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Posted at 3:20 PM ET, 11/15/2010

'Don't ask, don't tell' splitting gay rights groups

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 4:05 p.m. ET
Disagreements over how Congress should proceed on ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy are dividing gay rights groups as lawmakers are trying to determine how to proceed on the issue. The schism could rip apart a year-long effort to end the Pentagon's ban on gay men and lesbians openly serving in uniform.

The White House and Congress in May agreed to consider ending "don't ask, don't tell" as part of the annual defense authorization bill, a massive measure that addresses Pentagon funding for tanks, aircraft, weapons system and military pay. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) planned to speak Monday with the panel's ranking member, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on how to proceed with the bill, but were not expected to finalize their plans, aides said.

On Monday, three groups that support lifting the gay ban -- the Palm Center at the University of California Santa Barbara, OutServe and Knights Out -- said they want lawmakers to pass the bill whether or not it includes language ending "don't ask, don't tell."

"There is nothing more important than loyalty to those with whom we serve," the groups said in their statement. "This means ensuring that no one issue interferes with funding the courageous and selfless work our fellow service members are doing around the world."

"We will continue to fight for our integrity as gay and lesbian service members and we hope that legislative action in Congress can be taken in 2010 to lift the ban," the groups said.

The Palm Center is a think tank that has studied homosexual military service around the world and supports lifting the ban. OutServe represents about 1,000 active-duty gay service members and Knights Out represents gay and lesbian West Point alumni, staff and faculty.

Their statement comes a day after McCain once again voiced skepticism with repeal efforts and said he wants the Pentagon to conduct a new study on what troops and military leaders think of ending the policy.

McCain "has no rationale left, just prejudice," said Palm Center Deputy Director Christopher Neff. "The only rationale left is he's being anti-gay and has chosen to take an anti-gay position to scuttle the defense authorization bill." The groups spoke out in support of passing the authorization bill to demonstrate that unlike McCain, they're willing to put aside personal political priorities in the interest of addressing national security concerns in the bill, he said.

It's a risky political calculation that puts them in direct conflict with four larger groups more directly involved with lobbying efforts to end the ban: the Human Rights Campaign, the Center for American Progress, Servicemembers United and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson called the other groups' statement "absolute lunacy."

"It has been the position of the organizations that actually work on repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' to strongly oppose stripping the repeal language out of the defense authorization bill," Nicholson said in an e-mail. "That position has been based on the reality of the vote count, and those facts on the ground here in Washington have not changed."

Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said the other groups are "Good people who are extremely naïve legislatively." HRC -- which is close with the Obama White House -- continues to believe that the defense bill must be passed this year with language ending DADT. "The two should not be separated," Sainz said.

In a related development, police on Monday arrested 13 gay rights activists and military veterans for chaining themselves to a White House fence along Pennsylvania Avenue. The activists, working with the gay rights group GetEQUAL, called on President Obama and Senate leaders to ensure "don't ask, don't tell" is ended this year.

And all of this is happening just as lawmakers are sorting out whether they have enough votes to proceed on the defense bill. Those in the know have said very little publicly in recent days, leading many to believe the bill -- and repeal -- may not happen at all this year. Stay tuned.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 15, 2010; 3:20 PM ET
Categories:  Military  
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Next: 'Don't ask, don't tell' moves to crucial phase (audio)


i have always thought that DADT is a pseudo-issue. why on earth would gays want to join murder, incorporated, anyway. why look a gift horse in the mouth if it will keep you from becoming a psycho-killer?

same with gay marriage... one of the best things about the gay lifestyle has always been the lack of marriage!

Posted by: tazdelaney | November 15, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

taxdelaney: are you serious?

The difference is two-fold: equality, and the ability to choose.

If gays choose to serve, that service should be allowed.
If gays choose to marry, that marriage should be allowed.

To be equal means equal rights and equal responsibilities. That is what gays want: to be treated equally by their civic government.

Posted by: Greent | November 15, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

yes, i'm serious. to hell with all militarism and to hell with the whole mental institution of marriage. however, i do seek secession of new york city so that we can again be the beat-hippie-punk-artist-druggie and sexually free town we once were. and when texas secedes, austin should then secede from texas... this country is about to go the way of the soviet union and none too soon for me. an end to all evil empires.

Posted by: tazdelaney | November 15, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Just because a few random groups disagree does not mean the entire gay community is being ripped apart. Drama much?

Posted by: FactChecker1 | November 15, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

There is also the issue of whether people should be allowed to vote on other peoples' Constitutional rights in the first place ...

Posted by: SubRosa2 | November 15, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

There is also the whole question of whether peoples' Constitutional rights should be put to a vote in the first place ...

Posted by: SubRosa2 | November 15, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

(Apologies for the double-post)

Posted by: SubRosa2 | November 15, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

...and, in other news, the Democratic Party is being torn asunder by members who shoot at deer crossing signs.

Posted by: carlaclaws | November 15, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Um, I may be one of those legislatively naive folks that HRC is talking about (and let's be honest, since when should the HRC be able to claim other groups are legislatively naive considering the lack of progress in this Congress), but why can't we pass DADT repeal as a stand-alone measure?

That way, Republicans couldn't complain about adding amendments (like Sen. Collins did) and we should be able to get at least her (if not her and Olympia) after the report comes out and there is no longer any divisions over whether or not we should wait for the Pentagon to finish.

Same with the DREAM Act--then at least the D's can campaign on that they tried to do something, instead of like now, when they can only campaign on the idea that they would try to do something if they weren't a bunch of pantywaists that ran at the sound of a filibuster.

Posted by: adastraperapathy | November 15, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Also, win or lose, it would appear more honest to the public. Trying to twist people's arms to pass large spending bills hardly ever works (and just because it worked with Hate-Crimes, that definitely didn't make it tasteful to many people involved in the process).

Let people go on record.

Stop trying to attach a dollar amount to important policy reforms, it looks like vote-buying and the public knows it.

Posted by: adastraperapathy | November 15, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Repeal DADT now and in a very short time we will have an all-Gay Military. We will lose recruitment of young real brave soldiers. Let the gays fight with islamic terrorists in the frontlines of Afghanistan,Yemen,Somalia since we have much confidence in them.I am sure they will drive these islamic terrorists in no time from Afghanistan and safe havens of Pakistan.These gays are very patriotic.

Posted by: mahalapril | November 15, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

In 22 years in the service I never saw anyone persecuted because they were gay. Nobody gave a rats pitute as long as you did your job. Geeze !

Posted by: drees1956 | November 15, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if the Pubs would even let a stand-along DADT bill come up. Remember, they will control the House next year and simply filibuster anything they don't like in the Senate.

Actually, the best thing for the Pubs is to finally get it over with. If they do it now, they have two years before the next election, enough time to let it die down. They don't really have to support ending DADT. They just have to stop fighting it within the current bill and claim the high ground of passing funding for our troops.

And then, in two years, they can claim that DADT ended because of the Log Cabin Republicans efforts and the Republican Party is the party of freedom for all!

Doncha just love it!

Posted by: amelia45 | November 15, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

tazdelaney has some good points.

Posted by: johng1 | November 15, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

tazdelaney has some good points.

Posted by: johng1 | November 15, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

If one is truly professional and dedicated to the job and doing it to the best of their abilities, then their personal life shouldn't be an issue. I'm sure that I've worked alongside homosexuals in the past and didn't know it - because it had no bearing in the work place. We were all professionals and maintained that attitude on the job. That said, I've worked with heterosexuals who were quite vocal and candid about their sexual antics - and I was more offended by that because it is unprofessional and doesn't belong in the work place, no matter the job.

Granted the average office is a much different climate than a military situation, but I have to wonder about why this really even has to come up? I don't want to know your intimate business anymore than I'm sure you want to know mine!

Posted by: valonghornnow | November 15, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Let's get over ourselves already!

And really, if your sexual preference is your only identity, if that's all you are, you have a pretty shallow life. And if you are scared to death that someone of your own gender will hit on you, well, you're every bit as pathetic.

Now, let's all grow up.

And for you folks at the Post, is this what you talk about around the water cooler all day long? For crying out loud, get a real job.

Posted by: jpfann | November 15, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

HRC makes me laugh -- as if they have ever accomplished anything for anybody but their overpaid, well-connected, utterly useless staff.

Posted by: ccdc20009 | November 15, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Can something be done about those, gasp, uniforms?

Posted by: phvr38 | November 15, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Why can't gay people keep their sexual preference to themselves?

Posted by: lindalovejones | November 15, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

End DADT. Even the pentagon survey says ending it won't cause great disruption. Ignore McCain. He will keep coming up with some added hearing or study to keep the repeal from ever happening.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | November 15, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing wrong with letting gays die for their country, They should be put in all-gay units; they would be excellent at defending their lovers. Like the Spartans.

Posted by: ravitchn | November 15, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

To those saying that personal life shouldn't interfere in work anyway? Seriously? Do you not have any photos of your spouse or kids in your office? Do you never refer to your significant other? This isn't just about who you sleep with or hit on in a bar -- it's your family.

And service isn't just "work". Civilians get to go to work, do their job, and go home. Servicemembers work, eat, sleep, party, do everything together. If you go on a date during your leave and the word gets back to your c/o, you're toast, even if you'd never bring your "personal life" into "work".

Why don't gay people keep their sexual ORIENTATION (it's not a preference) to themselves? Why don't you keep your straightness to yourself? Try going a year NEVER mentioning, in any way, your wife/girlfriend/ex/dates you went on, or allowing anyone you work with to see you with your significant other.

Posted by: novangla | November 15, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

My service experience, then, is different from yours, drees. In my two-years, I saw a private driven out of my platoon because he had a HARD time keeping himself composed, especially when the rest of his squad was in various states of undress. He was ostracized and threatened and, if he had been around much longer, would have probably been taken to the woods behind the parade ground and beaten. (But not by me. While I wanted nothing to do with him, I was not about to be a party to an assault on another soldier.)

Posted by: JoStalin | November 15, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse


If that particular serviceman couldn't keep himself composed then he should not be allowed to serve. The same goes for straight troops who happen to rape other female troops. Sexual behavior and sexual orientation are two different things.

Just because one person can't seem to conform doesn't mean the rest of us can't. I served on submarines in the Cold War, and I am gay. If it hadn't been for me there wouldn't have been Protestant services onboard the submarine because no one else was willing to conduct them.

Personally, I NEVER had a problem "composing" myself around other men in various states of undress. Most gay men or lesbians know how to control themselves in that situation because we've been doing it our entire lives. Also, MOST gay men and lesbians aren't attracted to every single person of their same sex. It doesn't take much social conditioning from a very young age to teach you what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Sexual behavior and orientation are two different things.

Oh, and there were plenty of men, every now and then, that would wake up with and walk around with an erection on the submarine in various states of undress. That kind of thing (an erection) is physiological and it happens. So what? What does that mean? Absolutely NOTHING unless that person behaves in an overtly sexual manner which is absolutely unacceptable and is never allowed whether it is between same sex or opposite sex troops. Everyone has to follow the same code of conduct.

Posted by: cowboyneok | November 15, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

What a drama queen Ed. Three guys in a mumu disagree and you have a civil war ensuing. Ed, there are a lot of us around and we remember and we vote and we have money. There are no disagreements on DADT, ENDA, DOMA. Just timing and priorities. A little less hysterics and a little more evenness. then again, you work for the post....


Posted by: mjcc1987 | November 15, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Even John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, does not agree with him and has spoken out publicly, saying "Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future." She added that the government treats gays like "second-class citizens." Cindy McCains appears in a celebrity-filled video about gay youth suicide:

Posted by: s_mceachern | November 16, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Even John McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, does not agree with him and has spoken out publicly, saying "Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future." She added that the government treats gays like "second-class citizens." Cindy McCains appears in a celebrity-filled video about gay youth suicide:

Posted by: s_mceachern | November 16, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

As a veteran, I am really scarred about what happens to our military readyness if DADT is repealed. Repealing DADT would be a mistake, I have listen to all of the argument from both sides, but it all come down to this, TRUST. Most of america may want this repeal, but most of america is not in the Military, Most of the Military may also say they want this repeal but most of the Military do not serve on the front line, on the front everything depend on you believing the man next to you thinks the same way you think, this is what create the link between you and that link helps you survive. There is one other thing, the very fact gays want the be acknowledged by talking about there perversions tell me you are not military material becaus the military is about defending this country not all about me me me!!

Posted by: ToddPollard | November 21, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

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