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Archives – November, 2010

Pentagon DADT study released: Discussing some of the key findings

Cross posted from Open Left

By Adam Bink

This afternoon, the Pentagon Comprehensive Working Group report was released, and I’m coming up for air after reading through some key graphs. The report surveyed “400,000 active duty and reserve component Service members with an extensive and professionally-developed survey, which prompted 115,052 responses-one of the largest surveys in the history of the U.S. military,” (which includes self-identied gay or lesbian servicemembers), along with 150,000 spouses and other family members, foreign allies, members of Congress, services chiefs, service academy superintendents, and other personnel. Which makes it hard to cast as some minority report.

I think these paragraphs of the report indeed states it best:

The results of the survey are best represented by the answers to three questions:

  • When asked about how having a Service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

  • When asked “in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,” 69% of Service members reported that they had.

  • When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.”

The latter point is a statistic which is 89% for those in Army combat units and 84% for those in Marine combat units. Additionally, 74% of spouses of military service-members say repeal of DADT would have no impact on their view of whether their husbands or wives should continue to serve.

Other key graphs I think are important to highlight (bolding mine where seen):

The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today’s U.S. military, and most Service members recognize this… Anecdotally, we also heard a number of Service members tell us about a leader, co-worker, or fellow Service member they greatly liked, trusted, or admired, who they later learned was gay; and how once that person’s sexual orientation was revealed to them, it made little or no difference to the relationship. Both the survey results and our own engagement of the force convinced us that when Service members had the actual experience of serving with someone they believe to be gay, in general unit performance was not affected negatively by this added dimension.

In communications with gay and lesbian current and former Service members, we repeatedly heard a patriotic desire to serve and defend the Nation, subject to the same rules as

everyone else. In the words of one gay Service member, repeal would simply “take a knife out of my back….You have no idea what it is like to have to serve in silence.” Most said they did not

desire special treatment, to use the military for social experimentation, or to advance a social agenda. Some of those separated under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would welcome the opportunity to rejoin the military if permitted. From them, we heard expressed many of the same values that we heard over and over again from Service members at large-love of country, honor, respect, integrity, and service over self. We simply cannot square the reality of these people with the perceptions about “open” service.

Along the way to gender integration, many of our Nation’s military leaders predicted dire consequences for unit cohesion and military effectiveness if women were allowed to serve in large numbers. As with racial integration, this experience has not always been smooth. But, the consensus is the same: the introduction and integration of women into the force has made our military stronger.

The general lesson we take from these transformational experiences in history is that in matters of personnel change within the military, predictions and surveys tend to overestimate negative consequences, and underestimate the U.S. military’s ability to adapt and incorporate within its ranks the diversity that is reflective of American society at large.

This one is particularly interesting:

We support the pre-existing proposals to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and remove private consensual sodomy between adults as a criminal offense. This change in law is warranted irrespective of whether Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed, to resolve any constitutional concerns about the provision in light of Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Marcum. We also support revising offenses involving sexual conduct or inappropriate relationships to ensure sexual orientation neutral application, consistent with the recommendations of this report. For example, the offense of adultery defined in the Manual for Courts-Martial should be revised to apply equally to heterosexual and homosexual sex that is engaged in by or with a married person

If you’re wondering, given the size of the poll, the margin of error for the service member poll is +/- less than 1%, and “similar” for the spouse survey. So it’s hard to cast the numbers as wildly inaccurate.

The Working Group concluded that “Based on all we saw and heard, our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer below, the risk of repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to overall military effectiveness is low.”

In a press conference announcing the release, Secretary Gates commented:

Now that we have completed this review, I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year. It is only a matter of time before the federal courts are drawn once more into the fray, with the very real possibility that this change would be imposed immediately by judicial fiat – by far the most disruptive and damaging scenario I can imagine, and the one most hazardous to military morale, readiness and battlefield performance.

While “judicial fiat” is not the language I would have chosen, Gates is using the threat of a court ruling as an argument for Congress to enact repeal “the right way”. It’s an interesting case that may encourage Senators to support repeal.

Jeh Johnson, a co-chair of the Working Group, also spoke, and noted that the resistance to repeal “is driven by misperceptions and stereotypes.”

The full report can be found here. I will continue updating this post as I keep reading, and let you know of other developments.

And as I wrote this morning, now is a more critical time than ever to call swing Senators and ask friends/family/colleagues to also do so, using the Pentagon report as a tool. A list of swing votes can be found here, and the number is 202-224-3121. We still have work to do.

Updated: An interesting section on page 122 that I think gets at much of the concern and stereotypes not just in the military, but in greater society with respect to gays and lesbians becoming teachers, or the passage of ENDA- and batted down by the Pentagon.

In listening to Service members we found a perceptions gap- between the perception of the gay Service member that people know and work with, and the perception of the stereotypical gay individual that people do not know and have never worked with. When Service members talk about a unit member they believe to be gay or lesbian, their assessment of that individual was based on a complete picture and actual experience, including the Service member’s technical and tactical capabilities and other characteristics that contribute to his or her overall effectiveness as a member of the military and as a colleague.

By contrast, when asked about serving with the imagined gay Service member who is “open” about his or her sexual orientation, that feature becomes the predominant if not sole characteristic of the individual, and stereotypes fill in the rest of the picture. Stereotypes motivated many of the comments we heard. The most prevalent concern expressed is that gay men will behave in a stereotypically effeminate manner, while lesbian women are stereotypically painted in “masculine” terms. We heard widespread perceptions that, if permitted to be open and honest about their sexual orientation, gay Service members would behave as sexual predators and make unwelcome sexual advances on heterosexuals, gay men would adopt feminine behavior and dress, there would be open and notorious displays of affection in the military environment between same-sex couples, and that repeal would lead to an overall erosion of unit cohesion, morale, and good order and discipline.  Based on our review, however, we conclude that these concerns are exaggerated and not consistent with the reported experiences of many Service members.

The perceptions gap we note here is also reflected in the survey data. The data reveals that Service members who are currently serving with someone they believe to be gay or lesbian are less likely to perceive a negative impact of repeal on the key elements of unit task and social cohesion, and unit effectiveness. Conversely, those who have believe they have never served with someone who is gay or lesbian are more likely to perceive a negative impact. Likewise, of Service members who believe they have in their career served in a unit with a co-worker who is gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.”

Thus, our view is that the negative perceptions and predictions of serving alongside a gay Service member are refuted by the considerable track record of actual experiences where Service members did exactly that.

Update 2: This section on pages 126-27 make up especially critical talking points against one of the lead anti-repeal arguments, that being “now is not the time”:

Change During a Time of War

Our assessment also took account of the fact that the Nation is at war on several fronts, and for a period of over nine years, the U.S. military has been fully engaged, and has faced the stress and demands of frequent and lengthy deployments. When it comes to a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, many ask: why now?

The question “why now?” is not for us, but for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and Congress, informed by the military advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The question we answer here is “can we now?” We considered the question carefully and conclude that repeal can be implemented now, provided it is done in a manner that minimizes the burden on leaders in deployed areas. Our recommended implementation plan does just that, and it is discussed more fully in the accompanying support plan for implementation.

The primary concern is for the added requirement that will be created by the training and education associated with repeal. We are cognizant of these concerns, but note that during this period, the Services have undertaken education and training in deployed areas on a number of important personnel matters. These education and training initiatives have included increased emphasis on sexual assault prevention and response, suicide prevention, and training to detect indications of behavioral health problems.

The conduct of these programs in deployed areas indicates that training and education associated with a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can be accommodated. We assess this to be the case, in large part because our recommendations in this report involve a minimalist approach to changes in policies, plus education and training that reiterates existing policies in a sexual orientation-neutral manner.

It is also the case that the results of the survey indicate, though this is a time of war, a solid majority of Service members believe that repeal will have positive, mixed, or no effect. Most of those surveyed joined our military after September 11, 2001, and have known nothing but a military at war.

We are also informed by past experience. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, in the period immediately following World War II, during the Korean War and the beginning of the Cold War, our military took on the task of racial integration, in advance of the rest of society. And, at the time, the change implicated far larger numbers of Service members: African Americans in the Army then numbered 700,000 of a total force of over 8 million, and the opposition to racial integration was far greater than today’s resistance to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The process of racial integration was slow and presented many challenges, but history shows that there were no differences in combat effectiveness in the Korean War between integrated and all-white segregated units.

UPDATE BY ANDY:

The Pentagon Study in its entirety:

180 Comments November 30, 2010

NOM attacks civil unions in Illinois; Bill may be voted on today

by Andy Kelley
New Media Organizer, Courage Campaign

In developing news, Illinois could vote to pass the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (SB 1716), creating civil unions for same-sex couples, as soon as today.

Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn has pledged to sign the bill if passed telling the Chicago Tribune on Monday “I do think this is the time for Illinois to do this. This is a good way to show employers — big businesses all across the country — that Illinois treats everyone with tolerance.”

Despite their previous claims to not oppose civil unions, the National Organization for Marriage is hard at work urging their supporters to contact their legislators and urge them to oppose passage of the bill, calling it “same-sex marriage by a different name.”

Advocates of the bill are not allowing this challenge by out of state, Washington DC based interests to go unanswered. As Chicago Pride reports:

Gay rights activists continue to encourage the LGBT community to contact their legislators on Tuesday morning by calling the Illinois Capitol switchboard at 217-782-2000. EQIL has also established a hotline to help people identify their legislators, that number is 773-477-7173.

We will continue to bring you updates as this story develops.

UPDATE:

Good news. The Daily Herald is reporting that the bill has passed the state house and will move to the state senate for consideration:

By a 61-52 vote, lawmakers voted to allow civil unions, which would give nonmarried partners both gay and straight additional rights and benefits under state law.

135 Comments November 30, 2010

Is Judge Norman Randy Smith a Mormon? And does it matter?

Cross-posted from LGBTPOV.

This is cross-posted with permission from the California Faith for Equality website. In the blog, Laura Compton of Mormons for Marriage mentions Mormon football hero Steve Young, a direct descendent of Mormon hero Brigham Young. It is important to remember that Young and his wife strongly opposed Prop 8. Additionally, right-winger Glenn Beck says gay marriage makes no difference to him. So being Mormon may make no more difference in someone being antigay than being Catholic, Christian or Jewish. A more reliable determining factor would be judicial decision, which Syd Peterson noted earlier. – Karen O.

Is Judge Smith a Mormon?

By Samuel Chu and Laura Compton

So is Judge Smith a Mormon?

The answer – I don’t know and it is none of my damn business.

Almost immediately after the announcement of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel reviewing the Prop 8 challenge, questions popped up regarding the religious background of one of the three judges named. The speculations around Judge Norman Randy Smith stemmed from the fact that Smith went to Brigham Young University for both his undergraduate and law school education.

A friend of California Faith for Equality, Laura Compton, who is herself Mormon and heads the website MormonsforMarriage.org shares her thoughts:

I think that anyone crying foul/unfair due to a judge’s religious views makes the same amount of sense as crying foul/unfair because of a judge’s orientation. Just as it was absurd to question Judge Walker’s ruling because he’s not straight, it is absurd to question the ability of any judge based solely on his/her religious beliefs.

Any judge worth his salt knows better than to judge civil law by the tenets of the Book of Mormon/Bible rather than by the requirements of the Constitution. It’s not like this is the first time they will have been asked to review a sticky moral-political issue, and I’m sure that if they feel they cannot sit in judgment without a conflict of interest they will step down and let another judge sit on in their stead.

Would we question a judge’s ability to hear the case if she were Catholic? Orthodox Jew? Southern Baptist? Unitarian? Atheist? What about if he’s quoting Star Trek in his judicial opinions (as happened recently in Texas)?

If N. Randy Smith is Mormon, which seems likely given his degree from BYU’s law school, and if the LGBT community raises a fuss because he’s on the case, all they will do is feed the monster of misunderstanding that’s grown from the Prop 8 fight. You won’t make the monster go away by feeding it. You make it go away by starving it. Examine Smith’s judicial record, not his religious record.

Harry Reid and Glenn Beck and Steve Young are all Mormons – there’s a pretty broad spectrum of belief and practice within the religion and usually just because a judge is religious doesn’t mean religion is the primary motivating factor in writing judicial decisions.

Laura Compton

Webmaster, MormonsforMarriage.org

114 Comments November 30, 2010

Blackmailed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Courage and OutServe team up on “Testimony”

by Andy Kelley
New Media Organizer, Courage Campaign

Over the past few weeks, we’ve stepped up our efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” partnering with Rep. Patrick Murphy, VoteVets.org, our friends at SLDN, reaching out to empower veterans to speak in support of lifting the ban on lesbian and gay Americans serving openly in our armed forces.

Today, Courage is proud to be partnering with OutServe, an underground network of more than 1,200 active-duty gay and lesbian members of the military, in launching the latest iteration of the Testimony website to amplify the voices of veterans and active duty service members, both gay and straight, calling on Congress to end DADT.

Please read the following message from OutServe member Jd Smith on the power of these stories to change hearts and minds, and to move Congress to action. Then visit our Testimony website to watch the videos and share these stories with your friends.


In the last few weeks, 69,360 Americans — including 12,462 veterans and their families — have signed Rep. Patrick Murphy’s Courage Campaign petition to Senate leaders. We followed that up by launching an advertising campaign on military web sites sending John McCain and Republicans a message that veterans and their families support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On Tuesday, the long-awaited Pentagon survey of active-duty servicemembers will be released, followed by Senate hearings on Thursday and Friday featuring testimony from military leadership. That’s why we’re bringing you this important message from Jd Smith (name anonymized), an active-duty servicemember who recently helped launch OutServe, an underground network of more than 1,200 active-duty gay and lesbian members of the military. Please read his compelling story below.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign

 

Dear Friend –

A few months ago, I was blackmailed under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Some people who knew that I was gay — and serving in the military — tried to use it against me to get what they wanted. After years of serving my country, I couldn’t take it any longer.  

So I started talking with fellow gay and lesbian servicemembers and we decided to take action. Over the past few months, we’ve organized Outserve — the largest network of active duty gay and lesbian servicemembers ever assembled. Using hidden social media, we are all connected, we can see each other, communicate with each other, and most importantly, support each other.

In the last few months, Outserve has created 27 chapters around the globe, with more than 1,200 members. We are as diverse as the military and our country as a whole. We are among those serving right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. And like all who wear the uniform proudly, we are united by an unflinching commitment to give our lives, if necessary, in service to our country.

Now, with the Senate set to consider repeal of DADT in early December, we — gay and straight veterans alike — are speaking with one voice. We’re in this fight together and, together, we’re going to finally put an end to a failed policy that hurts our military, undermines the trust our troops need on the battlefield, and contradicts the values that generations of veterans have fought and died to defend.

With the support of the Courage Campaign’s “Testimony” project, we have uploaded several videos from both gay and straight veterans and servicemembers sharing their thoughts about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Will you watch these videos now, share them with your friends and — if you are a veteran — upload a  video of your own?

For years, I have served openly as a gay servicemember in the ranks. Most of my straight brothers and sisters in arms have been nothing but supportive. In fact, they are the ones I owe for saving my career under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

When I came under investigation under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” it was my straight fellow servicemembers who came to my aid. It was my straight colleagues who saved me from being discharged.

While elimination of DADT is supported by President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, majorities in both houses of Congress, and 78% of the American people, Senator John McCain has threatened a filibuster. He says he wants to hear from our troops and their families. We are going to make sure he does.

Veterans know that DADT is bad for our military — especially in a time of war — and America needs to hear their stories. Before the Senate begins its deliberations, you can help ensure the politicians hear the truth about this failed policy.  Will you watch these videos now, share them with your friends and — if you are a veteran — upload a  video of your own?

http://www.couragecampaign.org/Testimony

Thank you for your support. At the end of the day, we are all in this fight together.

Jd Smith
(Anonymous name)

58 Comments November 29, 2010

BREAKING: 9th Circuit names three judges who will hear Prop 8 case

By Eden James

Samuel Chu of California Faith for Equality broke the news this morning that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals named the three judges who will hear the Prop 8 appeals case, starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, December 6.

The three-judge panel was randomly selected from the pool of 23 judges who serve on the 9th Circuit. Two of the judges were appointed by Democratic presidents and one by a Republican president.

More details, as picked up from California Faith for Equality by SDGLN:

Judge Stephen Roy Reinhardt. He was confirmed in 1980 after being nominated by President Jimmy Carter. He served in the Air Force. On Nov. 18, 2009, the judge ruled in favor of a gay couple who were having their spousal health care benefits denied – Brad Levenson and Tony Sears were married during the period gay marriage was legal in California during 2008, and was seeking benefits for his partner while working as a public defender for the federal government. Judge Reinhardt also wrote an opinion relating to “standing” in a 1997 case relating to Arizona voters amending the state Constitution to make English the state’s official language. In that opinion written by Judge Reinhardt, the court held that the sponsors of the ballot initiative could intervene. But later that year, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously thought the Ninth Circuit had “lost sight” of the limitations of federal courts to decide definitively on the meaning of state legislation.

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins. He joined the court in 1994 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. He was U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1977 to 1980 and then as Special Prosecutor for the Najavo Nation from 1985 to 1989.

Judge Norman Randy Smith. He was confirmed in 2007 after being nominated by President George W. Bush. Born in Logan, Utah, Smith graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in 1974, and received his J.D. from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark School of Law in 1977.

“I am hopeful that the 9th circuit court panel will affirm equality and fairness,” said Samuel Chu, executive director of California Faith for Equality, which filed an amicus brief to the court supported by 700 clergy and congregations urging the panel to affirm Judge Walker’s ruling.

“Marriage is a right that every Californian deserve and this is another critical moment for the justice system to add momentum to winning full equality. Our state and our government should never be in the business of discrimination.”

More to come, as news develops.

UPDATE: Apparently, Judge Reinhardt is the husband of ACLU advocate Ramona Ripston. According to Wikipedia, Ripston is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California, until her February 2011 retirement.

UPDATE: Syd over at LGBTPOV adds the following about Judge Smith:

In Perry v. Proposition 8 Official Proponents, Smith sided with the judges that decided that Campaign for CA Families (that organization even further to the right of Yes on 8) could not intervene in this case.

In Lopez v. Candaele, Smith ruled against a student who challenged a community college sexual harassment policy on the basis of First Amendment rights. “… we conclude that the student failed to make a clear showing that his intended speech on religious topics gave rise to a specific and credible threat of adverse action from college officials under the college’s sexual harassment policy.”

UPDATE: Jeremy at Good As You has National Review Online’s take — and, as one might expect, they aren’t happy:

Reinhardt (appointed by President Carter in 1980) may well be the most aggressive liberal judicial activist in the nation—and the most reversed judge in history. Hawkins, a 1994 Clinton appointee, is also regularly on the Left on the Ninth Circuit. Smith, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007, is much more of a judicial conservative.

With two hard-core liberals, the panel is a fairly typical Ninth Circuit draw—which is to say, a bad one for supporters of Prop 8.

236 Comments November 29, 2010

CA Assembly Speaker John A. Perez: It Gets Better

Cross posted at LGBT POV

By Karen Ocamb

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is the third most powerful public official in California. And as an openly gay man, he has been deeply moved by the rash of gay teen suicides – and the knowledge of how stressful the holidays can be. Perez came out to his family during Thanksgiving and in this video, he shares how difficult – and ultimately rewarding – that experience was. “From the moment you free yourself from the closet, it gets better,” Perez says. Please watch. And Happy Thanksgiving.

48 Comments November 28, 2010

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