Jerame Davis

Honoring Veteran's Day

Filed By Jerame Davis | November 11, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, gay servicemembers, Veterans Day

I posted this on the National Stonewall Democrats Facebook page today, but VeteransAssociations.jpgsince no one has written about Veteran's Day here on Bilerico, I thought I'd post it here too.

Today we honor our veterans for their service and sacrifice to protect our freedom and ideals. This Veteran's Day is particularly important as it is the first for which gay and lesbian servicemembers can mark the day openly with their loved ones. To all those who serve, we thank you.

I'm particularly proud of President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and our community for the way we all worked together to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. Today, we can celebrate all veterans.

(Full disclosure: I am the interim Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats.)


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Heartfelt and a consideration many will understand. All veterans and their families can celebrate this day openly! What a wonderful thing!

Annette Gross Annette Gross | November 11, 2011 5:11 PM

As the wife of a retired Navy Medical Service Corp officer, I'm so proud that DADT was repealed and that LGBT service men and women can now serve openly! This hopefully will pave the way for increased understanding and equality for the entire LGBT community!

Not "T." We weren't included in DADT.

My comment much farther down in this thread, Nov-13-2011 at 10:12PM, was intended to go here.

Hey, Bilerico tech support, I have complained repeatedly that the system sometimes drops the "Reply" flag on a comment, and that the Preview Page does not show whether the "Reply" flag is retained or dropped. This sucks, and IMHO you have had plenty of time to fix this bug.

Hey AJ - Bilerico tech support doesn't exit anymore because it got a job doing this thing with Stonewall Dems. :)

Besides, this is a Movable Type bug - one of many - that we hate. It's not something easily fixed. It has to do with threaded comments not being full implemented correctly. I believe the latest version of Movable Type may have take care of this, but we can't upgrade to that version.

We're working on a switch to Wordpress and just giving up on Movable Type. But with over 23,000 entries and almost 140,000 comments - it's a daunting task to figure out the best way to handle that transition.

I don't have an ETA for you - but we have several reason to hurry this switch, so stay tuned.

Yes, we can celebrate all veterans...as long as they're not transgender. A special happy veterans day to our still closeted transgender veterans. Maybe someday...

In addition to the fact that transgender service members must still hide, until Mr. Obama apologizes for needlessly kicking some 800 more gay and lesbian service members to the curb, apologizes for backing the Pentagon's demand that the original repeal bill be gutted, thus empowering their CURRENT arbitrary denial to gay troops of protections against harassment and discrimination automatically given nongay troops who are black, female, or members of other "protected classes," AND the arbitrary denial of partner benefits NOT banned by DOMA; apologizes for asking the courts to kill the ruling in the Log Cabin case that any kind of discrimination against gay troops is unconstitutional, THUS, handing on a silver platter the legal right for any future President to bring back a ban without Congressional approval; stops fighting the ACLU class action suit on behalf of the arbitrary denial of full separation pay to eligible gays; and stops hounding gays discharged like Dan Choi, Mara Boyd, and Jason Knight to pay back so-called "unearned" pay—until then, he deserves no thanks from anyone in our Community for repeal without equality is an insult.

Nice post, Jerame. Honor and respect to GLB servicemembers, and thanks to President Obama and the Democrats for their hard work on the DADT repeal. I would have preferred the Log Cabin decision not get thrown out for mootness, but such is life.

I sure hope someday trans people will be able to serve openly as well.

We all hope trans people will be able to serve someday. The continued discrimination against our trans servicemembers and veterans is a shame. I am confident that day will come, though not without a continued and sustained effort.

And to address Mr. Bedwell directly - while some of your criticisms are apt, I think it's a bit overly simplistic to blame Obama. He is not a dictator or an autocrat - the legislation that ultimately passed was a compromise in order to ensure its passage. It's not like President Obama went to the military brass or the armed services committee and demanded a watered-down bill, as you call it.

The bulk of your scorn should be heaped on the deplorable blue dog democrats who banded with Republicans to ensure only a weaker version of the bill would pass. You should also pass some around to the Republicans, who put their bigotry before military readiness or honoring our vets. And you should probably also include the generals who were hesitant to move forward with repeal.

This reflexive and simplistic "blame Obama" crap is just that - crap. It says to me that either 1) you don't really understand all that happened around the repeal process or 2) you have an agenda and you're trying to fit the facts to a pre-determined narrative.

Obama is not faultless - don't get me wrong. But he does indeed deserve much thanks for fulfilling a promise he made. Regardless of the potential pitfalls, gay and lesbian servicemembers ARE serving openly, which is exactly what he said he would do.

There is still work to do. If you think we can get that work done under a Republican president, you're foolish. Period. The vast majority of the current crop of candidates - including the one most likely to get the nomination - has expressed at least some interest in reinstating DADT.

You want progress for LGBT people, including further progress for servicemembers? You're not going to get that by bashing Obama.

Give Obama a real Democratic congress to work with and you'll see better legislative outcomes. Give the Republicans the White House and the Congress and watch every bit of momentum we're experiencing come to a screeching halt - and even start to backslide.

It's your choice.

Aubrey Haltom | November 12, 2011 12:01 AM

Your challenge to "give Obama a real Democratic congress..." triggered some thoughts.
About Democrats, in general.
And a question also.
I can be fairly critical of Obama re: several issues. And the history of his admin is a series of stops and starts, IMO.
As you argue, though, at the end of the day some things have been accomplished.
Re: Obama and lgbt issues: Perhaps Obama, as most politicians would, reflects his base rather than leads it.
So, to only take the most obvious example, Obama's take on marriage equality (or whatever you want to call it) more accurately mirrors his base's view. Isn't it possible that (if not most then) a significant percentage of Democrats are not quite convinced about civil equality for lgbt? A significant percentage of Dems are ok with secondary status for lgbt.
When I've talked with some dyed-in-the-wool Dems the response to any criticism is twofold:
- However the Dems have failed lgbt, they're still better than the Republicans - so what choice do you have? (as if that absolves the Dem Party from any further responsibility).
- The lgbt community is so much better off than 50 years ago. The wheels of change turn slow, etc..., etc...
So it's a Democratic base that isn't really on-board with lgbt equality. And Obama is only going to reflect that ambivalence.
He's not going to lead us out of the wilderness. He's a politician.

I also agree that there's not any valid option to Obama, either. Which can be frustrating in my better moments.
One question, Jerame. Not about Obama's performance at all.
Your challenge is to "give Obama a real Democratic congress...", as you've (rightfully) noted that some 'dog' Dems worked with Reps at critical times.
But didn't the Dems get the congress they worked for? How should we work for that "real Democratic congress" when the Democrats are the ones who courted these conservative legislators in order to gain the majority?
I've also thought a lot lately about Obama's record re: lgbt issues. And I'm beginning to see the issue as

Aubrey Haltom | November 12, 2011 12:04 AM

Sorry about the last sentence above. I meant to click "Preview", but while not paying attention meandered next door to "Submit".
The above comment isn't well-worded, but I'm hoping you've got the gist...

It's a bit overly simplistic to say the Dems recruited all those blue dogs to win. First, that's just not how things work - people think the Democratic Party is monolithic, but it is not. There is the national party, the 50 state parties (and territory parties as well) and then there are county parties within those states. Each one of these party entities are semi-autonomous. In other words, the Democratic Party is more like a coalition of many party entities that all call themselves Democrats.

So, while the DNC might not like Joe Billy Bob from Arkansas, they don't have a lot of control over whether or not Joe Billy Bob gets on the ballot because that's up to the state and local parties. The DNC can push, prod and throw around some weight - sure. They can also choose not to help support the election of Joe Billy Bob with money, volunteers or other support - but they can't really yank him off the ballot.

That's Democracy. These Blue Dogs that were elected represented what their *local* Democratic party structure thought best represented the electorate. What they found out was that you can't out conservative a Republican. That's why almost every blue dog was swept out in 2010 - because the Democratic base didn't really care for them and the Republicans and Independents went for the candidate that wasn't pretending to be something they aren't.

So my challenge is as much to Democrats as it is to the public at large. Democrats in these places where they think only a blue dog type can get elected should rethink that strategy. They should give voters a clear choice between regressive, backward thinking and forward, progressive thinking. People quite often make the right choice at the polls when given a real choice to make.

But back to Obama - in many ways, he is leading on LGBT issues. It may not be in the way you'd want or hope, but his impact on the American psyche in terms of LGBT equality are evident. Folks complain about Obama's stance on marriage - as you yourself have done in your comment. Yet, I see Obama's struggle with marriage as a reflection not of his base, but of ALL of America.

Where are we, as a country, on marriage equality? We are, literally, in the midst of the inflection point on public opinion. We are right in the margin of error - right at the cusp of a permanent majority of support for marriage equality.

We weren't there before Obama took office. Support for marriage equality was growing, yes, but support was still a minority opinion. Obama's struggle is a direct reflection of where most Americans are on marriage - I really want to support this, but my faith tells me something different. How do I reconcile these two things?

That is a struggle for many, many Americans. How to reconcile their personal beliefs and experiences with what they've been taught to believe all their lives - that marriage is between a man and a woman and that gays and lesbians are sinners and bad for society.

That is why I don't think Obama's doing us harm with his position and he may very well be doing us a bit of good. I wrote about this previously here on Bilerico: http://www.bilerico.com/2011/06/how_obamas_evolution_on_marriage_may_help_us.php

I hope that answers your question - I got a little rambly too.

Aubrey Haltom | November 12, 2011 10:57 AM

A comment below was meant to be posted as a 'Reply'. But my tricky fingers (again) sent the comment elsewhere.

It wasn't just your tricky fingers, Aubrey -- as I complain elsewhere, this blog has bugs in the "Reply" and "Preview" mechanisms.

Thank you for mentioning trans service members and what you said. We're working on that issue, with other organizations. I would hope that when we have a meeting in DC, the NSD will be at the table.

Be sure to invite us, Monica. NSD has always been a strong supporter of trans equality and that's not going to change while I'm at the helm.

With respect, Mr. Davis, it is you that is misinformed, one might say, "willfully," unless you care to contradict then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's account in a conference call with reporters in May of last year. You assert, "It's not like President Obama went to the ... the armed services committee and demanded a watered-down bill, as you call it." The sincerity of that belief doesn't excuse your ignorance when you posit yourself as one of those not-to-be-questioned, "They Who Know Better Than Thou."

"Pelosi said the House weakened its repeal language TO MOLLIFY THE WHITE HOUSE. ... Military leaders REFUSED TO ACCEPT LANGUAGE THAT WOULD BAR DISCRIMINATION, so the clause was dropped." – “The Huffington Post,” June 3, 2010, emphasis mine.

That also demonstrates that your moldy excuse, "the legislation that ultimately passed was a compromise in order to ensure its passage" is right but for the wrong reason. The Obambot Party Line, which you amplify by making claims about, "deplorable blue dog democrats who banded with Republicans to ensure only a weaker version of the bill would pass," is usually attached to, "in the Senate," when, in fact, they weren't remotely near a floor vote in May. Their first vote did not come until September—after the "watering down" supposedly necessary, and yet it failed then, and again, the first time, in December.

There was only one Blue Dog Dem calling the shots, and he was in the House: then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. I've never seen the name of ANY other person, in either party, in either house, associated with anything remotely close to, "weaken the bill or I won't vote for it." If YOU can document any, please do. Until then, here, from a variety of sources not diluted by Bot Kool Aid, are the actual facts:

Huff Po's Grim described the "gulf between repeal proponents and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that only seemed to be growing wider as the moment of decision grew nearer" to which Hoyer quickly caved. For whatever reason, most likely, as reflected in Pelosi's statement to reporters, a direct request from the White House, bypassing her who they, no doubt, feared would not cooperate, Hoyer [whom Pelosi had allegedly opposed as Majority Leader]—who voted FOR DADT in 1993, who as of the end of April 2010 wasn’t even a cosponsor of the original repeal bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act [MREA], and had just said “House leaders have no plans to” do what SLDN had been lobbying for since before Obama was sworn in: add repeal to the defense authorization bill—quote, “emerged as the central figure in a contest he'd largely stayed removed from over the years.” Behind doors closed to principal Community players SLDN and Servicemembers United, he was aided by the similarly out-of-the-blue Winnie Stachelberg of the Obambotic wing of the Center for American Progress and the entirely Obambotic, Blue Dog Dem-created Third Way—neither of which are gay advocacy orgs but, based on previous statements they'd make about approaches to repeal, could be counted on to back Obama’s surrender to Gates’ demands.

According to the December 21, 2010, edition of TheHill.com, Hoyer himself confirmed his UNILATERALLY deciding to gut the MREA and why: “Hoyer has not been shy about touting his role in the repeal effort, and his office provided The Hill a detailed timeline of his work on the legislation both through May and in December. ... Before the first House vote, Hoyer’s office drafted legislative language designed to mollify concerns expressed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.”

Hoyer’s self-proclaimed omniscience apparently has no bounds, as, in addition to talking about “get[ting] Gates to buy in,” he also told them that, emphasis mine: “The effort had to be to get the language in a place where it could get the votes in the SENATE [Armed Services] committee.” How is it that someone from the House who had not been involved in the issue at all suddenly knew more than the charter DADT opponent and Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin, Senate MREA-sponsor Joe Liebermann, and repeal advocate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

In short, the chain of events is clear: Gates—whom a February 1, 2009, "Boston Globe" article documented had been given virtual carte bland by Obama to shape repeal however he wanted—went from demanding that nothing be done at all in 2009 but continue discharges to demanding another "study" [as the Globe documented Obama had empowered within the first month of his Administration if not before being sworn in] time to delay a vote until the last minute to demanding that the ban in the MREA on discriminating against gays IN the military post repeal be gutted—or he would go to HIS allies in Congress and tell them to oppose ANY repeal. And, Hoyer, for whatever reason, again, unilaterally backed him, as did the White House putting our allies over the proverbial barrel. [Despite Gates' successful con job on most of having experienced a religious conversion about the ban, his true feelings were confirmed by his having left office still positing that the forces weren't ready to implement repeal while his replacement Leon Panetta certified they were just 22 days later.]

So, no, contrary to another of your cliched assertions, Obama did NOT "fulfill his promise," because his promise was NOT just repeal but: "As president, I will work with Congress and place the weight of my administration behind ENACTMENT OF THE MILITARY READINESS ENHANCEMENT ACT, which will make NONDISCRIMINATION the
official policy of the U.S. military." - Candidate Barack Obama, November 29, 2007, emphasis mine. Instead, Mrs. Pelosi described where he placed that weight. Expecting him to keep that promise is hardly expecting him to be what you suggest, "a dictator or an autocrat"—an excuse so ridiculous it shocks me coming from someone as intelligent as you.

To the contrary, it is nothing but expecting him to be what he also promised: "I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership.” – Barack Obama, Job Application, February 28, 2008. But right up to the week before the final vote—MONTHS after the allegedly necessary, allegedly determinative "compromise" had been agreed to—Levin was telling reporters that Obama still wasn't doing enough to help them pass repeal.

Even IF one were to accept your regurgitated talking points as fact, you chose not to even try to excuse what Obama's done for Pentagon homophobes over gay servicemembers SINCE repeal passed except to say he's not perfect and a Repug would be worse. Most indefensible of these is that—again, even IF the "compromise" was necessary—he had the opportunity to repair its damage by dropping his appeal of the LCR case ruling that such discrimination is unconstitutional. But he allowed his DOJ to go into court again and again, with ever-changing excuses for killing it—but to the last minute DEFENDING the idea that the ban and kicking thousands of gays to the curb simply because they were gay was [and, therefore, still would be] constitutional.

Anyone wish to applaud?

Thank you for remember us on this special day.

Having a daughter who currently serves, another daughtet who is going in, a vet myself, a sister who is retired, I couldn't even really respond to all the posts and acknowledgments yesterday to our Country's Vets and currently active.

It's emotional to me.
I grew up visiting my grandfathers grave every year this day. There was ALWAYS a little American Flag on his tombstone, we would bring flowers, pull the weeds and then get a heavy Pancho from the back seat of the Datsun, to kneel on to say the rosary.

But THIS year... NO woman can be Federally investigated/court marshaled and discharged because she kissed a girl.

There isn't a Pancho heavy enough for those prayers.

Aubrey Haltom | November 12, 2011 10:56 AM

I appreciate the perspective, Jerame.
But I seem to remember the DNC and DSCC actively recruiting conservative candidates to run in those red states. And then, obviously, supporting those 'dogs'.
I don't doubt you know the inside operations better than I do. And maybe it is as simple as a state/local issue for Democrats (another simplicity, no?).
My memory of those gains made from '04 to '08 included a 'majority at all costs' mindset by those powerful Dem orgs.
Re: Obama. No doubt we're at a different place culturally now than even 2008. But I guess I'm arguing that Obama's approach doesn't seem to be that coordinated, both in general and in re: to lgbt issues.
And his "god is in the mix", no to marriage equality, the impact (however great or slight) on statewide votes to amend their own constitutions, might not be that beneficial.
We've got to hope the Supreme Court does something positive for us at some point in the future. Or Obama's legacy re: lgbt might be more mixed than you indicate.
Or that's my thought at the present.
Doesn't mean I won't vote for Obama. I'm just not convinced that 2013 won't be just as problematic as 2009 if/when he's elected.

Aubrey Haltom | November 12, 2011 10:58 AM

"...if/when he's elected." Insert "re-elected."

The DNC didn't do a lot of that recruiting. The DCCC and DSCC are separate orgs. They are the "majority at all costs" entities within the party. Their very existence is for nothing other than to help the Democrats win majorities in their respective chambers. (For the record, the Republican counterparts, the NRCC and NRSC, have pretty much the exact same mission for their parties as well.)

Again, the nuance of these various groups is lost on most folks. But the DSCC and DCCC are there to elect Democrats, not decide which Democrats to elect. That's supposed to be the job of the various party entities. If the party in Mississippi decides to run a blue dog - and it looks like that blue dog can win - it would be counter to the DCCC or the DSCC's mission to not support that candidate.

That's why being involved in your local Democratic party is vitally important. It's also why supporting your local Stonewall Democrats affiliate is important - Stonewall Democrats advocate within their local Democratic party for selecting pro-equality candidates over others. Stonewall Democrats are also there to let you know which Democrats are the best on LGBT issues and which aren't.

And you can almost be certain that if a candidate is pro-equality, they are also pretty good on other progressive/liberal/Democratic issues, like choice, the environment, labor, etc.

Aubrey Haltom | November 12, 2011 3:11 PM

I get the distinction you're making. But it seems something of a semantic enterprise to argue over which came first - the money (i.e., "help elect") or the candidate (i.e., "which Dem to elect").
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the promise of money to nominate a 'winnable' candidate has some very real influence on the nomination process itself.
Though obviously Nevada (for Reps) in 2010 and Connecticut (for Dems) in 2006 would tend to support your argument. I tend to think of these examples as the exception which proves the rule, rather than then rule itself.
Again, though, thanks for the replies. Some good info and a little pro-Democrat balance to this cynical (former?) Democrat.
I should also note my husband and I used to contribute to various Dem orgs, but have stopped that practice. We still vote, but our support tends to go to local lgbt, pro-choice, etc.. groups.

Yes indeed ... while a special sense of celebration may be in order this Veterans' Day, we should not pretend for a second that our work to establish justice in the military for sexual minorities is done. First, trans people are still not allowed to serve, even though many of them are totally fit, both physically and psychologically, to serve their country well. Secondly, although DADT is "repealed" gay and lesbian servicemembers still do not have mechanisms of protection from discrimination at a level equal to other protected classifications, such as religion, race, ethnicity, etc. Our work is far from over.