Monthly Archives: March 2010

Stop Saying That General Sheehan Apologized

He didn’t. Quite the opposite, actually.

In sworn testimony a few weeks ago, Marine Corps General John J. Sheehan (ret.) told Congress that the gays serving openly in the Dutch Army led to the Srebrenica Genocide in 1995.

Over the next few days, just about every Dutch official justifiably raised hell over Gen. Sheehan’s charge. And now, General Sheehan is apologizing. At least he says he is.

Here’s the letter he sent to Dutch General Henk van der Breeman (ret.), who Sheehan gave as the source for his allegations.

Using the word 'sorry' doesn't make it an apology.
Using the word 'sorry' doesn't make it an apology.

So to make this perfectly clear, when Gen. Sheehan said that the allowing gays to serve in the Dutch military caused the largest massacre in Europe since World War II, what he really meant was that allowing gays to serve in the Dutch military caused all the good soldiers to quit the military, which caused the largest massacre in Europe since World War II.

See the difference? No?

Gen. Sheehan is still blaming gays for genocide. His only apology is for not making it clearer that he also thinks the Dutch government is to blame. His message to Congress is that if they let gays serve openly, any soldier being killed in combat in the future will be their fault, because clearly you can trace the death back to the repeal of DADT. And you know what we do when someone kills a US soldier…

Come to think of it, Gen. Sheehan’s comments are more of a threat than a message, don’t you think?

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The Coming Violence in the Civil Rights Debate

For about a year, I have tried to find a way to bring up the health care debate on this blog, and for about a year, I’ve failed. But today it all fell into place in the most frightening way possible.

Just in the last week before the health care bill passed, the tenor of the debate got even worse than it had been–and it had been pretty bad. The joshua blog has an excellent rundown of the early problems, and I urge you to head over there to find out the dirty details. For my purposes, though, I’ll just give you a list of problems over the last week:

The following words have been hurled at House Representatives:

  • Faggot (Barney Frank)
  • Nigger (John Lewis, Emanuel Cleaver, and André Carson)
  • Wetback (Ciro Rodriguez)
  • Schlomo (Anthony Weiner)

And the problem wasn’t just language.

  • Rep. Weiner’s Schlomo note was signed with a swastika. There was also a reference to gay sex.
  • Rep. Cleaver was spat upon.
  • The crowd thought it was hilarious when a protester taunted Rep. Frank with a fey, lisping affect. Because he’s a homosexual, you know.
  • Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was faxed a drawing of a hangman’s noose.
  • Rep. Bart Stupak has gotten angry voicemails wishing violence and at least one fax that includes the implied death threat of a hangman’s noose with his name on it.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Fax page 1 | Fax page 2

Then there was the threat of gun violence.

  • From professionally made signs:

  • From Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele:

Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” Pls see my Facebook page.

Bricks and rocks were thrown through windows of at least five local congressional or party offices:

  • Louise Slaughter’s Niagra Falls, NY office
  • Gabrielle Giffords’ Tuscon, AZ office
  • The Monroe County, NY Democratic Committee office (Slaughter’s district)
  • The Sedgwick County, KS Democratic Party headquarters
  • The Hamilton County, OH Democratic Party headquarters

House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a National Review interview that Rep. Steve Driehaus would be “a dead man” if he voted for the health reform bill. Then a protest group published a picture of Rep. Driehaus with his children in the Cincinnati Enquirer, and another group posted his address online, telling people to go to his house this Sunday.

And then there’s the honest-to-goodness attempted assassination. On Tuesday two teabagger sites posted what they thought to be Rep. Tom Perriello‘s address with an invitation to “drop by”. The address was actually the congressman’s brother’s house (Teabagger’s response: “Oh well, collateral damage.”), and this afternoon he found that someone had sliced the propane line leading into his house. The FBI is investigating the crime as a threat to a member of congress.

EDIT: It turns out that while I was typing away, Rachel Maddow was hitting a lot of the same points on her program. Great minds and all that, you know. Watch it here.


The history books are clear: Violence from the opposition always accompanies major social change. Always. And as Rachel Maddow pointed out on Monday, this is the first major social change that Congress has passed in a very long time. In fact, it’s the first in my lifetime.

The next Big Social Change the country will debate is LGBT rights. ENDA and DADT are headed for major action soon, and you can bet that if they don’t move forward, protests like Get Equal and Lt. Dan Choi staged last Thursday will be swift. If the Supreme Court decides with the Prop 8 trial that civil rights do not extend to LGBT people, the outcry will be thunderous. And now we know firsthand the violent reaction we can expect if it comes to that.

So let me be the one to ask: Are you ready?

Are you ready to stand up for what you believe in, even when violence is aimed at you? Are you ready to step up so we don’t have another generation of soldiers discharged from the military, civilians fired from their jobs, couples separated by outmoded immigration law, and children forced to choose between education and safety?

I mentioned Rep. John Lewis earlier; he was arrested over 40 times in the 1960s for his civil rights activism. It wasn’t popular then. He didn’t get a gushing editorial in the newspaper during the Freedom Rides. He didn’t get a hero’s welcome in his hometown after an Alabama highway patrolman stomped his head bloody at a march from Selma to Montgomery. But he came back two days later and he did it again, and then again after that.

This is not a theoretical question anymore: Are you ready to take that step?

Are you?

Retired General Agrees with Scott Lively: Gays Cause Genocide

In January, we were shocked by video of Ex-Gay Industry Leader Scott Lively telling a Ugandan audience that gays were to blame for the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. You might remember that Lively has also published a book claiming that gays were behind the Jewish Holocaust. It was pretty outrageous, but at least he was alone in baselessly blaming a minority group for genocide.

Well, no more. Last Thursday, Mr. Lively got some company.

In sworn testimony on a potential Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, Marine Corps General John J. Sheehan (ret.) told the US Congress that gays are to blame for 1995’s Srebrenica Genocide during the Bosnian War.

Rachel Maddow was on top of the story on her show that night.

Senator Carl Levin wasted no time challenging Gen. Sheehan’s lies, but the damage was already done. Dutch officials, including Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, immediately expressed stunned outrage at Gen. Sheehan’s claims.

Friday night, Maddow gave an update on the fallout.

Germany. Rwanda. Now Bosnia.

Gosh, I wonder where we’ll strike next.

More Activists Arrested, This Time for ENDA

If you turned off the internet once Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo were arrested, boy did you miss some major news.

Once they were done at the White House, Get Equal moved to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s offices on Capitol Hill and in San Fransisco. There they refused to leave until Speaker Pelosi committed to a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has been languishing in Congress for…well, years.

No identities yet; will update when I get them
No identities yet; will update when I get them

After several tense hours, four protesters at Pelosi’s office on the Hill were arrested and taken, coincidentally, to the same facility that Choi and Pietrangelo are being held in. Just before midnight, the ENDA 4 were released without bail.

Incidentally, Choi and Pietrangelo are being held without bail or contact to the outside world until they appear in court tomorrow.

Speaker Pelosi continues to stall on ENDA.

Chained to White House Fence, Choi Demands Right to Serve

See update at bottom of this post.

Wow. Dan Choi (thankfully) hijacked this afternoon’s Human Rights Campaign/Kathy Griffin (don’t even get me started) rally to bring the attention back where it belongs: Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

How did he do it? He chained himself to the White House fence in his first major act of civil disobedience.

Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo (pic via @piconico)
Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo (pic via @piconico)

In a futile attempt to manage headlines, police did not immediately arrest Lt. Choi or Capt. James Pietrangelo, whose Supreme Court appeal was denied last year after the Obama administration asked the Court not to take the case.

Instead, within ten minutes of the protest’s start, police arrested Robin McGehee, one of the organizers for last October’s Equality March and head of new group Get Equal, for “disorderly conduct” reportedly because she organized the protest.

Also, she wasn’t wearing a uniform. Arresting a servicemember in front of the White House would make for scandalous front page pictures.

Get Equal's Robin McGehee arrested (pic via @MichaelsThought)
Get Equal's Robin McGehee arrested (pic via @MichaelsThought)

But their effort didn’t get Lt. Choi or Cpt. Pietrangelo off the fence, so police finally handcuffed them half an hour later and placed them in a much less conspicuous police van. Still waiting for those pictures. This photo was taken as police began to remove them from the fence.

Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo arrested (via Kerry Eleveld of Advocate.com)
Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo arrested (via Kerry Eleveld of Advocate.com)

Hallelujah, praise the Lord, and thank you Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo for actual doing something.

This is what’s coming, gays. Time to stop begging for crumbs from the table. Time to stop accepting the calls to “be patient.” We are coming into the civil disobedience stage. Are you willing to be arrested for your freedom? Join Get Equal if you’re ready to put up. And by the way, rule number one: you don’t disperse because the police told you to. That’s what happened in the crowd today, and it needs to not happen again.

UPDATE 03/18/2010: Here’s video of CNN’s Rick Sanchez coverage this afternoon.

UPDATE 03/19/10: Lt. Choi and Cpt. Pietrangelo were arraigned Friday afternoon after being held overnight without bail or access to a telephone. They were brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons. Both pleaded not guilty and opted for a jury trial over a $100 fine. Both were released and will stand trial on April 26, 2010.

P.S. Kathy Griffin, who said on HRC’s stage that she would come with Choi to the White House, never showed up. Her only tweet in reference about the White House protest bears that out. Predictably, once they turned her cameras off she didn’t really care all that much. HRC also decided not to show up.

Let this be a message to LGBTs everywhere: Don’t accept them as allies just because they say they’re allies. The time for easy allies who don’t want to get their hands dirty is over.

And that includes the HRC.

AF Sargent Pays the Price After Police Play Peeping Tom

Tonight we have news of another vindictive third party outing to force a gay person out of the military. This time, it’s an arm of the government doing the outing. And it’s Air Force Sgt. Jené Newsome who was punished for being a lesbian.

AF Sgt. Jené Newsome
AF Sgt. Jené Newsome
The Rapid City Police Department says Newsome, an aircraft armament system craftsman who spent nine years in the Air Force, was not cooperative when they showed up at her home in November with an arrest warrant for her partner, who was wanted on theft charges in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Newsome was at work at the base at the time and refused to immediately come home and assist the officers in finding her partner, whom she married in Iowa — where gay marriage is legal — in October.

Police officers, who said they spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window of Newsome’s home, alerted the base, police Chief Steve Allender said in a statement sent to the AP. The license was relevant to the investigation because it showed both the relationship and residency of the two women, he said.

“It’s an emotional issue and it’s unfortunate that Newsome lost her job, but I disagree with the notion that our department might be expected to ignore the license, or not document the license, or withhold it from the Air Force once we did know about it,” Allender said Saturday. “It was a part of the case, part of the report and the Air Force was privileged to the information.”

He said his department does not seek to expose gay military personnel or investigate the sexuality of Rapid City residents.

Allender said the department was finishing its internal investigation and has determined the officers acted appropriately. They have not been placed on leave during the investigation.

Newsome’s partner is currently out on bail on one felony and three misdemeanor counts of theft stemming from an incident last year, court officials in Fairbanks said. More information was not immediately available, and Newsome said she didn’t know the status of the case and didn’t provide more details about it.

In the complaint filed last month with the department, ACLU South Dakota said police had no legal reason to tell the military Newsome was a lesbian and that officers knew if they did, it would jeopardize her military career.

Newsome, who was discharged in January, said she didn’t know where the marriage license was in her home when police came to her house on Nov. 20 and claims the officers were retaliating because she wouldn’t help with her partner’s arrest.

“This information was intentionally turned over because of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and to out Jené so that she would lose her military status,” said Robert Doody, executive director of ACLU South Dakota. The ACLU is focusing its complaint on the police department, not the military, and Newsome said she and her attorney have not yet decided on whether to file a lawsuit.

“The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ piece is important and critical to this, but also it’s a police misconduct case,” Doody said.

Because of DOMA, the federal government does not recognize marriage between two people of the same gender. Even if it’s SOP to inform the Air Force when a servicemember’s spouse is charged with a crime (which I’m told is the case), the US Armed Services only recognize the federal definition of marriage, not the Iowa definition.

Therefore, for the purposes of the federal government, Sgt. Newsome has no spouse.

The local police department was not bound to notify anyone of Sgt. Newsome’s non-spouse, and in fact violated her privacy by vindictively submitting evidence that they found by peeking through her window for a witch hunt because they were mad at her.

Here’s a link to the Rapid City Police Department’s Twitter account. You know, in case you want to tell them what you think.

OK Senate Votes to Destroy Evidence of Crimes Against Gays

The Oklahoma State Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday to force state officials to break federal law by destroying evidence of crimes against gays.

Read that sentence again. Seriously. Read it aloud and marvel at the irrationality. And yet, it’s true.

Under the new provisions of Senate Bill 1965, reports that were collected during investigations of possible hate crime that did not end in a conviction would be destroyed or kept by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. [Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City] said the bill is meant to prevent the federal law enforcement officials from taking over a case and applying different standards when local law enforcement has already investigated a case.

“We just don’t want the pendulum to swing too far the other way,” he said. “This protects people to do or say whatever they want, as long as it complies with local ordinances.”

Including, for example, if they want to make hunting homos the Official Oklahoma Pastime.

And don’t think Sen. Russell, who is totally not gay you guys, is looking to protect hate crimes in general. He made his anti-gay intentions clear when this bill was introduced last November.

NOT! GAY!
NOT! GAY!

State Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, said the newly passed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extends hate crimes law protections to include actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, oversteps the bounds of the federal government and hinders free speech and religious freedom.

Russell said because the government has decided to intervene on issues of morality, he is worried that religious leaders who speak out against any lifestyle could be imprisoned for their speech.

“The law is very vague to begin with,” Russell said. “Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia.”

Let’s quickly dispense with this closet case’s arguments. No, federal hate crime legislation does not prevent hate mongers from spewing their bile against those that they hate. Such a provision would clearly violate the First Amendment.

Secondly, the law is not vague, nor can it be extended to necrophilia. This is an old James Dobson lie that has been disproved both by watchdog groups and by the congressional committee before the Matthew Shepard Act was voted on.

Every once in a while, I wonder where I’d move if I had to leave my home state. If I weren’t convinced before, Oklahoma is certainly crossed off the list now. I wouldn’t even visit at this point.

(h/t Pam’s House Blend)

Impressive Cast Reenacts Prop 8 Trial

This morning, Towleroad released an exclusive interview that Corey Johnson got yesterday with Perry v Schwarzenegger attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson. It’s an insightful ten minutes that you should watch. Here, I’ll help.

Toward the end of the interview, Mr. Olson had a request for the community:

This case is an education, and it’s an opportunity for the American people to learn things that they’ve avoided thinking about. … What I would encourage people to do is to read the transcript of this trial, listen to what we’ve had to say, and make sure that the words that David and I are uttering and the message that we’re sending out gets distributed as widely as possible, because we’re not only trying to persuade the courts, we’re trying to help educate and persuade the American people.

As it happens, while they were taping this interview, I was catching up on MarriageTrial.com‘s reenactment of the trial using the official court transcripts. It’s really turned into a fantastic production with some fairly big names from Hollywood taking part. In researching the cast, a dozen cast members stood out to me.

  • Plaintiff Sandy Stier played by Tess Harper
    • Oscar-nominated for her role in Crimes of the Heart and recent SAG award winner for No Country for Old Men.
  • Dr. Letitia Peplau, Professor of Psychology University of California played by Adrienne Barbeau
    • Nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Rizzo in the original Broadway production of Grease. Known to The Gays as Bea Arthur‘s daughter on Maude. Known to The Straights for her 1978 poster.
  • Gregory M. Herek, Professor of Psychology University of California, Davis played by Scott Lowell
    • Best known for his turn as Ted on Queer as Folk. (I sobbed when I found out he was straight.)
  • Dr. Ilan Meyer, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences Columbia University played by Arye Gross
    • You might remember him for his role on Ellen as her roommate Adam. The show became stunningly unfunny when he left.
  • San Fransisco City Attorney Danny Chou played by Peter James Smith
    • Best known for his supporting role on The West Wing.
  • ProtectMarriage.com attorney and all around creepy lying nutjob Andrew Pugno played by Brian Poth
    • Spent three years playing supporting character Tyler Jensen on CSI: Miami.
  • Defendant-Intervenor attorney Nicole Moss is played by Judith Hoag
    • Currently appearing as Cindy on HBO’s Big Love.
  • William Tam attorney Terry Thompson played by Tuc Watkins
    • Recently left the role of David Vickers on One Life to Live. Continues to appear as Bob Hunter on Desperate Housewives.
  • Defendant Intervenor and Prop 8 author Hak-Shing William Tam played by Gedde Watanabe
    • Best known for his roles as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles and the voice of Ling in Mulan.
  • Lead plaintiff’s attorney David Boies played by Jack Laufer
    • You might recognize him from his recurring part on Showtime’s Huff.
  • California Dep. Attorney General Tamar Pachter played by Susyn Duris
    • Not nearly as seasoned as the others on this list, but I noticed that she was lead in a play several years ago in a town close to mine, presumably with actor-types I used to know in that town. Cool.
  • David Blankenhorn, Founder & President, Institute for American Values played by Gregory Itzin
    • Fantastic character actor probably best known these days for his Emmy-nominated role of President Charles Logan on 24.

The reenactment isn’t quite completed, but the opening days and closing days of the trial are completed and online. Gedde Watanabe, Scott Lowell, and Ayres Gross’s parts aren’t up yet.

If you have to watch just a part (this thing is longer than North and South, for crying out loud), check out the last day. Greg Itzin captured the frustrating combative witness that we heard so much about from people in the courtroom. He was so maddening, in fact, that I had to shut it off and walk away in the middle.

Here’s the beginning of the final day, with a link to MarriageTrial.com’s youtube channel.

Gay Marriage Opponent Echoes Segregationist Complaint

On Tuesday, I mentioned subscriber complaints made to the Washington Post about the front page picture of a gay couple kissing after applying for their Washington, DC marriage license. For frame of reference, here’s the picture again.

photo by Washington Post's Bill O'Leary
Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga kiss after applying for a marriage license

Ombudsman Andrew Alexander quoted several of the complaints in his response (see previous post). You can visit the Post to read the rest of them, but today I want to focus on this particular line from Ann Witty of Woodbridge, Virginia.

“I am 65 years old and I realize that the world is changing rapidly – much more rapidly than I would like it to,” she e-mailed.

I stared at the quote for a long time and finally realized that Ms. Witty’s comment reminded me of a quote from Martin Luther King‘s book of sermons called Strength to Love. In the sermon “A tough mind and a tender heart” (page 15), King had this to say (emphasis added):

The softminded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest pain is the pain of a new idea. An elderly segregationist in the South is reported to have said, “I have come to see now that desegregation is inevitable. But I pray God that it will not take place until after I die.” The softminded person always wants to freeze the moment and hold life in the gripping yoke of sameness.

Ms. Witty expresses this the same sentiment. She knows it’s coming, but she doesn’t want to be here when it comes. This frame of mind is as sad as it is timeless, as timeless as it is frustrating. And while we may understand it, we also understand that we can never permit the injustice it demands.

Lest we forget our own responsibility and Dr. King’s call for the oppressed, I’ll close with these words from a later sermon entitled “Loving your enemies” (page 56):

Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean that we abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.

To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

Washington DC Weddings Begin; Washington Post Defends Gay Couple Picture

Lesbian and gay couples began celebrating their civil marriages in Washington, DC this morning, after the district’s new marriage law went into effect last week. Several dozen couples have married so far, with marriage license requests expected to increase in the coming weeks. Here’s a report from the local ABC affiliate:

(Note: You may recognize Rev. Darlene Garner from my post on the American Prayer Hour featuring a gay Ugandan.)

Unfortunately, the reporter’s closing “no protesters” line wasn’t quite accurate. The Washington Post reports that around 10:00 federal security marshalls removed a quasi-christian protester.

U.S. security marshals escorted one woman out of D.C. Superior Court Tuesday morning after she began yelling “God wouldn’t recognize” same-sex marriages. The woman had been standing in line with same-sex couples who were waiting to pick up their marriage licenses.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has been hit with reader protests about a picture of two men kissing on the front page of last Thursday’s newspaper. Brace yourself; the photo is all too shocking. Ladies, avert your eyes lest your genteel spirits be brought low.

photo by Washington Post's Bill O'Leary
Jeremy Ames and Taka Ariga kiss after applying for a marriage license

That picture caused a bunch of people to cancel their Washington Post subscription. Seriously.

Ombudsman Andrew Alexander answered the howls of protest admirably today:

Did the Post go too far? Of course not. The photo deserved to be in newspaper and on its Web site, and it warranted front-page display.

News photos capture reality. And the prominent display reflects the historic significance of what was occurring. The recent D.C. Council decision to approve same-sex marriage was the culmination of a decades-long gay rights fight for equality. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the District. The photo of Ames and Ariga kissing simply showed joy that would be exhibited by any couple planning to wed – especially a couple who previously had been denied the legal right to marry.

There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites. Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change.

Congratulations to the newly wed. May you find joy in your unions and peace in your homes.

And thanks to the Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander for getting it and standing up to voices of prejudice.