“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.
May 14, 2010
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to you from a kitchen in the state of Washington. The love of my life is in the other room. It has been eight months since I saw him last and I cherish every moment we spend together. Next week, my mid-tour leave will be over and I will return to Iraq and finish my second deployment. I don’t know when I’ll see my partner again.
When serving in a war zone, you learn quite a bit about yourself and what’s important to you. I’ve had the chance to work on a close and personal level with the people of Iraq, and in doing so, I have realized more than ever that the freedoms we enjoy as Americans should not be taken for granted – we must protect them at all costs. These freedoms are essential to the very foundation of our society. Yet so many men and women who fight for these freedoms aren’t allotted their own. Our freedom to love and be loved by whomever we choose. The freedom to live of a life of truth and dignity.
Recently I was informed that the military was investigating me for violating the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Another service member had apparently “outed” me. At first I felt free: I didn’t have to lie anymore. But after that initial sense of relief, I’m left knowing just how little the Pentagon and the United States government think of me.
Mr. President, my unit is extremely undermanned. We’re working around the clock in Baghdad. My commander informed me that the Army cannot afford to lose me. I was told that they would prepare my discharge paperwork, “stick it in a Manila envelope, and keep it in a desk — for now.”
One moment they wanted to throw me out and the next they are hiding evidence to keep me in.
My comrades now know that I am gay, and they do not treat me any differently. Work runs as smoothly as ever, and frankly the only difference I see — besides my pending job loss — is that I am free of the burden of having to constantly watch my words and ensure my lies are believable.
Having this out in the open makes things a bit less stressful. But it’s also clear the Army is only keeping me around until they are done with me. After I have served my two deployments — and am only a year shy of separating from the military honorably — I suspect they will kick me to the street.
It’s bad enough that there is a law that denies tens of thousands of service members from serving with integrity, but it’s even worse when such a law is carried out with such inconsistency, without any warning of when it might come down.
If my suspicions are true, my discharge will move forward after my deployment. I am good enough to serve in war, but not at peace? I will never be at peace until this law is repealed – and neither will my partner. In fact, he won’t even be informed if I am killed in action. That might be the hardest part for us both.
Mr. President, when you took office I remember watching your inauguration knowing that history was being made. I remember feeling like this weight was being lifted off of my shoulders. I truly believed in you, and I still do.
But, Mr. President, please keep your promise to me.
Please do everything in your power to help Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. Our government called upon us to fight for our country. So many of us answered the call; we did not delay. We were sent world’s away to defend your freedoms. Mr. President, won’t you fight for mine?
With deep respect,
A soldier returning to Baghdad
(The writer is currently serving and unable to identify himself publicly.)
Let’s play a “what if” game. Supposing there is your standard tree-hugging liberal pol out there. Loved by the ACLU and NPR. Gets perfect marks from Planned Parenthood, HRC, the NAACP, and PETA. This theoretical politician talks to a liberal organization and muses about his military days. Says there is no way good American soldiers will put their lives on the the line for their nasty, church going, “abortion is a sin” conservative comrades.
Got the image? What do you think the response would be? How would conservatives respond? Outrage? Disgust? Glenn Beck crying and whimpering about his fears for the republic (well he does that all the time)? The blogosphere would be afire. Even Volvo loving liberals would pounce.
Back to the real world. Here is Sen. James Inhofe , from the great state of Oklahoma, opining how straight troops will act if they have to serve alongside the gays.
“And you know — you hear the stories all the time. A military guy — I happen to be Army, and Army and Marines always feel that when we’re out there, we’re not doing it for the flag or the country; we’re doing it for the guy in the next foxhole. And that would dramatically change that.”
Allow that hot mess to sit with you for a minute. Gays serving openly means the very values of the military will end. Inhofe’s estimation of our serving men and women is surpringly low. Sort of sad that a guy, who extols his military service, thinks so little of soldiers like Spcs. Zachary Boyd, Cecil Montgomery, and Jordan Custer .
Softball, that friendly, fun game many Americans grow up playing, suddenly finds itself entangled in a hardball debate about sexual orientation, editorial judgment and the future of the Supreme Court.
It all stems from speculation in the media that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian.
Sparking the interest was a nearly two-decades-old picture of Kagan playing softball on the front page of Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. That quickly morphed into an online debate about whether the paper used the photo to make a point – essentially, that if she plays softball, she must be gay.
The newspaper denies the photo was used for any such purpose.
Nevertheless, the president of the International Softball Federation, Don Porter, felt the need to weigh in.
Porter insists softball is for everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
“The media has chosen to try to put a label on athletes who play this sport,” he said. “I’ve heard more about softball that way in one week than I did about our sport, period, in one year during” the campaign to get softball back in the Olympics.
“While it’s good to hear our sport mentioned in the major media during the past few days, it has been more in a negative sense than positive. …” he said.
Those who play and coach the game were equally dismayed.
“We’ve come so far,” said Jessica Mendoza, a two-time Olympian and president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, “and to have even one person think that showing a photo would correlate with someone’s orientation, I want to yell out and say, ‘Where have you been? Look around.’”
But stereotypes run deep. Those about female athletes go back at least to the days when a girl with some athletic promise immediately got the label “tomboy,” because, for instance, she could throw a baseball far. Or, in other words, because she didn’t “throw like a girl.”
The landmark Title IX legislation, passed in 1972, brought about more opportunities and gradually, girls and women playing sports in college, high schools and recreational leagues became more accepted.
“It is shocking, that here we are in the 21st century and something like this is being brought up,” two-time Olympian Jennie Finch said.
Her former teammate, Stacey Nuveman, agrees.
“In the sporting community, having gay and lesbian players on teams is more accepted and a known entity than it once was,” she said. “But it’s still something that, in the general landscape of things, we have a long way to go.”
Laura Bush is touring with her new memoir. Inside are all sorts of Bushy juicy tidbits, but the interviews about the book have recently focused on her admission that she believes gay committed couples deserve the same legal rights as everyone. It’s incredible really, that the first lady from an administration famous for pushing for a Consitutional amendment banning gay marriage would come out for gay marriage.
Or maybe it isn’t.
We have seen a numbers of conservative politicians have come to Jesus moments after they are out of power. Colin Powell supported the repeal of DADT after his administration fell. John McCain’s wife came out for gay rights after the election run was over. And now Laura Bush decides that it is safe to admit that she disagreed with her husband when he used his Presidency to attempt to combat the gay rights movement.
The first question is, what does this do for them? The answer, they get the benefit of a progressive label, even if their position isn’t particularly radical, because of their previous conservativism. The alienation they might experience amongst the more conservative base doesn’t matter because they are risking nothing. Basically, they get all the credit with none of the risk.
The second question is, what does this do for them? Joe Solomnese from the Human Rights Campaign thinks it indicates a shift in the hearts and minds of Americans. I think fighting for hearts and minds, while important and valuable, has very little real value. What if we had waited for the hearts and minds of the racist Southern governors during the civil rights movement? We would never have made the strides in equality that we take for granted today. The same is true for gay rights. We don’t need Laura Bush’s heart and mind, we needed her to stand up when her voice had some power.
It’s not that Laura Bush should not vocalize her support for equality. She should. But we should hold off congratulating her for seeing the light. The gay community can turn around and say, “good thing you have your head on straight, wish you had a backbone to go with that quick analytical ability you are so keen to show off.”
It’s just not sufficient to believe in equality. You have to do something about it too.
*Credit for all the good ideas in here goes to Jane Saks – who is among the breathing!
Massachusetts state representative Garrett J. Bradley, a Democrat who grew up in the same parish as the Catholic school who forced an 8-year-old to withdraw because he has lesbian parents  had this to say to the Boston Globe:
“These parents thought enough of St. Paul’s to want to send their child there; St. Paul’s thought enough of their child to admit him. For the school to then discriminate against him and withdraw his acceptance because of his parents’ sexual orientation is not only inappropriate, but mind-blowing. Shame on St. Paul’s, and shame on us as a community if we allow it.’”
Read the Boston Globe  article for more local reaction.
(Mexico City) Killings of gays and lesbians have risen in Mexico despite a government tolerance campaign and a law legalizing same-sex marriage in the capital, according to a report released Thursday by a coalition of civic groups.
A review of more than 70 newspapers in 11 Mexican states found an average of nearly 30 killings a year motivated by homophobia between 1995 and 2000, compared to nearly 60 a year between 2001 and 2009, the report said.
Ricardo Bucio, president of the government’s National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, backed the report, saying it gave visibility to a lingering problem.
The government launched a radio campaign in 2005 to promote tolerance of homosexuals.
In December, the Mexico City legislature approved the first law in Latin America explicitly giving gay marriages the same status as heterosexual ones. The legislation, affecting only the capital, also allows same-sex couples to adopt children.
Mexico City’s annual gay pride parade draws tens of thousands of people, and in some neighborhoods gays openly hold hands.
But violence against gays seems to have increased as more become public about their sexual orientation, said Alejandro Brito, director of Letter S, one of the groups that released the report.
Mexico City had the most homophobia-motivated killings, with 144 between 1995 and 2009, according to the report.
Despite the federal government’s push to promote tolerance, President Felipe Calderon’s conservative administration campaigned against the Mexico City law allowing same-sex marriage.
(Boston) The head of education for the Boston Archdiocese offered Thursday to help find a different Catholic school for a boy denied acceptance at a Hingham Catholic school because his parents are gay.
In a statement, superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill said she spoke with a parent of the 8-year-old boy and “offered to help enroll her child in another Catholic school in the archdiocese.”
“We believe that every parent who wishes to send their child to a Catholic school should have the opportunity to pursue that dream,” O’Neill said.
The parent, who has remained anonymous to protect her child from publicity, called the archdiocese’s response “compassionate” and said O’Neill apologized. But the woman said she was uncertain she would enroll her son in another Catholic school because she needed to learn more about their educational programs.
She added: “I will be a little bit more guarded in my questioning so I’ll be able to have a real clear picture where they stand.”
The boy was to enter third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in the fall. But the woman said the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty, began asking questions about her relationship during a meeting last week.
On Monday, she learned her son’s acceptance had been rescinded during a conference call with Rafferty and the school’s principal, Cynthia Duggan. She said Rafferty said that her relationship was “in discord” with church teachings. The Catholic church believes marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The Boston archdiocese said it learned of St. Paul’s decision late Tuesday. In her statement, O’Neill said the archdiocese doesn’t bar children of same-sex parents from attending Catholic schools, and that it will develop a policy in the coming weeks to make that clear. Terry Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said local pastors have autonomy to run their parishes within basic church rules, but the archdiocese can set new policy when something needs to be clarified – as in this case – and pastors are expected to follow it.
O’Neill also said the schools expect parents to understand “that the teachings of the Church are an important component of the curriculum and are part of the students’ educational experience.”
O’Neill’s statement came as some Catholic groups criticized St. Paul’s decision.
On Thursday, the Washington-based group Catholics United said it had collected 2,500 signatures on a petition asking Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley to ensure the archdiocese’s schools would allow all children access to a Catholic education. Executive Director Chris Korzen said he welcomed O’Neill’s statement and looked forward to the release of the archdiocese’s promised new policy.
The Catholic Foundation, which is chaired by O’Malley and raises money for Catholic education, called St. Paul’s decision “at odds with our values as a foundation, the intentions of our donors, and ultimately with Gospel teaching.” The foundation said it would not fund any school that treats students and families in such a manner.
The foundation’s executive director, Michael Reardon, said the foundation did not give money to St. Paul’s.
The Massachusetts case is similar to a decision by a Catholic school in Boulder, Colo., the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which said two children of lesbian parents could not re-enroll because of their parents’ sexual orientation. The Denver Archdiocese backed the school’s decision.
When I was a high school sophomore, one of my classmates had the misfortune of popping an erection in the communal shower after gym class. I doubt “Paul” was gay. Most likely, it was a typical teenage case of Mr. Happy having a mind of its own. But fellow students at our all-boys Catholic school teased him mercilessly, calling him a fag, and I joined in.
That’s right: I joined in.
Please understand: at the time I was NOT GAY. Sure, I had “gay feelings,” which I kept mostly to myself. I also lacked any straight feelings, and I had a decent enough grasp of logic to know that people with “gay feelings” but no “straight feelings” are gay. It was denial, pure and simple, and my teasing Paul was a way to deflect attention away from myself.
When people ask me how I can even for a split second feel sadness for hypocrites like Reverend George “I hired him to carry my luggage” Rekers, the anti-gay crusader who was recently caught hiring an escort from rentboy.com  for a European vacation, I answer: Because I know what denial feels like.
True, I came clean about my sexuality at 19, whereas Rekers is still dissembling at 61. True, I participated in some schoolboy teasing—the potential damage of which ought not to be underestimated—whereas Rekers has made a career out of spreading lies about gays, writing books with titles like Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality, and offering highly paid testimony in Florida and Arkansas against gay adoption. There’s a huge difference.
But part of preventing future cases like these is first to understand them, and I can understand them best by drawing on my own experience. The human capacity for keeping separate sets of “mental books” is as familiar as it is remarkable.
Why is Rekers’ case important? Because it provides yet another stunning example of what it looks like when someone tries to fight his internal demons by scapegoating openly gay and lesbian people. Rekers has spent his life attacking in others what he can’t control in himself, harming countless LGBT innocents in the process. This is the danger of the closet.
Rekers insists that he is not gay, and at one level, he’s right. The term “gay” often refers to a mode of self-understanding and public identity, and Rekers just isn’t there. On this reading, anyone can be a homosexual, but it takes courage to be gay. Sadly, like the Reverend Ted “I’m heterosexual with issues” Haggard before him, Reverend Rekers may never get there.
So let Rekers have his “I’m not gay but my rentboy is” t-shirt. I’ll even believe him when he says that there was no sex, strictly speaking. According to the rentboy, “Lucien” (aka Geo, aka Jo-Vanni), in interviews with the Miami New Times and blogger Joe.My.God, their sessions consisted of daily nude massages where Lucien stroked Rekers “across his penis, thigh… and his anus over the butt cheeks,” causing Rekers to become “rock hard.” (At 61, Rekers doesn’t have the same excuse for erections as my high school classmate.)
This is precisely what one would expect from a “Not Gay” deeply closeted homosexual who has spent his career denouncing the “unacceptable health risks of [homosexual] behavior.” Rekers can maintain this charade only by drawing the boundaries of “homosexual behavior” about as narrowly as Bill Clinton drew those of “sexual relations”—which, as you’ll recall, the president did not have with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. The claims are true on one level—the strained, self-serving, and possibly delusional one.
It’s when I imagine these mental contortions that I feel the split second of sympathy for Rekers. As David Link writes at the Independent Gay Forum, “If the glaringly obvious conclusion is true—that Rekers is, in fact, a frustrated homosexual who won’t allow himself to actually have sex with another man—then he has created for himself exactly the hell he and his colleagues believe homosexuals are headed for or deserve.”
However, it’s one thing to create demons for yourself, and quite another to project them onto innocent bystanders whom you then attack as “deviant” in books, articles, and courtroom testimony. Frankly, there aren’t enough rentboys in Miami to carry that kind of karmic baggage.
Rekers still insists that he sought out the young man because he wanted to share the Gospel. I recommend starting with the “Truth shall set you free” part, followed by some lessons on penance.
John Corvino, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, and philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. His column “The Gay Moralist” appears Fridays at 365gay.com . Read more about him at www.johncorvino.com .
John will be a volunteer faculty member again this summer for Campus Pride’s LGBT Leadership Camp. For more about Campus Pride’s work, or to make a donation on John’s behalf to support this year’s program, visit http://www.campuspride.org/ .
Former first Lady Laura Bush told Larry King this week that she is in favor of gay marriage – a very different position than her husband, the former president.
She and her husband “disagree” on the issue, she told King.
“There are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with [gay marriage] because they see marriage as traditionally between a man and a woman,” she told King. “But I also know that, you know, when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.”
She added, “I understand totally what George thinks and what other people think about marriage being between a man and a woman. And it’s a real, you know, reversal really for [them] to accept gay marriage,” but she thinks that legalization is coming, she said.
Laura Bush is making the talk show circuit while promoting her memoir “Spoken from the Heart.”
The fact that a star of Sex and the City is a lesbian is really quite amazing. The fact that she is finally opening up about her home life is truly a monumental moment. So, today, we should all take a moment and read the Advocate article where Cynthia Nixon describes her girlfriend  as a little man with boobs. At the same time, she makes it clear that she is gay and she loves her partner’s sexuality.
Onward with the gay news. Elena Kagan’s sexuality is becoming a central focus of the Supreme Court process. Andrew Sullivan went so far as to call for Kagan’s sexuality to become a topic in the nomination hearing. It’s incredible and a serious turn for the worse if a candidate’s sexual preference can become an issue with respect to their job performance.
While we might all be depressed about the Kagan press, there is good news on the horizon. Mad Men star Bryan Brett  is the newest in a long line of celebrities who have come out in favor of gay actors after a Newsweek article slammed their ability to act in straight roles. Check out the video below.
And let’s not stop there! Laura Bush – the woman who actually voluntarily joined the Bush family – has come out in favor of gay marriage . Sure, the woman has A LOT to atone for, supporting the Bush years, but we’ll take the support where we can get it. Not to mention the fact that she supports access to abortions as well. I’m starting to wonder if Mrs. Bush has had some sort of head injury recently.
Finally, in weird news for the day, an Australian reality show is auctioning off virgins . I don’t really know what else to say about this except that it’s disgusting and unbelievable. I never really liked the time I spent in Australia, but this is taking things a little too far.