PITTSFORD, NEW YORK – Darren Manzella, a gay combat medic discharged from the Army after criticizing the military’s `don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in a 2007 television interview, has died in a traffic accident in western New York. He was 36.
His aunt, Robin Mahoney, on Friday confirmed his death. Manzella lived in the Chautauqua County town of Portland; he and his partner were married in July.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said Manzella was driving on Interstate 490 in suburban Rochester about 8:30 p.m. Thursday when his vehicle sideswiped a car. Deputies said he stopped his vehicle, got out and began pushing the car from behind. He was then hit by an SUV, pinning him between the two vehicles. He died at the scene.
Manzella’s December 2007 appearance on “60 Minutes” from the combat zone in Iraq was followed by his discharge in June 2008 for “homosexual admission,” a violation of the since-rescinded policy prohibiting service members from openly acknowledging they are gay.
After the television appearance and his return from Iraq, Manzella did media interviews, each a potential violation of the policy.
“This is who I am. This is my life,” Manzella said at a Washington news conference before his discharge. “It has never affected my job performance before. I don’t think it will make a difference now. And to be honest since then, I don’t see a difference because of my homosexuality.”
Manzella said he first told a military supervisor about his sexual orientation in August 2006, while working in a division headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas. Three weeks later, his battalion commander told him an investigation had been closed without finding “proof of homosexuality.” A month later, he was sent to Iraq.
His supporters said the overseas assignment demonstrated how the military was arbitrarily enforcing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during the war.
Manzella enlisted in the Army in 2002. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge for service in Iraq. When he was discharged, he was a sergeant serving at Fort Hood with the 1st Cavalry Division.
from The Associated Press
Posts Tagged ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’
PITTSFORD, NEW YORK – Darren Manzella, a gay combat medic discharged from the Army after criticizing the military’s `don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in a 2007 television interview, has died in a traffic accident in western New York. He was 36.
Marines will react to male and female Marines serving alongside one another in combat as they have reacted to openly gay men and women serving in their ranks: no big deal.
That’s the argument a pair of Marines – married to each other — make in the latest issue of Proceedings, the sea services’ independent journal. Dropping the ban on women serving in combat slots “will most likely have a similar effect” as ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” write Major Chris Haynie, an infantry officer and Major Jeanette Haynie, an AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunship pilot.
The implication that no woman can perform ably in combat, regardless of personal strengths and abilities, bleeds into every corner of the Corps today. If women cannot perform in combat, as the policy clearly declares, what else can’t they do? That is the unanswered question that the policy begs asking. It drags into question the capabilities of female Marines serving in every other MOS, placing an asterisk in boldface type after each “USMC.” This can result in highly negative consequences that damage the unit cohesion that we seek to cultivate, especially in combat. We have experienced this firsthand.
The Pentagon’s current combat-exclusion policy designed to keep women out of infantry, armor and other ground-combat units “institutionalizes the concept that all male Marines, based on gender alone, are capable of performing duties in the combat arms, while all female Marines similarly are not.”
They argue that, like the gay ban, the notion of women in combat doesn’t generate the same concern among today’s Marines — 62% of the force is 25 or younger — as it does for earlier generations of Marines. Besides, they add, a decade of war has shown that the logic of the policy no longer makes sense.
from Time Magazine
The first academic study of the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) has found that the new policy of open service has had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale, according to a new story on the Huffington Post. Co-authors of the study, whose publication coincides with the anniversary of DADT repeal, include professors at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Marine Corps War College.
According to Dr. Aaron Belkin, the lead author of the study, “The U.S. Military has set an international standard with the smooth transition to openly gay service.” In 2009, more than 1,000 retired generals and admirals signed a statement predicting that DADT repeal would “break the All-Volunteer Force.” Belkin is director of the Palm Center, the research institute that published today’s study.
While the media has reported impressionistic observations about the impact of DADT repeal, today’s study is the first scholarly analysis of the topic. To determine whether repeal has compromised the military, the study’s co-authors pursued multiple research methodologies including in-depth interviews, on-site field observations of military units, and survey analysis. They made extensive efforts to identify evidence that repeal has harmed the armed forces, including soliciting the views of 553 retired generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, of all known expert and activist opponents of repeal, and of major anti-repeal organizations.
Notable findings of the new study include: (1) Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of DADT repeal; (2) A Pentagon spokesperson told the study’s co-authors that she was not aware of a single episode of violence associated with repeal; (3) Pentagon data show that recruitment and retention remained robust after repeal; (4) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of morale after repeal as they did prior to repeal; (5) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of readiness after repeal as they did prior to repeal.
Contrary to expectations, the co-authors found evidence that repeal has improved trust among the troops, and has enabled service members to resolve problems in ways that were not possible while DADT remained law. For example, one soldier told them that in the initial period after repeal, he continued to hear derogatory language by some in his unit. Yet when he spoke with them about leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved. “They don’t agree,” he said, “but they were willing to be professional.” The soldier added that frank discussions are now less risky because of repeal, that honesty helped disabuse his colleagues of preconceived notions about gay people, and that ultimately, problems were “completely resolved.”
from The Sacramento Bee
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday thanked gay and lesbian military members for their service, as the Pentagon prepares to mark June as gay pride month with an official salute.
In a remarkable sign of a cultural change in the U.S. military, Panetta said that with the repeal last year of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the military, gays and lesbians can now be proud to be in uniform.
“Now you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are,” Panetta said.
The defense chief also said he’s committed to removing as many barriers as possible to making the military a model of equal opportunity.
Panetta’s video message was part of a Pentagon salute to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender troops as the Pentagon joined the rest of the U.S. government for the first time in marking June as gay pride month..
It comes nine months after repeal of the policy that had prohibited gay troops from serving openly and forced more than 13,500 service members out of the armed forces.
This month’s event will follow a long tradition at the Pentagon of recognizing diversity in America’s armed forces. Hallway displays and activities, for example, have marked Black History Month and Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.
Before the repeal, gay troops could serve but couldn’t reveal their orientation. If they did, they would be discharged. At the same time, a commanding officer was prohibited from asking a service member whether he or she was gay.
Although some feared repeal of the ban on serving openly would cause problems in the ranks, officials and gay advocacy groups say no big issues have materialized – aside from what advocacy groups criticize as slow implementation of some changes, such as benefit entitlements to troops in same-sex marriages.
Basic changes have come rapidly since repeal; the biggest is that gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines no longer have to hide their sexuality in order to serve. They can put photos on their office desk without fear of being outed, attend social events with their partners and openly join advocacy groups looking out for their interests.
OutServe, a once-clandestine professional association for gay service members, has nearly doubled in size to more than 5,500 members. It held its first national convention of gay service members in Las Vegas last fall, then a conference on family issues this year in Washington.
At West Point, the alumni gay advocacy group Knights Out was able to hold the first installment in March of what is intended to be an annual dinner in recognition of gay and lesbian graduates and Army cadets. Gay students at the U.S. Naval Academy were able to take same-sex dates to the academy’s Ring Dance for third-year midshipmen.
Panetta said last month that military leaders had concluded that repeal had not affected morale or readiness. A report to Panetta with assessments from the individual military service branches said that as of May 1 they had seen no ill effects.
“I don’t think it’s just moving along smoothly, I think it’s accelerating faster than we even thought the military would as far as progress goes,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, a finance officer and co-director of OutServe.
He said acceptance has been broad among straight service members and has put a spotlight on unequal treatment that gays continue to receive in some areas. “We are seeing such tremendous progress in how much the military is accepting us, but not only that – in how much the rank and file is now understanding the inequality that’s existing right now,” he said.
That’s a reference to the fact that same-sex couples aren’t afforded spousal health care, assignments to the same location when they transfer to another job, and other benefits. There was no immediate change to eligibility standards for military benefits in September. All service members already were entitled to certain things, such as designating a partner as one’s life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.
As for other benefits still not approved, the department began a review after repeal with an eye toward possibly extending eligibility, consistent with the federal Defense of Marriage Act and other applicable laws, to the same-sex partners of military personnel.
“The department is carefully and deliberately reviewing the benefits from a policy, fiscal, legal and feasibility perspective,” Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Thursday.
Gay marriage has been perhaps the most difficult issue.
Though chaplains on bases in some states are allowed to hold what the Pentagon officials call “private services” – they don’t use the words wedding or marriage – such unions do not garner marriage benefits because the Defense of Marriage Act says marriage is between a man and a woman.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was in force for 18 years, and its repeal was a slow and deliberate process.
President Barack Obama on Dec. 22, 2010, signed legislation repealing it. Framing the issue as a matter of civil rights long denied, Obama said, “We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot … a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal.”
The military then did an assessment for several months to certify that the forces were prepared to implement it in a way that would not hurt military readiness. And it held training for its 2.25 million-person force to inform everyone of the coming change and what was expected.
from The Associated Press
When the Pentagon was wrestling with the idea of ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military, the Marine Corps quickly came to be seen as the service most opposed to the change. After all, General James Amos said he feared lifting the ban would be a “distraction” that could lead to casualties on the battlefield.
But once the Marines got their marching orders, they saluted and began carrying them out. “The law has changed, we follow the law,” Amos said after Congress voted to lift the ban. “We’re the Marines, and that’s what we do for a living.” So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Marine Corps University Press has just published The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Impact In Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans. Battleland recently conducted this email chat with editors J. Ford Huffman and Tammy S. Schultz:
How did The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell come to be?
J. Ford Huffman: The motto at U. S. Marine Corps War College is “dare to know.” Col. Michael Belcher, director of the College in Quantico, Va., until last June, took the motto to heart. He dared students and faculty to challenge their thinking by taking on topics they might find uncomfortable. The possible repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) was such a topic. And timely, too, in the 2010-2011 academic term.
After a handful of students began researching and writing – one student studied whether the repeal might require a new definition of the Marine Warrior – Belcher realized the reports could form the basis for a book.
He got the support of Marine Corps University. The non-profit, privately funded Marine Corps University Foundation offered financial support. And the Marine Corps University Press agreed to print the book. He asked the College’s head of national security, Dr. Tammy S. Schultz, and me to co-edit.
Why me? Mike had read many of my reviews of nonfiction books out of Iraq and Afghanistan in Marine Corps Times (and the other Military Times papers) and knew my work at USA Today.
My immediate job was to recruit people – in and outside the Marine Corps – to write personal pieces that would balance the book’s four scholarly reports.
I sent queries to at least 121 service members and veterans—straight and gay, female and male, officer and enlisted—plus a dozen civilians with military expertise. If they agreed to write, Tammy and I told them, they would be rewarded with a limit of no more than 1,500 words, would go through the editing process, and some day be the owner of two copies of the published book. I figured if Tammy and I got 12 writers out of 121, we would be lucky.
We won a literary lottery. There are 25 essays, and two other writers’ submissions work as part of my introduction rather than as stand-alone pieces. Each military branch is represented.
Why was it important to do it?
JFH: Because the book gives a public voice to some voices that have rarely been heard. Belcher, who left the Corps last November, says the issue of ending discrimination against gay service members is “an issue that must be addressed – openly, honestly, intelligently, and unemotionally.”
“Openly” was the first challenge.
As a journalist, I think anonymity lacks credibility, introduces mystery and breeds distrust in many readers’ minds. None of that seemed appropriate in an anthology about the impact of the repeal of a law that required some service members to remain anonymous or be discharged. It was important to let people write as themselves.
I recommended that all writers be identified by name, even at the expense of reducing the number of possible contributors.
Tammy S. Schultz: When doing research on DADT for a different scholarly book (Attitudes Aren’t Free: Thinking Deeply About Diversity in the U.S. Armed Forces, Edited by James E Parco and David A. Levy, Air University Press, 2010), I lamented the lack of a single work on desegregation that included policy recommendations and voices from the time President Truman instituted the policy in 1948. I wanted this to be the book on DADT that I could not find on desegregation.
Is it right to think of it as an After-Action Report?
JFH: I think “During-Action Report” is apt.
Tammy and I began working on the effort last summer. Active-duty writers were writing about DADT while the law was still around, and the first edits were finished by Labor Day – a couple weeks before President Obama signed the law ending the repeal.
The first version of the manuscript that went to the brass at Marine Corps University was censored. How? The bylines of active-duty gay writers were crossed out because otherwise those writers would be incriminating themselves. The deletions were done to protect the officers who read the material as well.
Are you surprised by the lack of drama in response to the end of DADT?
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – A Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule on Wednesday when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted “first kiss” on the pier after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of Placerville, Calif., descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss in the rain with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles. Gaeta, 23, wore her Navy dress uniform while Snell, 22, wore a black leather jacket, scarf and blue jeans. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.
“It’s something new, that’s for sure,” Gaeta told reporters after the kiss.
“It’s nice to be able to be myself. It’s been a long time coming.”
There was little to differentiate this kiss from countless others when a Navy ship pulls into its home port following a deployment. Neither the Navy nor the couple tried to draw special attention to what was happening and many onlookers waiting for their loved ones to come off the ship were busy talking among themselves.
Snell smiled as she approached Gaeta and they briefly embraced as a small contingent of local television crews and photographers, who were unaware about what was going to happen until moments earlier, captured the scene.
“She told me about the first kiss a couple of days ago and I kind of freaked out – in a good way – but of course I’m a little nervous, you know. But I’ve been waiting since she left,” Snell said.
David Bauer, the commanding officer of the USS Oak Hill, said that Gaeta and Snell’s kiss would largely be a non-event and the crew’s reaction upon learning who was selected to have the first kiss was positive.
“It’s going to happen and the crew’s going to enjoy it. We’re going to move on and it won’t overshadow the great things that this crew has accomplished over the past three months,” Bauer said.
The ship returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story following an 80-day deployment to Central America. The crew of more than 300 participated in exercises involving the militaries of Honduras, Guatemala Colombia and Panama as part of Amphibious-Southern Partnership Station 2012.
Both women are Navy fire controlmen, who maintain and operate weapons systems on ships. They met as roommates at training school and have been dating for two years, which they said was difficult under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Repeal of the 18-year-old legal provision, under which gays could serve as long as they didn’t openly acknowledge their sexual orientation, took effect in September.
“We did have to hide it a lot in the beginning,” Snell said. “A lot of people were not always supportive of it in the beginning, but we can finally be honest about who we are in our relationship, so I’m happy.”
Navy officials said it was the first time on record that a same-sex couple was chosen to kiss first upon a ship’s return. Sailors and their loved ones bought $1 raffle tickets for the opportunity. Gaeta said she bought $50 of tickets, a figure that she said pales in comparison to amounts that some other sailors and their loved ones had bought.
The money was used to host a Christmas party for the children of sailors and Gaeta said everybody in her chain of command and on her ship supported her win in the drawing.
Snell said she believes their experience won’t be the last one for gays and lesbians in the military.
“I think that it’s something that is going to open a lot of doors, for not just our relationship, but all the other gay and lesbian relationships that are in the military now,” she said.
Snell is based on the USS Bainbridge, the guided missile destroyer that helped rescue cargo captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009.
from The Associated Press
AMES, IOWA — Rick Perry took another shot at Mitt Romney’s offer of a $10,000 bet, but the Texas governor found himself under fire himself Sunday, heckled at a campaign stop over anti-gay bias, including by a man identifying himself as a Marine veteran from the Iraq war.
The heckling followed Perry’s brief remarks to Iowa voters at a coffee shop in downtown Ames.
“Why are you demonizing gay and lesbian people?” shouted one heckler.
“Why can’t gays compete in the military?” chimed in Jason Arment, 24, an English major at nearby Iowa State University. Arment, of Grimes, Iowa, who said he was straight, said he served with the Marines in Iraq in 2007 and 2008,
Perry is airing a campaign ad, aimed at evangelical Christians in Iowa, in which he says 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.” Sunday marked the first time the candidate was confronted over the ad on the trail.
Arment, in a brief interview, said that he found the Perry ad “extremely offensive” and “insulting” to service members.
The governor did not respond to the hecklers and left the coffee shop shortly afterward.
On his way out, Perry told reporters that he found it “a little out of the ordinary” that Romney had extended his hand and offered a $10,000 wager that his campaign book did not contain a line about making the Massachusetts healthcare mandate a model for the nation, as Perry had claimed in the televised debate.
Repeating a line that he used earlier in the day on Fox News Sunday, Perry said that such a large wager is “way out of the ordinary for most Iowans. To have an extra $10,000 that you would throw down on a bet is a little out of the ordinary.”
“I’m not a betting man. so it was no harm, no foul from my perspective,” the governor added. “I would suggest to you that $10,000 is pocket change for Mitt to make that statement. But you’ll need to ask him, you know. Maybe it was just a misstatement or something. Who knows?”
from The Los Angeles Times
|Rick Perry’s TV Ad, ‘Strong’|
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – Yale sophomore Andrew Hendricks has gotten used to receiving strange looks when he crosses the Ivy League campus in his Air Force uniform.
Hendricks, the only Air Force cadet at Yale, wears the uniform on days he drives to the University of Connecticut to train with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program that had been barred from his university until faculty agreed to welcome it back beginning next fall. Judging from the reaction of Yale students, he does not expect much of a stir when cadets start conducting drills amid the Gothic buildings in New Haven.
“I never get anything negative,” said Hendricks, 19, of Fairfax Station, Va. “I think it’s mainly that people are really curious because they don’t see a lot of military influence on campus.”
Four decades after Vietnam War protesters cheered the departure of ROTC programs from some Ivy League universities, their return is bringing little more than a symbolic change to campuses where a new generation of students is neither organizing against them nor lining up to enlist.
Yale, Harvard and Columbia all signed agreements this year to bring back ROTC. The antagonism with elite universities faded with the end of the draft, and much of the lingering opposition to the military dissolved with last year’s repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that banned gays from serving openly in the armed services. The universities said the policy violated non-discrimination rules for campus organizations.
A tiny number of students at these schools pursue ROTC – a total of three at Yale and five at Columbia do so through off-campus arrangements – and those numbers are not expected to rise dramatically anytime soon. But the agreements to revive ROTC are important to the schools, which once produced many of America’s most decorated military officers, and the armed services, which are regaining a presence at some of the country’s best-known universities.
Officials are excited about ROTC because it offers students another path to national leadership, the dean of Yale College, Mary Miller, said in an interview. She said the administration was influenced by appeals from President Barack Obama, who used his State of the Union address to call on universities to engage more directly with the military, and a survey by Yale’s student government that found support for ROTC.
“We hope by making a path to military leadership available on campus, that students will pursue it in part because the opportunities for that leadership come so early in military careers. It has a strong youth culture component, which has been quite striking to me,” Miller said.
The ROTC program, which was founded in 1916, has 490 host units, most of them concentrated in the South and Midwest. Students receive scholarship money in return for agreeing to military service after graduation.
In the years surrounding World War II, thousands of soldiers and sailors trained on Ivy League campuses. But last year, only 53 students from the conference’s eight universities were commissioned through ROTC programs.
Yale has agreed to host Naval and Air Force ROTC detachments next fall. Air Force officials say it is too early to assess how many might enroll, and Navy officials say they are hoping at least 15 freshmen, from an incoming class of about 1,300, will attend Yale next year on Naval ROTC scholarships.
The change is likely to be even less visible at Harvard and Columbia, where Naval ROTC gained formal recognition but students are expected to continue training at nearby campuses. At Harvard, which has nine midshipmen training at other Boston area schools, the Naval ROTC director said it would not make sense to create a new detachment.
“You need some type of sufficient numbers to be able to have a battalion and meaningful leadership roles, and nine does not cut it,” Capt. Curtis Stevens said. “You can barely man a color guard with nine.”
Regardless of the numbers, he and other advocates said it is important to the military to be represented on elite campuses.
“Symbols matter, and the symbolism of America’s leading universities declaring or even implying that there is something illegitimate about serving your nation in uniform was shameful. Fortunately, we’ve now gotten over it,” said Graham Allison, director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense.
Stanford University’s faculty also voted this year to invite ROTC back to campus, but it has not reached agreements with any of the service branches. Other prominent schools including Princeton, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania already host units.
But there is still some resistance in the Ivy League. Brown University’s president, Ruth Simmons, said this week that she continues to back the school’s policy of denying ROTC recognition as an academic program.
A music professor at Brown, Jeff Todd Titon, said many on the faculty feel there is no place for the military at a liberal arts college.
“The military is a chain of command organization where obedience is required, and that’s just antithetical to our ideals and goals,” he said.
Susanna Kotter, a Yale junior from Boston, has concerns about sexual violence in the military, but she said having future officers on campus could help her learn about an institution that is not part of her daily life.
“If that will elicit more conversation about the Army, I’m OK with it,” she said.
The bans’ reversal marks a renewal of long military traditions at Yale, which had 25 graduates serve as generals for the Union Army during the Civil War, and Harvard, which has produced more Medal of Honor recipients than any institution outside the service academies.
Hendricks is looking forward to dropping the three-hour weekly commute to Storrs when ROTC comes to New Haven, and he also thinks it will make him feel more at home on his own campus.
“Knowing that I’ll be doing this for Yale, I’ll feel more school pride,” he said.
from The Associated Press
The young U.S. soldier who took the end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to share his experience of coming out to his father via YouTube said he now feels comfortable.
“It feels great. it’s nice not having to look over your shoulder or worry about who you are talking to, Phillips told ABC News the day after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was officially repealed. “I never thought I’d be so comfortable with it. It’s very supportive. Everybody’s been so great.”
Phillips, a 21-year-old airman stationed at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, sat alone in front of a camera Tuesday, and under his YouTube handle “AreYouSuprised,” called his father in Alabama to tell him that he was gay. In the clip, Phillips said it was “the hardest thing that gay guys will ever have to say.
“You promise you’ll always love me? Period?” Phillips asked his father, his voice shaking. He took a beat, and then said it: “Dad, I’m gay. I always have been. I’ve known for … forever.”
Describing how his heart was “beating like crazy,” Phillips told his father that he did not want to tell him over the phone, but wasn’t sure when he would see him again and didn’t want him to find out any other way.
“I still love you son,” his father was heard saying through the phone line. “It doesn’t change our relationship — and I always will, no matter what, all right? You are my son, and I am very proud of you.”
For Phillips, even showing his face had taken months. He began his journey of coming out last April, posting anonymous YouTube videos while deployed near the Persian Gulf. Through his YouTube clips he sought advice and support.
“I just want to share my journey and struggles with you,” Phillips said in a clip posted in April. “I know there are a lot of people that will benefit from this. I don’t want to sound selfish, but I made this for me — so people can help me out … and say ‘so when are you going to take the next step?’”
On Twitter, Phillips had described himself as a “military member in the closet, using social media to build up the courage to come out to family, girlfriend, friends and co-workers.”
Now that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” has been repealed, Phillips, like many other enlisted men and women, is at last able to reveal his face, and can not officially tell his fellow airman and commanding officers the truth. He told ABC News that he is happy that he has inspired others. He also said that now the whole family knows that he is gay.
As for Phillips’ father, he told ABC News that he was not exactly thrilled that his son put the clip on YouTube — but reiterated once again that he loves his son, and always will.
from ABC News
After 19 years hiding her relationship with an active-duty Army captain, Cathy Cooper is getting ready to exhale. On Tuesday, the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” will expire. And Cooper will dare speak her love’s name in public.
“This is life-changing,” said Cooper, choking up. “I just want to be able to breathe – knowing I can call my partner at work and have a conversation without it having to be in code.”
Much has been reported about the burdens that “don’t ask” placed on gay and lesbian service members who risked discharge under the 1993 policy if their sexual orientation became known in the ranks. There’s been less attention focused on their civilian partners, who faced distinctive, often relentless stresses of their own.
In interviews with The Associated Press, five partners recalled past challenges trying to conceal their love affairs, spoke of the joy and relief accompanying repeal, and wondered about the extent that they would be welcomed into the broader military family in the future.
Even with repeal imminent, the partners – long accustomed to secrecy – did not want to reveal the full identity of their active-duty loved ones before Tuesday.
Cooper, who works for a large private company, moved from the Midwest to northern Virginia to be near her partner’s current Army post, yet couldn’t fully explain to friends and colleagues why she moved. “It’s been really difficult – it’s really isolated us,” she said. “I became much more introverted, more evasive.”
Cooper said her partner’s Army career is thriving, though she’s had to hide a major component of her personal life.
“I don’t know any of her co-workers,” Cooper said. “She says, `You’re the best part of me and I have to pretend you don’t exist.’”
Looking ahead, Cooper is unsure how same-sex partners will be welcomed by the military establishment.
“Will it be, `Hey, come join all the family support programs’?” she wondered. “I’m not going to be so naive as to think that … I’m just hoping the door is open.”
During the long, arduous campaign to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” activists and advocacy groups tended to downplay issues related to post-repeal benefits for civilian partners. “It’s not something we’ve been pushing very hard for yet, but it’s obviously going to be the next front in the ongoing battle for equality,” said Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United.
Nicholson’s organization, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian military personnel, conducted a survey of same-sex partners last year to gauge their concerns. One widespread hope, he said, was the military might issue ID cards to same-sex civilian partners so they could gain access to bases, commissaries and support services on their own.
In general, same-sex partners will not get the same benefits that the Pentagon grants to heterosexual married couples to ease the costs of medical care, travel, housing and other living expenses. The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act – which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and woman – precludes extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.
Nearly 70 years after expelling Melvin Dwork for being gay, the Navy is changing his discharge from “undesirable” to “honorable” – marking what is believed to be the first time the Pentagon has taken such a step on behalf of a World War II veteran since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The Navy notified the 89-year-old former corpsman last month that he will now be eligible for the benefits he had long been denied, including medical care and a military burial.
Dwork spent decades fighting to remove the blot on his record.
“I resented that word `undesirable,’” said Dwork, who was expelled in 1944, at the height of the war, and is now a successful interior designer in New York. “That word really stuck in my craw. To me it was a terrible insult. It had to be righted. It’s really worse than `dishonorable.’ I think it was the worst word they could have used.”
For Dwork, victory came with a heartbreaking truth: Last year, when the Navy finally released his records, he learned that his name had been given up by his own boyfriend at the time.
The decision to amend his discharge papers was made by the Board for Corrections of Naval Records in Washington.
In its Aug. 17 proceedings, obtained by The Associated Press, the board noted that the Navy has undergone a “radical departure” from the outright ban on gays that was in place in 1944. The board pointed out Dwork’s “exemplary period of active duty” and said that changing the terms of his discharge was done “in the interest of justice.”
Navy officials declined to discuss Dwork’s case, citing privacy reasons.
“I think that with the end of `don’t ask, don’t tell,’ there is a growing realization within the military that not only gays be allowed to serve openly now but this was probably the wrong policy all along,” said Aaron Belkin, an expert on gays in the U.S. military at the University of California, Los Angeles.
He added: “This illustrates, at least in the case of one person, that the military is trying to set things right.”
About 100,000 troops were discharged between World War II and 1993 for being gay and lost their benefits as a result, Belkin said. Under the more relaxed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allowed gays to serve as long as they kept their sexual orientation to themselves, about 14,000 troops were forced out, but most were given honorable discharges that allowed them to draw benefits. The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” officially takes effect Tuesday.
Since Congress voted last year to repeal the Clinton-era law, dozens of gay veterans who were given undesirable, dishonorable or less-than-honorable discharges before 1993 have stepped forward, seeking to have the stain removed from their records, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
The SLDN, which provides free legal representation to gays in the military, said Dwork is the first World War II veteran they know of to succeed in getting his records changed.
Many of the other cases involve veterans from the Gulf War era of the early 1990s. Next to Dwork, the oldest veteran is from the Vietnam era, the SLDN said.
Navy officials said that legally, they could have amended the discharge records of gay veterans even during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. But they could not say for certain whether that was ever done. And the SLDN said it could not recall any such cases.
“As the military progresses and the culture progresses, people should not be left with the inaccurate characteristic of their service with words like `unfitness’ or `undesirable’ on their paperwork,” said David McKean, SLDN legal director and Dwork’s attorney. “That paperwork has consequences for people throughout their lives.”
Dwork was not allowed to draw GI benefits to continue his studies as a young man and was denied medical care in his later years. He said he needs a hearing aid that he cannot afford.
Over the years, he filed countless requests with the Navy, traveled to Washington, lobbied lawmakers and hired a law firm to help.
The Board for Corrections of Naval Records said it would reinstate Dwork’s benefits retroactively. But exactly what that means – whether, for example, the Navy will write him a check for the benefits he missed out on over a lifetime – is unclear, his attorney said.
The son of open-minded, liberal parents, Dwork grew up in Kansas City, Mo. He said he realized at 18 that he was gay and had his first serious relationship soon afterward with a man he met while studying at the Kansas City Institute of Art. Both joined the Navy hospital corps in 1943.
“I had heard that the hospital corps was simpatico to gay people,” Dwork said. “Being in the hospital, you took care of people who were in trouble.”
While working at the Marine base on Parris Island, S.C., Dwork sent letters to his boyfriend, stationed in New Orleans, declaring in one: “I love you, love you, love you incessantly.” But after his gay friends warned him to be careful, he stopped writing love letters.
Later, Dwork was sitting in class, training to be an officer at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, when MPs showed up, whispered something in his instructor’s ear and marched him out of the room. His teacher told the class that if he were Dwork’s father, he would cut off Dwork’s genitals.
He was thrown in the brig, then transferred to a psychiatric ward in Charleston, S.C., where he said he spent a couple of weeks being peppered with “stupid” questions.
“This patient is a 22-year-old male who keeps his robe tightly wrapped around him and speaks in a slightly effeminate manner,” the doctors wrote in their report. They said Dwork took an “avid interest in female attire, household furnishings and shopping.”
Dwork said he had assumed his love letters had fallen into the wrong hands and led to his discharge. After he recently learned the truth, he contacted his former boyfriend, who had long ago married and had children. The man did not want to discuss the matter, Dwork said.
Dwork said he does not blame his former boyfriend; he said the young man was pressured into giving up names as part of a “witch hunt.”
“It was confusing to me that anything like that could happen,” Dwork said. “I always knew I was innocent, and I wasn’t ashamed of what I was or what I am. It was just a sad period. I didn’t know frankly at that point it would affect the rest of my life.”
from The Associated Press
The Obama administration wants a federal appeals court to maintain the ban on openly gay service members until the Pentagon is ready for them, probably by the end of the year, and to reject a demand for an immediate halt to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In a filing late Thursday, the Justice Department asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to suspend legal proceedings while the government implements a federal law repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 1993 statute barring military service by gays and lesbians who disclose their sexual orientation.
President Obama signed the repeal in December. It takes effect 60 days after he and the Pentagon certify that it will not interfere with military effectiveness or recruiting.
The Justice Department said retraining of current troops should be mostly done by midsummer, and the administration has promised to complete the process before next year.
“It is well within Congress’ broad constitutional authority over military affairs to establish a brief interim period for transition and implementation of a change of policy throughout the armed forces,” government lawyers argued.
The call for a waiting period didn’t sit well with Log Cabin Republicans, the gay-rights organization that challenged the 1993 law.
“It is hard to believe that the government is still fighting this case (and) still arguing that the court should defer to Congress,” said the group’s lawyer, Dan Woods.
He said the military continues to reject openly gay and lesbian applicants despite a federal judge’s ruling declaring the law unconstitutional. Woods cited the case of Katie Miller, a high-ranking West Point cadet and a lesbian who left the military academy last year because of the policy and was turned down for readmission this month.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips of Riverside ruled in September that the “don’t ask” law violated service members’ privacy and freedom of speech and reduced military effectiveness because it led to skilled personnel being discharged.
Phillips issued an injunction in October halting discharges under the law, but the Ninth Circuit appeals court has suspended her order while it considers the case.
from The San Francisco Chronicle
Gay rights advocates on Monday filed a challenge to a request by the Obama administration to keep the repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in place while the Pentagon prepares for an end to the ban on allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
In a brief filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, lawyers for gay political group Log Cabin Republicans said keeping the policy in place was “absurd.”
At issue is the constitutionality of Congress allowing the policy to stay in effect to give the Pentagon time to train troops and take other steps outlined in December when lawmakers repealed the 1993 law that put the ban in place. Under the new policy, the restrictions remain until the Pentagon certifies that the change won’t damage combat readiness.
The repeal came several months after a federal district judge issued an injunction barring enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” declaring in September that the policy was unconstitutional.
The Obama administration request to keep the policy in place was made in its brief challenging the injunction. Dan Woods, who is representing the Log Cabin Republicans, replied in the brief filed Monday.
“Even though a judge found this to be unconstitutional and the administration is not disagreeing with that, they are still investigating and able to discharge people,” he said.
Earlier this year, the administration said it would no longer defend the 1996 federal law that prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages.
President Barack Obama had concluded that any law that treats gay people differently is unconstitutional unless it serves a compelling governmental interest, Attorney General Eric Holder said when discussing the administration’s reasoning for that decision.
from The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama signed the landmark repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Wednesday morning, handing a major victory to advocates of gay rights and fulfilling a campaign promise to do away with a practice that he has called discriminatory.
Casting the repeal in terms of past civil rights struggles, Obama said he was proud to sign a law that “will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend.”
He added: “No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who are forced to leave the military – regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance – because they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love.”
The signing does not immediately implement the repeal but instead begins the process of ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The law will not actually change until the Pentagon certifies to Congress that the military has met several conditions, including education and training programs for the troops.
“In the coming days, we will begin the process laid out in the law” to implement the repeal, Obama said. Meanwhile, he cautioned, “the old policy remains in place.” But he pledged that all the service chiefs are “committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently,” and he vowed, “We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done.”
In his remarks before signing the repeal, Obama quoted Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.” Obama continued: “That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military. That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period.”
So many people wanted to witness the signing of the bill that the White House held the ceremony in the auditorium of Interior Department headquarters.
Once enacted, the law for the first time in U.S. history will guarantee the rights of gay service members to serve openly.
The guests at the ceremony included Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group; Vice President Biden; Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.); and Dan Choi, a former U.S. Army soldier who was discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” and was arrested in November after chaining himself to a White House fence to protest the policy.
Several other soldiers who have been discharged from military service because they are gay attended the ceremony as well.
Among the guests on the stage with Obama was Eric Alva, a former Marine staff sergeant who lost a leg in Iraq and who, following a medical discharge, has been working for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Another participant was Navy Cmdr. Zoe Dunning, a repeal advocate who fought to remain in the Navy Reserves and ultimately retired in 2007 after 13 years of service as an openly gay officer.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also shared the stage with Obama, other lawmakers and top Pentagon officials. She was one of only two Republicans on a White House list of attending lawmakers, and Obama hailed her for her role in the repeal.
Before signing the repeal, Obama told the stories of several gay service members who had served with valor in conflicts dating back to World War II. And he expressed hope that “those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who’ve been discharged under this discriminatory policy will seek to reenlist once the repeal is implemented.”
Obama said: “That is why I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform: your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known. . . . We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal.”
Obama is likely to hold a news conference later in the day if the Senate, as expected, votes to ratify the New START treaty with Russia. Signing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and seeing the treaty ratified were the president’s last two major goals before heading to Hawaii to join the rest of his family on vacation.
In the morning, at least, the attention, and the emotion, were concentrated in the Interior Department’s auditorium. Even though the Pentagon says the new policy is still likely months away from being implemented, those who have lobbied for it for years were ready to celebrate.
“This is the defining civil rights initiative of this decade,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said after the repeal passed on Saturday. “Congress has taken an extraordinary step on behalf of men and women who’ve been denied their rightful integrity for too long.”
Sarvis said in a statement after Obama signed the repeal: “A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence.”
But he cautioned that service members “remain at risk under the law” while the repeal is being implemented, and he called on Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to “to use his authority to suspend all ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ investigations and discharges during this limbo period.”
On Wednesday morning, the Web site of the Human Rights Campaign proclaimed in a triumphant headline: “DADT on Way to Dustbin of History.”
“This day has come!” an elated Mike Almy, an Air Force major discharged four years ago when his sexual orientation became known, told the Associated Press. ” ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is over, and you no longer have to sacrifice your integrity.”
Obama called for repeal of the policy during his White House campaign, and gay rights advocates focused on it as a watershed human rights issue for the administration.
Obama, for his part, called on Americans to “close this chapter” of requiring gay service members to hide their sexual orientation or risk expulsion.
“It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed,” Obama said Saturday in a statement.
In order to implement the new law, Obama, Gates and Mullen must inform Congress in writing that the military is prepared for implementation and has drafted the necessary policies and regulations. Those changes must not affect troop readiness, cohesion, or military recruitment and retention, according to the law.
Once the written notice is submitted, 60 days must elapse before “don’t ask, don’t tell” is officially repealed.
from The Washington Post
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a historic vote for gay rights, the Senate agreed on Saturday to do away with the military’s 17-year ban on openly gay troops and sent President Barack Obama legislation to overturn the Clinton-era policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Obama was expected to sign the bill into law next week, although changes to military policy probably wouldn’t take effect for at least several months. Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers must first certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ ability to fight. After that, the military would undergo a 60-day wait period.
Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the armed forces and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.
More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
“It is time to close this chapter in our history,” Obama said in a statement. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.”
The Senate voted 65-31 to pass the bill, with eight Republicans siding with 55 Democrats and two independents in favor of repeal. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, earlier this week.
Supporters hailed the Senate vote as a major step forward for gay rights. Many activists hope that integrating openly gay troops within the military will lead to greater acceptance in the civilian world, as it did for blacks after President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order on equal treatment regardless of race in the military.
“The military remains the great equalizer,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. “Just like we did after President Truman desegregated the military, we’ll someday look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it.”
Sen. John McCain, Obama’s GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. Speaking on the Senate floor minutes before a crucial test vote, the Arizona Republican acknowledged he couldn’t stop the bill. He blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.
“They will do what is asked of them,” McCain said of service members. “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.”
How the military will implement a change in policy, and how long that will take remains unclear. Senior Pentagon officials have said the new policy could be rolled out incrementally, service by service or unit by unit.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he will begin the certification process immediately. But any change in policy won’t come until after careful consultation with military service chiefs and combatant commanders, he said.
“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force,” he said.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he welcomes the change.
“No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so,” he said. “We will be a better military as a result.”
Sen. Carl Levin, a chief proponent of repeal, said he has received a commitment from the administration that it won’t drag its heels.
“We hope it will be sooner, rather than later,” he said.
The fate of “don’t ask, don’t tell” had been far from certain earlier this year when Obama called for its repeal in his State of the Union address. Despite strong backing from liberals in Congress, Republicans and conservative Democrats remained skeptical that lifting the ban could be done quickly without hurting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In February, provided the momentum Obama needed by telling a packed Senate hearing room that he felt the law was unjust. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen became the first senior active-duty officer in the military to suggest that gays could serve openly without affecting military effectiveness.
“No matter how I look at the issue,” Mullen said, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
With Mullen’s backing, Gates ordered a yearlong study on the impact, including a survey of troops and their families.
The study, released Nov. 30, found that two-thirds of service members didn’t think changing the law would have much of an effect. But of those who did predict negative consequences, most were assigned to combat arms units. The statistic became ammunition for opponents of repeal, including the service chiefs of the Army and Marine Corps.
“I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction,” Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps, told reporters. “I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”
Mullen and Gates counter that the fear of disruption is overblown and could be addressed through training. They note the Pentagon’s finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units’ morale or effectiveness.
But even with backing from Gates and Mullen, the bill appeared all but dead this month when Senate Republicans united against it on procedural grounds. In last-minute wrangling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to revive the bill during the rare Saturday session with just days to go before the lame-duck session was to end.
The Republicans who voted for repeal said the Pentagon study on gays and assurances from senior military leaders played a crucial role.
“The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be implemented in a common sense way,” said Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich. “Our military leaders have assured Congress that our troops will engage in training and address relevant issues before instituting this policy change.”
Advocacy groups were jubilant following the Senate’s initial test vote that passed 63-33 and set up final passage. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the “defining civil rights initiative of this decade.” Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.
“This has been a long-fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
from The Associated Press