A number of you have asked for more information about Ashwin Madia, the Democratic congressional candidate from Minnesota, and where he stands on LGBT issues. Bil Browning, Lane Hudson and I are proud to serve on the host committee for an upcoming event in Washington, DC benefiting Madia's campaign because he is the kind of smart, young progressive that we need to help our country recover from the last eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney.
Why We are Supporting Ashwin Madia for Congress
Madia is a strong advocate of LGBT civil rights including supporting an inclusive ENDA and marriage rights. While in the Marines, he was one of the first attorneys to successfully defend a gay Marine from discrimination by the military. He has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, eQualityGiving.org and Minnesota's Stonewall Democrats. He is also close to his openly gay brother.
Here is an excerpt from a guest post that Madia wrote for Bilerico on the need to repeal the military's ban on openly gay soldiers:
In 2005, my client, Private First Class (PFC) Smith [real name not disclosed], was found to have downloaded gay pornography onto a government computer. On the exact same day, another Marine was found with straight pornography on his government computer. The straight Marine received a verbal reprimand by the commanding officer. The gay Marine was given: a demotion in rank, loss of pay, restricted in his movements on base, and most severe of all, an administrative separation from the Marine Corps with an Other-Than-Honorable (OTH) discharge, just one step below a court martial.
An OTH discharge is typically reserved for Marines who exhibit a serious pattern of misconduct over time -- disobeying orders, talking back to superior officers, chronic patterns of not showing up or failing physical examinations. An OTH discharge means you lose all your veterans benefits and it shows up on every college application and future job application for the rest of your life.
I presented PFC Smith's case to a review panel composed of senior Marine officers and enlisted Marines. This isn't a typical jury made up of soccer moms and high school gym teachers. I argued that there was no justification for the disparity in punishment given to the straight Marine and PFC Smith. Ultimately, the Panel overruled the commanding officer's recommendations and retained PFC Smith. Overruling a commanding officer's recommendation is a rare event in the Marines. In fact it's so rare that I never saw it happen again during four years of being a lawyer in the Marine Corps.
Madia is the kind of person we need in Congress: someone who will stand strong for what he believes in and for the dignity and humanity of LGBT people.