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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Perry v. Schwarzenegger

Breaking! Prop 8 – Unconstitutional

Perry v. Schwarzenegger – Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

Closing Arguments – Prop 8

image Today in the Federal 9th Circuit court, the closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger will be heard. I don?t expect Judge Walker to actually rule on the case for some time.

A week or so ago Walker issued a list of questions to both sides, who have now submitted their responses.

Plaintiff’s Response

Defendant?s Response

From the responses to the questions we can get a sense of the arguments that both sides are going to make in their closing remarks.

Those who support Prop 8 continue to rely heavily on the claim that the state has an inherent interest in making sure that marriage is about procreation, that marriage is nothing more than a means for creating babies. It sort of goes back to the Christian idea that sex shouldn?t be for pleasure, that it?s only purpose is to reproduce. Unfortunately that idea has always been contrary to human nature.

They also cling to to the idea that marriage has always been between a man and woman, but to believe that is to ignore thousands of years of history and the cultures of civilizations, some of which helped lay down the very foundations that make up the idea of Democracy, such as Ancient Greece. Even the Roman Emperor Nero was married to another man. Homosexuality and same sex marriage weren?t outlawed in the Christian controlled lands of the Eastern Roman Empire until the 5th Century and there have been many other civilizations since then that have had recognized and legal forms of same sex relationships

Plaintiff’s will argue that harm is done to families of same sex couples by ban?s on marriage equality. There is significant evidence of this, from discrimination faced by same sex parents and their children, to the extra costs associated with the legal contracts that same sex couples have to establish in order to secure even a small portion of the rights that marriage brings to a family, contracts that are easily and often overturned by other family members intent on not accepting the same sex couple?s love.

And while I?s fairly confident that Judge Walker will rule that Prop 8 violates the US Constitution, that conclusion is not a given, and no mater how he rules, the matter will be far from resolved. The ruling will undoubtedly be appealed no mater what, which would presumably take the case all the way to the US Supreme Court. Which leads to concern in regards to the conservative leaning court and the possibility of setting the march to equality back decades.

But there is hope. Attitudes are changing, especially among the young. More and more of us are refusing to stand locked in a closet. We live our lives openly in order for our friends and neighbors to get to know us. So that they can see that our lives are no different than theirs, that we not the monsters that groups like the National Organization for Marriage, or NARTH, or Mass Resistance claim that we are. We are simply American?s who deserve the right to live our lives as our own.

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