Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DADT...Stepping Up The Pressure

Nothing breaks President Obama's facade of diplomatic neutrality...nothing. That man could outstare an iceberg and stay cooler longer. That fact has been true about our President in the face of some very vitriolic attacks over the course of the last year. He has been heckled on the senate floor, faced down teabaggers, and swam in  the shark tank of wall street without so much as wrinkling his lapel. So then, it came as a great suprise to see the Presidents air of nonchalance slip a notch when Get Equal protesters shouted out during a fundraising speach for Barbara Boxer in Los Angeles. Video after the jump.

Wow...thats the first time I have EVER seen the President get angry, even if only for a millisecond.

alot of comments and points of view circulate regarding this event. Some see it as a natural reaction to a President who makes loud claims of support for the gay community whilst allowing his administration to work against that same community. Still  others view the actions of group like Get Equal as the misguided temper tantrums of people more apt to erode what support we have in the White House.

Personally, I think their both right. This type of action starts to scare people when it ceases to be isolated events and starts to become the status quo. That enevitably makes some people shy away. However, on the other hand, it puts pressure those who are the focus of protest. Notice that President Obama doesn't really get impatient until it becomes clear that repeating the same casual talking points he has been repeating all year doesn't imediately mollify the protesters. Then the message starts to set in that these people are expecting him to do something and that giving more speaches isn't going to fix it. Perhaps he will rethink his strategy of "letting congress take the lead", when he said during his campaign that "he" would work to end Don't Ask Dont Tell?

Instead, all we recieved to date is news about ridiculous Pentagon studies while more soldiers continue to get discharged. We also hear of the White House Department Of Justice releasing homophobic statements against a repeal of DADT...and the gay community in general, with impunity. THEN we get wind of rumors that lawmakers are being told not to put the repeal of DADT on the next Defense Appropriations Bill....Um, What are we supposed to think? Is President Obama not these agencies superior? In many cases their direct boss? How would it not appear as if he's telling us one thing while doing another? If he wants us to believe he's for a repeal, he'll need to do more than shout down protestors at fundraising events.

In related news, the White House fence has again become the site of a DADT handcuff protest. This time involving six individuals including(PHB):

Lt. Dan Choi   served as an infantry officer with the United States Army in Iraq in 2006-2007. Choi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is fluent in Arabic. In June 2008, he transferred from active duty Army to the New York National Guard. After coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009, he was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. Choi is a founding member of KnightsOut, an organization of West Point alumni that advocates for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, and he speaks frequently in support of rights for LGBT members of the military.

Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II,   a former infantryman and lawyer originally from Ohio, served in the United States Army until he was discharged in 2004 under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Pietrangelo fought in Iraq in 1991 as an infantryman and returned as a JAG officer for the second Iraq War. As he was readying for a third combat tour, he was honorably discharged for declaring he is gay. Pietrangelo sued the government, charging that the policy is unconstitutional. He appealed to the Supreme Court, but in June 2009, the Supreme Court rejected the case and refused to intervene, at the request of the Obama Administration.

Petty Officer Larry Whitt was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, and grew up in Florida. Fulfilling a lifelong goal, Whitt joined the Navy after high school and served for 12 years. He received the Outstanding Sailor Award aboard the USS Compass Island, was a Sailor of the Month aboard the USS Caloosahatchee, and retired as a Petty Officer First Class. He was stationed with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, and received a Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Good Conduct Medals, and a Navy Expeditionary Medal. Whitt was honorably discharged in October 1982, after he requested discharge for fear of being turned in for being gay. Currently, he is the Color Guard Coordinator for the Florida Gold Coast Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights in Ft. Lauderdale.

Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen   was born in Northridge, California and raised in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley. Sandeen joined the United States Navy in 1980 as a Fire Controlman. She served on two Guided Missile Fast Frigates as a Mark 92 Fire Control System technician, and one Guided Missile Fast Frigate as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician. Her last ship was the Third Fleet Command Ship, the USS Coronado, where she served as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician from 1996 to 2000. She retired after 20 years as Fire Controlman First Class. At the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000, Sandeen was sexually harassed by a subordinate and Executive Officer for being perceived as an effeminate gay male. After retiring from the U.S. Navy, she was awarded a Veteran's Administration Service Connected Disability rating. She began transitioning as a male-to-female transsexual on February 6, 2003. As a transgender activist, she has worked with many transgender advocacy organizations. She is currently the transgender chair of DOD FedGlobe, and she writes for the blog
Pam's House Blend.

Cadet Mara Boyd,   originally from and currently residing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, completed three years in the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated in the top ten percent of her basic training class before she came out as a lesbian to her commander in the fall of 2002 and was honorably discharged under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in June 2003. Before she came out, Boyd held the position in her cadet detachment of Cadet Captain, Character Development Officer, having been nominated by the officer cadre and cadet corps to handle the character development and moral guidance of the entire detachment. Boyd's ROTC scholarship, which had paid for two years of nonresident tuition, was revoked upon her discharge, and the government demanded that she repay her scholarships and book stipends. Boyd ended up with $30,000 of tuition bills to pay. Boyd returned to UC Boulder and completed her degree, but she is still paying back the scholarship debt.

Airman Victor Price,   originally from Asheboro, NC, served as a Bioenvironmental Engineering Specialist with the United States Air Force. During his tour, he obtained a BA in business marketing at Delaware State. A Senior Airman, Price was honorably discharged in 2000 under Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Corporal Evelyn Thomas,   who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Texas, joined the Army National Guard and then the U.S. Marine Corps. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman. She was then honorably discharged in 1991. In October 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who fear they may be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality. The Sanctuary Project Veterans is a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, and it provides a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

So we have gone from two people chaining themselves to the White House fence to six. Perhaps next time it will be twenty. The actions of a few are slowing growing into the actions of many. Call it what you will...revolution, reactionism, shooting ourselves in the foot....the message needs to be sent and the pressure to act is getting raised. That same message is now being picked up and passed on by more and more people. We don't live in an age anymore, when things can be accomplished in secret so easily. We are watching. We are checking your actions against your speechs. We get wind of comments made in the halls of power when no one else is supposed the hear. It gets facebooked, tweeted, and Youtubed around the globe before you finish your morning coffee. We are watching and we are talking to each other. Its time for some transparency from our President. No more smoke screens, its time for  clear and direct action.


  1. The chant needs to change from "Yes We Can" to "Get It Done!"

  2. Sorry,

    I have to be honest. I think the heckling is complete and utter bullshit. I understand their frustration, but this is the wrong way to go about it. They're doing nothing to help the cause by being disrespectful and acting like a group of idiots. It's people like that who set the movement for gay rights back in my opinion.

    Then again, I'm not one of the gays who tries to find homophobia in everything and then blame it all on the president, as if we would somehow have had a better chance of ending DADT, or improving gay rights under McCain or Hilary Clinton for that matter.

  3. Riot, bitches, riot! Burn shit, fight, scream, pull, kick. If not they'll step over us like they have for the past 4000 years.

  4. @Anonymous.

    Riot? Fight? Sorry but that wouldn't achieve anything right now. All that would do is help many on the right win their case against repealing DADT and other gay rights' issues.

  5. I saw that video too! BTW, I started seeing couple you mentioned in your post you made about the screwed in your area showing up in other places. I'm curious if you'd heard from other sources about them or if other sources have picked up on it because of you!

    In the past I would've been annoyed at the hecklers, but after reading your entries, watching your videos, and generally being exposed more to the gay rights movement (also via your influence like being introduced to Queerty), I was so proud of them!

    There's definitely the conservative part of me that worries this is going to do more harm than good, but for the most part I think it was for the best. The logic?

    The 2 main motivations why Obama would help teh gays is:
    (1) He actually believes in gay rights
    (2) He's just being politically correct/diplomatic and trying to secure votes

    My guess is that his motivation is a little bit of both.

    If his motivation is #1, then some hecklers shouldn't really impede his desire to see gay rights through. It just makes him aware that minor actions aren't placating us which is good. It also serves as a good extreme contrast to the overly-diplomatic HRC (or whatever the main gay groups are out there that haven't really been influencing a whole lot of change--i don't recall the exact name of those groups). So even if some of those extremist protesting gays annoy, there are plenty of more mainstream gays to now be given appreciation whereas before they were probably seen as extreme. There shouldn't be any widespread generalizing or dissatisfaction with all gays hopefully.

    If #2 his primary motivation, then he would just be following the majority of not strongly supporting gay rights anyways. So even if somehow the hecklers displeased him, it wouldn't matter because he had no intention of completely following through with things anyways.

    So matter how you look at it, I think overall it was a good move for everybody. Heck, it should even make Obama even look better to homophobes as they can clearly see that we're not in the same camp and that he doesn't have a "gay agenda". He's definitely not in bed with us and this was made clear.

    And now he knows that nice words without action aren't going to be enough, and the message was sent in an emotionally arousing way. I'm glad a reaction was provoked out of him. I think complaints through the impersonal channels of bureaucracy are more easily disregarded and forgotten, but at the least now this incident will be a little more forefront on his mind than it once was. Now we can see how he reacts. He could become irritated or hopefully be more motivated to help us

    At the same time I do feel a little bad for him, because he's definitely bound by politics and bureaucracy to a degree. If he really has had intentions to help us but just hasn't gotten around to it because of strategic reasons, then I could see how this incident could upset him. Overall though, he's President so a little dissension, criticism, and embarrassment from his "allies" (or former allies) shouldn't be a big deal. Like any leader, this isn't about loyalty or hurt feelings. He can just suck it up and appropriately react to the internal criticism and acknowledged that a lot of people aren't satisfied on this front. It's better for him to know sooner than later anyways. Wouldn't you rather know a group of voters are displeased now than find out later when you didn't get votes for your 2nd term like you were expecting?

  6. Thanks U3Q I don't think I could have expressed that better. the only thing I would add would be that the time to ask for rights to be granted passed decades ago yet here we are still standing on the street corner, hat in hand, asking to be treated like equal human beings let alone equal citizens. We should always endeavor to work within the system when we can. Thats how our government is supposed to work. BUT..when it cannot or will not carry out those duties then we take it to another level because thats the only way our voice is going to get heard. How many more soldiers need to be discharged? how many more gay couples lives need to be invalidated? How many more gay and trans people need to lose housing or employment before we stop asking nicely for fear of pissing off our friends? How much is too much?

    I think we passed that point long ago

  7. Regarding Clay vs Sonoma County...we recieved a facebook message from a reader who saw it on NCLR's site. jay then contacted the attorneys representing Clay to confirm. That same facebook message could have gone to several people at the same time it came to us...or anyone could have viewed NCLR's case docket. BUT we did our damndest to get the story off the ground.

  8. The trouble is that Obama can't do everything to repeal DADT can he, because of the way congress is made up over there. From what I can see even with a majority in congress it is pretty hard to pass anything.

    I don't really understand why a majority isn't good enough in congress but as it doesn't seem to be I think he should probably stop making promises he can't keep.

  9. @orangegoglin: The idea of the filibuster is an archaic idea meant to slow down the progressives and the conservatives however in this day and age it has gone to far.

    There is an argument that the filibuster and the supermajority is illegal. After all , the constitution says that the President of the Senate is the tie breaker in a tie vote. A filibuster usurps the authority of the Vice President to exercise his constitutional power.

    @GayFamilyValues: another option is that he needs gay votes and or=ur allies in traditionally liberal areas such as California, Oregon, New York, and Mass to win elections.

    It is for this reason that I think during a Midterm Election that we pick one race where the Gays are important to the decision, and not vote. We just don't let them have it. And we let it be known. I think we will get a lot more motivation when we finally make them do what they promise rather than continually pushing us for our votes and ignoring us for two to four years.

  10. @Bryan

    Absolutely. Our social group has enough history of patient diplomacy under our belts to justify more aggressive action. The time for procrastinating equal rights needs to be over.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you guys are the reason why Clay vs Sonoma County suddenly got noticed. Or noticed more at least. I heard about it through your blog first and then saw it a day or two later over at Queerty and then somewhere else.

    Realistically, I don't think people should be surprised when politicians can't keep their promises. If we are to judge them on how they keep their word, almost nobody should get elected. Politics is too messy and bogged down in compromise, negotiation, and power struggles to expect that any President is going to follow through with every single one of their promises. At the same time, a Presidential candidate running for election obviously has to promise something to people to get people to elect them. I see it as a necessary evil

    Not to say that they Presidents are off the hook to not fulfill promises. I think the measure we need to judge them on is intent and the progress or effort made on the promises instead of being picky about if a promise was fulfilled 100%.

    Also it's our job to push, be aggressive, and make the world aware of our struggle so that it becomes more expedient for the President to support us. I remember hearing somewhere that Obama wants us to put pressure on him.

    At any 1 time we are 1 of many promises/objectives for him to try to help out and do work on. So naturally, he's going to be working the hardest and most on whatever issues are most pressing or strategic for him to fulfill. If more of the constituency wants Project A complete over Project B, then obviously unless he has a vested interest, he's probably going to work on Project A because it's both a more popular issue that would fulfill the demands of more of the American people and it would also align with his probable goals of wanting to be more widely supported

    If we don't put pressure on him and don't demand our rights, then just naturally he's going to assume it's not a big issue, procrastinate in helping us in his hierarchy of goals, and/or forget about us completely. We can't just expect people to help us, we have to help ourselves. For obvious reasons, the burden is on us since it's our "problem".

    The trouble is that Obama can't do everything to repeal DADT can he, because of the way congress is made up over there. From what I can see even with a majority in congress it is pretty hard to pass anything.

    I don't really understand why a majority isn't good enough in congress but as it doesn't seem to be I think he should probably stop making promises he can't keep.

    The more visible and the more aggressive we demand rights it also helps to justify taking action on our behalf. If the President is the one spearheading a minority cause like ours, then he'll naturally get accused for being an extremist and it'd hurt his political position and survival as well as his leverage to carry out his other Presidential causes. But if people are clearly upset about gay rights and everybody knows it, he can more easily justify doing work on our behalf by pointing to the discontent and showing that he was simply solving a problem of an American demographic group as opposed to taking on a special interest

  11. Sorry, but I refuse to support people who heckle and pass a level of civilized protesting. I don't think acting like that helps the gay community gain ANY support for our cause. I also think getting more aggressive would too easily turn into too aggressive and it would be counterproductive. It could easily increase support for those who oppose certain gay rights issues.

    Call me not "aggressive enough" or whatever you wish, but I completely disagree with this way of protesting.

  12. The main way I could see such heckling to be counterproductive is if the Democratic Party or Obama reversed decisions made in favor of the gay community or stopped making efforts towards helping it that it was otherwise going to do. I don't think an entire social group would be judged based on one contingent, just as I wouldn't expect somebody logical to start considering racism acceptable if say a group of African-Americans heckled them.

    Maybe you're right and those individuals could be spiteful or vengeful. But at any case, it at least provides us with data and information about how the higher ups would react to different forms of protest. If we see that the aggressive protesting is not working then we can just adapt and stop doing it. But what we do have clear data on is how effective the patient diplomatic and polite way of doing things has been.

    For many that progress made working under the status quo is just too slow a pace and the gains have been too little. So naturally, if people are unhappy, they will demand more. As a personal example, I've personally seen how being more aggressive and being more high maintenance can yield more gains and concessions. I've also experienced how being nice, subservient, and polite can lead to getting completely walked over. I would notice that despite doing everything my parents would ask, they would do more and gave more allowances to my sibling who was much more selfish and fought with them more. So I adjusted my way of doing things, and while I was in no way a bad kid, I did allow myself to put myself first much more. As a result, sometimes I would get into more arguments with my parents, but it also led to more frank dialogue about each others' needs and they were less apt to take my previous and current obedience and good behavior towards them for granted.

    People like parents and Presidents are not mind readers. If nobody acts like there is a problem, then they will not know there is any issue to rectify. If nobody is getting upset, complaining, or getting in their faces, they are going to think they are doing a great job and that they don't have to change a thing. There is just no motivation to help out those who they don't realize need/want help.

    Now of course, being a complete asshole won't get them to help us either, but civil disobedience and verbal protest is still pretty low on the totem pole of things that angry 2nd class citizens can do. There are plenty of gay groups out there that are and have been doing things by the book, so if anything the hecklers' contrasting tactics should give those bodies more leverage and people should appreciate the way they've been conducting themselves more than they would without the hecklers' existence.

  13. I don't think heckling the President would increase support for those who oppose gay rights issues. If somebody were to turn against gay rights simply because one group of people within the entire social group heckled the President, they're obviously not really concerned with social justice at the heart of things anyways. Which means, those individuals were never for gay rights in the first place. We can't lose support that we never had.

    Technically speaking, people who are neutral on the issue of gay rights are actually against gay rights in practice. Right now, the status quo in our country is against gay rights. So anybody who is not actively working for it is effectively allowing the majority to dominate and that is currently against things like gay marriage. This includes even gays themselves who are apathetic or not willing to fight for equal rights.

    Change requires proactiveness, courage, and well--aggression. Inertia, passivity, fear, and playing by the rulebook (which is currently and historically a deck stacked against us) is not going to get the job done.

    I was more where you are, so I do understand where you are coming from. But my attitude towards this changed when I learned that the past Civil Rights Movements which brought minorities, women, etc. their rights required aggression.

    Don't be fooled. Civil disobedience and non-violent resistance IS aggressive.

  14. What I find astounding is that he proclaimed himself as our "fierce advocate" during the election process.

    Where the hell is that advocate now???

    I think he's terrified that the Republicans will use it against him. But whatever the case, be a LEADER. A leader doesn't care what his opposition thinks.