“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Is No More; President Signs Repeal into Law, Today, December 22, 2010

President Obama signs law repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on December 22, 2010

“It’s a great day,” stated the President, and, indeed it is a great day. 

I got up at Annie’s regular going-out time, and even though I have the day off, I did not head back for the coziness of the bed.  I flicked on the TV, looking to find which network might have coverage of the signing ceremonies.  MSNBC, as would be expected, started showing the event at 8:00 AM (CST), but then by chance, I found even more direct coverage via whitehouse.gov.

I’m sure there will be any number of youtube videos up soon if not already of the event, but from a personal point of view, putting off a planned trip in order to watch was more than worth it.

It was definitely emotional to be able to watch the happenings on such a momentous occasion, something I had almost given up on just a couple of weeks ago.  But I was even more impressed by the President’s words before signing the repeal into law (Again look for the youtube video.  I’ll add it here later.)  Today I saw a happiness and a sincerity from the President that I haven’t seen for a long time, probably since the campaign.   The President was truly happy to be able to get this law passed as he had promised, but even more, was happy for the people who had long been affected by the discrimination of DADT.

What this indicates is that this President is going to be a stronger President now despite the results of this past election.  Maybe having a majority in both houses of congress was not the challenge he needed in order to show his strengh.

Today, December 22, 2010, should be remembered as a proud day for all Americans.

(I’m even going to remove the widget on the sidebar asking for people to call congress to lift the ban.)

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“Getting a Top Secret Security Clearance”–Segueing into “Stories from the Frontline”–SLDN’s New Push To Get DADT Repealed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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You Can Help Make It Happen: Make a Call To Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

I was an Arab linguist in the Air Force.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that here before.  I’m mentioning it here now because since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, more than 58 Arab linguists have been kicked out of the military.  I don’t know what it is, but gay guys just seem to have a knack for languages.  That’s not to say that straight guys can’t be good at languages, but just not as many of them seem to have the same desire for making language, in whatever aspect, a big part of their career.  Look at all the novelists, playwrights, and other writers.  I would bet that the proportion of them who are gay is far greater than the proportion of gay people in the general population.

But it’s not just gay linguists who get kicked out of the military for being gay.  And these days if there are people who don’t know that gays are still getting kicked out of the military, they just aren’t keeping up with the news.  President Obama says he’s going to get “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed.  The American people are for a repeal.  But somebody has to get off their duff and do something.  If the President isn’t going to push the Congress to act on this, the whole thing is just going to sit there.

So I’m asking you–people who read this blog–call your representatives and senators and tell them you want congress to act on this.  All the complaining by bloggers across the internet isn’t going to get it done.  We have to make contact with the people who can.

People in those offices on Capitol Hill do answer the phone.  Pick up your cell phone (unless you’re driving, of course!) and call.  Here is a list of phone numbers of U.S Senators;  call 202-22 + the 5-digit number given for your senators.  Here is a list of phone numbers for U.S Representatives; again the area code is 202.  That’s the best I can do without dialing the number for you.  You do, of course, have to know who your representatives and senators are.

Houston’s Mayoral Inauguration Day Brings Along Prayer and Protestors

Annise Parker, Houston's newly inaugarated mayor

Downtown Houston’s Wortham Center was the site for the public inauguration ceremonies of Mayor Annise Parker as well as city council members and other newly-elected officials on Monday, January 4th.  One of the Houston Chronicle’s political writers blogged the event.   Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. and the largest with an openly gay mayor.   Mayor Parker was the winner of a December 12th run-off election.  (Watch the new mayor’s inaugural speech here.)

A big surprise for me is that giving the prayer for the inauguration was Joel Osteen of Houston’s mega Lakewood Church, which is now housed in the building that was the previous arena for the Houston Rockets of the NBA (the Summit, later called Compaq Center).  I put this in almost the same category as Rick Warren giving the convocation at President Obama’s inauguration just a year ago.  It was only a couple of months ago when Osteen appeared on The View and said, “. . . homosexuality is not God’s best.”   If Osteen doesn’t think Annise Parker is one of God’s best, why did he consent to give the prayer at her inauguration?   Also why was he picked to speak by those doing the planning?

Osteen has a big draw in Houston, and I know some gay people that go to Lakewood.  I also know gay Catholics and gay Mormons.  I don’t know why gay people would want to belong to a church whose leader doesn’t think they are God’s best.  I also don’t know why gay people want to belong to any church that keeps hammering them down.

Speaking of hammering, some of the Phelps clan from Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church are in town to protest Annise Parker’s inauguration.  However, the Phelpses aren’t one-stop shoppers when it comes to hating;  according to their website (the name of which is such a pejorative that I would not deign to give them the satisfaction of writing it), they are making a 2-day trip of it  in order to picket a wide spectrum of venues, which include among others, the Co-cathedral downtown, the Holocaust Museum, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish school, and even Osteen’s own Lakewood Church.

Watch part of the ceremonies at the Wortham Theater:

(Click on Home for other posts on Annise Parker’s election.)

“Did you learn to be a bigot or were you just born that way?”–One of the Best Lines from the Speeches at the National Equality March in Washington

The crowds at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

The crowds at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

I wish I could give credit for the quote in the title for this post, but it was given by one of the speakers at the National Equality March for LGBT rights, that’s taking place today in Washington, D.C.  Between checking out the NFL scores, I couldn’t find anything on CNN or MSNBC that showed the event.  Then with a mistaken click, there it was, right on C-Span.

I think going to the march would have been a great experience, but like so many other people, the cost of time and money just seemed too prohibitive.  Watching the speakers, though, on TV has been heart-stirring.  When I clicked on C-Span, actress Cynthia Nixon was speaking, and she, in turn, introduced, Judy Shepard, mother of murdered Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.  A number of lesser-known local and state officials were just as inspiring, especially an openly-gay state senator from Utah.  (I’ll have find out more about him later.)  Lt. Dan Choi, the Arab linguist, who was kicked out of the Army because of DADT, and Lady Gaga, the pop diva, exemplify the range and demeanor of the speakers, but both demanding that President Obama take action on his promises.

Lt. Dan Choi, Army Arab linguist, who was kicked out of the military because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Lt. Dan Choi, Army Arab linguist, who was kicked out of the military because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Maybe watching from my comfortable sofa isn’t the same as being part of the multitudes of participants there in D.C., but still I could feel the emotion of the event.  It gives me hope that change will happen.  But just like what people are asking of Obama, there has to be action, not just words.

Pop singer, Lady Gaga, speaking at the National Equality March and asking President Obama to take action.

Pop singer, Lady Gaga, speaking at the National Equality March and asking President Obama to take action.

I’m starting by writing to my conservative congressman.  It may not be worth it; I’ve done it before, and somehow his people now think I’m a republican.

Finally Someone Has the Cojones To Stand Up to the Crazies at Town Hall Health Care Meetings

This topic hasn’t been one I’ve written much about before, but when I see them on TV, I just wonder what country I am living in. How did so many get so crazy and so uninformed that they will say anything, especially the completely disrespectful slogans and images about the President.

Even though many Americans disagreed with Bush’s policies and, in particular, going to war in Iraq and its continuance thereafter, GWB was never treated in such a disrespectful way. I’ve heard conservative pundits and blog writers say the liberals did that to Bush, but I’ve been paying close attention to politics for quite awhile, and if someone can give evidence that Bush was treated in such a way, I’d like to see it.

These people have been angry and now egged on by conservative lobbyist groups, as well as Republicans in Congress, have become more emboldened, even carrying guns to these meetings and protests.

They keep crying out all of the nasty Nazi stuff, but what I see is that they are acting more like some in Germany did pre-World War II, spewing out hatred and vile slogans.

What gets me is how did so many people in this country get to be so dumb and uninformed? If they would just read a bit, they would know that the claims they are making about what the health care bill would do (i.e. promoting euthanasia) are completely beyond the pale.

And when they do go to these town hall meetings, they don’t seem to want really ask questions to find out what the program would do, they just want to be vile and nasty. Some Republicans and other conservatives are praising this, saying that these people are exercising their right to free speech.

It looks to me, though, that these people have been taking lessons from Fred Phelps and his family in being mean and nasty.

I think there are very few people in this country who can look at all this nastiness, and say, “Oh, they make me proud to be an American.”

Proud, no–embarrassed for my country is more like it.

Finally, though, Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts did and said what others should have been doing all along, and many of us have wondered why it hasn’t been done before.

All I can say is, “You tell ’em, Barney!’

Watch it:

Houston METRORail Holds Ground-Breaking Ceremonies for Two New Lines

Ground-breaking ceremonies were held to inaugarate the beginning of construction of two new light-rail lines in Houston.  Work will be starting on the Southeast Corridor Line and the Northline Corridor Line.

metrorail houstonBoth of these will connect more commuters to downtown and the present line, which goes from the University of Houston Downtown on the north to beyond Reliant Stadium on the south.

According to Click2Houston, “(F)ive light rail projects were selected nationwide to receive federal grant money. The two new lines METRORail lines are two of those projects. The north corridor and the southeast corridor will receive $150 million combined.”

Read more here about these and three other new Houston METRORail lines, which will soon be part of the Houston Metro System.