I am an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer. I have deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan and have commanded infantry Marines in combat.
On Tuesday, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said he believes repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowing gay and lesbian Marines to serve openly could “cost Marines’ lives” because of the “mistakes and inattention or distractions” that might ensue. I am not homosexual. And in this instance, I must respectfully disagree with my commandant.
The commandant cites the importance of cohesion within small combat units and warns against its disruption by allowing homosexuals to stop concealing their identities. In my experience, the things that separate Marines in civilian life fade into obscurity on the battlefield. There, only one thing matters: Can you do your job? People care much more about whom you voted for or what city you’re from while on the huge airbase with five Burger Kings, or back in the States, than they do when they’re walking down a dusty road full of improvised explosive devices in Haditha or Sangin.
In the end, Marines in combat will treat sexual orientation the same way they treat race, religion and one’s stance on the likelihood of the Patriots winning another Super Bowl. I do not believe the intense desire we all feel as Marines to accomplish the mission and protect each other will be affected in the slightest by knowing the sexual orientation of the man or woman next to us.
In the recent Defense Department survey, 58 percent of combat arms Marines said they felt allowing homosexuals to serve openly would negatively affect their unit, but 84 percent of combat arms Marines who had served with a homosexual said that there would be no effect or that the effect would be positive. It seems obvious that if allowing homosexuals to serve openly degraded performance, rather than improved it, a majority of Marines who had served with homosexuals would oppose repeal. Yet this is not the case, and homosexuals serve openly in the militaries of Britain, Canada, Australia, Israel and others with no ill effect. This suggests that much of the opposition toward repeal within the Marine Corps is based on the politics of individual Marines and not any measurable military effect.
Repeal would undoubtedly produce some disruption, but if other nations’ experiences are any guide, it will be so minimal as to be essentially nonexistent. Consider what is likely to happen if and when “don’t ask” is repealed: Lance Cpl. Smith will be having a typical Marine conversation with Lance Cpl. Jones, and the topic will turn to women. Smith will remark on how much he enjoys their company. Jones will reply: “Actually, man, I like dudes.”
Jones: “Yeah, man, really.”
Smith: “Wow. I didn’t know that.”
Both will then go back to cleaning their rifles.
Is it really likely that lance corporals who know each other better than brothers, and may have saved each other’s lives in split-second reactions during deployments, are suddenly going to refuse to serve in the same unit or quit the Corps because they have to share a shower?
Repeal will of course have many effects. Gay and lesbian Marines who are now barred from discussing their identities honestly with their superiors, peers and subordinates would be able to do their jobs free from the nagging knowledge that they are being less than honest with their brothers and sisters in arms. It is difficult to see how this could do anything but improve their job performance. Gay and lesbian Marines have long fought and died for a country that refuses to acknowledge their existence. Some are certainly among the Marines who have passed through Bethesda Naval Hospital and rest in Arlington.
I believe the reluctance many Marines feel about repeal is based on the false stereotype, borne out of ignorance, that homosexuals don’t do things like pull other Marines from burning vehicles. The truth is, they do it all the time. We simply don’t know it because they can’t tell us.
It is time for “don’t ask, don’t tell” to join our other mistakes in the dog-eared chapters of history textbooks. We all bleed red, we all love our country, we are all Marines. In the end, that’s all that matters.
The writer is an infantry captain in the Marine Corps.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Three Discharged Vets Challenge DADT, Sue For Reinstatement
Posted by Joe Sudbay (DC) at 12/13/2010 12:41:00 PM
Secretary Gates keeps saying he wants DADT ended by Congress, but we’re still waiting — and time is running out. Discharged servicemembers aren’t waiting. Today, three of them, Mike Almy, Anthony Loverde and Jason Knight, filed a lawsuit against DADT, seeking reinstatement. The suit was filed in California, meaning the Witt Standard is applicable.
SLDN’s press release:
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Morrison & Foerster LLP filed a complaint today against the United States government asking for the reinstatement of three service members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the discriminatory law barring gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from serving honestly and with integrity. The filing in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, also argues the current law and the regulations, policies, and guidance that implement it, are unconstitutional. To read the filing visit: http://bit.ly/eZg5EL
Statement by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director and Army Veteran Aubrey Sarvis:
“This filing is a shot across the bow as we prepare to pursue and sustain an aggressive far reaching litigation strategy if the Senate fails to act this month to repeal the law. This dispute can be resolved by Congress or by the courts. With this filing we put Congress on notice that a cadre of service members and our national legal team stand ready to litigate strategically around the country. The plaintiffs’ are three service members who want to serve their country again. They represent some of our best and brightest who were fired because of who they are, despite their decorated records. More than 14,000 have already lost their jobs and the investigations and discharges still continue. We are also preparing litigation on behalf of young people who would enter the armed forces to serve our country but for this terrible law. Another suit we’re working on involves clients discharged under ‘Don’t Ask’ who want to enter the reserves or a guard unit, and we plan to file such cases early next year if Congress fails to act. Clearly there is an urgent need for the Senate to act on legislation this week.”
Statement by Morrison & Foerster’s M. Andrew Woodmansee:
“Today we are asking the Court to allow these three brave Americans to fulfill the commitment they made years ago when they joined the military. They simply want to serve their country, and it is fundamentally un-American to refuse their service merely because they are gay — especially when our all-volunteer military is stretched thin as we fight wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout our nation’s history, citizens have turned to the courts to remedy injustices when Congress would not act. If the Senate will not meet its obligations by ending this unconstitutional law, we will ask the Court to step in to protect the rights of my clients as well as all men and women who wish to serve this country in the military.”
ABOUT THE PLANTIFFS:
Plaintiff Michael D. Almy served for thirteen years in the United States Air Force, including four deployments to the Middle East. He is a highly trained communications officer. During his thirteen-year Air Force career, former Major Almy received numerous military awards and decorations. In 2006, he was discharged from the Air Force under DADT.
Plaintiff Anthony J. Loverde served for seven years in the Air Force. He is a trained C-130 Loadmaster and Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory Technician. During his seven-year Air Force career, former Staff Sergeant Loverde received numerous military awards and decorations. In 2008, he was discharged from the Air Force under DADT. He is currently a contractor serving in Iraq, doing effectively the same job with many of his old coworkers, as an openly gay man.
Plaintiff Jason D. Knight served for a total of five years in the United States Navy. He is a trained Cryptological Technician Interpretive, Linguist. During his five-year Navy career, former Petty Officer Second Class Knight received numerous military awards and decorations. Mr. Knight has the unique distinction of being discharged twice under DADT. In 2005, he was discharged from the Navy under DADT. Mr. Knight was recalled to active duty in 2006 but was discharged again in 2007 under DADT.
The mother of Mark Bingham, one of the passengers on United Flight 93 believed to have prevented the plane from hitting government buildings in Washington, D.C., said no one on the plane questioned whether her son was gay when it came time to overtake the aircraft from hijackers. Therefore, Alice Hoagland said, the same reasoning should be the rule when it comes to the military and its ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers.
Her son was eulogized by Sen. John McCain, who Bingham supported in the 2000 Republican primary for president of the United States. Now, as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain is leading the charge to keep the 17-year-old law.
“I hope he comes around on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” she said on MSNBC. “I know he’s entrenched in the mistaken notion that gay people somehow are weaker, that gay men are predators, that gay men are seeking a sexual outlet with straight men, and I think it is that kind of misconception that is driving that needless clinging to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”
Watch the full interview here:
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During his Presidential Campaign he courted the Gay Community and spoke of the inequality shown us by the military. He made a promise. He said over and over again that he would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He spoke of how the Black Community had struggled against discrimination for generations. He compared the discrimination Blacks had endured for generations to the discrimination Gays have endure – well – for thousands of years. He spoke of the America where all citizens are equal and free to pursue happiness.
The Gay Community overwhelmingly supported him in his campaign. The Gay Community voted for him en masse. The Gay Community believed his promises. The Gay Community believe he offered the “Change We Need”. The Gay Community had such high hopes after he won the Presidency with an overwhelming landslide. The Gay Community believed America’s attitude towards us had changed for the better. The Gay Community thought their time had come and their Civil Rights were about to be recognized just as the Black Community – with our support – had been recognized as equals and their Civil Rights guaranteed.
Obama spoke of the Black Community’s Civil Rights movement and how Harry Truman’s Executive Order that repealed segregation in the Military had been the catalyst for the future Civil Rights movement. He noted that Truman’s courage to do “What was right” set events in motion that could not be stopped. He spoke of how that moment in time was pivotal and that Truman should be remembered for the stroke of his pen that ended the discrimination Blacks had suffered.
I remember watching Obama make his acceptance speech when he won the Primaries as he spoke to that crowd of 100,000 in Chicago and untold millions on television. I remember Obama spoke of the rights of the Gay Community during that speech. It was awe inspiring. I thought that was a pivotal moment in our struggle for Civil Rights.
Obama took office in January, 2009 with a Democratically controlled Congress. He had an initial approval rating over 80%. At that moment in time he could have put us at the forefront of his administrations agenda. He could have submitted to Congress legislation to repeal DADT and it would have been passed without hesitation. He had the power to help us then but he waited. He never even spoke of it again until recently. Gay rights activists have been persistent and asked over and over again about when he could do as he promised and help us end DADT. Recently – now that his ratings have crashed through the cellar – he decided it was time to help us. Now that he couldn’t get Congress to pass time of day for him. Now that he needs us to help him improve his ratings he decides to put on a Grand Show of it. The Military Spending Bill that was defeated in the Senate today died because of the amendment included in it that did not actually repeal DADT, it did not actually set a time table for the repeal, it simply instructed the military to do more “studies” about the possibility of repealing DADT. WHAT? That’s right – the mere suggestion caused those brave Democratic Senators to throw us out like so much garbage. After all, it’s an election year and they can’t risk their careers for our civil rights. Obama knew what the outcome would be but he wanted to use us again.
Perhaps Harry Truman should have taken on the challenge of helping the Gay Community instead of the Black Community. I wonder how Black Americans would feel if they were in our shoes watching as these greedy, slimy politicians stab them in the back over and over. Perhaps Obama would not even be allowed to drink water from the same fountains as Gay Americans. How would he feel? Perhaps Martin Luther King should have marched to Washington, D.C. demanding Civil Rights for ALL Americans – oh, wait a minute – HE DID!!! Martin Luther King did call for Civil Rights for all Americans – we are part of the “All Americans” group.
How could Obama forsake us this way? How could he lie to our faces and promise us we would be as equal as Black Americans? How could he ignore our pleas for mercy with a clear conscience? How can he sleep at night?
If I could go back to that night when I watched him with so many millions of other Gay Men as he made that promise to us now that I know he is just as slimy as the rest of those slime balls that America voted into office maybe my hopes would not feel so betrayed tonight.
Obama has betrayed the weakest minority in America – I hope he is proud. I hope his family is proud of him for betraying us. I’m sure the hate mongers and homophobes of this country are proud of him. After all, that is who he has made happy with this betrayal.