Eye Opener: Gay groups mobilize for 'don't ask' repeal
Happy Thursday! Gay rights groups on Wednesday plan to launch a nationwide campaign to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy following President Obama's call for a repeal during Wednesday's State of the Union address.
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said.
In response, the Human Rights Campaign will launch its “Voices of Honor” campaign on Wednesday, with plans to mobilize veterans and build campaigns in states with lawmakers that will be critical to final votes on a repeal in the House and Senate.
“The Commander in Chief sent a clear message tonight that in a time of war, what matters is that our men and women get the job done -- not whether they’re gay or straight,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said Wednesday night.
"Our country simply cannot afford this discriminatory law that hurts military readiness by denying patriotic men and women the opportunity to serve," Solmonese said.
A report released Tuesday estimated that 66,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people are serving in the U.S. military, roughly 2 percent of all military personnel.
The president's statement was just one line in a 71-minute speech. It didn't set a timeline and Obama didn't commit to suspending the dismissal of gay men and lesbians. Last night's pledge echoes similar statements at least three times last year and during his presidential campaign.
Obama called for the repeal amid a growing chorus of support from across the political spectrum. A June Gallup survey found a majority of liberals and Democrats support a repeal, as do 58 percent of conservatives and 60 percent of weekly churchgoers.
Despite growing support, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday, “When it comes to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ frankly, I think it’s worked very well and we just ought to leave it alone.”
Retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also weighed in on Wednesday by reiterating support for a repeal.
“As a nation built on the principal of equality, we should recognize and welcome change that will build a stronger more cohesive military,” Shalikashvili said. “It is time to repeal ’don’t ask, don’t tell’ and allow our military leaders to create policy that holds our service members to a single standard of conduct and discipline.”
Shalikashvili served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs when the policy was enacted under Clinton and then supported the ban.
Gay rights leaders had mixed reviews for the president's comments.
"While we know the State of the Union speech aims to present broad visions, the next time President Obama speaks to or about our community he must provide a concrete blueprint for his leadership and action moving forward," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "This includes his willingness to stop the discharges happening on his watch until Congress can fulfill its responsibility to overturn the law."
Nathaniel Frank, a senior research fellow at the the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Palm Center and the author of a book on gays in the military, agreed with Carey.
“The fact is the president has the authority to halt discharges with executive power and he’s chosen not to, instead making himself vulnerable to growing obstructionism by his opponents,” he said. "This is not health care. There is no mystery about how to do this: just stop firing gay troops."
The veterans group AMVETS said it cannot support a repeal of the policy until the nation's leaders better define the legal parameters of same sex partnerships and marriages. The group said the distribution of benefits to service members and their families, child care, military housing and joint duty assignments could all be complicated without clear definitions.
"By allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly without considering these issues sets those affected by a new policy up for failure," said AMVETS National Commander Duane J. Miskulin.
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In other news...
• Cabinet and Staff News: HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan served "designated survivor" duty during last night's State of the Union address. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she'll push for international support for Iran sanctions. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder host a national summit on health care fraud today. Current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson grilled by lawmakers on what they knew about AIG payments. Cyber Czar Howard Schmidt has his first White House meeting. U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten on continuing unrest in Haiti. White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan pushes back against lawmakers critical of the government's response to the Ft. Hood shootings. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, National Security Advisor James Jones and Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher attend a secret Capitol Hill meeting to begin a push for major export control reform. Biana Golodryga, fiancee to OMB Director Peter R. Orszag, will keep her ABC News business reporting beat. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recalls his relatives killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Consumer advocates surprised by Obama's pick for food safety chief.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION:
• FAA cites progress in improving commuter airline safety: The agency said those improvements stem in part from closer government oversight of pilot training and from moves by carriers to better identify and track weak pilots.
• Fed holds rates at record low to aid recovery: The board's statement sketched a mixed picture of the economy. Pointing to weakness, it noted that bank lending is contracting. And it dropped a reference in its previous statement to an improving housing market.
• Officials plan to expand federal hiring despite spending freeze: The budget freeze proposed by boss-in-chief Barack Obama isn't likely to cost federal workers their jobs, in fact federal employment probably will continue to grow.
• Reaction to Obama freeze proposal comes with caveats: Lawmakers want to see the full proposal before casting opinions.
• Bid protests skyrocket: The number of contract protests filed with the Government Accountability Office soared in 2009, according to a new report.
• Critics pan release of government information: Transparency advocates and good government groups rendered a mixed verdict on the Obama administration’s release of hundreds of sets of government data, arguing many federal agencies chose to release obscure or outdated facts and figures at the expense of long-standing requests for more relevant, sensitive information.
• Bloomberg wants terror trial moved: For the first time, the New York mayor joins a growing chorus of people who believe the epic trial will be too disruptive and expensive for the city.
• N.Y. federal prosecutors pursue foreign cases aggressively: Advocates say that using the long arm of American law to apprehend international figures whose crimes involve the United States might be the only way to attack an increasingly sophisticated global criminal threat.
OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT:
• OPM to get help digitizing personnel records: Stanley Inc. will be hired for a five-year, $18.4 million deal.
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION:
• SEC tells companies to disclose climate risks: There's been a lot of talk about climate change and the impact various legislative proposals might have on companies. Now the agency wants companies to tell investors about it too.
| January 28, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener, Workplace Issues
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