From Alex at Servicemembers United. I met Alex at the “Ask Not” events for Community Cinema in 2009.
We wanted to share some exciting news with you before we even speak to the media about this new development. After relentless pressure, the White House and the Pentagon have finally changed their tune and announced that they will now support an amendment to repeal the DADT law THIS YEAR.
We have been working tirelessly on this for a long time, both in public and even more so behind the scenes. This news now makes it much more likely that we will lock in repeal of DADT this year, even if the implementation of repeal is delayed until after the Comprehensive Review Working Group finishes its implementation management study. If we succeed, the major battle (getting the law off the books) will be over.
But this fight is far from won! Even with the President’s and the Pentagon’s public support for repealing DADT this year, we still need to invest the time to do everything WE can to help push this over the finish line. As you may already know, key votes will take place this week on the Senate Armed Services Committee and on the floor of the House of Representatives. We MUST win these votes, and we need your help to make sure that happens.
We have waited 17 long years for this very week. Please take a few minutes to help us out by calling and emailing your Senators and Representatives to voice support for repeal. Then, please call and email the offices of the 6 Senate Armed Services Committee swing voters who hold the fate of this law in their hands. They are Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Scott Brown (R-MA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Jim Webb (D-VA). And finally, if you have just a few extra moments, please consider calling Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), George LeMieux (R-FL), and John McCain (R-AZ) and urging them to support repeal of the DADT law this year.
The contact information for Senate offices can be found here:
The contact information for House offices can be found here:
Thank you. And to those still serving on active duty under the cloud of DADT, keep fighting for us and we’ll keep fighting for you!
P.S. Below is a copy of our press release about this announcement today.
White House and Pentagon Announce Support for DADT Repeal Amendment This Year
New Administration Position Presents Realistic Window of Opportunity to Secure Repeal Now
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Clint King – Desk: 202.349.3803 | Cell: 202.834.7659 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, commended the announcement today that the administration will now support an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law this year. The proposed amendment would include a delayed implementation provision that would not allow repeal to take effect until the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group completed its nine-month implementation management study and until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that the military is ready to implement repeal smoothly.
“This announcement from the White House today is long awaited, much needed, and immensely helpful as we enter a critical phase of the battle to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “We have been making the case to White House staff for more than a year now that delayed implementation is realistic, politically viable, and the only way to get the defense community on board with repeal, and we are glad to see the community and now the administration and defense leadership finally rally around this option.”
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, passed in 1993 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, has resulted in the abrupt firing of more than 14,000 men and women because of their sexual orientation, and has led tens of thousands more to voluntarily terminate their careers because of the burden of serving under this outdated law. There are an estimated 66,000 gays, lesbians, and bisexuals currently serving in the U.S. military and an estimated 1 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
For more information about Servicemembers United, please visit www.servicemembersunited.org. For the latest information on discharge numbers, polling, statistics, studies, and other archival and reference information related to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ issue, please visit www.dadtarchive.org.
Servicemembers United, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, is the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their allies. Based in Washington, DC, Servicemembers United actively engages in education, advocacy, and lobbying on issues affecting the gay military, veteran, and defense community.
Last week, at the end of our Q&A for the Community Cinema screening of ASK NOT (a documentary by Johnny Symons that explores the effects of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy from 1993 to the present), I asked all the people in the room who’ve served in the U.S. military to stand so we can say “Thank you.”
Many in the room rose to their feet. I wasn’t sure who was retired, discharged, or on active duty, but it was a very poignant moment at the end of the event.
This week President Obama’s message focuses on Memorial Day, honoring those who have served in the U.S. military — the fallen, the remembered, the retired, and the men and women on active duty. “Thank you” also comes in quality and timely support to service members (i.e. benefits) when they have completed their tours and return home to civilian life — health, educational, career, and mental health services. The post 9-11 GI program.
But for the men and women who are not allowed to complete their service because of DADT, they won’t be getting their “thank you.” As one attendee in the room for ASK NOT described — a George Washington University student was forced to withdraw from school because the DADT policy required that he be discharged taking away all his educational benefits.
Until DADT is repealed by an act of Congress (which is the way the policy was set up in 1993, removing the executive authority of the President), we will continue to see the loss of vital, dedicated, skilled men and women who proudly serve to protect our nation.
You can meet Alex and Jarrod Sunday, May 31st at the 2nd Community Cinema screening of ASK NOT at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW). The event starts at 5 PM. Visit www.communitycinema-dc.org for more information and to reserve – IT’S FREE!
ASK NOT will air on local PBS stations starting June 16 on the Emmy Award winning “Independent Lens” series. Check local listings for dates and times.
And now, the President of the United States.
I’m looking forward to meeting Alex Nicholson next weekend. So far we’ve only conversed by email. Alex knows five languages. [I'm jealous.] And he is an Arabic linguist. Alex served in the U.S. Army during the height of 9-11 and its fall out wars in Iraq and Afgahanistan. But Alex was discharged in 2006 because…he is gay.
The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy has discharged 54 skilled Arabic linguists from the U.S. military while at the same time the military and branches of government have been scrambling to find people with Arabic language skills. If there is any example of how the DADT policy is cutting your nose off to spite your face or just plain wrong-headed regarding national security, Alex and the 54 other linguists are case in point.
Alex and another discharged linguist, Jarrod Chalapowki appear in Johnny Symons’ documentary “Ask Not.” ITVS Community Cinema is hosting over 50 screenings nationwide. Washington, D.C. will have two: May 17 at 3 PM (Washington, DCJCC – 1529 16th Street, NW); and May 31 at 5 PM (Busboys and Poets – 2021 14th Street, NW). All the screenings are free, but RSVPs are requested for DC – email email@example.com or call 202-939-0794. Alex, Jarrod, and other speakers will be part of the Q&A at each event. (See www.communitycinema-dc.org for more information.)
Here’s a trailer:
While doing my outreach for Community Cinema, I seem to have stumbled across some crazy luck. What better time to promote ASK NOT in DC. I’m listening to Kojo Nnamdi’s show now about the DC City Council’s vote on marriage equality aka “gay marriage.” When I logged onto Huffington Post, the lead story at 7:30 AM this morning was the discharge of Dan Choi, a West Point graduate, officer in the National Guard who served in Iraq, is an Arabic linguist (ding-ding), and after an appearance on television where he said he was gay, got his walking papers from the U.S. Army. That appearance was on the “Rachael Maddow Show,” and Rachael followed up with the news of the day about Choi’s discharge.
Since 1993, the debate about gay servicemembers in the military has centered around “military culture” and keeping up morale. I don’t deny, there is a military culture just as there is any other occupational culture private, public, blue or white collar. And there are some aspects of military culture that shouldn’t be part of the culture just like in any other occupational culture especially when it comes to intolerance.
The military does seem to have a special kind of culture that creates a a bond between service members like no other. I admire their accountability culture and their sense of duty. However, the arguments for DADT in defense of maintaining “the culture” resemble the same arguments that were made to keep women out of the military and African Americans from serving side-by-side with Euro-Americans.
As one friend said while we were discussing DADT, “If I’m in a foxhole or a fire fight, I’m not thinking ‘whoo-whoo’ about the person next to me.”
Inquiring minds are waiting to find out what President Obama will do in the short term, but not so short to be a replay of Bill Clinton’s first 100 days. Secretary Gates has put the issue in the “not high priority” pile, but I suppose it won’t stay there for long.
Second Lieutenant Sandy Tsao wrote to President Obama earlier this year to repeal DADT. Tsao came out and was discharged per the routine. This week she received a hand-written note from President Obama. Short, but in his own handwriting[!].
Sandy – Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful letter. It is because of outstanding Americans like you that I committed to changing our current policy. Although it will take some time to complete (partly because it needs Congressional action) I intend to fulfill my commitment. — Barack Obama.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in 1993 anymore.