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Entries in don't ask don't tell (28)

Thursday
Jun072012

A 'Proud' Obama Makes Appeal to Gay Donors

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(LOS ANGELES) -- President Obama claimed the mantle of champion for the LGBT community Wednesday night, telling a group of 600 gay and lesbian donors at a star-studded fundraiser that he “could not be prouder” of his administration’s work to advance fairness and equality. 

From the effort to lift an HIV/AIDS travel ban, to the passage of a hate crimes law and the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” Obama credited his friends and family, staff and military service members as the inspiration behind his advocacy for gay rights in the White House.

“It’s something that I’m personally very proud of,” he said of the accomplishments.

One of those sources of inspiration introduced Obama -- Dr. Vito Imbasciani, a urological surgeon and colonel in the U.S. Army National Guard who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Imabasciani, who is gay, explained that it was his commander-in-chief who allowed him to finally “be himself” after serving for 26 years.

“Until last year, the price of my service was to live a lie,” Imbasciani said.  “But not anymore.”

“Thanks to the unyielding efforts of President Obama I can serve my country openly with my family by my side,” he added, referring to the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”  Imbasciani said he and his partner have two adopted children of Mexican descent.  

Citing “Vito’s story,” Obama said that his administration’s record of progress for gays and lesbians over the past three years is “just one more step” in a broader movement for greater equality for all Americans."

“It’s part of our history of trying to make this union a little bit more perfect,” the president said.  “In successive ways, the history, the scope of this country has always been to further broaden the meaning of citizenship, to include more and more people.  To give better and better expression to our highest aspirations, to make the country more fair, and more just and more equal.”

While the president did not specifically address his rival Mitt Romney’s record on gay rights, he did suggest the former Republican governor would be much less supportive.

There is a “fundamentally different vision about what’s going on,” Obama said of his opponent’s campaign.  “And a lot of this debate’s going to be about the economy, but also obviously there’s a different vision about how we create an inclusive America."

“I refuse to let anybody re-impose a law that would force Vito back into the shadows when he’s serving on our behalf and our safety and our security,” he continued to resounding applause.  “That’s not something I will tolerate.”

Romney, it should be noted, has not publicly called for re-imposing a ban on gays serving openly in the military.  During a November 2011 primary debate, Romney suggested that he would allow the repeal to stand, saying, “That’s already occurred and I’m not planning on reversing that at this stage.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Dec252011

Troops Reflect on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For many gays and lesbians in the military, the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring them from serving openly has put an end to the distraction of living in fear, allowing them -- as one said -- to "focus on the mission."

It was a year ago this past week that President Obama signed into law a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."  Although that ended the legal underpinnings for the ban on openly gay troops, it was only on Sept. 20 that the nearly 18-year-old policy was fully repealed.

For many of the thousands of gay and lesbian troops who will continue to serve in the military, it was a major burden lifted from their shoulders.

"Now I don't have to worry about someone trying to end my career," Staff Sgt. Steve Proctor told ABC News' Jake Tapper. "It's very important to me to be a soldier and also to be a leader of these soldiers, especially other soldiers that are gay like me."

Proctor said one of the biggest misconceptions he dealt with were doubts about whether he'd be able to effectively lead troops despite his sexual orientation.  "It was a struggle," said the 27-year-old staff sergeant, who's served for almost 10 years. "I had to make sure no one knew about it for the simple fact that if they did find out, I didn't want someone to try kicking me out."

Capt. Eric Sattleberg said that before the repeal of the policy, he was forced to lead a double life in the military. For the past decade he chose to hide under the umbrella of "being straight" so his homosexuality was never in question. He'd visit strip clubs with other soldiers and partake in conversations pertaining to relationships with women.

"I didn't want to come in and battle that, battle that fight with being gay in the military," he said.

Sattleberg wasn't the only one living an alternate life. Petty Officer Erin Jones said that before the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," her experience in the military was "sickening."

"I would go and date other men and I would go out with guys and spend a lot of time with guys trying to make it look like I was straight," she said. "I had a huge battle with my sexuality for a long time."

Jones said a lesbian couple serving with her was forced to separate, and she knew of another lesbian couple who was kicked out. Fearing her superiors would figure out the truth about her sexual orientation, Jones said she would even try to have relationships with men on her base.

Jones told ABC News that a lot of soldiers she knows were angry about the focus placed on repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

"We're in a war, we don't need to focus on gays being allowed to serve," she said.

But she said that for her, at least, putting an end to the ban meant an end to one of the major distractions she faced. "Since the laws changed, we can focus on the mission and we don't have to worry about being strung up for who we are," Jones said.

She said it was a relief, mostly because now soldiers won't have to endure the struggle that she and other homosexual soldiers lived through. "I wanted to talk about my girlfriend, but I would have to change the pronoun and have to say 'him,'" she said. "It sickened me inside to have to do that."

For other soldiers, though, the transition wasn't as smooth.

Proctor broke the news to one of his best friends and said the friendship ended soon after.  "One of my best friends in the army of 10 years and I told him," Proctor said. He also said he didn't regret his decision because he was tired of fighting with his identity.

"I thought I could trust him, he's denied that, some people aren't going to accept you for who you are, we all know that," Proctor said.

For Proctor and several other soldiers, the repeal lifted a heavy weight off their shoulders. Proctor says many soldiers may still not open up due to their personal lives at home, religion, or that they still haven't seen higher ranking soldiers coming out.

"We have to show the standard that we can still lead troops, I am gay as I want to be and you can do the same thing," Proctor said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec192011

Perry Confronted by Teen over Gays Serving Openly in Military

ABC News(DECORAH, Iowa) -- A 14-year-old openly bisexual girl collared Texas Gov. Rick Perry after his town hall in Decorah, Iowa, Sunday evening and challenged him to explain the reasoning behind his belief that gays should not serve openly in the military.

“I just want to know why you’re so opposed to gays serving openly in the military, why you want to deny them that freedom when they’re fighting and dying for your right to run for president,” Rebecka Green, a high school student from Decorah, asked the Texas governor.

“Here’s my issue.  This is about my faith, and I happen to think, you know, there are a whole hosts of sins.  Homosexuality being one of them, and I’m a sinner and so I’m not going to be the first one to throw a stone,” Perry said.  “I don’t agree that openly gays should be serving in the military.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was working and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday, he said, ‘How would you feel if one of your children was gay?’  I said I’d feel the same way.  I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander-in-chief of some 20,000-plus people in the military is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy and I don’t think it was good policy, and I don’t think people in the military thought it was good policy.”

After her confrontation with Perry at the Winnishiek Hotel, Green told reporters she disagrees with the governor’s position on the issue.

“I’m openly bisexual and I don’t want to be told that if I wanted to serve in the military that I couldn’t, and I just think that policy is completely ridiculous that he thinks that.  I just don’t like it,” Green said.  “Him or nobody should be able to tell somebody who they can or can’t love.”

Perry was unaware that she was bisexual when she approached him with the question.

Rebecka’s father, Todd Green, a Democrat and professor of religion at Luther College, expressed disappointment in Perry’s response to his daughter.

“For a group of women and men to fight for the freedom to run for president, to gather here peacefully and assemble here peacefully in a place like Decorah, but not for them to have the freedom to be open about who they are but he can be free to be open about who he is, to me it seems to be a major contradiction and very hypocritical,” Todd Green said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct252011

Obama Grades Himself: 60% of Campaign Promises Kept

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- President Obama is touting a grade most parents would be miffed to see their kids get: 60%. Obama told supporters in Los Angeles Monday that he crossed 60 percent of his 2008 campaign promises off his to-do list,  as he asked for their help to check off the remaining items.

“I keep a checklist in my desk, and I kind of see, all right, I made a bunch of these promises during the campaign and let me see, yes, I got that done and that one, yes.  No, that one’s not done yet. So we’ve got about 60 percent done in three years,” Obama told the crowd at the L.A. home of actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. “So I’m pretty confident we can get the other 40 percent done in the next five years.”

The president listed health care reform, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and passing consumer protections among the promises that he has fulfilled.

“A lot of the things that we promised we’d do, we’ve done...We’ve made great progress, but we’ve got so much more work to do,” the president said earlier in the night at a $35,800 per person event at the home of Pixar director James Lassiter and his wife Mai. Items left on the president’s agenda include comprehensive immigration reform, passing energy policy “that makes sense” and fixing the economy.

To complete the remaining 40 percent of his agenda, the president said lawmakers will have to put politics aside. “Obviously, in Washington, the politics that I think people are hoping for is not what they’re getting.  It’s still dysfunctional, it’s still perversely partisan.  You still have folks who seem to be more interested in the short term and the party and elections than they are in the long term and the future and the next generation,” he told the small audience, which included actor Will Smith and former basketball star Magic Johnson.

The president went on to promote his jobs bill and highlight the executive actions he is taking to spur economic growth -- without Congressional oversight -- including his new housing plan intended to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The president admitted, “this election will not be as sexy as the first one,” but he called on supporters to “grind it out.”

“I’m going to keep on making the case, I’m going to keep on pushing, but I’m also going to need to know that we’ve got a strong base of support behind us that is able to amplify our message, support our message, and get out there and have the same enthusiasm, the same passion as we did the first time,” the president said.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

What’d He Say? Debate Heckler on Booed Orlando Soldier

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(HANOVER, N.H.) -- Tempers flared on stage at Tuesday night’s Bloomberg/Washington Post debate, as GOP rivals bashed each other’s economic policies.  But it was Rick Santorum’s remark about fathers taking responsibility for their children that resulted in an outcry from a young man in the crowd.

A stage audience member told ABC News, “A guy stood up and he yelled, ‘Why didn’t you guys say anything when the gay soldier was booed.’  He was sitting about four rows back facing the stage.  Then he yelled the f-word.”

The commotion caused Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, who was next in line to answer a question, to say, “I’m sorry, Charlie.  A little distraction.”

The interruption was in reference to last month’s debate in Orlando, when a gay soldier was booed by audience members after posing a question about ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’

In the aftermath of the Florida incident, many of the candidates told ABC News that in retrospect, someone should have stood up for the member of the military.

So far, none of the candidates have addressed Tuesday night’s disruption.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct032011

GOP Candidates Silent after Obama Criticizes Booing of Gay Soldier

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican presidential candidates were mostly quiet Sunday after a tongue lashing from President Obama about their failure to stick up for a soldier booed at a GOP debate because he was gay.

Only Herman Cain went on the record after Obama's scathing speech before the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner.

"You want to be commander-in-chief?  You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it's not politically convenient," the president told the crowd in reference to a recent Republican debate.

At the debate last month, an openly gay Army soldier asked on videotape, "Do you intend to circumvent the progress that has been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?"

From the audience came a couple boos, but none of the candidate said anything about them.

"I happen to think that maybe they were booing the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal more so than booing that soldier," Cain told ABC's Christiane Amanpour on This Week.

Cain was referring to the policy that has been lifted allowing gay members of the military to serve openly.

But the president, in full campaign mode, went after every Republican candidate.

"We don't believe in a small America.  We don't believe in the kind of smallness that says it's OK for a stage full of political leaders -- one of whom could end up being the president of the United States -- being silent when an American soldier is booed," he told the audience Saturday night.

Right after the debate, some Republicans said they didn't hear the boos, others said they weren't given time to respond.  Cain was asked on Sunday if he now regrets not rebuking the people who booed during the debate.

"I did not have that luxury, because I was not in control.  I was not the moderator," Cain said.

But Amanpour pressed the former Godfather's Pizza CEO, asking whether in retrospect he feels he should have said something.

"In retrospect, because of the controversy it has created and because of the different interpretations that it could have had, yes, that probably -- that would have been appropriate," he said.

ABC News contacted the other Republicans' campaigns about the president's combative chiding.  Only Michele Bachmann's campaign responded, but did not specifically address Obama's criticism.

"Michele honors the service of every man and woman in our armed forces," Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said.  "As commander-in-chief, she will lead from the front and not put them in harm's way without a vital national interest and a clear mission."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr012011

DADT Repeal on Track for Mid-Summer Certification

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A House Armed Services subcommittee heard from top Pentagon officials on Friday that the process for implementing the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is on track and that the process to certify the full repeal could occur in mid-summer.

Friday’s hearing was the first time officials publically mentioned a potential target date for when certification of the repeal could occur.

The repeal law signed into effect last December requires President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mullen to certify that operational readiness has not been affected by implementing the repeal. In the meantime, the DADT policy remains in place. When Obama, Gates and Mullen sign the certification, it will begin a 60-day countdown that will result in the full repeal of DADT and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Each of the services have their own training timetables: the Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard say they’ll finish by the end of June, and the Navy at the end  of July. The Army thinks it will finish training its active duty soldiers in mid-July and its Guard and Reservist by mid-August.

Appearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Cliff Stanley and Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, both said mid-summer looked like the target date for that certification to occur.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar252011

DADT: Pentagon Discharged 250 Service Members in 2010

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C) -- In the months leading up to Congress’ repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” late last year, the Department of Defense discharged 250 service members for violating the ban on openly gay troops, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed to ABC News.

The figure, first reported by gay rights group Servicemembers United, covers the period Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010.  President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 22, 2010. While the total number discharged is an all-time annual low, gay advocates said it reflects the continued impact of the policy despite efforts to make its enforcement more humane and the discharge approval process more rigorous.

In March 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates imposed new guidelines to raise the bar on who or what could initiate an inquiry into allegations of misconduct by a gay or lesbian service member. In October 2010, Gates went further, issuing a memo that said any discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" must be approved by the civilian secretary of the military service  branch involved in coordination with other top officials.  

“Don’t ask don’t tell” technically remains in effect until 60 days after Gates, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and the president certify that it can be safely rescinded. 

In 2010, most of the discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" -- 93 -- came from the Army.   The Air Force discharged 64, the Marine Corps discharged 39, and the Navy discharged 54, according to Servicemembers United, which tracks the data.

Since the policy first took effect in 1993, at least 14,316 service members have been discharged for being openly gay.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan072011

DADT Repeal Picks Up Steam at Pentagon, Support from John McCain

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The process of implementing the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy at the Pentagon appears to be picking up steam.   Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said we’ll likely hear in two weeks from top DOD officials that the process for changing current regulations and coming up with a training schedule has been concluded.

Since the repeal was enacted, the Pentagon’s been working on what regulations, policies and benefits would need to be changed as a result of the repeal. That process is nearing completion and soon we’ll hear DOD Personnel Chief Cliff Stanley and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright describe those changes. That briefing is expected in about two weeks.

Regulations won’t actually change until after the certification process by Gates, Mullen and President Obama is complete.  They’re also working on how the training process will begin.  Lapan said they’ll also discuss the start and end dates for the three phases of that process for implementation of the repeal of DADT within the military.

The implementation process will involve training legal and human resource officers, in addition to chaplains and recruiting officers on what regulations will be changed within the military with regard to  repealing DADT.  Commanders and military officials will also have to be trained before informing and training the 2.2 million people making up the Armed Forces. 

Gates said Thursday the goal of the systematic repeal is “ to move as quickly, but as responsibly as possible” and he had asked that the first two phases be accelerated as quickly as possible so the “real challenge” of training the 2.2 million could begin.  Gates used the word "training," but Lapan says it’s more about "informing" rather than educating the force.

Gates said he was “struck” by the comments of one of the Joint Chiefs that it was “better to do this sooner rather than later, so we’re approaching it with that philosophy in mind.”   Mullen reminded gay service members that now is not the time to come out because DADT is still in place, “We'll get through this. We'll do it deliberately. We certainly are focused on this and we won't dawdle.”

Even foes of repealing the policy are changing their tone.

"I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the impact on the morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Fox Business News. McCain led the charge against repeal. But now that the repeal is law, he said  he'll support it.

"It is a law and I have to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this new situation. I will do everything I can to make it work," said McCain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan042011

Sarah Palin Re-Tweets in Support of Gays

Photo Courtesy - Spencer Platt/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Sarah Palin has been conspicuously quiet in the debate over “don’t ask, don’t tell” and on a repeal of the policy President Obama signed into law before the holidays.  By most accounts, she has never actually weighed in at all.

But Monday night the former Alaska governor re-tweeted a post from conservative talk show host and blogger Tammy Bruce, who is lesbian, appearing to indirectly cast support for gays and an end to the ban on openly gay members of the U.S. military.

Bruce had been commenting on the controversy surrounding a U.S. Navy commander and a raunchy video when she turned to the issue of gays in the military.

“But this hypocrisy is just truly too much.  Enuf already--the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed,” Bruce tweeted, suggesting that virulent opposition to gays may reflect the individual has something to hide.

Soon after, Palin re-tweeted the message to her following of more than 350,000 followers.

“I think @SarahPalinUSA RT my tweet is her first comment on DADT, treatment of gays & attempts to marginalize us--thank you Governor,” Bruce responded on Twitter.

“I know Gov Palin & this "anti-gay" meme has been a lie--plain & simple. She's a decent woman & friend to the community,” Bruce said later.

A Palin spokesman has not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment on the Twitter exchange.

Palin's son, Track, is an active duty member of the U.S. Army.  Her former presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain, led the opposition to legislative repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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