Summit that he was “’certainly supportive of going back to the previous policy.”

DADT Is Still An Issue for GOP Base

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2012

ThinkProgress caught up with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) at last week’s Values Voter Summit and asked wither he would support re-instating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on gay military personnel serving openly which was rescinded one year ago this Thursday. Jordan answered, “We’ll look at guidance from our military, but I’m certainly supportive of going back to the previous policy.” ThinkProgress explains why we should pay attention:

Though first elected in 2006, Jordan is no back-bencher. He chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 160 Republican congressmen dedicated to pushing conservative causes that wields major influence within the GOP caucus.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said earlier that DADT’s revival was “not something that I would personally bring up.” Gov. Mitt Romney, too, has said that he would not pursue its implementation if he wins the presidential race. That’s not exactly a principled stand against DADT’s revival, but it does recognize that DADT is not a burning issue, even among a very substantial number fellow Republicans. But not being a burning issue is not opposition; it’s just a complacent acceptance of the status quo. And that complacency ignores the fact that there are still a lot of Republicans for whom it is a burning issue, and they have been ascendant in the GOP for the past four years.

And so, I would have to say that those statements from McKeon and Romney answer the wrong question. The real question is this: If DADT’s revival were to gain traction, would you oppose it or support it? Because personally, I cannot even begin to imagine that a President Romney would suddenly grow a principled backbone and veto such legislation if it were to reach his desk.

Repeal of DADT actually HAS resulted in restrictions on a chaplain’s religious freedom

Timothy Kincaid

July 30th, 2012

Those who opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell, the anti-gay military policy, warned that lifting the ban on openly gay servicemembers would result in chaplains having to choose between their denomination and The Homosexual Agenda! They predicted that chaplains would be forced into positions in which the orders of their superiors would contradict the mandates of their faith.

And they were right.

On June 23rd, Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali and Will Behrens stood before God and Country and pledged to love each other and trust in each other and in God. Kay Reeb, a Navy chaplain with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, presided. Joyously. And as the ELCA supports same sex couples, Reeb did so with no conflict whatsoever.

But, as it turns out, Reeb was not the only chaplain present. Air Force Col. Timothy Wagoner, a Southern Baptist, is the presiding chaplain at that chapel, and he was there as well. (Army Times)

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Wagoner said at the chapel at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, days later. “I don’t feel I’m compromising my beliefs … I’m supporting the community.”

Even though he was not willing to conduct the union, he could be there as a sign of support for all of the service members, including Umali (“a comrade in arms”) and Reeb (“she gave a beautiful ceremony”). The article that quoted Wagoner went on to say that the lifting of the ban was a non-issue.

In fact, there’s been no significant exodus — perhaps two or three departures of active-duty chaplains linked to the repeal. Moreover, chaplains or their civilian coordinators from a range of conservative faiths told The Associated Press they knew of virtually no serious problems thus far involving infringement of chaplains’ religious freedom or rights of conscience.

It seems that, unlike their civilian counterparts, chaplains are quite willing to respect each others’ views and to support their service even if their theology differs.

Well that just wouldn’t do. If chaplains are not feeling infringement then they certainly were going to. So the North American Mission Board (the branch of the Southern Baptists that oversees SBC chaplains) called in Col. Wagoner to explain himself. (Baptist Press)

Wagoner assured the SBC that he does not support same-sex marriage or unions. Nor have his theological views changed from the teachings of his denomination. But that just wasn’t good enough.

Carver said, “Our expectations are that military chaplains will continue to uphold the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which makes it crystal-clear that marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman.”

After the AP article appeared, Carver said NAMB’s chaplaincy office immediately emailed a letter to all its chaplains, reinforcing the Southern Baptist position on same-sex civil unions. A videoconference session for all senior SBC military chaplains also is planned to emphasize NAMB’s expectations for ministry to members of the armed forces.

There won’t be any of this “getting along with others” crap. We have conflict to uphold. We have discord to sow. We have the infringement of religious liberties to fabricate.

“Our chaplains need the assurance of our prayerful support as they fight the good fight of faith with the uncompromising truthfulness and love of Jesus Christ,” Carver said. “We’re going to protect our chaplains and, as they take their stand, they need to remember they’re not alone. We are here to love, defend and support them.”

Kinda like they loved, defended and supported Col. Wagoner.

But I’m happy to report that Col. Wagoner has withstood the pressures placed on him by the lifting of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell. He faced an infringement on his religious freedom but his faith was strong enough to weather the pressure of the post-DADT military and come out victorious. Col. Wagoner looked religious oppression in the face and fought back. (Christian Post)

Col. Timothy Wagoner, who serves at an Air Force base in New Jersey, left the Southern Baptist Convention and joined the more progressive Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The long-time chaplain confirmed his switch to The Associated Press on Friday.

“I find very little that is more important and nothing that is more exhilarating than providing for the religious freedoms and spiritual care of all service members and their families – and will joyfully continue to do so,” Wagoner, senior chaplain at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, said to AP.

Yes, indeed. The lifting of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell certainly has resulted in restrictions on a chaplain’s religious freedom. By the Southern Baptist Convention. But happily, he rose above.

Too simple for adults to understand

Timothy Kincaid

February 28th, 2012

Over the past few days, a picture has taken the world by storm: a marine just home from Afghanistan kissing the man waiting for him. Cute boys, genuine bliss, it really is a sweet picture.

But the story is sweeter. Friends for four years, Sgt. Brandon Morgan and Dalan Wells – each aware of their own feelings, but unsure about the other’s – slowly discovered that they were in love. And what can be better? To find that the person you like, the one you admire, who you secretly desire actually feels the same about you – it doesn’t get much better.

It’s a very simple story. A thousand tales and books and movies have been created based on little more than this premise.

So it should be no surprise that a picture posted on facebook, and reposted on a gay marine website, should find appeal and be reposted and passed on until hundreds of thousands had seen it. Love is beautiful and everyone wants to share in it.

But while the simplicity of this tale is something that any child could understand, some adults find it impossible to believe. Convinced that homosexuals cannot love and that it’s all about sex and a never ending search for who will be their next sex partner, there just aren’t any hooks on which to hang this story.

So they’ll just dismiss it as a sordid mockery of real true love, the kind between a man and a woman. And surely there were more noble kisses. Kisses of love, not of lovers. Kisses of family partners, not sex partners. But there is still one piece of the story that nasty-minded cynics can’t mock away, one bit of sweetness that can’t be marred.

This is no ordinary kiss. By some lucky quirk, due to ship arrival time and rushed schedules, one friend just happened – unknown to Brandon and Dalan – to catch a picture of their very first kiss.

Servicemembers United’s Alex Nicholson responds to Gov. Perry

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2011

As an illustration of “Obama’s war on religion” and “liberal attacks on our religious heritage”, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry cited “gays can serve openly in the military”.

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.

Top Marine Says DADT Repeal Has Gone Smoothly

Jim Burroway

November 28th, 2011

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos says that Marines around the world have adapted very well to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

I’m very pleased with how it has gone,” Amos said in an Associated Press interview during a week-long trip that included four days in Afghanistan, where he held more than a dozen town hall-style meetings with Marines of virtually every rank. He was asked about a wide range of issues, from his view of the Marine Corps’ future to more mundane matters such as why he recently decided to stop allowing Marines to wear their uniform with the sleeves rolled up. Not once was he asked in Afghanistan about the repeal of the gay ban.

Gen. Amos had broken ranks from the other military chiefs by openly lobbying against DADT’s repeal. Amos does not believe his earlier opposition to repeal was a mistake, saying that he was acting on a survey that he said showed DADT’s repeal would negatively impact unit cohesion. But once DADT was repealed, Amos appealed to the Marines’ commitment to honor and duty to facilitate a smooth implementation.

Booed Soldier Shares His Reaction

Jim Burroway

November 21st, 2011

Capt. Stephen Hill (left) and his partner, Joshua Snyder, at home in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

It was unprecedented in the annals of presidential politics: on September 23, an active-duty American soldier stationed on the front lines was loudly booed by audience members with nary an admonishment from any of the GOP presidential candidates on stage, and none of the Commander-In-Chief wannabees offer a word of thanks for his service. Now nearly two months later, Army Capt. Stephen Hill described to the Associated Press his reaction to that shocking display of disrespect:

“When the actual booing occurred, my gut dropped out, because my first inclination was, did I just do something wrong?” he said. “The answer, obviously, wasn’t very supportive of gay people, and there was a lot of fear of how the Army would take the question.”

He did not have to wait long to find out. At breakfast later that morning, the segment was playing on the chow hall television. Hill immediately tracked down his commander, who told him she had no problem with what he’d done but that she would need to run it up the chain of command. She later relayed the response.

“She said, ‘What the military’s most concerned with is that you are OK, because it’s a lot of pressure on you and we want to make sure if there is anything we can do to help,’” he recalled.

Hill also remembered that Santurum’s answer was solely about sex. Hill, who is married, found Santorum’s answer as adding to the insults.

“This is not about sex,” Hill said. “A special privilege is not hiding pictures in my house or God forbid, taking mortar fire again and not knowing if Josh will be recognized. I’m fighting every day to protect everyone’s rights as human beings, and it seems counterintuitive for me to be fighting for those rights and not have them.”

Capt. Hill and his husband, Joshua Snyder, have joined other same-sex military couples in suing the federal government for the same benefits as straight military couples.

Happy All-Veterans Day

Timothy Kincaid

November 11th, 2011

There is a specialness that happens when an worthy event becomes even more so, when an asterisk marring an otherwise admirable effort is removed.

So today is a very special Veterans Day. It is the day we honor all Veterans who fought for the interests of our nation without discounting any because of their race or gender or orientation. Perhaps gender identity will also some day be dropped from consideration, and we will be even prouder. But on this, the first Veterans Day after the termination of more than 200 years of restriction and exclusion, I am a bit prouder and a bit more appreciative of those who don a uniform and stand between me and those who wish me harm.

(Recruitment poster was by JC Leyendecker, a Saturday Evening Post illustrator who gave us such iconic images as the New Year’s Baby and Santa Claus (as currently dressed). He also had other patrons, including several branches of the US Military. Leyendecker is known for his idolization of the male form – often in ways that would be considered too suggestive today. His most famous advertising campaign was his creation of The Arrow Collar Man, based on his long-term companion, Charles Beach.)

New Rule: Some Soldiers Are Less Worthy of Respect and Thanks Than Others

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2011
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Christiane Amanpour: Let me start by asking you some of these questions. We’ve just seen what President Obama said last night about that incident at the Florida debate, where there was booing in the audience when a gay soldier started to speak. Nobody said anything. You didn’t, Rick Santorum, none of the others did. Do you wish you had said something, intervened at that moment?

Herman Cain: Well the thing that’s being overlooked is that in the heat of of debate when you have exactly sixty seconds to answer any question, you know, taking the time to try to figure out why they were booing. I happen to think that maybe they were booing the whole “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal more so than booing that soldier. But we didn’t know that. So that was not the time to try and decipher why were they reacting that way.

Amanpour: But you don’t think that you probably should have said something like, audience, you know please, a little bit of respect?

Cain: I did not have that luxury because I was not in control. I was not moderating.

Amanpour: In retrospect, would you have done something given the controversy it’s …

Cain: In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had, yes, that probably… that would have been appropriate. But at the moment, it was not the focus on the people on that stage, I can assure you.

I can assure you that the focus of the people on the stage at that very moment was the shocking (to them) visage of a patriotic American soldier who is in Iraq right now, who announced to them that he was gay and asked, in essence, what were they going to do about it. And every one of them froze. When you go back to the video, you find that even Sen. Rick Santorum, to whom the question was directed, stumbled a bit before he regained his footing and confirmed he would kick soldiers like him (but not that particular soldier, he hastened to add later) out. The rest stood there mute — dumbfounded, more like it — at the image of a gay soldier in Iraq.

Later that night, former Utah Gov Jon Huntsman, Jr. mustered the courage to call the incident “unfortunate.” It took an entire news cycle before Santorum apologized — sort of — on Fox News for not speaking up or thanking the soldier, only to walk it back on ABC. New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said he was embarrassed at the intolerance, an embarrassment that took him more than a day to express after leaving the stage.

For decades since the Vietnam debacle, it has become a political maxim that any time a politician meets an American soldier, the very first thing to tumble out of his mouth is effusive thanks for that soldier’s service. Stories of Vietnam vets returning home to boos and worse were used by politicians on the right to shame politicians on the left into proving their patriotism by supporting the troops no matter what. Politicians on the left responded by doing exactly that. Granted, some of the expressions were more heartfelt among some than others, but no one was going to be caught out in that political faux pas. But no one was going to out-thank or out-praise those soldiers’ sacrifice and dedication to American freedom more than politicians on the right.  That was the rule. A rule so hard you could bet your paycheck on it and always beat the market.

Until now. We now find that there is an escape clause to that rule. When it’s a gay soldier, no thanks are required. No defense of against booing (or worse, should the situation arise?) is needed. An instinct that had been ingrained into Republican politicians so thoroughly they could reflexively salute a soldier in their sleep suddenly evaporated with the uttering of two words: I’m gay.

It took ten days and three questions by a persistent Christiane Amanpour on a low-rated Sunday talk show before Cain finally conceded that maybe — “probably” — saying something to quell the boos would have been appropriate — with all of it in the past tense and a reluctant passive voice. And he came to that only after explaining that there were maybe some good excuses for booing a soldier because now — new rule! — it’s okay to boo under certain circumstances.

But of course, there’s still nothing about thanking that soldier. Cain’s protest that they only had sixty seconds and, besides, he wasn’t “in control” rings hollow. Cain felt no compunction about jumping in at other points in the debate to say something he felt had to be said. It takes less than four seconds to say “thank you for your service” — a phrase so stock in Republican politics that it’s inconceivable that the thought of saying it didn’t cross someone’s mind on that stage. Even if it was just, ”Gee, if only he were straight I’d be thanking him.”

Obama Blasts GOP For Failure To “Stand Up For the Men and Women Who Wear The Uniform”

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2011

In remarks before a gathering of the Human Rights Campaign, President Barack Obama blasted Republicans for standing silently on stage while audience members booed a gay American soldier during a GOP debate last week. Six candidates — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, pizza magnate Herman Cain, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — have maintained their silence for more than a week. Obama called them out:

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We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says its okay for a stage full of political leaders, one of whom could end up being the President of the United States, being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since.

You want to be commander in chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.

We don’t believe in a small America. We believe in a big American, a tolerant America, a just America, an equal America that values the service of every patriot. We believe in an America where we’re all in it together and we see the good in one another. And we live up to a creed that is as old as our founding, “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. And that includes everybody. That’s what we believe. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. I am confident that’s what the American people believe in. I’m confident because of the changes we’ve achieved these two and a half years, the progress that some folks said was impossible.

Obama recounted his accomplishments since taking office: the passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, the lifting of the HIV travel ban, the enactment of regulations requiring hospitals to allow gay partners to see and make decisions for their loved ones, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He also reiterated his support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act:

I vowed to keep up the fight against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. There’s a bill to repeal this discriminatory law in Congress, and I want to see that passed. But until we reach that day, my administration is no longer defending DOMA in the courts. I believe the law runs counter to the Constitution, and it’s time for it to end once and for all. It should join “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the history books.

Rick Santorum — Why Homophobia is a Psychological Disorder

Rob Tisinai

September 24th, 2011

People are missing the real story.

You’ve probably heard about Rick Santorum and the openly gay solider at the Republican debate.  Watch it here if you like, but so far the outcry has focused on the crowd booing an active-duty soldier just for being gay, the candidates’ failure to condemn the catcalls, and Santorum neglecting to the thank the soldier, as is customary, for his service.

Here’s what the right has claimed in response:

  • Santorum did not hear the boos (possible, though at least one person onstage managed to).
  • The boos came from an isolated source, and those nearby rebuked him (possible, though the lack of audio proof is unfortunate).
  • Santorum’s failure to offer the traditional thanks for the soldier’s service was a meaningless oversight, and was NOT caused by the image  of man-on-dog sex that assaults him when he thinks of gays (doubtful, but possible).
  • Conservatives have rebuked both the booer and the unreacting candidates (true).
  • Santorum himself much later rebuked the booer and thanked the soldier for his service (true).

I’ll concede all that — really, I will — just to get it out of the way.  It obscures the real issue, what we ought to be calling out:  the idiocy of what Santorum actually said, and the way it shows how homophobia induces a genuine mental breakdown.

Look at three bits of his terrible answer. First:

The fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we’re going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege and removing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…

Stop. A special privilege? Having a equal right to serve openly in the military is a special privilege? The right to mention your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse is a special privilege? Being treated just like your fellow soldiers is a special privilege?  If pressed to the wall and forced to classify this as idiocy or not idiocy, I’d have to choose…idiocy.

Continuing Santorum’s quote:

… removing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I think tries to inject social policy into the military.

Stop. The irony and idiocy are singing in harmony. “Social policy”?  Banning gays from the military, imposing special silence requirements on them — that’s the social policy.

We ought to make this point more often. The default public policy, according to the Constitution, is equal treatment under the law. Period. You want to argue that the health of society requires anti-gay persecution? Go ahead (you’re wrong, but go ahead). Just remember — that’s the injection of social policy into the military, a political and cultural agenda being imposed by law.  Removing DADT, removing the ban on gays — that’s removing social policy from military matters.

Santorum wrapped up with this reason for re-imposing DADT:

…we would move forward in conformity to what was happening in the past, which is — sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself — whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual.

Wow!  That last sentence is an amazing and unexpected endorsement of equality. Combine it with his support for DADT, and you’ve got a Republican presidential hopeful declaring that straight soldiers shouldn’t be allowed to talk about getting laid, or their romantic interests, or their spouses, or their family life.  He wants to gag them just as he wants to gag gay and lesbian soldiers. He wants straight soldiers to keep silent on such things, “in conformity to what was happening in the past.”

Wait, stop, what?  This is idiocy all around.  He can’t possibly believe that  straight soldiers of years gone by were forbidden to conceal their straightness. And he can’t possibly believe that letting straights speak freely while silencing gays means treating all soldiers the same (“whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual”).  But he seems to be saying both of these idiotic things — and since they contradict each other, that makes for idiocy squared.

But perhaps Santorum himself is not an idiot.  Perhaps his terror of homosexuals is so intense that it renders his otherwise bright and agile mind  incapable of clear, simple thought.  Perhaps his feelings toward us create an intellectual dysfunction, an impairment, a narrowly-focused mental disability.

Perhaps. And if so, folks, it would make Rick Santorum prime evidence for why we call homophobia a psychological disorder.

Johnson “Embarrased” By Booing of American Soldier, Other Candidates Refuse To Comment

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2011

ABC News’ Emily Friedman rounds up the reactions of GOP presidential candidates to the booing by audience members of Stephen Hill, a gay American Soldier stationed in Iraq, who asked about the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during Thursday night’s debate. On the night of the debate, Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. said he heard the booing and thought it was “unfortunate.” He later added, “We all wear the same uniform in America. We all salute the same flag I have two boys starting their journey in the U.S military. We should take more time to thank them for their services as opposed to finding differences based on background or orientation.”

After one news cycle passed, Sen. Rick Santorum claimed that he didn’t hear the booing (which was loud enough to actually create an echo in the vast hall in Orlando), and said he should have thanked the soldier for his service. At least that’s what he told Fox News. When speaking to ABC News, Santorum walked it backed a little.

“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear the boos,” Santorum told ABC News. “I heard the question and answered the question, so I’ve heard subsequently that happened. I’ve heard varied reports about whether they were booing the soldier or the policy.”

“I don’t know what they were booing,” he said. “If you can go out and find the people who were booing and find out if they were booing because a man was gay or because of a policy they don’t agree with.”

“You find out why they booed, and I’ll respond to your question,” he added.

Today, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said he was embarrassed by the episode:

“That’s not the Republican Party that I belong to,” said Johnson. “I’m embarrassed by someone who serves in the military and can’t express their sexuality. I am representing the Republican Party that is tolerant. And to me that shows an intolerance that I’m not a part of in any way whatsoever. ”

Johnson added that he could hear the boos from the stage and believes that the other candidates – despite Santorum’s denial – could as well.

That’s a second candidate who admitted he could hear the boos from the stage. Yet none of the nine candidates spoke up against the demonstrated disrepsect of an active-duty soldier stationed in Iraq, and none of them engaged in the time-honored Republican tradition of shoving each other out of the way in the race to thank that soldier for his service to the country.

And for six of those candidates, that silence continues through day three. Pizzaman Herman Cain refused to comment saying he didn’t want his comments “taken out of context.” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s spokesperson refused to comment, as did the campaigns for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

This Is What DADT’s Repeal Looks Like In Military Regulations

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2011

DADT repeal: The real deal (click to download)

Whenever a change is made to official Defense Department regulations, a version of the new regulations goes out highlighting the changes being incorporated via strike-outs and color-coded additions. They do this so that changes to regulations are clearly communicated and cannot be overlooked. And so on September 20, 2011, on the day in which “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was officially repealed, a new DoD Instruction 1332.14 on Enlisted Administrative Separation went out incorporating “Change 2.” That change officially struck out “Homosexual Conduct” as a reason for separation from the military, and it struck out the entire section titled, “Guidelines for Fact-Finding Inquiries Into Homosexual Conduct.” You can download the entire regulation here (PDF: 376 KB/60 pages). Go ahead and do it. This document, with its sea of red strikeouts on pages 17-22 and 38-41, represents the historic end to the last legally mandated governmental witch hunt against gays and lesbians.

Santorum Finally Gets Around to Condemning the Booing of an American Soldier, But He Totally Has A Good Excuse For Not Speaking Up Sooner

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2011

An entire news cycle has passed since the American people witnessed the spectacle of nine GOP presidential candidates remaining silent while audience members booed an American soldier during last night’s debate. Instead of speaking up against the outburst or even thanking Stephen Hill, who is currently stationed in Iraq, for his service, they stood in stone silence while Sen. Rick Santorum railed against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as “playing social experimentation with our military.” Their silence was all the more remarkable considering their willingness to interrupt each other on other topics throughout the debate.

After nearly a full day of mounting criticisms from the left, the right, and everywhere in between, Santorum finally got around to condemning the booing and, very belatedly, to thank him for his service. But only after he was asked directly about it. Furthermore, there was no hint of an apology for last night’s debacle:

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Megyn Kelly: Now online this is getting a lot of attention, this video question from a gay soldier. I want to ask you not so much about your answer because you and I did that back and forth last night, but I want to ask you about people are now criticizing the audience last night for their reaction when they heard this video question. Let’s play just the video question:

Stephen Hill: … Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I’m a gay soldier and I didn’t want to lose my job. My question is, under one of your presidencies do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military? [Scattered booing]

Kelly: So there were a couple of boos in the audience. I mean there were five thousand people there. And now some people are criticizing you for not responding to it and Republicans for, you know, booing a gay soldier. Your response?

Santorum: Yeah. Well, I condemn the people who booed that gay soldier. That soldier is serving our country. I thank him for his service to our country. I’m sure he’s doing an excellent job. I hope he’s safe and I hope he returns safely and does his mission well. I have to admit, I seriously did not hear those boos. Had I heard them, I certainly would have commented on them, but, as you know, when you’re in that sort of environment, you’re sort of focused on the question and formulating your answer. I just didn’t hear those couple of boos that were out there, but certainly had I, I would have said that that was… I would have said don’t do that. This man is serving our country and we are to thank him for his service.”

I find his excuse that he didn’t hear the boos incredulous. The videotape shows the loudest booing clearly reverberating throughout the hall. It’s also telling that he was more focused on condemning gay people because of all of the sex, sex, and more frothy sex, that he imagines them having all the time in the barracks, in the showers, and on the parade grounds — and you know how much gay people love a good parade — than he was in undertaking the simple decency of thanking the soldier for his service.

Former Utah Gov. John Hunstman called the booing “unfortunate” last night following the debate, adding, “You know, we’re all Americans, and the fact that he is an American who put on the uniform says something good about him.” It would have been good if he had the courage to say that while still on the dais with the cameras rolling. Meanwhile, seven other GOP presidential candidates have continued their radio silence, both on the booing and their own neglect for thanking an American soldier.

Mark this day as a historic first: for the first time in the history of the Republic, not a single Republican freedom-loving, flag-saluting, allegiance-pledging, birth-certificate-waving patriotic presidential candidate tried to step over everyone else to be the first to thank an American soldier for his service to the country.

Orthodox Priest Says Post-DADT Military Entered “New Dark Age”

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2011

Orthodox priest Alexander F.C. Webster, a retired Army Reserve chaplain, wrote this op-ed in Stars and Stripes::

On Sept. 20, 2011, a date that will live in infamy, the U.S. armed forces were deliberately and successfully attacked by advocates of the scourge of homosexuality. The elimination of the last vestige of moral restraint on sexual perversion in the U.S. military, commonly known as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, ushers in a new Orwellian era in which the military leadership of our nation will proclaim the unnatural as natural, the unhealthy as healthy and the immoral as moral.

…As an Orthodox priest who still loves all of the troops I served as a chaplain for a quarter of a century, I pray that God the Holy Trinity will preserve and protect the U.S. armed forces — especially in this new Dark Age.

Anti-gay activists, still classy and keeping their heads about them…

Santorum Doubles Down on DADT, With No Apology Or Thanks To American Soldier

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum followed up his criticism last night of gays serving openly in the military. In last night’s GOP presidential debate, in which an American soldier currently stationed in Iraq was booed by members of the audience, Santorum called the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” an exercise in “social experimentation.” Today, he appeared on Fox News’  morning program Fox and Friends, in which he falsely claimed that other nations’ militaries which allow gay people to serve openly are mostly non-volunteer forces.

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Q: I don’t know if he had the same idea with you about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I do know that you disagree with President Obama, which by the way got rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” just a couple of days ago. Let’s listen to what you said last night:

Santorum, during the debate: …Any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military and the fact that they are making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege in removing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”  I think tries to inject social policy into the military and the military’s job is to do one thing and that is to defend our country. [Applause] … What we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now, and that’s tragic. …

Q: So you would go back to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if you become President?

Santorum: Absolutely. We haven’t even begun to see what the consequences of going to ‘DADT’ are going to be. The men and women who sign up for the military are now going to be placed in very difficult and uncomfortable personal situations, in very close quarter situations. Look, this is a volunteer military. In the other militaries where this has been tried by and large, have not been voluntary militaries. You’ve been required to serve. This is not, and so we’ve got to recruit people who would want to do this and now you’re going to put them in a very odd and uncomfortable environment. A lot of people, I believe are going to leave. I think a lot of folks aren’t going to join who otherwise would have joined, and that’s going to hurt our ratings, it’s going to hurt our ability to defend this country, and we shouldn’t be playing social experimentation. As I said last night, there is no role for playing sexual experimentation games in the United States military. This is about securing our country.

In fact, most of the militaries around the world which allow gays to serve openly are all volunteer forces, including Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.

No mention was made about the booing of an active-duty American soldier by the debate audience. It is also the only time I can recall when an active-duty American servicemember appeared in a GOP debate who was not thanked for his service to our country. Andrew Sullivan reacts:

But somehow the fact that these indignities were heaped on a man risking his life to serve this country, a man ballsy enough to make that video, a man in the uniform of the United States … well, it tells me a couple of things. It tells me that these Republicans don’t actually deep down care for the troops, if that means gay troops. Their constant posturing military patriotism has its limits.

The shocking silence on the stage – the fact that no one challenged this outrage – also tells me that this kind of slur is not regarded as a big deal. When it came to it, even Santorum couldn’t sanction firing all those servicemembers who are now proudly out. But that’s because he was forced to focus not on his own Thomist abstractions, but on an actual person. Throughout Republican debates, gays are discussed as if we are never in the audience, never actually part of the society, never fully part of families, never worthy of even a scintilla of respect. When you boo a servicemember solely because he’s gay, you are saying he is beneath contempt, that nothing he does or has done can counterweigh the vileness of his sexual orientation.

Can you even begin to imagine the hissy fit we would be hearing right now if any American active-duty soldier currently stationed in Iraq had been booed at a Democratic debate?

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