Open to Serve

August 26th, 2011

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The end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is quickly approaching. On September 20th the repeal and certification process officially is complete and the sexuality that a person is born will no longer be grounds for discharge. As we approach this historic day that marks the end of seventeen years of institutionalized discrimination former and active duty service members are telling their stories of how they made it through and what it was like to endure.

GQ magazine has collected some of these stories and presents them here.

Like the story of Eric Alva, the first American injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

When Alva signed up, before "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," he had to lie on his paperwork. "I knew I was lying," he says. "But I loved what I did, I loved my job, and I didn’t want to tell anyone. I said, ‘It’s going to be my secret.’ I knew I was not going to be happy in a way, but I knew this was what I wanted." In 2003 he was deployed to the Middle East, and on March 21 he crossed the border from Kuwait. His unit was part of a huge convoy that stopped outside Basra. Alva got out of his Humvee and went to fetch something from the back of the vehicle. "That’s when I triggered the IED. I was awake, my hearing was sort of gone. My hand was covered in blood and part of my index finger was gone. The chaplain was holding my head and I was telling him I didn’t want to die. I was taken off a helicopter in Kuwait—it was estimated that I was only in Iraq about three hours—and carried into surgery. I woke up later and when I looked down I saw that the right side of my sheet was flat. I cried myself asleep, only to wake up hours later and see that it’s true: My leg is gone."

DADT not only affected the lives of those who risked their lives on the battlefield. It also took a toll on those they loved.

"The relationship lasted for about four years, but I always felt like I was disrespecting him, to have to pretend he didn’t exist when I went to work. When I got deployed, he was there with my family when I left. It kind of sucked—to shake his hand and a little pat on the back and ‘I’ll see you when I see you’ kind of thing. And when you’re getting ready to come back, the spouses were getting classes—here’s how you welcome your Marine back into the family—and my boyfriend didn’t get any of that. I had a really hard time adjusting to being home. We tried to make it work for a year but he was getting more and more paranoid about people finding out about us. It killed me that he felt that way because of me. I don’t think we ever really had a chance, ultimately."

For some DADT became the weapon used by haters.

The harassment grew worse. Of a number of escalating events—Rocha was also force-fed dog food and locked into a shit-filled dog kennel—the most abusive and explicitly homophobic was when he was ordered by his commander to act in a dog-training scenario, repeated over and over so that every dog in the unit could be run through it. "The scenarios were supposed to be relevant to what the dogs or the handlers would experience. Like a domestic dispute, or an armed individual who has been spotted on the base, or someone strapped with explosives. This day he chose that the scenario would be that I would be getting caught giving another service member a blow job and, once the dogs came in, I was supposed to jump up from having been in between this guy’s legs. He would coach as to how exactly he wanted it played out, which was the sickest part of it." Rocha says he had to act this out between half a dozen and a dozen times, about fifteen to twenty minutes each time. As they repeated it, his commander ordered Rocha to make the scenario more extreme. "He wanted me to be very queer and flamboyant. He wanted me to pretend like there was stuff on my face. Loving it so much that each scenario was gayer and more disgusting—the introduction of fake semen, that I would have to wipe my face, or that I would have to make slurping noises. The level of humiliation I experienced that day, that’s when I knew I wasn’t safe in the military."

I highly recommend heading over there and reading more http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/201109/dont-ask-dont-tell-gay-soldiers-military#ixzz1WAXDJMrl

Creative Commons License photo credit: DVIDSHUB

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National Orginization for Marriage

I Love New York

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Congratulations to the state of New York for standing up for the civil rights of it’s people. Marriage Equality has passed the state Senate 33-29. The bill passed the state Assembly earlier this week and amendments created by the Senate were passed earlier today 80-49.

The Anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage is calling it a huge GOP betrayal. Commenters on their site are having a coronary. This makes New York the 6th state to allow same sex couples to marry.

New Picture (14)NOM is now also planning to spend $2 million from donors that they refuse to disclose in violation of the disclosure laws of several states like Iowa and Maine to defeat the GOP state senators who did the right thing tonight. 

Class Act

Apparently the National Organization for Marriage can’t tell Kindergartners from 4th graders. Yesterday I received this email in my inbox.

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See that line where Brian says…

an Oakland grade school decided to teach kindergartners about multiple genders

Trouble is, when you click on the video and watch it the Fox News reporter actually says they are 4th graders. Honest mistake or is Brian trying to scare people again?

Here is the video.

A. McEwen over at Holly Bullies has a pretty good break down of the rest of the letter and the lies that it contains. Strangely enough however is that every time someone points outs lies like this NOM and others like them play the victim card and claim that we are trying to silence them. Sort of like Newt Gingrich claiming that any news organization quoting his Meet the Press interview where he trashes the Ryan Plan is a lie.

Oh, and as for whether this material is appropriate for a forth grade class… absolutely. This is no different than showing a book or having a class teaching kids that there is nothing wrong with being White, Black, Hispanic, Red Headed, Blue Eyed, wearing glasses, being Christian, or Muslim, etc, etc.

Friday NOM-Sense: A Picard Momment

imageYour probably wondering what our good Captain Jean-Luc Picard has to do with this week’s Friday NOM-sense. Give me a moment and I’ll explain.

This week’s Friday NOM-Sense article comes to us from the NOM funded Ruth Institute. In a recent quiz they asked a question in relation to a study put out by the William’s Institute in December of 2007 (4 years ago). A study that relied on information from the 2000 census (10 years ago).

What percentage of US children lives in households headed by same sex couples?

And apparently the correct answer was less than 0.4%. They then go through the math of how they come up with the figure. Please note that accurate census information regarding same-sex couples wasn’t collected in the 2000 census or in the 2007 snapshot. In fact, the Bush administration had ruled that same sex couples would not be counted in the 2010 census, a ruling that was overturned by the Obama administration. According to the Huffington Post article discussing Obama’s decision to count same sex couples.

the issue is that some same-sex couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships already identified themselves as husbands or wives, both in the 2000 census and in the annual American Community Survey that the bureau produces each year.

Which means that in those census surveys at least some same sex couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships (the types most likely to have children) would have identified as married since there is no civil unions or domestic partnership boxes to check. That means that those couples were left out of the Williams Institute survey.

But frankly, regardless of what the actual numbers of same sex couples raising children actually are, their errors in research and math are not why this ends up being this weeks NOM-sense. At the end of the post Betsy makes this comment.

Given that less than four tenths of one percent of children is being raised in same sex households, it hardly seems unkind to say that this represents an exceptional situation. The law might justly treat this as an exception.

So apparently since only 0.4% of US children are raised by same sex couples, it’s ok to bar those families from the institution of civil marriage. As if there is some magic number somewhere that says if it’s this many it’s ok to discriminate, if it’s more than that you can’t. Which brings me back to our man the Captain.

In the movie Star Trek Insurrection the Federation and the Son’a have teamed up to secretly relocate the Ba’ku from their planet against their will. When Picard figures out what is going on he confronts Admiral Dougherty who responds with.

Jean-Luc, we’re only moving six hundred people.

To which Picard comes back with and with which I ask Betsy of the Ruth Institute.

How many people does it take before it becomes wrong? Hmm? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million? How many people does it take, Admiral!?

How many people does it have to be before robing them of their civil rights and human dignity is wrong?

Update: The Ruth Institute has deleted my comment where I asked them the question of how many. But that’s ok, I have a screenshot.

Update 2: After asking them if the reason they deleted my question was because they didn’t have an answer the put it back up. Now lets see if they actually have an answer.

Friday NOM-sense is a new weekly column at Vast Variety that tackles the lies of the National Organization for Marriage and it’s affiliates because they refuse to participate in civil debate on their own blogs.

Friday NOM-sense

NOM quotes the following clip from a Chicago Tribune article discussing the recent decision by the Catholic Charities of Rockford to end their adoption and foster care programs due to the new Civil Unions law in the state of Illinois.

Benjamin Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois who represents juvenile state wards as part of a court-monitored consent decree with DCFS, said the decision was troubling, especially in Rockford where there is a high turnover of child welfare workers and racial and economic tensions.

“Rockford would not be the place I would’ve chosen to start these transitions,” Wolf said. “I am very sorry that they would give a greater priority to their commitment to continue discriminating than the health and welfare of Illinois children.”

With the following comment above it.

An ACLU lawyer basically admits that failure to provide religious protections will hurt children:

But as always NOM is twisting the truth of what Mr. Wolf said in attempt to show that some how recognizing the civil rights of gay people is a burden on Christians. NOM completely ignores the last line of the section they quoted.

I am very sorry that they would give a greater priority to their commitment to continue discriminating than the health and welfare of Illinois children

What Mr. wolf is really saying is that it is disheartening that a charity organization that provides much needed adoption and foster care services appears to feel that discriminating against the LGBT community is far more important to them than caring for children in need of a good home. NOM tries to wrap religious liberty around around their discrimination policies. The problem with this argument is that Adoption and Foster care are not religious activities. They are state controlled activities and anytime you deal with the state you have to abide by the state’s non-discrimination laws, which means that they have to accept applications from Lesbians and Gays. This is no way violates the religious liberty of the organization. The religious liberty clause in the US Constitution means that your free to practice any religion you choose. It does not however give you carte blanch to use your religion as an excuse to discriminate against people.

Questions

In response to Jennifer Roback Morse’s remarks to the Minnesota house I have asked them the following questions. I post a screen shot of them here since NOM and the Ruth Institute are generally not interested in open civil debate. I don’t expect them to provide any answers to them.

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Gay and Lesbian people exist. We always have and always will. Regardless of what NOM, the Ruth Institute, or any of the other discriminatory organizations that continue to turn our own government against us hope to achieve. Sometimes I truly wonder what their goal really is. Is it to try and somehow cure us and eliminate us? I don’t think that there really is a clear answer to that question and frankly if that is the goal, it’s a fool’s goal because it can never be achieved. More Gay and Lesbian Americans are born everyday. Trying to rid America of us makes about as much sense as trying to get rid of everyone with red hair.

So if we aren’t going away what sort of protections do we deserve if not marriage? The reality of the mater is that we do fall in love. We do have children. We do build lives and families together. We buy homes together. We go on vacations together. We worry about paying the bills together just like any other family. Is it right that when one of us dies we have no say over burial or that we have to pay gift taxes on the things we bought together as a couple? If one of us becomes sick do we not have a right to visit our partner? Should we not have any rights to the children we may have spent years raising together simply because the state won’t allow us to adopt our partner’s biological child?

These are questions that can’t be answered by a simple contract other than that of civil marriage. Contracts other than marriage can be and often are challenged in court by family members that may not approve of the same sex relationship.

Without marriage are we just supposed to live a life without love, in solitude, and unhappiness? If you deny us marriage, then what will you allow?

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