Monthly Archives: September 2010

A Body Blow For DADT: Court Reinstates Maj. Margaret Witt

This is big. Big big.

District Judge Ronald Leighton of the 9th Circuit ordered late Friday afternoon that the US Air Force must reinstate DADT victim Maj. Margaret Witt because, in the Court’s words, her discharge was unconstitutional. This is the second time in as many weeks that a federal court has used that word to describe Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Rachel Maddow had the story and an interview with Maj. Witt, who appeared alongside Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who is currently fighting his discharge using the new Witt Standard.

(Lots of links up there. If you’re just learning about Witt, Fehrenbach, Dan Choi, and the ultimate defeat of DADT, you need to follow all of them.)

Here’s the ruling.

In support of the Congressional findings underpinning DADT, the government can point to polls and petitions which reflect Congress’ fear that openly serving gays and lesbians will negatively impact military readiness by eroding unit morale and cohesion across the services without regard to any one individual’s billet or job description. Again, these polls are some evidence that some folks would prefer to not serve with admitted homosexuals. That such views may lead to a drop in recruitment or retention is a possibility, just as it was a possibility during the integration of blacks, other minorities and women into the armed forces.

The possibility of such push back is off-set by the known negative impact of DADT upon the military: the loss of highly skilled and trained military personnel once they have been outed and the concomitant assault on unit morale and cohesion caused by their extraction from the military.

Victor Fehrenbach and Margaret Witt, with Witt's partner Laurie McChesney behind on the right
Victor Fehrenbach and Margaret Witt, with Witt's partner Laurie McChesney behind on the right

It’s important to understand what makes Maj. Witt’s case so important. As I posted in March, the Witt Standard essentially turns the DADT burden of proof on its head.

Before, the government accepted as a general rule that lesbians and gay men were a threat to the military. It was up to the accused servicemember to prove that s/he was an exception to that rule, an argument that has never been successfully made even in slam dunk cases like Lt. Dan Choi's, in which the entire process was on autopilot, no one wanted him fired, and even the government’s own witnesses said he was an asset to his unit.

Under the Witt Standard, it is the government’s job to prove that each individual accused servicemember is a specific threat to the military before firing them.

And now, at least in the 9th Circuit, a judge has given that new standard some teeth.

Like I said, big big.

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It’s Time for Gay Servicemembers to Tell

Today, Republicans in the Senate, led by John “Called His Wife A Cunt” McCain, staged a filibuster against the Defense Authorization Bill because it includes the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal compromise that passed in the House earlier this year.

Senate Republicans sunk the bill, but Democrats weren’t much help in the fight against civil rights either. President Obama was completely absent from the push, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reportedly lost several hard-won Republican votes with his political maneuvers. (This isn’t sour grapes, by the way. Word got out about the lost votes last night.)

Anyway.

Here’s what I’ve (re-)learned today: We can’t count on straight people to do the right thing. It’s one of the paradoxes that go along with being an extreme minority: We don’t have the numbers to bring change on our own and they don’t care enough to bring about change on their own.

So I’m going to make a suggestion, one that big advocacy groups like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network have actively advised against. My suggestion is for our LGB military servicemembers.

It’s time to tell, and it’s time tell it LOUD. Your oath to protect and defend the Constitution demands nothing less. For far too long, the United States government has been robbing you of your dignity, and it’s time to take it back.

photo by Jeff Sheng
photo by Jeff Sheng

I know, I know. It’s easy for me to say. You’re totally right. But so am I. John “Called His Wife A Cunt” McCain has proved to us once again that the mostly white old men in Congress will not allow you to claim the same freedom that you defend every day.

There are some 65,000 of you serving in silence today. That’s three times the working population of The Pentagon. Maybe when they stand to lose that many servicemembers in one fell swoop, they’ll be willing to address the clear hypocrisy of forcing servicemembers to lie in order to be considered honorable.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell won’t go away until you make it go away, and we can’t wait any longer. It’s hurting our children and it’s hurting you.

You are called to protect your country with every tool at your disposal, and as every LGBT person knows, truth is the ultimate tool.

It’s time to stop asking for civil rights. It’s time to tell.

I Can’t Make You Love Me: A Message to Christians

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you may have noticed that I don’t talk about being a Christian as much as I used to. That’s not an accident. There are several reasons I’ve been quiet on the issue, but the biggest is that I’m just so tired of being disappointed by Christians and most branches of the universal Church.

The problem was perfectly illustrated when author Anne Rice recently announced that she was leaving corporate Christianity. Here’s what she posted on her facebook page on July 28, 2010:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Certainly some Christians were charitable and understanding, even eager to confront the problem she pointed to. But those people were shouted down by the painfully predictable commentators who miss the point and change the subject. Here’s a quick sample of comments on two blogs that I have generally found to have thoughtful comments sections.

  • “It is unlikely Anne Rice was ever truly a Christian.”
  • “It seems to me that Anne Rice is immature in her faith. … She doesn’t have the personal discipleship to see the arguments from a deeply biblical perspective.”
  • “She is simply young in faith and still lacking in coorperation (sic) with the gifts of the spirit.”
  • “How quickly can the fickleness of our flesh be exposed on Facebook. … I can’t image the battle that is going on around this sister, or lost sheep.”
  • “Anne’s own ‘return’ to faith some 10 years ago was only a return to the apostasy of the Catholic church – and that, at the same time, accompanied by a public renunciation of clear tenants of the true gospel.”
  • “…she never really embraced the whole teaching of the Church, that she would experience profound conversion or leave altogether. Surely she has done much to harm the faith of many that are weak in spirit and prayer and faith in the gospel.”
  • “Yes, Anne Rice should be loved … but Anne Rice’s actions in denouncing Christianity must certainly not be condoned.”

I could say a lot here, but I think I’ll just let this song speak for me.