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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“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 November, 2013

US Senate Passes ENDA

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2013

In a landmark 64-32 bipartisan vote, U.S. Senate gave its approval to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Fifty-four Democrats were joined by ten Republicans to support the measure: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME, cosponsor), Jeff Flake (AZ), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL, cosponsor), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA). Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) was absent due to family reasons.

ENDA now includes a significantly broad set of religious exemptions. As The New York Times pointed out in its criticism of the bill last weekend:

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act, however, has a significant flaw — a terribly broad religious exemption. The exemption would extend beyond churches and other houses of worship to any religiously affiliated institution, like hospitals and universities, and would allow those institutions to discriminate against people in jobs with no religious function, like billing clerks, cafeteria workers and medical personnel.

The exemption — which was inserted to appease some opponents who say the act threatens religious freedom — is a departure from the approach of earlier civil rights laws. And though the law would protect millions of workers from bias, the exemption would give a stamp of legitimacy to the very sort of discrimination the act is meant to end.

The Times said that “Any attempt to further enlarge the exemption should be rejected,” but an amendment yesterday offered by Sens. Portman and Ayotte (with McCain co-sponsoring) did just that. Their amendment reads:

A religious employer’s exemption under this Act shall not result in any action by a Federal government agency, or any state or local government agency that receives Federal funding or financial assistance, to penalize or withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation, contracts, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or any benefits or exemptions from that employer, or to prohibit the employer’s participation in programs or activities sponsored by that Federal, state, or local government agency. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer exempt under this section.”

That amendment was approved yesterday. Today, the Senate rejected another amendment by Sen. Tooley that would have expanded the scope of employers exempted from the Act.

The bill now goes to the House, where House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has already said that he opposes the law, making it unlikely that he will bring it to a vote. Many observers believe that if it did come to a vote, there would be enough bipartisan support to ensure its passage.

McCain criticizes Putin

Timothy Kincaid

September 19th, 2013

Today Sen John McCain took advantage of the offer to write a letter in Pravda to the Russian people in response to Putin’s LA Times opinion piece. He was harshly critical of the Russian leadership accusing Putin and his administration of corruption and oppression. He had examples: (Pravda)

They write laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn. They throw the members of a punk rock band in jail for the crime of being provocative and vulgar and for having the audacity to protest Putin’s rule.

Boehner, McCain Say They’ll Never Support Marriage Equality

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2013

Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that, unlike Sen. Rob Portman(R-OH), who announced that he now supports marriage equality after his son came out to him as gay, Boehner said that he “can’t imagine” ever changing his opposition to same-sex marriage:

I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Boehner said on ABC News’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “It’s — it’s what I grew up with. It’s what I believe. It’s what my church teaches me. And — I can’t imagine that position would ever change.”

…“Listen, Rob’s a great friend and a long-time ally.  And — I appreciate that he’s decided to change — his views on this.  But I believe that marriage is a union of — of a man and a woman, said Boehner.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also spoke on the issue. McCain had opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, but only because he believed that it would have infringed on states’ rights. He voiced support for California’s Prop 8 and Arizona’s Prop 102 in 2008 as he ran for President. On Friday, McCain told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he wouldn’t be changing his mind on marriage equality anytime soon:

“I respect anyone else’s decision and we all learn in life and grow and mature. I have changed my position on other issues in my life, but on this one, I had not contemplated changing my position,” he said.

So that brings me to this point: For the life of me, I will never understand, not in a million years, the hectoring and anger from some in the gay community that greeted Portman’s change of position. Look, I’m as dyed-blue big-D Democrat as they come. If I were an Ohio resident, I’d never vote for the man, donate to his campaign, or encourage anyone else to vote for him. I wouldn’t rush out to throw him a parade, but if the Columbus Pride organizing committee wants to make him Grand Marshal, I wouldn’t object.

But that said, any time someone — anyone — who once opposed marriage quality and changes his position, that’s one person less  working against us. You’d think the implications of that would be obvious, but since it apparently isn’t I’ll spell it out. All of the legislative and electoral gains have come about because people who actively opposed us stopped doing that, and some of them now support us. Look at Maine: In 2009, voters there shot down marriage quality 53% to 47%. In three short years, six percent of Maine’s voters pulled a Portman; they switched form opposing marriage equality to supporting it, and voters approved it by the same 53% to 47% margin that they voted it down three years before.

Was Portman “selfish” for supporting same-sex marriage only after his son came out to him? Maybe. Probably. But more importantly, who the hell care? Should we poll Maine’s electorate and throw out the “selfish” votes there also? Of course not, because in politics a win is a win. And we win every time someone changes from opposing us to supporting us. Or even, as a half measure, goes from opposing us to not opposing us — that’s a half-win in my book. Portman is now one more vote in a nascent movement to repeal DOMA in Congress if the Supreme Court fails to strike down Section 3. (And besides, there’s also Section 2 that remains unchallenged so far.) Portman may also be an important voice should equality advocates in Ohio launch a ballot challenge to that state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, a move that is likely to occur, I think, sometime in the next five years.

Each move on the issue is important. But for those who want to complain and kvetch about Portman’s change, I guess they can always take comfort in knowing that McCain and Boehner won’t let them down.

LCR: Keep DADT Appeal Alive

Jim Burroway

January 11th, 2011

Even though “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s” repeal has been signed into law, the Log Cabin Republicans have filed a brief with the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals asking the court to continue considering whether a lower court judge was right to strike down the ban. Pointless, you say?

“Despite what the government has led the American people to believe, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has not been repealed and will likely remain the law of the land until the end of 2011,” said Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans in Log Cabin Republicans vs United States of America.  “In the meantime, openly gay individuals are not free to enlist in our armed forces, current service members must continue to live a lie, and the government continues to investigate and discharge service members.  What’s more, the government is trying to delay the briefing and argument on its appeal from the judgment and injunction obtained by Log Cabin Republicans.  The government asked us to agree to the delay and we were willing to do so on one condition: that the government halt all pending investigations and discharges during the period of delay.  The government refused, and its attorneys said that investigations and discharges will continue.”

The actual repeal won’t occur until sixty days after the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify to Congress that everything is in place: all the training, policies changes, changes to the military code of conduct, and so forth. This is expected to take several months. If there is any good news there, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was the most hard-over opponent of DADT’s repeal, now says that he’s ready to “make it work.”

McCain Joins FRC Against DADT Repeal – The Politics of Slander Are Now His Values

Jim Burroway

December 21st, 2010

In 2000, back when Sen. John McCain was still a voice of reason and conscience for the Republican Party, he famously attacked the “self-appointed leaders” of the religious right, saying “the politics of division and slander are not our values.” But things change over the course of a decade. The Family “Research” Council, whose mastery of division and slander have landed them on the SPLC’s very short list of anti-gay hate groups, has announced that McCain will be working with them to figure out how to roll back repeal of DADT.

I’ve [Tony Perkins] already been in conversations with Hill leaders about holding hearings in the New Year, as well as statutory and legislative oversight steps that can be taken to turn back aspects of the repeal and slow down–if not stop–the rest. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others will be working with FRC to put a strict evaluation process in place. We want to ensure that the Pentagon is monitoring the effect of this radical change on the men and women in harm’s way. One way to do that is demanding specific measurables–like tracking the sexual assaults, dips in recruitment and retention, combat distractions, and more.

In other words, FRC will be up to their usual dirty tricks with fake statistics, and Sen. McCain will be all too happy to support them. That’s a far cry from 2000, when McCain traveled to Virginia Beach — Pat Robertson’s back yard — to denounce the very same thing that FRC has turned into an art form:

I recognize and celebrate that our country is founded upon Judeo- Christian values, and I have pledged my life to defend America and all her values, the values that have made us the noblest experiment in history. But public — but political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value.

The political tactics of division and slander are not our values. They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country.

Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.

McCain’s stirring call to decency came about after he had been attacked in a vicious smear campaign orchestrated by the religious right during the South Carolina primaries. When he was the victim of those attacks, he mustered righteous indignation and refused to take those attacks quietly. But now that those attacks are against gay people, well…

Sen. McCain Ain’t No Goldwater

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2010

McCain’s tantrum in response to his failed filibuster reminds me of a cartoon that appeared in the Tucson paper a few weeks ago. The Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons really nails it:

For added context, McCain holds Goldwater’s Senate seat, having replaced him in 1987 following Goldwater’s retirement.

McCain shifts support from military leadership

Timothy Kincaid

November 28th, 2010

Remember when Sen. John McCain was the champion of military leadership, when the Defense Secretary of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of most any administration knew they had a friend in the Senate?

Well, until Mullen and Gates wanted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Then McCain stood for the Service Chiefs, seeking to protect their concerns from the politics of Washington.

Well now that it seems that at least a few of the Service Chiefs will be content with the Survey, McCain has found someone new to defend.

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Now I have great respect for the Secretary of Defense and I have great respect for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I have great respect for the Service Chiefs and I have great respect for the men and women who are serving, particularly the sergeants and chief petty officers, who are the ones who make the military work.

Once John McCain was seen as a defender in Congress of those who fight to defend us on the battlefield. He held disdain for those who claimed to “support our troops, but not the military leaders” and who sought to second guess the goals and plans of the Pentagon.

And his support for DADT was, in that context, consistent. His opposition to open service was a deference to military leadership and was presented as patriotic.

But as more and more in the military family are coming to see this policy as unnecessarily exclusionary and cruel, McCain is finding fewer and fewer soldiers to defend. And before it’s over – likely before the year is out – McCain will find himself, for the first time in his political career, as the enemy of the Military, seeking to oppose the plans and goals of the military leadership.

DADT update: McCain looking more extreme

Timothy Kincaid

November 23rd, 2010

Most of the recent news about the potential repeal of the Military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy surrounds the report on the Military’s survey of troops and families. And it is not looking good for DADT’s chief defender, Sen. John McCain.

McCain continues to trumpet his latest objection to repeal, his assertion that the report didn’t ask the right questions. In fact, it now appears that McCain has been in correspondence with the Pentagon over this issue for some time. In April he objected that the survey was studying whether the repeal would have impact on the troops and how best to go about it rather than whether the ban should be lifted. In September, he tried again, this time writing to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on Armed Services Committee stationery, making suggestions as to the extent and content of the survey:

I urge you and Admiral Mullen to modify the review and survey instrument, or to conduct supplemental surveys, aimed at ensuring that the question of whether the DADT policy should be changed is answered.

It is essential – and I think it’s clear that the Service Chiefs strongly agree with this point – that the survey provide the input needed to inform the Department and Congress on the views and recommendations of those most effected by this change, the men and women in uniform.

Gates’ response rejected McCain’s suggestion and politely reminded him that the Military is not structured as a democracy:

It is not part of the working group’s mandate to ask Servicemembers the broad question of whether they think DADT should be repealed, which, in effect, would amount to a referendum. I do not believe that military policy decisions — on this or any other subject — should be made through a referendum of Servicemembers.

As his letter suggests, the Curmudgeon in Chief is relying on the “strong agreement” of the Service Chiefs to provide a basis for his public opposition of open service. Last week he told reporters, “I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal.”

McCain seems to be relying on letters he solicited and received in May from the individual Chiefs and which he interpreted to be an endorsement of the anti-gay policy. But he really should have read them more closely before waving them on the floor of the Senate and touting them as agreeing with him.

Because, as it turns out, the Service Chiefs had reviewed the questions and, according to Gates, “fully support the approach and efforts of the working group.” As some of them have expressed in the past few days.

Over the weekend, Navy Chief Adm. Gary Roughead, who had written that “the best approach would be to complete the DOD review before there is any legislation to change the law” now seems pleased with the review. (National Journal)

“I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that’s ever been undertaken,” Roughead said during an interview Saturday aboard his plane. “I think the work that has been done is extraordinary.”

This morning Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz echoed the praise (The Hill)

“The study was a good process; it was healthy; it is informative,” Schwartz told reporters at a breakfast meeting. The Air Force chief declined to offer any specifics, stressing his commitment to keep his recommendations to the Pentagon leadership confidential for now.

The sole negative comment appears to be that of Marine Chief Gen. James Amos, who said earlier in the month that now was not the right time to lift the ban. While this comment was made before the draft or the report was leaked and the Service Chiefs’ comments were incorporated, Amos may be McCain’s only ally in his quest to keep institutionalized discrimination in the Military.

Or, should Amos support the conclusions of the report, McCain may be standing alone, supported only by religious zealots and obvious bigots.

Secretary Gates has also taken the step of making at least a token effort to respond to Senators Lieberman and Collins’ request to expedite the release of the report. (WaPo)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered the report to be released Nov. 30, one day earlier than planned, “to support Congress’s wish to consider repeal before they adjourn,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Sunday.

However, we should be cautious not to be overly optimistic about the report. The recommendations, while based on survey responses which are leaked to be positive, may well be far less than we hope for. I very much doubt that this report will call for an immediate repeal of the ban.

Rather, I suspect that it will suggest a phase-in of repeal, perhaps emphasizing certain branches of service enacting open service earlier than others. I also suspect that it will involve the transfer of openly gay servicemembers from certain forms of service to other forms, rather than discharge.

Whatever the recommendations, they are likely to be disappointing. Which, ironically, may make them more palatable to legislators on the fence.

Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republicans continues its court-based assault on the policy. (Merc)

On Friday, Log Cabin Republicans filed a motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited schedule. It would put the case on track for oral arguments in April.

In response to LCR’s court win declaring DADT to be unconstitutional, the Military implemented new rules requiring that no person could be discharged under DADT without ”personal approval of the secretary of the military department concerned, and only in coordination with [Secretary Gates] and the General Counsel of the Department of Defense.”

Unsurprisingly, this has proved to be a virtual moratorium on the application of the policy (WaPo)

No U.S. service members have been discharged for being openly gay in the month since the Defense Department adopted new rules surrounding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday.

Increasingly, it looks evident that this policy will soon be gone. And increasingly it looks as though Senator John McCain, after a long contribution to his country, will be most remembered as a man who, in the waning years of his service, frittered away his influence by cantankerously clinging to prejudices and fighting against the coming of a world that was already there.

DADT updates

Timothy Kincaid

November 18th, 2010

It is difficult to determine exactly how the effort to repeal DADT will shake out in the “lame duck” session. There is a great deal of discussion, news, and movement, and at the moment most seems promising.

The President has finally gotten personally involved (Politico)

Wednesday, Obama – who advocates criticized for not doing enough to influence the Senate vote – called Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to “reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Wednesday afternoon.

And senior White House staff are involved with strategy

On Wednesday evening, several high-ranking administration officials and top members of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s staff met with gay rights advocates to review plans to bring the National Defense Authorization Act – an annual, must-pass military spending bill which contains language repealing the ban on gays in the military – to a vote in the coming weeks.

Republican Senator Collins and Independent-Democrat Senator Lieberman (the President’s point-person on the repeal) have written to the Secretary of Defense calling for the report on the Military survey to be issued in advance of the December 1 deadline so as to “alleviate some concerns” that Senators may have with repealing the policy.

Collins, who supported the repeal in committee and is committed to repeal, joined other Republicans and two Democrats earlier in the year to block a vote on the total Defense Authorization bill due to Sen. Reid’s unusual tactic of denying the ability of Republicans to introduce amendments to the bill. Support for allowing the usual debate has picked up support within the Democratic Caucus and so is less likely to be a sticking point. (Journal Constitution)

A dozen Democrats and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, urged Reid Thursday to allow an extended debate on the wide-ranging defense authorization bill, which includes language repealing the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Lieberman said the Senate’s desire to adjourn before the holidays was no reason to curtail debate and give Republicans an excuse to oppose the bill. Last September, GOP senators blocked the bill because Reid wouldn’t allow the two weeks of debate they said was needed to address such major legislation.

And it appears that if Reid honors that process, at least two Senators will break any filibuster attempt by Senator McCain. (Stars and Stripes)

On Thursday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., told reporters that he believes at least two Republicans will side with repeal advocates when the issue is brought back up for a vote — but with conditions.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Dick Lugar of Indiana have pledged to him in private that they’ll vote to allow debate to continue on the defense authorization bill, which includes the repeal measure, “so long as there is a fair and open amendment process,” he said.

Also, as a possibility, is newly elected Senator Kirk, who is seated immediately to finish out the term of Senator Burris. While Kirk voted against including the DADT repeal in the Defense Authorization bill while a member of the House, he was one of five Republicans to vote for the bill with the repeal included. And Kirk’s stated reason for not including the repeal was that it did preceded the findings of the study, an objection that will no longer be true for this vote.

And few, if any, Senators have joined Senator McCain’s effort to discredit the report. Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and was the sole Democrat to vote in committee against lifting the ban on open service, gave the report high praise (wonk room)

I can’t, again having spent five years in the Pentagon. I can’t remember a study on this type of issue that has been done with this sort of care. Not even having seen it or knowing the results, but I know the preparation that went into it. So it’s going to be a very important study for us to look at and examine.

The only down side may be that the final report will include the reaction and response of the four chiefs of the military divisions. If they are universally opposed to repeal, McCain will seek to use their opposition as a basis for keeping the policy. However, if even one or two are supportive of the plan for implementation of the repeal, this could go a long way towards providing cover for Senators on the fence.

Another odd selling point could be that repealing the ban could resolve tensions between the government and educational institutions. The president of Harvard, which has banned ROTC since 1969, has invited the military to reestablish a presence on the campus once DADT is gone. (Reuters)

“A ROTC program, open to all, ought to be fully and formally present on our campus,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. She made the comment to welcome an evening speech by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer.

Faust drew applause from the audience of several hundred for the offer to restore the university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

So although it is still tentative and a lot could still go wrong, for the first time in a long while, I think that there is a better than decent chance that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed before the end of the year.

UPDATE: Wonk Room is reporting that Republican Senators Murkowski intends to vote for repeal. The Washington Blade has also added Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) to the list of those in favor of repeal; his previous objection was to the timing of a vote before the survey was complete.

McCain calls for new study of DADT

Timothy Kincaid

November 15th, 2010

John McCain is clearly not pleased that the Military study of DADT will not confirm his presumptions. So he’s calling for a new study, one that would delay repeal and ask the questions he thinks would support his recalcitrance on the issue. (meet the press)

MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me talk to you about another military matter back home and a priority for this administration ; that’s whether the ban on gays and lesbians in the military is going to be rescinded.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: Are you going to stand in the way, you personally, in the way of this ban being lifted?

SEN. McCAIN: I will stand that I want a thorough and complete study of the effect on morale and battle effectiveness of the United States military . I will listen, as I’ve said for years, to our military leaders and not a, not a study that is leaked — as we know this town’s pretty good at that.

MR. GREGORY: That said, seven in 10 members of the military think it would be just fine to have it lifted.

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah. You and I have not seen that study . And this study was directed at how to implement the repeal , not whether the repeal should take place or not. But, very importantly, we have people like the commandant of the Marine Corps , the three other — all four service chiefs are saying we need a thorough and complete study of the effects — not how to implement a repeal , but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness. That’s what I want. And once we get this study , we need to have hearings, and we need to examine it, and we need to look at whether it’s the kind of study that we wanted. It isn’t, in my view, because I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale. What this study is, is designed to do is, is to find out how the repeal could be implemented. Those are two very different aspects of this issue.

MR. GREGORY: In a lot of households, this is a subject of debate, including your own, apparently.

SEN. McCAIN: That’s right .

MR. GREGORY: Your wife, Cindy McCain , has, has cut an ad, a public service announcement with NOH8 , a group that promotes gay, lesbian, transgender rights . And this is a portion of it. Let me, let me play it.

MS. CINDY McCAIN: Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future.

MR. DAVE NAVARRO: They can’t get married.

MR. STEPH JONES: They can’t donate blood.

MS. McCAIN: They can’t serve our country openly.

MR. GREGORY: Referring to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” She did clarify this on her Twitter page. I- -you’re both so active on Twitter . She said this. She said, “I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on ‘don’t ask, don’t’ tell.’”

SEN. McCAIN: Which is a complete and thorough study and review of the effect on battle readiness and…

MR. GREGORY: OK.

SEN. McCAIN: …and morale. And by the way, I respect the First Amendment rights of every member of my family.

MR. GREGORY: But, but, you know, what’s interesting about this, I mean, a debate in families, is…

SEN. McCAIN: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: …there is kind of — you, you talk about waiting for the — there is an appeal to honor, I mean to your honor. You had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying, “Look, it’s just not right to have, to have people lying about who they are just to be able to protect fellow citizens.” It has been an appeal…

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah. And you have the, you have the commandant of the Marine Corps who says…

MR. GREGORY: Right.

SEN. McCAIN: …whose, whose people he’s directly responsible for, is saying this could hurt our ability to win. This, this is about…

MR. GREGORY: Do you believe that?

SEN. McCAIN: This is about…

MR. GREGORY: I mean, you say you wait for the study . What do you believe?

SEN. McCAIN: I’m paying attention to the commandant of the Marine Corps .

MR. GREGORY: Right.

SEN. McCAIN: I’m paying attention to the chief of staff of the Air Force , the Army and…

MR. GREGORY: But you’re so close to the military , Senator . You know these people. You know the issue. I mean, do you have a sense of it in your gut about what should happen?

SEN. McCAIN: I, I have a sense that I respect and admire these four service chiefs who have expressed either outright opposition or deep reservation about the repeal . They’re the ones who are in charge. Now, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , I agree , the president and the secretary of Defense have all come out for repeal . But I really would — I was in, I was in an outpost near Kandahar . Army master sergeant, 19 years in, fifth deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan , says to me, ” Senator McCain , we live, eat, sleep, and fight together in close proximity. I’m concerned about the repeal . I’d like to know more about it.” That’s, that’s the view that I got from chief petty officers and sergeants all over Afghanistan .

MR. GREGORY: The ban’s not going to be lifted in the lame duck session , is that fair to say?

SEN. McCAIN: I think that we should at least — I, I don’t think it should be, because I think once this study comes out in the beginning of December, we should at least have a chance to review it and maybe have hearings on it.

McCain is sounding less credible with each passing day. “I don’t care ’bout no reports. I was talking to some guy in Kandahar…”

He hears what he wants to hear and believes what he wants to believe and no studies, facts, logic or principles are going to change him.

The divided McCains

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2010

SEE UPDATE BELOW

Since his failed campaign for the White House, John McCain has taken on a new role: curmudgeon in chief. As the voice of the partisan angry conservative wing of the Republican Party – an position that does not align well with his legislative history – McCain has spoken loudest in his grumblings against gay rights.

So it is confusing for many in the gay community that McCain’s wife Cindy and his daughter Meghan have increasing become a pro-gay advocates. Both lent their images to the NOH8 campaign in support of marriage equality and Meghan’s speaking engagements and book tour have left no doubt of her support.

Meghan’s pro-gay positions are probably properly seen in the context of young Republicans who may advocate for fiscal restraint but share many social values of their generation. And, indeed, there is a long tradition of the children of politicians speaking in opposition to the positions of their parents. When Ronald Reagan was in office, his daughter Nancy Davis was a very vocal critic of his policies.

But Cindy McCain is more difficult to explain. While spouses of presidents and party leaders do take up issue, they usually are in areas of social benefit or public good. It is virtually unheard-of for the spouse of someone as prominent as John McCain to take up advocacy for a controversial issue, and I know of no instance in which the issue has been in direct confrontation with one of their husband.

Yet, while John McCain is threatening to filibuster the Defense Appropriations Bill so as to ensure that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is not repealed before the report can be analyzed (if then), Cindy McCain participated in the following message:

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Yes, the message is one in opposition to bullying, but the words spoken by Cindy cannot be ignored:

“Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future… they can’t serve our country openly… our government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens, why shouldn’t [bullies]?”

It is difficult to fathom the motivation for two spouses to very publicly and strongly take opposing positions on this issue. And considering that Cindy McCain is not known for her political advocacy on other issues, this makes the situation even more peculiar.

As this is Cindy’s second go round at this, I am beginning to think that my speculations at the time of her NOH8 appearance are confirmed. This is not a naive move on Cindy’s part. Nor do I think it is an indication of some strife in the McCain household.

Rather, I am becoming convinced that this is a deliberate action taken with the full knowledge – and perhaps even approval – of her husband and other party leaders.

Republican Party leadership may be hostile gays, willing to capitalize on animus, and hesitant to change, but they are not fools. And they know that the future holds very dim prospects for a party defined by its opposition to gay rights. It takes very little calculus to look at the polls of of younger voters and know that a day will come when even rural Alabama won’t vote for an anti-gay politician.

What I suspect is that the Republican Party – if not actually encouraging Mrs. McCain to take a public stance in opposition to that of her husband – welcomes the message that her participation sends. By refusing to criticize Cindy (and I’ve found no outrage from the leadership) they implicitly give permission for Republicans to support gay rights. And when taken with Laura Bush’s after-the-fact support for marriage equality, it might even be construed that support for gay equality is sort of “the Republican woman’s position”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that a vote for a Republican politician is a vote for equality. In most cases it would be quite the opposite. And I may, of course, be reading far too much into Cindy McCain’s appearance in the anti-bullying ad.

But there is much encouragement to be found in the fact that the wife of the chief opponent to repealing DADT is advocating for its repeal and that no one finds this to be a shocking betrayal. At the very least, it says that the visceral hatred that our community once felt from a united Republican Party has to some extent dissipated and that the partisan divide on our issues may be beginning to fall.

AND ALSO

We should keep in mind that Cindy McCain has not developed her views in a vacuum. She has two sons currently serving in the Military.

UPDATE

It’s never pleasant to discover that one is mistaken, but it’s even less pleasant when it means that a hoped for step may not be a step at all.

Cindy McCain has now corrected the impression that she thinks that politicians such as her husband are telling gay kids that they have no future when they deny them the ability to serve their country openly. (NY Daily News)

But on Friday night, she appeared to have a change of heart – at least on Twitter.

“I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT,” she tweeted.

I’m not exactly sure what is supposed to be meant by this conflicting message. I suppose the best we could say is that perhaps she thinks his “stance on DADT” is to wait for the report before moving forward.

But, whatever it is that she means, I am somewhat still encouraged that she has indicated support for “the NOH8 campaign”. This does still give Republicans permission to “fully support” at least some aspects of our community’s quest for equality (and, let’s be pragmatic, any support is better than none).

But I am also disappointed by her backtracking. A rather powerful impact has now been diminished.

McCain: “Absolutely I will Filibuster DADT Repeal”

Jim Burroway

October 18th, 2010

John McCain appeared on a local Phoenix Sunday morning talk show in which he accused President Barack Obama of asking for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” because he “made this decision because of a political promise to the gay and lesbian community.” This is despite the fact that polls put the public support for DADT’s repeal at about 75%. McCain added, “Absolutely I will filibuster or stop it from being brought up until we have a thorough and complete study on the effect of morale and battle effectiveness.”

“I Don’t Care What You Say”: The McCain Remix

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2010

You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

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[Via Pam Spaulding]

McCain: “They Do Not! They Do Not! They Do Not Go After Whether Someone Is Gay Or Not!”

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2010

Either Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is delusional or forgetful in his old age, but just after today’s vote that upheld McCain’s filibuster against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”  the old gripester insisted that the Defense Department does not “go after” gay people to discharge them under the current law:

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He then ended the press conference by shouting “Get off my lawn!” and refusing to hand over the volleyball that went over his back fence.

McCain must have forgotten testimony that he heard not so long ago:

In fact, as [Major Mike] Almy explained in testimoney before McCain’s own committee (Senate Armed Services): “In Iraq, during the height of the insurgency, someone in the Air Force ordered a search of my private emails solely to determine if I had violated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and to gather whatever evidence could be used against me.” “I was relieved of my duties, leading nearly 200 Airmen, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated. Even as my commander was relieving me of my duties, he assured me this was in no way a reflection of my performance or my abilities as an officer,” Almy testified.

Click here to read the transcript of Sen. McCain’s tirade

McCain softens on DADT

Timothy Kincaid

September 17th, 2010

The Washington Blade is noting that John McCain’s objections to the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill seem to have shifted.

The Arizona senator said Reid’s plans to attach to the legislation the DREAM Act, an immigration-related bill, and a measure addressing the “secret holds” U.S. senators can place on presidential nominations aren’t appropriate for defense legislation.

McCain also lamented how a hate crimes protections measure was attached last year to Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization Act.

“Under this majority leader, we have witnessed the unfortunate and growing politicization of the national defense authorization act,” McCain said. “Time to offer and debate important, defense-related amendments to this bill on the floor is being limited or cut off, so that the majority leader can push through highly political legislation that has little or nothing to do with national defense — legislation that would never be referred to the [Senate] Armed Services Committee if it were introduced independently.”

Although this is hardly a new tactic (and one Republicans have employed before) I am sympathetic towards the complaint that the provisions to bills should be cohesive and related to each other.

They further note that McCain seems to be softening his stance on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

McCain also expressed discontent with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language in the bill, but had a notable change in rhetoric from what he’s said previously on the provision.

The senator acknowledged the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” provision has relevance to the U.S. armed forces. McCain also said he has no position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal at this time, but wants to wait for the Pentagon working group to complete its study on the issue on Dec. 1.

“I want to make one thing very clear: I do not oppose or support the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ at this time, but I do oppose taking legislative action prior to the completion of a real and thorough review of the law,” McCain said. “A complete survey to evaluate the impact of repeal on the men and women serving in our military should be concluded before moving forward.”

Now that he is no longer facing a primary challenge from the right, it is not particularly surprising to see McCain’s new-found hardcore social conservatism start to melt a bit. While I’m glad that he’s backing off a bit (which may well result in the bill’s passage with the repeal intact), it truly is sad to see a once-principled statesman reveal himself to be a cynical politician in his waning years.

Where is the outcry?

Timothy Kincaid

September 11th, 2010

After Judge Victoria Phillips found the Military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to be in violation of the First and Fifth amendments of the US Constitution, the usual wacktivists shouted their indignation. But other than the wackadoodle fringe, no one seemed to be either surprised or upset by the decision.

We are in the middle of a sprint to elections and I’ve not yet heard a single politician seeking to make an issue over the end of DADT. No indignant speeches from Senators demanding that the will of the people be upheld. Not even the cantankerous military chiefs are grumbling. Nothing at all.

Which – more than any announcements by the President or congressional leadership – tells us that this policy is dead. Over.

And if there is any doubt, consider the most telling (and amusing) line from a Washington Post article:

McCain’s office did not return requests for comment.

McCain Begins to Flip On Federal Marriage Amendmet

Jim Burroway

August 6th, 2010

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) famously opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006 when it came to the Senate Floor, saying that “it usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them.” It’s not that McCain supported marriage equality (he supported California’s Prop 8 and Arizona’s Prop 102 in 2008), but that he saw it as a states rights issue. Now that a Federal Judge has found California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional, McCain is reconsidering his opposition to the FMA:

Asked whether he thinks backing the Federal Marriage Amendment, or a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, would be an appropriate response to the ruling, McCain said he hasn’t decided what action at this time is appropriate.

“I haven’t looked at the impact of the decision yet as far as what, if any, action needs to be taken,” he said. “I’ve been on the immigration issue, the defense authorization bill and this START treaty, so I really have not had an opportunity to talk to my people about it.”

McCain Blocks Defense Authorization Bill Over DADT

Jim Burroway

August 5th, 2010

And complains about the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act in the process.

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The threat to DADT repeal may come from Obama rather than McCain

Timothy Kincaid

June 20th, 2010

Two news reports offer an odd turn of events.

From the anti-gay uber-conservative Washington Times

No filibuster on gays

There will be no filibuster of the pending defense budget bill that contains a repeal of the military’s gay ban — at least not from Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is leading the fight to preserve the ban.

Contrary to a smattering of press reports, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is not trying to find the votes to block the bill, which may reach the floor next week. A filibuster takes 60 votes to override.

“Sen. McCain is not filibustering the bill,” his spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.

However that does not mean that the repeal will go through. From the AP

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says President Barack Obama could end up vetoing legislation that would lift the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

But Gates tells “Fox News Sunday” that Obama probably still would veto an upcoming spending bill that includes the repeal — if the bill also contains money for defense projects he says are wasteful.

If the bill is vetoed, the legislature will either override the veto or begin the process of revising the bill. It seems unlikely that there are adequate votes or political will to override the President. So political horse trading will resume.

Some legislators want to keep the spending in the bill so as to protect interests in their community. And DADT may become a bargaining chip because, let’s face it, very few legislators give our interests much priority.

“Elaine’s List” of 1,100 officers doesn’t represent today’s Military

Timothy Kincaid

March 9th, 2010

Elaine Donnelly testifying for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”Elaine Donnelly, despite her best efforts, continuously illustrates that the case for keeping openly gay servicemembers from the US Military is based on bias, animus, fear, and irrationality.

Whether she’s being laughed out of Congress for her fears or marauding gangs of lesbians, babbling ineptly opposite Dan Choi on CNN, or claiming that retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili called for the repeal of the law because he’d suffered from a stroke, Elaine can always be counted on to make a fool of herself and her cause in ways we never could.

Yet in April 2009 when she came up with her declaration that “1,100 high-ranking retired Flag and General Officers for the Military have personally signed a statement expressing support for the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible to serve in the military”, I bought it. I figured that Elaine had found a way to link into a network of conservative former military officers who were now free to state their opposition to equality. Considering that military personnel generally are more conservative politically, and considering that those now retiring might reflect somewhat older perspectives, how hard would it be to get a legitimate and relevant list?

And I’m not the only one to assume that her 1,100 officers were representative of some segment of recent members of the Military. John McCain has been waving around this list in the Senate claiming that it represents the views of those who know best. But both McCain and I should have known better. This is Elaine Donnelly, after all.

But Servicemembers United wasn’t fooled; they took a closer look. They’ve not yet gotten through the entire list, but they’ve looked at 200 officers and have issued a preliminary report telling us a bit more about “Elaine’s List.”

So who are these 1,100 Officers?
WWII Memorial
Well, to start with, some of them make John McCain look like a spring chicken. The average age of their sample was 74, with the oldest living signatory being about 99. “Living signatory” you ask? Well, yes. Because at least one of them “signed” the letter after he died and several more are no longer living.

Others have no recollection of being asked about the list, several indignantly stating that they didn’t authorize the use of their name, and some saying that they don’t support the ban on gay servicemembers.

And then there was the scoundrel problem. Some of her glorious officers left service under some not-so-glorious circumstances. While most signatories were honorable, Elaine had no problem including the fellow who gave false testimony to Congress about an anthrax vaccine, the guy who severely threatened relations with Japan, or various other men of poor judgment.

But whether or not her officers are alive, lucid, and of good character, few were qualified to offer an opinion. Most had left the military long before DADT was put in place.

These guys hail from the good ol’ days when ‘darkies’ knew their place, obedient wives met you at the door with a cocktail in hand, whores were discreet, and an open attack on a fellow soldier suspected of being gay was not only socially acceptable but a sign of your own manhood. Although Captain Jim Jefferis never made it high enough in rank to sign Elaine’s List, his postcard from the 1940′s published at Peter LaBarbera’s site gives us an idea of the mindset of a few of these good ol’ boys.

During my enlisted service, homosexuals seemed to be a clumsy lot. They had a tendency to repeatedly fall headfirst down an engineroom ladder. Some were even known to trip on deck and “fall” overboard.

Yes, no doubt. But everything I’ve heard from service men and women today is that they are too busy fighting a complicated war to decide which of their fellow soldiers they were going to murder next. If today’s American soldiers share Jefferis’ appalling lack of character, then we have bigger worries than the Taliban.

So yes, Elaine has done it again. She’s proven again to be a valuable asset to our community. Now that opponents of open service are relying so strongly on Elaine’s List, the exposure of who’s on the list may well drive the nails into DADT’s coffin.

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