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Posts for July, 2011

DADT Certification Is Done!

Jim Burroway

July 22nd, 2011

The certification letter signed by President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mullen

The military ban on gay servicemembers serving openly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will officially pass into history on September 20, 2011. President Barack Obama signed the certification stating that the U.S. military is now fully prepared to end the policy with no harm to military readiness. The certification, which is required by the repeal law passed last December, starts a sixty day clock to final repeal.

The White House released the following statement from President Obama:

Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.

As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness.  Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal.  As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.

I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.  I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition.  Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen signed the certification letter yesterday and presented it to the President this afternoon.

According to Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly:

In a news conference at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Steven A. Hummer said that the military had completed ”the necessary policies and regulations to implement repeal,” praised the work of the Repeal Implementation Team, and said, ”This thoughtful and steady approach…has laid the groundwork for a smooth and orderly transition.”

…Hummer said the military expects all training of active duty servicemembers and reserves will be completed by Aug. 15.

Hummer said that the repeal implementation Team has conducted a thorough review of regulations and policies, made the necessary revisions, and stated that those changes will be effective upon the date of repeal. Some of the main policies addressed relate to separations of servicemembers under DADT. Such servicemembers, when discharged fully under DADT, will be able to re-apply after repeal, said Hummer.

There are still some issues related to DADT’s repeal which are yet to be addressed:

”Perhaps the largest piece of this is benefits,” said Hummer.

Although Hummer said that certain benefits in which servicemembers can select a beneficiary of their own choosing will be open to gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers who wish to name a same-sex partner, he noted that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and ”the existing definition of ‘dependent’ in some laws” will prohibit extending benefits such as health care and housing allowances to the same-sex partners of servicemembers.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), whose refusal to let DADT repeal die when all hope appeared lost, praised today’s development:

America is now one giant step closer to joining at least 28 of our closest allies in welcoming the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country.  I am delighted to have helped lead the effort to begin repeal of this law because it is the right thing to do for our military and for our country.

Sen. Collins was the only Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote to include DADT’s repeal in the Defense Authorization bill.  In December, she was the only Republican in the Senate to vote to proceed to the Defense Authorization bill which included repeal language. When that vot failed, Sens. Collins and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) then introduced a standalone bill which passed the Senate on December 18, 2010 by a vote of 65-31.

Sen. Lieberman also praised DADT’s imminent demise:

“Our strongest in the world military is even stronger today with the certification that its readiness and effectiveness will not be diminished by the open service of gay and lesbian servicemembers. I thank our military leaders for their efforts over the past several months to implement this policy. Justice has been served, and we should all be grateful that patriots stand guard every day around the world protecting our precious freedoms.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) also reacted to the news:

Given Leon Panetta’s lifelong record of opposition to unfair discrimination, I knew when the President appointed him to be the Secretary of Defense that he would act promptly to implement last December’s legislation to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I have a prediction: just as we have seen in those states where same-sex marriage has occurred with none of the negative consequences predicted, it will soon be clear that there was never any basis for this discriminatory policy in the first place other than prejudice, and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender servicemembers will soon demonstrate that there never was a good reason to keep them from serving our country.

Heroes!!

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2010

There are many many people to whom we owe appreciation for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The President, many gay advocates and lobbyists, media who scrutinized and asked tough questions, Senators who steadfastly supported us, the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House, and even anti-gay activists whose wackiness and obsessive hatred galvanized support for our cause.

But there are two people without whom we really could not have achieved this goal. When everything seemed impossible, they broke expectations and took the unexpected route: the path which, against all political rules, led to success.

Our community has at times been frustrated with Senator Lieberman and disappointed with Senator Collins. But today, they are heroes.

The Lieberman/Collins DADT repeal

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2010

So far, information surrounding the efforts of Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Collins (R- ME) to get a standalone repeal bill to end the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is sparse. Here is what we know:

The bill is Senate Bill 4022 and although the text of this bill does not appear to be available online, GovTrack.us is claiming that it was introduced last night:

Dec 9, 2010: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

This is confusing, because Lieberman has been twittering that this bill would take advantage of Rule 14 and would not be sent to committee. It is unknown whether Rein reneged on that offer or if Lieberman was mistaken.

But this assignment may not be a lethal move. I believe that Sen Levin (D-MI) has the power to call that committee into session just for the purpose of voting it out of committee. Although Senators McCain, Inhofe, and Sessions are members, they may have limited obstructionist abilities.

The Armed Service Committee has 15 Democrats, including Lieberman. One is Joe Manchin who was the only Democrat to vote against cloture and is on record as opposing repeal “at this time.” Republicans have 12 members on the committee, but two of them are Sen. Collins and Sen. Brown who are both on record as supporting repeal. Additionally, Lindsey Graham, who is considered an unknown vote, sits on this committee, as does Saxby Chambliss, who may feel a certain amount of pressure not to appear too homophobic after an anti-gay death threat was traced to one of his staff members (though his support is a very long shot).

I would find it peculiar if this bill could not get out of Armed Services fairly easily.

The two other sponsors (so far) of this bill are Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO, also sits on Armed Services) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).

Lieberman Proposes “Hail Mary” To Revive DADT Repeal

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2010

According to Towleroad, Sen. Joseph Lieberman is holding a news conference saying that he and Sen. Susan Collins will introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal DADT. He says that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote on the new measure.  So far, there are no details on the timing. An identical stand alone bill would also have to pass the House.

DADT Repeal Getting Caught Up In Gamesmanship

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2010

This analysis from TPM illustrates the tensions between Reid and Collins:

“I’ve been pleading with Senator Reid, don’t hold a vote on the defense authorization bill, the repeal of DADT, until we have a good opportunity to work out a fair process for the consideration bill with Senator Collins and some of the other Republican,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) this afternoon after a Dem caucus meeting. “Senator Collins really wants to vote for the bill with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Senator Scott Brown is the same and I think there may be at least one other Republican Senator to make that clear today.”

That third Republican has since been revealed as Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

…From Reid’s point of view the math is two-dimensional. By calling the vote, and leaking to the press, he ups the pressure on Collins to make a decision — and quickly. At the same time, he creates a focal point for liberal animus if the Senate fails to pass repeal before this Congress comes to an end and with it hope for a legislative solution to DADT. That’s not helpful to Lieberman, who wants to keep negotiations fluid, egos unbruised and the bill alive.

It’s not the policy they’re arguing over. It’s all about how they will spin the blame if it goes down in defeat.

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.

The language of the military ban

Timothy Kincaid

May 25th, 2010

There has been, perhaps, a bit of confusion about the action currently agreed upon by the Obama Administration and Congress to reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. While the proposed language does not prohibit discrimination against gay people in the Military, it does remove the justification which allows discrimination.

The Military has long considered itself outside of the social contract that provides constitutional protections to civilians. And the legislative, executive, and judicial branches have confirmed this thinking. But while court systems are willing to carve out exceptions for the Military, it still does answer to Congress and the Constitution is presumed to be in effect except where otherwise stated.

It is likely that the removal of the ban on gay soldiers – whether closeted or not – will be treated as a de facto ban on an anti-gay discrimination policy and that any attempts by either a future administration or a military branch to blatantly and proactively institute a policy of discrimination based on sexual orientation without congressional authorization would be slapped down in court.

However, non-policy discrimination is not forbidden in this law. So any particular officer could use sexual orientation as their own reason to block advancement or dole out abuse and it would be up to each administration to determine if such behavior was acceptable. While policies will likely we implemented by this administration – and are not likely to be officially revoked – ignoring policy is not without precedent, and without direction from Congress, any victim of discrimination has little recourse.

But even without assurances of non-discrimination, it is essential that the current language be removed. Because what my nation currently has to say about me is outrageously offensive.

After the jump is the language of the law
Read the rest of this entry »

Lieberman introduces a bill to repeal DADT

Timothy Kincaid

March 3rd, 2010

Senator Joseph Lieberman, a formerly Democrat and currently Independent Senator from Connecticut, has introduced a senate bill which would “replace the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, referred to as ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’, with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Specifically, it would repeal Section 654 of title 10 (“unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion”) and subsections (b), (c), and (d) of section 571 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994 (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).

Instead, this bill would:

  • create Section 656 would be created which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • authorize a Pentagon Working Group which would have nine months to recommend implementation of the new policy, after which the Secretary of Defense would have two months to revise regulations
  • require the Secretary of Defense to report back in six months as to whether universities are allowing or welcoming ROTC onto their campus (some had banned or discouraged them due to discrimination policies)

Co-signing with Lieberman were:

Carl Levin (D-MI)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Roland Burris (D-IL)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Al Franken (D-MN)

Twelve Senators Voice Opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

January 20th, 2010

Twelve U.S. Senators have written to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni calling on him to block the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before that nation’s Parliament. Citing Uganda’s relative success in fighting HIV/AIDS, the Senators note:

While your nation has been a leader in Africa on many fronts, including the reduction of HIV infections, this proposed legislation will be a glaring setback in Uganda’s human rights standing.  Unfortunately, even the mere threat of the new and severe penalties for homosexual behavior suggested in this bill, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, could easily add to an already intolerant atmosphere in Uganda based on sexual orientation.

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT) joined Democrats Benjamin Cardin (MD), Richard Duban (IL), Daniel Akaka (HI), Christopher Dodd, (CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Patty Murray (WA), , Mark Udall (CO), Diane Feinstein (CA) and Barbara Boxer (CA) in signing the letter.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Click here to read the letter sent to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

LaBarbera Award: Pastor John Hagee

Jim Burroway

June 2nd, 2008

The LaBarbera AwardI don’t know how we managed to overlook John Hagee when handing out LaBarbera Awards. He’s uttered so many doozies in the past, so much so that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain was finally forced to distance himself from the man whose support he once courted.

But this latest discovery looks like it’s about as good a reason as any to recognize some of the lunacy which runs rampant among anti-gay extremists:

On March 16, 2003, on the eve of the United States’ invasion of Iraq, Pastor John Hagee took to the pulpit to warn of the coming Antichrist. In his sermon, “The Final Dictator,”Hagee described the Antichrist as a seductive figure with “fierce features.” He will be “a blasphemer and a homosexual,” the pastor announced. Then, Hagee boomed, “There’s a phrase in Scripture used solely to identify the Jewish people. It suggests that this man [the Antichrist] is at least going to be partially Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler, as was Karl Marx.”

You see? Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptists aren’t a complete aberration. You can get the full effect here:
YouTube Preview Image

Now you see, that’s how you win the LaBarbera Award.

By the way, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) still says he’s going to deliver the keynote address at Hagee’s Christians United For Israel (CUFI) summit. Also scheduled to attend is Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY). No word yet on whether Engel has reconsidered given this latest outburst.