U.S. Senate Votes To Eliminate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Announcing the vote count of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the U.S. Senate.

Today, December 18th, 2010, at 2:30 PM (CST), the U.S. Senate approved the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the 17-year-old law which denied openly gay military members from serving.  The final vote in the senate was 65-31 on the bill which the U.S. House of Representatives had approved by a 250-175 margin earlier in the week.

The bill now is to be signed by the President.  However, both the President and the Pentagon must agree about how and when the measure will actually go into effect.

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Argentina Does It! Now Marriage Equality at Both Ends of the Hemisphere as U.S. Held Hostage by Social Stick-in-the-Muds

I’m happy for what happened in Argentina in the wee hours this morning, when that country’s senate by a vote of 33-27 voted for gay marriage, and based on earlier passage by the house and the strong support by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the Senate vote was the final hurdle to be passed.

Wow! Argentina, you as a country have my respect.  It’s almost unreal, that now we have gained rights at both the southern end of the hemisphere (Argentina) and the northern end (Canada).

I’m sad too for my own country.  I used to think of the U.S. as the country of progress–in both the areas of invention and technology as well as culture and civil liberties.

But here we sit, a nation whose industrial and technological might brought an end to World Wars and put a man on the moon–here we sit, stagnant and controlled by our unfettered need for oil and all of the problems it has brought along with it, yes, and here we sit, stagnant and controlled by religious and political conservatives, who in reality want to take us back beyond the Disco 80s, the Love-in 60s, maybe even further back than the Eisenhower 50s.

These Tea Partiers, these Glenm Becks, these bible holders (yes, they really only want to hold them, for some sense of tactile security it brings them) spit out the word progress like its something dirty.  They don’t want a country that’s moving ahead in any way.  Whatever happened to being a country of forward thinkers?  The country that does it first?  The country that others want to emulate?  I really don’t believe that most Americans want to go backwards, but for whatever reason, too many in federal and local governments have given an ear to these stick-in-the-muds, who, if they had their “druthers”, would  take us back to the 1920s, when many in the country gave the same attention to another group: the Ku Klux Klan.  (Do your history homework.  The KKK didn’t just go after Blacks.  They were against unions, Jews, Catholics, and anybody else that didn’t think like they did.)

So, hurray! Argentina!  I have hope that one day soon, this country will put on its hip boots and wade through this languid river, kicking the muddy carp to the side, and follow you to the other side, then keep marching forward, only to glance back at the muck that kept trying to hold this great country back, in this world that does not stand still.

(Take a look at the celebration in the streets of Buenos Aires when the announcement of the vote was made.  Progress–it’s a good thing.)

Gay Pride Houston 2010

(Update: check out posts and photos of the 2010 parade here and the festival here.)

It’s that time of year again, and I can tell by clicks on posts I made about Houston Gay Pride 2009 that people are trying to find information about the 2010 events.  I don’t know why “gay” isn’t in the URL, but to find out about all that’s connected with Houston Gay Pride 2010, go to www.pridehouston.org/index.php/events.

Now that it’s June, many events are starting to happen, but the biggie will be Houston’s Gay Pride Parade on Saturday, June 26th.  The nighttime event starts at 8 PM, going down Westheimer, starting at Dunlavy and ending at Crocker, which is just a couple blocks beyond Montrose.  The theme this year is “Pride Not Prejudice”.   The Pride Festival is the same day, starting at 1 PM, right in the heart of Montrose.

“Getting a Top Secret Security Clearance”–Segueing into “Stories from the Frontline”–SLDN’s New Push To Get DADT Repealed

How much money the Air Force had spent on my training by the time I got my Top Secret Security Clearance had to have been a large sum.  After all, there had been 6 weeks of basic training, almost 9 months of full-time language instruction, and several months of technical training.  Even more training was yet to come after I received the clearance, before I went on to doing “real work.”

The military started the clearance process in San Antonio while I was still in basic training after they had decided what field I was going into.  I had to fill out a form that asked for every place I had ever lived, names of people who could verify that, and a lot of other details that I was hard-pressed to remember.  Family members and other acquaintances back home told me later that “some government guy” had been out to check on me, and they had had to give the names of other people who knew me.  I’d finished college when I went into the A.F. and had summer jobs, but I hadn’t even gotten a traffic ticket yet; my rural existence and fairly controlled upbringing hadn’t given me many opportunities to stray from the straight and narrow.

More than a year after the process started, I was called to personnel to finalize the process and be given my clearance.  As I remember it now, it felt a bit like an interrogation, but, in reality, it probably wasn’t much more than a clerk–I say “clerk”–but perhaps on second thought, it was an officer–asking a number of questions and checking them off on a form.   One of the questions was about “homosexuality”.   I don’t remember if it was the direct question, “Are you a homosexual?” or something a bit different.  The fact is, though certainly thoughts along those lines had been in my head, my life experiences up to that point weren’t broad enough to answer that question any other way than with a “no”.

I learned later that the military’s position then was when it came to military intelligence a “homosexual” was a liability, because if that person were captured by the enemy and the enemy found out he was a “homosexual”, they could use that as a way of getting whatever secret information out of him.  That’s pretty laughable in and of itself, because most gay military (or any other) men or women, especially back then, had already had a lot of experience at keeping secrets.  How were they going to find out anyway?  Drag some hot guy out in front of him and see how he reacted?  I mean if they were dragging out hot guys to get gay guys to spill the beans, couldn’t they do the same for straight guys by using hot women?   (These days they always want to drag out the scary shower story, but I’ll get into that another time.)

So that was before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”” and I can say, “They asked.”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” really is a dinosaur and needs to be repealed.  I’m not a big activist, but I want to help and get others to be aware of what’s happening.  Service Members Legal Defense Network is pushing to get the President to honor his word and trying to get Congress busy and repeal DADT this year.  Read the following post from their website.  I urge you to act and contact your representatives and senators.  You can find their phone numbers here.

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Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama

“Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama” is a new media campaign launched to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Every weekday morning as we approach the markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, SLDN and a coalition of voices supporting repeal, will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law.  We are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal.  The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the president’s desk.  It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.  By working together, we can help build momentum to get the votes!  We ask that you forward and post these personal stories.


April 26, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

If you end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), I’d re-enlist the day you sign repeal into law.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close — just two or three votes — to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service.  My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force.  One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Another uncle served in the Army in Korea.

Growing up, I didn’t really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a military officer.

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship.  I earned my jump wings in 1991.  In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide.  In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people.  Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times.  In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq.  We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment.  Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq — during a routine search of my computer files — someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved — a man.

The email — our modern day letter home — was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

But instead, after 16 months, I was given a police escort off the base as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security.  The severance pay I received was half of what it would have been had I been separated for any other reason.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.

Mr. President, I want to serve.  Please fulfill your promise to repeal DADT and give me that chance.

Thank you,

Major Mike Almy

United States Air Force

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It’s 2:15 AM, But You Should Read This Book

Boswell book(Yes, it’s 2:15 AM, and luckily, tomorrow starts my vacation, and I will only have to wake up to take Annie out to do her business, and then I can crash again if I want. But someone posted a comment to one of my old posts, and responding to took enough time and effort that I decided to add a bit and use it as its own post.)

Beliefs. When it comes to beliefs, we have to make some distinctions.

If I put a pan of water on the stove, add some salt, turn on the burner, and wait until the water starts to boil at 212 degrees fahrenheit, I believe that if I dump the linguini into the water, it will be cooked a little more than al dente in about 8 minutes. On the other hand, maybe I’m cutting the grass, and I spy a four-leaf clover at the edge of the sidewalk, and say to myself, “Hey, I believe I’m in for a bit of good luck. Then, if some positive happens, I can attribute it to finding the four-leaf clover; however, if nothing significant takes place, I can just forget about it, and say, “Oh, well,” and wait until another “sign” like another four-leaf clover comes along.

That’s my take on beliefs, and if I haven’t drawn a clear enough picture for you, you’re not ready for Philosophy 101.

So that’s what applies in my comment below. (If my transition is weak, now it’s 2:30 AM.)

I always get tickled when religious people want to come back and say to me, “You’re angry.” Obviously, you haven’t read much else here on the blog.

You say you’ve made sacrifices. Most people in their lives have made sacrifices, but there is a difference between rights as a citizen of this country and whatever personal sacrifices people make to have the life they want. Just because some people have certain personal religious beliefs should not mean that others in this country should be prevented from having the same rights as everyone else. You as a married person have a whole slew of rights granted to you by the government besides the most obvious–marriage itself, but also the many spousal benefits that go along with it, not to mention being able to be open about who you are in the military, or even more simply to give blood.

When you start to add god into the picture, I say, “Whose god?” There are many denominations that have no problem accepting gay marriage and full equality across the board. We don’t have a theocratic government system in the U.S. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have governmental laws based on Islam, and whatever side of the political fence you sit on in this country, I have heard few people advocating they would like a government like that in this country.

You say: “I don’t think gay people are less than others, I never said that, so I don’t know where you got that. I think that gay people choose to believe that God is okay with their choice and I believe that they are mistaken.”

I “get that” because you chose to comment to my post and indicate that you are against gay marriage. What is inherent in what you say is that you think your beliefs are the correct beliefs and based on those beliefs, gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married in this country. You say “they are mistaken” and that indicates that they cannot have what you have–marriage–which indicates you do think gay people are less.

This is really no different than in theocratic countries where women are treated as “less”. Based on those laws, the wife has to walk behind the husband, cover her head and most of her body, and in some countries not be able to drive a car. Oh, but sure, he doesn’t think she’s “less” than he is, does he?

One thing that always gets me and every other gay person I know is that when people tell them being gay is a choice. I just don’t buy that you have any gay people whom you are really close to; otherwise, you just would not say or even think that.

Did you make a choice NOT to be gay? Chew on that a moment, and you have to realize that gay people don’t make a choice NOT to be straight. Are you left-handed or right-handed? Did you make a choice about that? Back in the good ol’ days, especially in parochial schools, left-handed kids got their hands whacked with a ruler or even had their left hands tied behind their backs to force them to use their right hands because being left-handed was thought to be wrong by some people. I guess in your way of thinking being left-handed wasn’t in god’s plan.

There’s no fork in the road of life where people choose to be left-handed or right-handed. Likewise, there’s no fork in the road where people choose to be gay, straight, or even something in the middle. Like being left-handed or right-handed, it just how we are wired.

The problem is that some religions and some people want to attach some kind of moral significance to that wiring.

Where there is a choice, however, is in what people choose to believe. As part of their beliefs, the Aztecs sacrificed other human beings; the people of Salem believed that some of the local women were witches and burned them to death; some people from Latin countries believe that if a pregnant woman looks at a full moon, the baby will have a mark on its face; some Hindus believe that cows are sacred; and the Pope of the medieval church believed that the earth was flat, and, thus, Galileo was a heretic and driven out of the church.

Through the ages, beliefs have changed. People learn, people grow, people use logic and knowledge. (Others, however, keep on with the same ol’ superstitions and fairy tales.)

But just what is it with christians and homosexuality anyway? The bible really doesn’t say that much about it, and the lines there are come from way back in the part where there are all sorts of weird old Jewish rules, like not letting dwarfs or invalids anywhere near the altar and not touching the skin of a pig. There’s a bunch of stuff like that back in Leviticus, but nobody, even those people who say they take every word of the bible literally adhere to any of that, but somehow they pull out homosexuality as being just about the worst thing anybody could be.

Never mind that it’s not on the top ten list of biblical no-no’s. I mean shouldn’t adultery be written into U.S. law? I’m pretty sure it’s there on that big ol’ tablet that Moses came down the mountain with. But I didn’t see any christians advocating for any laws against adultery when Governor Sanford was/is having his fling with his Argentine “soul mate” or after Senator Vitter got caught cheating on his wife with prostitutes. Why aren’t all the christians up in arms about that? (Remember that ol’ song “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”?)

Why did the Aztecs believe they should sacrifice other humans? Why did the people of Salem believe some of the local women were witches and burn them to death? Why did people believe the world was flat?

(But based on your thinking, not those sacrificed by the Aztecs, the women put to death in Salem, nor even Galileo were “less”, because, of course, the Aztecs, the people of Salem, and the medieval church were all just following the laws based on their beliefs.)

And I think this should be a question for you. WHY do you believe what you believe. (I heard that ol’ Sunday School song “Cuz the Bible Tells Me So” many times, but that just doesn’t cook the linguini any more than the four-leaf clover cooks it.)

In the end, you can believe whatever you believe. If you want to believe a rock is a hairbrush, you can believe that, especially if some church elder has convinced you that a rock is a hairbrush. And would you dare question that with a “Why?”.

In the same way that some parents’ religious beliefs should not prevent their child with cancer from being treated, your own and others’ religious beliefs should not prevent gay people from marrying the person whom they love.

Finally, you need to read this book: “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality” by John Boswell.

Houston Gay Pride Parade Follow-up: The Police and “Hello Kitty”

HPD officer enjoying himself big time with the "Hello Kitty" Brigade

HPD officer enjoying himself big time with the "Hello Kitty" Brigade

After all of the discussion about the Houston Chronicle story about the woman being trampled by a police officer’s horse at the Pride Parade and all the seeming interest in the “Hello Kitty” entry of the Gay Asians and Friends entry in the parade, I thought I needed to add another post. From the pictures, it’s very evident that at least one member of HPD was having the time of his life. Also, the “Hello Kitty” group was one of the most unique of the whole parade. (Thanks to Asians and Friends Houston for a couple of the photos.) Check out more of the parade and other Houston Pride events here.

Resting Kitties before the parade

Resting Kitties before the parade

Getting ready to start the parade

Getting ready to start the parade

Finally, going down Westheimer

Finally, going down Westheimer

Sad Note on Houston’s Gay Pride Parade When Woman Hurt by Police Horse

Houston Police Department leads the parade, members definitely in a festive mood with sirens going and bullhorns asking for noise from the crowd. Totally positive attitude from HPD, definitely different from years ago--shows how far everyone has come.

Houston Police Department leads the parade, members definitely in a festive mood with sirens going and bullhorns asking for noise from the crowd. Totally positive attitude from HPD, definitely different from years ago--shows how far everyone has come.

Apparently, there was a woman trampled by a police officer’s horse down near Stanford Street during the parade last night. The comments to the Chronicle article are saying all kinds of things, but I was quite a few blocks from there, so I can say nothing about what happened in that incident.

However, nothing I saw done by the police last night was negative; most everything was positive and then some. They had a great contingent leading off the parade. The head car, in fact, was one they use for recruitment and several of the officers walking alongside were gay (based on my “gaydar”). The police cars had sirens going and the lead car driver was trying to liven up the crowd, shouting things like, “Let’s make some noise” over his bullhorn.

These HPD officers very cordial with everyone as they patrolled the parade.

These HPD officers acted very cordially with everyone as they patrolled the parade.

The couple of street patrol officers who were in the area where I was standing often let people cross the street between floats in nice, easy-going way. They kept people off the street, but most of the time while they were near me, they were chatting about “nothing”, not saying anything about the parade or the onlookers. One of them seemed bored, and was engrossed in text-messaging for a good, long while.

I was paying attention to all that because I can’t say I always have had a “love” for the police, and sometimes at past parades, I had seen them be somewhat aggressive in their crowd control.

But I thought the involvement of the police, the firefighters, and even a group of city employees says a lot about how far everyone has come since the early years of the gay pride parades.

The problem is that almost every entry in the parade throws out beads or some other kind of small, cheap favor and half of the people scramble out into the street to pick up dropped ones or even go up to the float riders begging for more. On top of that, many of these same people have no sense about their own safety, because they are so intent upon getting these trinkets, and for quite a few, the alcohol factor can be added in.

I thought to myself as I watched last night that I had never seen so many adults acting like children when they were going after these little bits of cheap nothings, and the meaning of the parade itself was only secondary in their frenzy to grab anything that might be tossed toward the side of the street.

Read more about Houston’s Pride Parade here.