Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Daily Show: Don't Ask, Don't Tell Hearing

Well, my notes from the congressional hearing on DADT last week are kinda dry. For something more entertaining, but still poignant, please watch this clip from Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Review of Congressional Hearing on Don't ask, Don't tell

Yesterday afternoon, the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee for Military Personnel held the first hearing on gays in the military in fifteen years. I was able to watch it online and if you'd like to read my notes on the hearing, I invite you to visit my personal blog:

After Action Review: Congressional Hearing on Don't ask, Don't tell

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barr polling better with LGBT voters than with general electorate

Here's an interesting story from The Advocate. A recent Harris Interactive poll shows Bob Barr is doing better with LGBT voters (3%) than with the general electorate (2%).

According to Harris Interactive, in a four-way race, Barack Obama leads John McCain among registered voters 44% to 35%, while Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, and Ralph Nader each receive 2%.

Three percent of GLBT adults favor Barr, while 1% choose Nader.

Very interesting.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ron Paul & Don't ask, Don't tell

Earlier this month, I travelled to Washington, DC, for a number of reasons. Among them I was visiting various Congressmen from around Texas to discuss the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1246) and Don't ask, Don't tell. I requested and was given an appointment with Rep. Ron Paul.

Ron Paul was high on my list of priorities for a number of reasons. First, despite an independent Libertarian Party, Ron Paul is often seen as the face of libertarianism in the USA. Second, his comments on DADT in previous forums have indicated he has a lack of knowledge as to what the law really says. Third, I wanted him to have the opportunity to explain himself face-to-face with someone who had been discharged from the military under DADT.

To start, allow me to share Rep. Paul's comments on DADT. During last year's GOP debate on 3 June 2007:

Q: Most of our closest allies, including Great Britain and Israel, allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. Is it time to end "Don't ask, don't tell" policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US military?

A: I think the current policy is a decent policy. And the problem that we have with dealing with this subject is we see people as groups, as they belong to certain groups and that they derive their rights as belonging to groups. We don't get our rights because we're gays or women or minorities. We get our rights from our creator as individuals. So every individual should be treated the same way. So if there is homosexual behavior in the military that is disruptive, it should be dealt with. But if there's heterosexual sexual behavior that is disruptive, it should be dealt with. So it isn't the issue of homosexuality, it's the concept and the understanding of individual rights. If we understood that, we would not be dealing with this very important problem.

In this statement, Rep. Paul talks a lot about theory - that we derive our rights as individuals - but he totally neglects the practical, day-to-day aspects of living under different sets of rules for different groups of people. More bluntly, he doesn't answer the question. If Rep. Paul truly believes in individual liberty and individual rights, he should have been more clear and direct and said that DADT should go and the existing laws against "disruptive behavior" should apply to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

Later in 2007 he spoke to conservative Christian commentator and radio host John Lofton:

LOFTON: We'll try to stop anyone from getting in the military who is a homosexual, who is an adulterer, who is a fornicator, and then other categories that indicate a character flaw. Why we shouldn't try to do that?

PAUL: Looking it in protecting the military if they are going to perform the services, and they are imperfect — because we're all imperfect and we all sin. If a heterosexual or homosexual sins, that to me is the category of dealing with their own soul. Since we cannot have only perfect people going in the military I want to separate the two because I don't want to know the heterosexual flaws, nor the homosexual flaws and that's why I got in some trouble with some of the civil libertarians because I don't have any problem with Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Because I don't think that, for the practicality of running a military, I'd just as soon not know every serious thing that any heterosexual or homosexual did, and those flaws have to do with all our flaws because each and everyone one of us has those imperfections.

In this instance, I believe, Rep. Paul does a little better because he doesn't give in to Lofton's blanket condemnation of gay people. He also let's us know pretty clearly that he doesn't know what DADT really is and what it means. Rep. Paul was operating under the same assumption that many Americans do when they hear "don't ask, don't tell" - they assume it means exactly that and nothing more.

When I sat down with Rep. Paul, I showed him these two quotes and told him that I had been discharged under DADT. Rep. Paul seemed a little uncomfortable bringing those up, which tells me he knows he probably didn't say the "right" thing in answering those questions as he did.

The interesting part of the conversation was that he saw DADT as a protection for gay soldiers. He admitted to not having read the law and the various service regulations, so a good part of the conversation was geared toward making him understand that DADT does nothing to protect the gay troop, but actually puts him or her into a more vulnerable position. DADT is not a hot-button issue, even in the LGBT community, so most politicians, even the sympathetic ones are uninformed on the issue. They also have a tendency to confuse their talking points, hence the reason it is often hard to figure them out or they give the appearance of flip-flopping. A consistent philosophy would go a long way to keeping them accurate on everything they say.

Rep. Paul was concerned that the Military Readiness Enhancement Act would simply repeal DADT and not provide any protections for gay people in uniform. I had a copy of the current law and a copy of the bill. I showed him specifically where MREA would add the words "sexual orientation" to the current nondiscrimination clauses. He got philosophical and asked me what I thought of that. I responded by telling him that 1.) the military is public institution funded by taxpayers, including gay Americans, not a private institution funded by individuals who should be free to choose who they will hire and fire; and, 2.) the additional words are "sexual orientation" - not "homosexuality" - and since everyone has a sexual orientation, the law truly protects everyone. If a straight soldier were to have a gay commander, and the straight soldier believes the gay commander is showing favoritism to a gay soldier, then the straight soldier would have the same right to file an equal opportunity complaint as a gay soldier would have to file a complaint against a straight commander.

Actions speak louder than words and as the conversation was winding down, Rep. Paul went through the folder I had prepared to leave with him. He asked about the emails I had included from my conversations with the Republican Liberty Caucus . He also picked up the stories I had included regarding Major Alan G. Rogers who died earlier this year when he used his own body to block an IED explosion, saving the lives of two soldiers. Alan was gay, and while I never knew him, we had some mutual friends and acquaintances. The Washington Post willfully hid any reference to Alan's sexual orientation and it was later made public through the Washington Blade and the Post issued a statement from their ombudsman. I watched him read the first page of the story - where it tells how Alan died - without speaking a word.

The visit to Rep. Paul's office was one of the most productive of the entire trip. While I didn't get any commitment from him one way or another, I think he was left with some food for thought. Something I have learned about lobbying on any issue, is that building a relationship with the representative and his or her staff is probably more effective than simply flooding their email in-boxes with mass-produced letters.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Republicans Say The Craziest Things

Take, for example, Arizona Republican Congressional candidate, Joe Sweeney:

Yet another example of the futility of trying to advance "libertarian values" inside the right-wing looney-bin popularly known as the Republican Party. With guys like this making up the brain trust, we'd hate to see the dumb ones.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

John McCain says gay parent households aren't "family"

He also pledges to use his office to attack queer families in this interview with the New York Times:

Mr. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted daughter, said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. “I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don’t believe in gay adoption,” he said.

So while the Democrats offer up a candidacy of empty platitudes and flip-flopping, the Republicans offers up a member of the Keating Five to lecture gay parents on how they're not real parents... and condemn thousands of children to lives in orphanages without parentage.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some Help From Outright To Ease Obama's "Difficulty"

Recently, a gay Democratic activist went to ask Obama about immigration equality. An emotional issue for the gentleman, he teared up when asking Obama about it and received a Clintonian "I feel your pain" response, followed up with a statement that immigration equality is a "difficult" issue:

It was apparent that he knew this issue well. He took some time to explain that same sex immigration is going to be a very difficult one because it combines two of the most controversial issues Congress faces, gay rights and immigration. (I heard this from Barney Frank two years ago as well.) Obama also said that to tackle it we were going to have to establish a vehicle to recognize gay couples.

Obama's understanding of this issue is pretty lousy, and must contribute to his perception of "difficulty."

Presently, the Uniting American Families Act (or UAFA) would make immigration equality happen for both same-gender couples AND opposite-gender couples who choose, for religious, personal or other reasons, not to get legally married.

So here's a simple, easily implemented plan for Obama to pursue on this issue:

1) Talk to Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker, and get the Democratic Whip to get all Democrats to sign on to support UAFA. Ask Pelosi to allow the bill out of committee. The bill, supported by all Democrats and a number of Republicans, would easily pass the House.

2) Introduce identical companion legislation in the Senate. As a senator, Obama can do this, and ensure there's no "committee" necessary to reconcile differing pieces of legislation in the house.

3) Have Harry Reid instruct all Democrat Senators -- who have a majority -- to vote for the bill. A number of GOP senators support the bill as well.

4) If President Bush vetoes it, attempt to get a veto-proof majority, which could possibly be achieved for the bill. If a veto-proof majority is impossible to get, commit to signing the bill if elected president. Then, simply repeat the use of the Democrat majorities in both houses and sign the bill as president, after campaigning on a committed platform for UAFA.

It's not that real action on immigration equality is "difficult," it simply requires Democrats to actually walk the walk on gay issues. Since Democrats typically cannot be bothered to make legislation on gay issues happen -- except when it's anti-gay legislation like DOMA and the anti-gay military policy -- the difficulty is not theirs, but that of 40,000 binational same-gender couples divided or exiled due to Republicrat duplicity on this issue.

Sorry, Barack, but "feeling our pain" ain't good enough. We heard that often enough from Bill Clinton over 16 years ago. It's time to listen to Lee Iacocca and either lead or get the hell out of the way.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chris Cole, Libertarian for U.S. Senate

A nice article in North Carolina's News and Record:
"I think I contrast in every way," Cole said when asked to compare himself to Hagan and Dole. "They both consider government to be the solution for problems and I consider government the source of problems."

Cole is openly gay, a fact he says he hesitates to talk about only because he doesn't want it to define his campaign.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Newsweek Commentator Alter: Throw The Gays Under The Bus (Again)!

The Obama campaign has been mystifying observers for a while in its sheer audacity. Not necessarily audacious in hope, but rather in flip-flopping, Obama has been running so far to the right as of late to shock even longtime critics like yours truly.

When not advocating an expansion of George W. Bush's government funding program for religious organizations, extension of the warrantless wiretap law, or claiming ignorance about the teachings of his own pastor, Obama is taking steps to distance himself from gay people.

Whether it's slamming marriage equality while announcing his opposition to California's anti-gay marriage ballot initiative or the possible nomination of notorious homophobe Sam Nunn as his VP nominee, Obama has shown nothing but contempt for LGBT Americans.

Which makes this article from Newsweek's John Alter advocating a Nunn Democratic VP nomination all that much more patronizing to LGBT Americans, especially this portion:

The biggest stumbling block in selecting Nunn is his support in 1993 for a Pentagon study that backed a don't-ask-don't-tell policy for gays in the military. Nunn's position now is a mixture of new rhetoric ("I'm grateful to the thousands of gays and lesbians serving today") and a willingness to "review the policy" with an eye toward "eventually" changing it.

This won't be nearly enough for the gay and lesbian community and other liberals, for whom a controversial position of 15 years ago is still fresh. But, contrary to what many assume, this constituency does not have a veto over Obama's choice. And after pleasing gay rights groups by expressing his opposition to a California ballot initiative that would change the state constitution to bar gay marriage, Obama has some room to maneuver.

The blunt political truth is that Nunn's history on this issue might actually help the Democratic ticket in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. While gays would protest loudly if Nunn is the nominee, his selection would show Obama's independent streak in standing up to a powerful Democratic interest group.

I'll leave it up to you to decide which assertion is most pathetic:

1) The assertion that all gay and lesbian Americans are "liberals";

2) The idea that Obama's speechifying on a state issue not directly relevant to the presidency in California "makes up for" dithering in a federal area -- military readiness -- by taking the wrong side on an issue that a supermajority of Americans have long thought should change;

3) The idea that bigotry against gays and lesbians is demonstrative of an "independent streak" (one wonders if Alter and his media cohorts would characterize David Duke's policies against African Americans as edgy and independent);

4) The idea that gay people have any significant power or influence in the Democratic Party -- which has been taking the votes and contributions of gay people for two decades yet delivered not a single substantive positive policy change in that time.

If this article is what passes for "political analysis" in the mainstream media, it's no wonder we're stuck with a boatload of mediocre candidates this election cycle. The media isn't doing its job.