Freedom To Serve Rally

Tomorrow, on the grounds of the US Capitol at noon, the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network is holding a Freedom to Serve rally to help build momentum for the repeal of the failed Clinton-era policy Don't Ask, Don't Tell that bans openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from serving in the military.

It's also worth highlighting the efforts of Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia who has requested monthly updates from the Pentagon on the impact of the policy until it is repealed. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

In a statement released on Thursday, Moran said the discharged soldiers included an intelligence collector, a military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor-transport operator and a water-treatment specialist.

"How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?" asked Moran, a member of the House panel that oversees military spending.

The Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was instituted after President Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gay service members in 1993. It refers to the military practice of not asking recruits their sexual orientation. In turn, service members are banned from saying they are gay or bisexual, engaging in homosexual activity or trying to marry a member of the same sex.

The military discharged nearly 10,000 service members under the policy in a 10-year period, from 1997 to 2007. The number fired each year dropped sharply after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, when forces were stretched thin. Whereas more than 1,200 were dismissed in 2000 and again in 2001 for violating the policy, about half as many -- 627 -- were fired in 2007.

The Freedom to Serve Rally calls on the Congress to pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act and repeal the discriminatory policy of "Don't Ask Don't Tell".

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Please Don't Let Ken Starr Divorce These People

[Cross-Posted at Library Grape]

This video is absolutely heart-breaking.  I am having a hard time holding back the tears at work.

Sitting here without a mate in my little bubble of comfort, it's easy to forget about the countless married gay families in California that are currently under assault from the likes of Ken Starr.

Not only are the religious fundamentalists behind Prop. 8 planning to defend its legitimacy in the California Supreme Court, they have taken their fight to the most outrageous extreme imaginable and are actively trying to invalidate the marriages of tens of thousands of devoted Californians.

This is not some abstract discussion about rights, equality or the legal merits of gay marriage.  

These are real people with real families who were legally married in California before Prop. 8 took away the marriage rights of every gay Californian.  

These families are now faced with the prospect that the perennial agents of intolerance will forcibly rip their marriage away from them.

I hardly have the words to describe how furious this makes me.  

We've come a long way in this country -- struggling mightily to stamp out the abominations of slavery and segregation -- but we still live in a society where people unapologetically indulge their ignorance and animus in order to lash out at vulnerable minorities they blindly choose not to understand.

If this makes you as angry as it does me, take action now and sign the Courage Campaign's letter to the California Supreme Court.

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Obama Gives Wide-Ranging Interview to The Advocate

As some of you may remember, a local Pennsylvania LGBT newspaper earlier this week wrote on an interview it had with Senator Clinton and, at the same time wrote a lopsided rebuke to Senator Obama for supposedly not being "accessible" to the LGBT press.

I consider Senator Barack Obama to be an amazing advocate for LGBT issues.  Senator Obama has spoken to a variety of audiences -- both inside and outside the LGBT community -- on LBGT issues, including audiences expected to be hostile to our concerns.  For example, Senator Obama spoke out at Ebeneezer Baptist Church and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church about the damage that homophobia causes.  

I challenge anyone to find an instance where Hillary Clinton has appeared in front of a general or hostile audience and spoken out on homophobia or other LGBT issues.

Well, contrary to what the local Philly Gay News said, the Obama campaign reached out to the Advocate last week for an interview. He gave his interview on Monday, which appeared today in the Advocate. It is a great read, both for its honesty and candor.

See below the fold for more...

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Obama - the Urgent, Clear Choice for LGBT Rights

Andrew Sullivan says it much better than I ever could:

This is telling to me:

An interesting moment came when he was asked a question about LGBT rights and delivered an answer that seemed to suit the questioner, listing the various attributes -- race, gender, etc. -- that shouldn't trigger discrimination, to successive cheers. When he came to saying that gays and lesbians deserve equality, though, the crowd fell silent.

So he took a different tack: "Now I'm a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday," he said, to a sudden wave of noisy applause and cheers.

"I hear people saying things that I don't think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian," he said, and the crowd seemed to come along with him this time.

To hear someone defend gay and lesbian dignity and equality from a Christian perspective and to do so in the context of a largely African-American crowd, is much, much more than any candidate for the presidency has ever done. It's a break through. If it were just words, it would be one thing. But he has now done this repeatedly in front of black crowds, when he didn't have to. And he has put his specific commitments in writing in an open letter.

It's time to be candid about this - because gay voters, in my judgment, could make the difference in Ohio and Texas and Vermont and Rhode Island. There are very large gay communities in Texas' cities, and Ohio has the sixth largest gay community in the country. A plea: Do not sleep-walk into that voting booth with vague good feelings about the Clintons. Walk into that booth with eyes open and see what gay people have in front of them.

Now you may have many reasons not to vote for Obama, and no gay voter should vote on one issue. But solely with respect to gay matters, there is simply no choice here. Obama's positions, candor, courage, generation and religious embrace of us are dispositive.

Yes, the McClurkin flap was poorly handled and a casualty of the usual gay-straight tensions in the African American south. But it is overwhelmed by Obama's clear support and understanding of gay people and willingness to support our dignity at times and in places where others have not. I've seen it unprompted in private and unapologetically in public. I never saw it in the Clinton years, and Clinton herself is a victim of the defensive crouch that has immobilized progress at the national level for a decade or more. The current Washington set-up is broken. If you haven't seen that these past few years, you have blinders on. It doesn't deliver - and won't, without a president who actually believes that gay people deserve full equality. Yes, it's partly generational - Obama sees gay people in a way Clinton never will, as a function of her age and background. But it's also, it seems to me, an indication that he really is a Christian. One day, it will seem as obvious that Christians should support gay equality as it is now obvious that they should have opposed segregation. What Obama does for gay people in a religious context is just as important as what he does for us in a political one. Both are vital - because it is the abuse of religion that is at the core of the hostility to gay dignity.

What Obama is doing on the gay issue has the potential transform it and help us as a society to move past it. No, he's not a savior. No, we shouldn't expect miracles. No, we should never delegate the work of our equality to anyone else. We, after all, are the ones we've been waiting for. But within the Democratic contest, the case for backing Obama at this point in time is, to my mind, urgent, vital, historic.

Gay Americans must not throw this chance away.

UN Rights its Wrong and Votes to Protect Gays

Following yesterday's U.N. General Assembly vote to recognize and condemn killings based on sexual orientation โ€“ a reference that had been stripped in an earlier vote and was subsequently championed by, among others, the United States โ€“ White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement praising the 93-55 vote and reaffirming that "killing people because they are gay is not culturally defensible โ€“ it is criminal."

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