One thing about being a blogger is that you never know who may be reading what you write and/or what kind of sensitive nerve you might touch upon.
A case in point is an e-mail I received Friday afternoon in response to my last post here on Bilerico and a similar version on my blog, Michael-in-Norfolk that raised concerns about Virginia U.S. Senator Jim Webb's support for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Who was the e-mail from? Jessica Smith, Senator Webb's Communications Director.
As requested by Ms. Smith, I am sharing the Senator's response which is set out below in its entirety. In a subsequent post, I will share the response I sent back to the Senator's office. Here is the statement from Jim Webb's office:
I read your blog posts yesterday, and before we wrap up the week, I wanted to clear up some misinformation and inaccurate conclusions you've drawn regarding Senator Webb's position, background, and outreach around "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
As someone who has spent his life in and around the military and who currently serves as the Chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, no one should doubt Senator Webb's commitment to the well-being of our men and women in uniform and their families.
He has also cosponsored measures in Congress to prevent discrimination and protect the fundamental rights of all Americans, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
With respect to the issue at hand, Senator Webb agrees that a review of the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is appropriate and timely. He believes that Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen announced a responsible and careful approach toward the policy's examination. He strongly agrees that this approach must involve the full, open input and engagement of those serving in uniform today, including our military leadership, our active duty service members in all services and at all levels, and their family members.
This deliberative approach mirrors the process that Senator Webb employed in 1987 when, as Secretary of the Navy, he opened up more billets to women than any Secretary of the Navy in history. He convened a special study group, reporting back to him through the Navy's uniformed leadership, that conducted a thorough examination of the Navy's assignment policies and other issues. His approval of the study group's recommendations led to a large expansion in the number of sea-going billets available to women officers and enlisted personnel.
During today's consideration of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the Senator and members of our staff have met with dozens of military service organizations, active-duty military, veterans, and other stakeholders. Although the Senator has not met with Elaine Donnelly personally during this process, members of our staff have met with her, as well as with representatives of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Equality United, Servicemembers United, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups seeking repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." These interactions have ensured that the Senator and our office are more fully informed on their concerns and their reasons for having the law repealed.
Senator Webb has taken a serious, deliberative approach to examine and address this policy. Because this issue is so important to your readers, it is my hope that you will share this information with them.
Senator Webb's Communications Director
The following is the response sent back to Senator Webb's office as to why I disagree with the Senator's position and why more study is not necessary:
Dear Ms. Smith,
Thank you for the message. I will review it and write about it. I will also share it - and this response - with some of the other bloggers and activists that I know personally who share my views on the need to repeal DADT THIS YEAR.
Personally, regardless of Senator Webb's explanation, I see the Pentagon review as a transparent stalling tactic. Numerous allies have already taken an approach of allowing gays to openly serve with no difficulties. Moreover, U.S. troops are interacting with allied troops that include openly gay military service members. The world has not ended. To claim that somehow U.S. service members are more bigoted or less able to go with the new program than members of foreign armies and navies is insulting to our troops. You might like to read the report referenced in this story:
Smooth Transition for Military Gays in U.S. Allies
Here's the link to the report itself:
Open Service and our Allies [ed: links to pdf]
Here are highlights from the report's executive summary:
No significant problems have arisen as a result of a transition to open service. Notably, not one country studied in this report has made any changes to its housing or bathrooms. Moreover, although all the countries studied in this report have reported scattered incidents of harassment, this report also shows that there has been no pervasive discrimination against or harassment of gay and lesbian servicemembers. While some countries achieved a successful transition through educational and sensitivity training, others have not addressed harassment of gay and lesbian servicemembers in their trainings. The common thread, instead, has been an emphasis on strong leadership and a clear statement of the behavior that is expected of servicemembers. This report also shows that none of the countries studied have experienced a decline in unit cohesion or morale. To the contrary, many of the countries studied have seen an increase in morale due to a servicemember's increased ability to focus on work rather than hiding their sexual orientation and a decrease in paranoia and suspicion as a result of the new open environment.
The claim that a lengthy study is needed simply is a dog that doesn't hunt. There is no need to recreate the wheel when other nations have already done it.
If you have read my personal blog, Michael-in-Norfolk as well as the posts I write on The Bilerico Project, you will know that I know many gays now in the military. Some hold significant rank and responsibilities. I know others who made it to retirement like the current chair of Equality Virginia who served 20 years in the Air Force. Further, I also know a number who have been outed by unnamed sources, subjected to witch hunts and discharged just shy of reaching retirement.
It is a travesty that patriotic and honorable citizens are treated like lepers. Especially since we are talking about a policy that in the final analysis is based on 100% religious based discrimination. Don't Ask, Don't Tell makes a mockery of the supposed freedom of religion guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. DADT deprives gays of their constitutional right to freedom of religion, plain and simple. I have stated numerous times that if he had a backbone and/or had meant what he said during the 2008 campaign, President Obama would take action and suspend discharges pending Congressional repeal. Obama has proven to be no Harry Truman, as noted by Truman's grandson.
The reality is that November is going to be a potentially tough time for Democrats. Locally, Glenn Nye is going to face a very tough challenge. While Glenn supports ENDA, he and Senator Webb have yet to deliver on ENDA or DADT. Because of this, many in the LGBT community - myself and my partner included - are seriously debating whether it is worth bothering to vote in November. The Democrats have held the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress and yet all we see on DADT and ENDA are delay. Perhaps deliberate delay.
Meanwhile, different Democrat fund raisers call and look for LGBT money, grass roots support and votes - I received one such call just yesterday from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. I refused to give money and told the caller why. We get nothing in return. Hence why I and others support the "Don't Ask, Don't Give" campaign started by John Aravosis at America Blog. Politics is a two way street - although too many elected officials seem to forget that fact - and I intend to continue the drum beat for a repeal of DADT THIS YEAR and for passage of ENDA.