article placeholder

Pressure on GOP candidates over LGBT positions ahead of primaries

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

The Grand Old Party has had a hard time dealing with LGBT activists this campaign season. From “glitter bombs” to awkward responses in town hall meetings, this year's crop of GOP presidential candidates has been forced to stand by their positions on marriage, gays and lesbians in the military and employment non-discrimination.

Thanks to the power of social media and the accessibility of amateur video for the world to see, activists have been able to highlight the often hypocritical or nonsensical anti-gay positions as the GOP's candidates make their way across the early primary states.

Take Michele Bachmann, for example. She and her husband Marcus run a Christian-based counseling clinic that practices “reparative” therapy in her homestate of Minnesota. “Pray the gay away,” in other words. That, and Michele's anti-gay positions, led to a series of “glitter bombs” and even an occupation of the Bachmann clinic by “gay barbarians” over the summer.

article placeholder

Local veterans mark end of military’s gay ban

American Veterans for Equal Rights DADT repeal celebration

There were many poignant moments Sept. 19 as about 200 Atlantans gathered in Piedmont Park to mark the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But few were as touching as when Danny Ingram, national president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, brought to the podium the very officer who had discharged him from the Army for being gay almost 20 years ago.

Ingram was discharged in 1994, one of the first victims of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He explained how now-retired Colonel Kelly R. Jimenez, who is Latino, called him into a meeting with him and the second in command, who was African-American.

“My granddaddy had to get his ass kicked so I could serve in the U.S. Army,” Ingram recalled Jimenez saying.

article placeholder

Do Ask, Do Tell for Pride

What a difference a year makes.

“Hopes dim for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal this year,” read a headline in last year’s GA Voice Atlanta Pride issue, which hit the streets on Oct. 1, 2010.

Headline on page 36 of this Pride issue? “Atlanta celebrates end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Of course, the end of the military’s discriminatory ban on openly gay service members was years in the making. Efforts to repeal the ban began as soon as it was passed in 1993 as a disappointing compromise after newly elected President Bill Clinton had pledged to let gays serve in the military.

Clinton’s election played a small but meaningful role in my own coming out story. I never doubted my parents’ love, but they weren’t exactly thrilled in 1991 when they found out I was gay.

article placeholder

Gay military members cautioned as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ends

Sept. 20 marks the end of an era for gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military, and the non-profit Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is trying to prepare gay active duty service members for the historic change.

Since 1993, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has banned gay Americans from serving openly in the armed services. The policy will officially end Sept. 20, the day a 60-day review period will have ticked away following certification of military readiness to implement repeal.

Not surprisingly, some organizations, including SLDN, plan to celebrate the end of the 18-year-old ban. Two such events — a Retreat Ceremony on Sept. 19 and Repeal Day Celebration on Sept. 20 — are scheduled for Atlanta.

article placeholder

Local organizations to celebrate ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

American Veterans for Equal Rights' Danny IngramSept. 20 will mark a major turning point in the fight for LGBT equality, as the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a law that bans gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly, will finally be repealed. At least two local events are planned to commemorate the milestone.

Passed by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the basis for some 14,000 military discharges during its 18 year-history.

The repeal effort was one of the final acts of the Democratically controlled 111th Congress and fulfilled a 2008 campaign pledge from President Barack Obama.

“By ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay,” Obama said after Congress passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 in late December.

article placeholder

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal finally certified; 60 days until law is officially gone

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that ended the military careers of more than 14,000 lesbians and gay men, moved a step closer to the rubbish bins of history Friday as President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, formally certified its repeal.

Congress voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Obama signed the bill into law in December 2010. But the legislation required Obama,  the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to certify to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that the military was ready to implement the repeal.

article placeholder

Court order upholds ban on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ discharges

Alex Nicholson

A federal appellate court issued an order late July 15 prohibiting the U.S. government from discharging additional service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while allowing recruiters to continue to bar openly gay people from enlisting in the armed forces.

The order from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals partially reinstates a stay on an injunction barring the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The injunction was reissued by the appellate court July 6 after it was first issued by a U.S. district court last year.

“[T]he stay entered November 1, 2010, is reinstated temporarily in all respects except one,” the order states. “The district court’s judgment shall continue in effect insofar as it enjoins appellants from investigating, penalizing, or discharging anyone from the military pursuant to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”

article placeholder

DADT stay lifted by federal appeals court

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a ruling today which effectively halted the enforcement of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy. The three-judge panel previously blocked an order from Federal Judge Virginia Phillips in 2010 after her ruling in the case Log Cabin Republicans vs. United States found the policy to be unconstitutional.

A stay was issued to allow the policy to remain in place while the repeal made its way through Congress, but the three-judge panel said today that “The circumstances and balance ofhardships have changed, and appellants/cross-appellees can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay.”

The law, commonly known as DADT, was repealed during the final days of the 111th Congress, though service members must wait for the president, the head of the Department of Defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs to certify repeal before gay and lesbian soldiers can begin to serve openly.

The armed services are currently in the process of training soldiers and other personnel for the change in policy and are expected to have all service members trained by mid-summer.

article placeholder

Obama highlights LGBT achievements during Pride reception

President Obama's administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in court

President Barack Obama held a reception yesterday honoring LGBT Pride Month. Several LGBT Atlantans, including James Parker Sheffield, Executive Director of the Atlanta Pride Committee, and Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, attended. You can read their story here.

The reception comes as advocacy organizations step up the pressure on the president, and in particular, his stance on same-sex marriage. The president, who called the recent passage of marriage equality in New York "a good thing," has shied away from outright support of marriage equality.

Obama instead used yesterday's reception to highlight his achievements in the equality movement, citing hate crimes legislation, hospital visitation, removing the HIV travel ban and the repeal of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy.

article placeholder

Time for Obama to evolve

It’s been painful to watch various White House spokespeople over the past week twist themselves into knots trying to explain President Obama’s flip-flop on marriage equality.

In 1996, while running for a seat in the Illinois state Senate, Obama stated in a written questionnaire that he supports same-sex marriage. Obama wrote, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

That infamous questionnaire has haunted him ever since and re-emerged recently as a series of spokespeople tried to minimize its importance.