Last week a gay sailor, Derek Morado, was told he was going to face discharge under DADT because the law is still in effect. GetEqual and Americablog set up an online petition for him. He had a hearing in front of military officials and he wasn't discharged.
Now time for the nonprofits to get their due. GetEqual seems to claim in this email (attributed to Robin McGehee) late last week that their online petition is the reason the three-judge panel decided to retain Morado:
We did it!!
I just got off the phone with Petty Officer Derek Morado, the servicemember who was facing discharge today in California despite "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" having been repealed 100 days ago.
In short, I have great news to report -- by a vote of 3-0, Derek was recommended for retention. With your help, Derek gets to not only save his career, but walk prouder -- without the burden of discrimination on his shoulders.
This is good news for a few reasons -- it shows the power of grassroots efforts to apply pressure and the reality that, when we expose the truth and stand up for our dignity, we win. We don't know how many other servicemembers are facing discharge, but we will not rest until all Americans -- LGB and T -- are free to serve their country freely, openly, honestly, and without danger of discharge.
Continued after the jump.
Today was a victory, and we're grateful to Derek for lending his story and his voice to highlight the fact that servicemembers are still facing the discharge process, even 100 days after the law was repealed. We're also grateful to our friends at AMERICAblog Gay, who partnered with us to send Derek into the courtroom with the names of thousands of supporters who were unwilling to let this happen without pushing back.
And the main point:
Click here to donate to our work.
Americablog didn't go quite as far as to claim that the online petition convinced all three military officials to change their position, but Aravosis and Sudbay made some ambiguous claims that were clearly meant to be read as claiming victory:
Thank you to the thousands who signed our petition on behalf of Derek over the past 24 hours. We sent your names to Derek this morning right before he went into his hearing, so in a very real way you were there with him.
According to Derek, all three members of the hearing board voted to retain him in the military -- an incredible result.
Derek gets the lion's share of the credit for today's victory, but I really believe each and every one of you who joined AMERICAblog and GetEQUAL in this action played a role, and you should be proud.
Please share this success with your friends -- and encourage them to join us in our effective activism.
Click here to share on Facebook.
Click below to tweet this message:
Victory! Navy will not discharge sailor under DADT. Join our action ntwk & join the fight: tinyurl.com/684aghv @americablog
There isn't anything we can't accomplish if we work together. Thanks so much, and congratulations again,
I've posted about diet activism before, where people take an effective tactic of the past and find a pain-free way to implement it and promise that it's just as effective. It does have the effect of making people believe that they're doing something productive while not making them actually sacrifice any time or money or energy or take any risk. In the end, it makes it harder to get people to do things that actually matter since they think that the nothing they did actually helped.
I emailed McGehee back to ask if there was any proof that the judges in this case even saw the online petition (much less threw out the military's rules and acted on the basis of an online petition), and she did not have any. Instead, here's the response I got:
On top of our efforts to apply pressure, we were told by many reporters that an unnamed official within the Pentagon said that he knew that the community's actions were making people nervous and they were working to do what they could to make it go away. We don't have direct evidence that the Pentagon intervened, but we can pretty clearly say that adding pressure had a direct impact on this case not just getting swept under the rug with no consequences.
Finally, I know from conversations with Derek that the people supporting him through the petition, press help, and feeling the support from folks was very much appreciated by him and helped to steady him through an almost six hour process. That's not the sole impact we had, but it I'm glad for it.
An unnamed source? Who made a vague statement about "pressure" being applied? Who made a ridiculous statement about the Pentagon being "nervous" that people knew someone was going to be discharged under DADT, which is still law? Who GetEqual heard about second-hand? And now the rest of us third-hand? I suppose it's possible, although I'll also just say that I've been lied to, directly, by people working to shield their brand from even the slightest criticism, so take their statements with a grain of salt.
I also doubt the judges in this case were swayed by an online petition. GetEqual's response backed off from that claim and cited "pressure," as if the Pentagon has ever cared about being seen as a homophobic organization. Unlike a nonprofit or a corporation, the power of their brand really doesn't have much of an effect on whether we pay for their services. The military is a bureaucracy and we're required by law to pay their salaries.
I'm looking around for anyone who actually knows why Morado was retained, but the proceedings were closed to the public and there's little information available for the press. My guess is that, since DADT discharges can't happen at the unit level anymore, not since the new regulations from Robert Gates were handed down last October, there wasn't approval from high enough of a level for this discharge. Here's how Stars & Stripes put it:
During the hearing at Lemore Naval Air Station in California, defense attorneys called four witnesses to testify to Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado's good conduct and character, according to the advocacy group GetEQUAL. The prosecution called none.
Attorneys also argued that given the imminent repeal of the 17-year-old policy, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus would be unlikely to approve the discharge. Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed in October that all discharges had to be expressly approved by the secretary of the service and the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Nobody has been discharged since then.
The Fresno Bee got a similar statement from a US Navy source:
However, no members of the Navy will be discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" without approval of the secretary of the Navy, Lt. Myers Vasquez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, said Wednesday.
Then again, I really don't know for sure. But the nameless friend of a friend who works at the Pentagon who says the generals were nervous about an online petition sets off my bullshit detector. The very public policy change that has substantially decreased DADT discharges to the point where the military is claiming that they've stopped, on the other hand, seems more likely.
Anyway, this isn't new in the nonprofit world to claim credit for things that one didn't do. We call conservatives stupid when they fall for it. We call HRC out when they do it. And it isn't any better if an organization that we like does it.