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Don't Ask, Don't Tell
June 10, 2009 5:04 AM   Subscribe

A Gay Soldier's Husband — In the backdrop of the conservative activist Supreme Court's recent decision against hearing a challenge to the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, one gay American relates the difficulties he faces having a partner on active duty in Iraq. In Iraq itself, death squads continue to murder gay and lesbian Iraqis, while American occupying forces look the other way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (73 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Considering that the second linked article comments that even legal defense group that specifically focuses on DADT didn't think this was the right case to bring before the Supreme Court, I'm not sure calling them "conservative activist" is fair.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:11 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The court sided with the Obama administration, which had urged the justices not to hear the appeal against the policy, even though Obama is on record as opposing it.

That's a real head-scratcher. But I guess Washington is a complicated place.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:30 AM on June 10, 2009


I'm getting a sense that Obama is trying to fight one battle at a time and only trying to win each battle just enough to get the job done without jeopardizing the next battle. As frustrating as it is, that's the way a war is won.
posted by DU at 5:34 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


DU: "I'm getting a sense that Obama is trying to fight one battle at a time and only trying to win each battle just enough to get the job done without jeopardizing the next battle. As frustrating as it is, that's the way a war is won."

I guess that's one way. Then there's that other way...

On July 26, 1948, Truman issued a then-controversial executive order that called for "equality of treatment for all persons in the armed services, without regard to race, color, religion or national origin."
posted by Joe Beese at 5:42 AM on June 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


I guess that's one way. Then there's that other way...

Agreed, there is more than one way to do things. Fun bonus challenge: Do all approaches succeed equally well both in their stated and indirect objectives?
posted by DU at 5:45 AM on June 10, 2009


My understanding is that Obama doesn't want to have his government defending DADT when he's planning on eliminating it.

(Why he doesn't just write "Homosexuals can serve in the military, suck it phobes" on a piece of paper and sign it is anyone's guess, but oh well.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:15 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Man, his husband, the honorable solider, is named Clay? As in salt-of-the-earth farm substance of the heartland? Dang. What's his last name, Freedom-Goodhart?
posted by The Whelk at 6:16 AM on June 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


DADT infuriates me in large part because the military's been all "Yeah but we're not ready and it's scary and soldiers aren't going to like it and gays make them nervous and we have to do a study on how to do this and..."

Fuck you. You're the fucking military; you are supposedly made up of the best-trained, toughest, and most disciplined troops on the planet, and you're scared of someone looking at you in the shower?

Goddamn. I wish we had a commander-in-chief who had the guts to say "Do it. That's an order."
posted by rtha at 6:17 AM on June 10, 2009 [23 favorites]


Being gay, aren't they always forced to "look the other way"...


I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. Seriously. Troubling times, these times.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:18 AM on June 10, 2009


Man, his husband, the honorable solider, is named Clay? As in salt-of-the-earth farm substance of the heartland?

Given all the blurring and his husband's own admission that he has a husband he "calls" Clay I'm presuming that pseudonyms are being used to protect the couple.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:38 AM on June 10, 2009


Why do gay people want to be in the military so badly? I would think that being a member of a maligned minority would make you more sympathetic to the plight of oppressed people everywhere and NOT make you want to kill them and take their oil.

I get the whole "Dad from Brain Candy" thing, but it seems like there are more important battles like the right to marry and the right to not get beat up by troglodytes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:46 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're the fucking military; you are supposedly made up of the best-trained, toughest, and most disciplined troops on the planet, and you're scared of someone looking at you in the shower?

No, they're scared they'll like it.

But seriously, it is hilarious that an organization whose basic philosophy is "you as an individual are meaningless; nothing about you as a person matters; it's all about the group and the chain of command" responds to this issue by saying, "This one little thing about you as an individual matters so much that it'll ruin everything."
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:58 AM on June 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


Mayor Curley, because believe it or not, the military is a career for some, and it's a career for reasons other than wanting to "kill them and take their oil." Not to mention that many actually work in tolerant units who don't give a damn and who, dare I say, *enjoy* their work, but fear the possibility of being transferred to another, less-tolerant unit, or being deployed with such units.

I know an openly gay woman who's an Army officer. She's been deployed to Afghanistan repeatedly and she LOVES what her group has been able to do there -- it's a lot of rebuilding and humanitarian work. And she's damn good at it. I see no reason she shouldn't want to do it.
posted by olinerd at 7:02 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do gay people want to be in the military so badly?

Gee, I don't know. Spending a lot of time forming intense bonds with young men who are in possibly the best and most attractive physical state and beauty they'll ever be in their lives? Trust me, it's irresistible to many many men. Even straight ones.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:03 AM on June 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


DADT is actually part of US law and as such needs to be overturned by an act of Congress.

I've seen online suggestions that, despite this, Obama could issue some sort of executive order that would stop discharges under the DADT policy. From reading the law, I'm not seeing how that would be possible, but does anyone have any explanation as to how that might work?
posted by thewittyname at 7:07 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


WolfDaddy: " Spending a lot of time forming intense bonds with young men who are in possibly the best and most attractive physical state and beauty they'll ever be in their lives? Trust me, it's irresistible to many many men. Even straight ones."

If Gore Vidal can be believed, "straight" guys were sucking and fucking each other to beat the band back in the Forties.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:11 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do gay people want to be in the military so badly? I would think that being a member of a maligned minority would make you more sympathetic to the plight of oppressed people everywhere and NOT make you want to kill them and take their oil.

Aww, nice try. Want a trolling cookie? They have vitamins and chocolate!
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:11 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


For those of you wondering how the Court decides which cases to hear and which it doesn't, understanding the Rule of Four might help. From Wikipedia:
The granting of a writ does not necessarily mean that the Supreme Court disagrees with the decision of the lower court. Granting a writ of certiorari means merely that at least four of the Justices have determined that the circumstances described in the petition are sufficient to warrant review by the Court. Conversely, the Supreme Court's denial of a petition for a writ of certiorari is sometimes misunderstood to mean that the Supreme Court approves the decision of the lower court. Such a denial "imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case, as the bar has been told many times." Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70 (1995). In particular, a denial of a writ of certiorari means that no binding precedent is created by the denial itself, and that the lower court's decision is treated as mandatory authority only within the region of jurisdiction of that court.
The "conservative activist" bit is unsupported by the article linked or by common sense, and smacks of GYOBFW.
posted by resurrexit at 7:18 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Democratic party has to grow a spine.

Seriously, why doesn't Obama say 'Hey assholes, grow the fuck up, this is the 21st century'?

Because every time the Democratic party doesn't grow a spine, I want to throttle them and say 'No! YOU'RE IN CHARGE! SMACK THOSE FUNDIE DUMBASSES AROUND!'

And then tell the Republicans 'STFU, Dark Ages ninnies, take your ball and go home'.
posted by kldickson at 7:21 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


If Gore Vidal can be believed, "straight" guys were sucking and fucking each other to beat the band back in the Forties.

Allan Berube too (see Coming Out Under Fire, maybe the best history of gays in the military during that period).
posted by blucevalo at 7:42 AM on June 10, 2009


Colbert Mocks 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in Front of Troops in Iraq [04:52]: "Evidently, you can be all that you can be, with one exception."
posted by ericb at 7:45 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The video from the NYT is heartbreaking. What the fuck is wrong with people that makes them think that the love these two men share is somehow less valuable than the love shared between a m+f couple? Honestly, I don't get it. For as long as I live, I will never understand this way of thinking.

Why is the military ditching highly decorated soldiers (like this guy) when they're fighting a war and clearly need all the live, trained, excellent soldiers they can muster? Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach has been in the military for 18 years. His record is pretty impressive, and they fired him because he's queer? People depended on this guy when they had to, and as was pointed out during that interview, I'll bet when he was saving people's asses they weren't so worried about his sexual orientation. Is the military fucking serious?!

Does the military and government really find these people so distasteful that they'd rather have an 18 year-old kid with no experience over Fehrenbach? It makes me sick to my stomach, truly. It makes me want to do harm to these backward-thinking arseholes.
posted by heyho at 7:46 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The "conservative activist" bit is unsupported by the article linked or by common sense, and smacks of GYOBFW.

Expressing an opinion that the John Roberts court is "conservative activist" (on other issues and matters, if not this one) may be provocative, but it's hardly a stretch, and it's certainly not a dereliction of common sense.
posted by blucevalo at 7:47 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've seen online suggestions that, despite this, Obama could issue some sort of executive order that would stop discharges under the DADT policy. From reading the law, I'm not seeing how that would be possible, but does anyone have any explanation as to how that might work?

It is Congress's power to make the laws. It has -- as necessary and proper to its power to raise an Army and a Navy -- considerable power to establish eligibility criteria for the armed forces. The Executive has considerable power to enforce the laws. It has considerable war powers. The Executive flouting Congressionally-created law in the area of the armed forces might create a constitutional crisis.

In my opinion, the Executive's prosecutorial discretion would trump if that conflict (b/w the Administration and Congress) went to the Supreme Court. While Congress may dictate and has dictated what the law is in this area, it may NOT dictate what resources the Executive chooses to expend enforcing it. However, the fact that the Administration would win doesn't necessarily mean it's worth the significant strife. If Obama did this, he still might lose, his entire agenda would be derailed, and -- being on the grounds of executive discretion -- it would be freely reversed the next time there's a Republican president.

In short, Obama signing an order saying "suck it phobes" would derail the country and squander the opportunity presented by Democrats controlling the White House and both houses of Congress.

Also, calling them "conservative activist[s]" on refusing to hear the case is way beyond the pale. It's a very ignorant remark. You very clearly have no idea how the cert pool works. Get a grip.
posted by jock@law at 7:51 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


trying to pronounce the word certiorari makes me sound like a chihuahua.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:55 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


USA TODAY | Gallup Poll: Percent that favors allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military:
May 2009
All Adults -- 69%
Conservatives -- 58%
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anderson Cooper Talks to Dan Choi on 'DADT' SCOTUS Decision [04:58].
posted by ericb at 7:58 AM on June 10, 2009


trying to pronounce the word certiorari makes me sound like a chihuahua.

most people say sir-shuh-RAH-ree but some skip the first R and just say sir-shee-AH-ree (exceedingly rare latin pedants say KARE-tee-oh-RAH-ree -- this is not really the accepted pronunciation in legal circles)
posted by jock@law at 7:58 AM on June 10, 2009


jock@law: "Obama Truman signing an order saying "suck it phobes bigots" would derail the country"

Everything old is new again.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:01 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, the high dudgeon about the "conservative activist" label is fairly amusing, given that I would be a very rich man now if I had a dime for every time the "liberal activist" label was attached to the Warren and Burger courts and even the Rehnquist court over the past 25 years.
posted by blucevalo at 8:02 AM on June 10, 2009


Beese: Truman had significantly better conditions than we do now. He had the political capital that comes with having convincingly won a major world war, and the economy was in full upswing, not in global freefall. When you represent the party of a semi-martyred President and win a World War, you can order off the menu. Obama doesn't have that luxury.
posted by jock@law at 8:05 AM on June 10, 2009


Palm Center: President Can Halt Discharges of Gay Military Personnel
"A new study by the Palm Center concludes that President Barack Obama has the power to stop discharges of gay military personnel by executive order and without the approval of Congress, should he so choose. The Center has released a 'Roadmap of Political, Legal, Regulatory, and Organizational Steps to Equal Treatment [PDF].' From the Palm Center's press release:
Under the law “the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of the United States” during a “period of national emergency.” The statute specifically defines a “national emergency” as a time when “members of a reserve component are serving involuntarily on active duty.”

The second and third bases of presidential authority are contained within the “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation itself. The law grants to the Defense Department authority to determine the process by which discharges will be carried out, saying they will proceed “under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense… in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulation." Finally, the law calls for the discharge of service members “if” a finding of homosexuality is made, but it does not require that such a finding ever be made. According to the study, these provisions mean that the Pentagon, not Congress, has the “authority to devise and implement the procedures under which those findings may be made.”
posted by ericb at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's the print editorial.

Goddammit, why do we elect gay men and lesbians to Congress if they don't speak out about this injustice? Frequently? I understand why Obama's not going on the gays-in-military thing now, he's too busy with other stuff and it was such a disaster for Clinton back in the day. I'm only hoping that he'll make good in the next few years.
posted by Nelson at 8:18 AM on June 10, 2009


My favorite story along these lines comes from my friend Sue, talking about her "pretty damn gay military service":

Though I remember one of [my friends]'s Army boyfriends saying that when his unit did an honor guard detail for a ceremony, he suddenly looked around and realized that the entire honor guard was gay, from the privates all the way up to the major.

The fact is, there are already gays in the miliary. Lots of them. Some of them career. The LAST thing Don't Ask Don't Tell does is keep gays out of the military.
posted by elfgirl at 8:23 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Goddamn. I wish we had a commander-in-chief who had the guts to say "Do it. That's an order."

We did, but the things he was fired up to get done involved the death of hundreds of thousands of people and the obliteration of the constitution. So, I think a more restrained approach is a breath of fresh air.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


He had the political capital that comes with having convincingly won a major world war

Actually, Truman's approval ratings were consistently below 40% for most of 1948. He was not even nearly as popular at that point in time as Obama is now.
posted by blucevalo at 8:39 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


FatherDagon: " the things he was fired up to get done involved the death of hundreds of thousands of people and the obliteration of the constitution. So, I think a more restrained approach is a breath of fresh air."

You're equating the war crime of invading Iraq with letting gay and lesbian soldiers serve with dignity?
posted by Joe Beese at 8:48 AM on June 10, 2009


On July 26, 1948, Truman issued a then-controversial executive order that called for "equality of treatment for all persons in the armed services, without regard to race, color, religion or national origin."

FWIW, the Army dug in its heels and basically refused to comply fully with Truman's order until the Korean War, when so many American units were getting chewed up by the NKPA that the brass finally realized that it was no longer logistically possible to send black replacements to black units and white replacements to white units. (The Air Force and to a lesser extent, the Navy, did make some substantive progress on integration before then, however.)
posted by Rangeboy at 8:58 AM on June 10, 2009


Oh, and that infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune the day after the 1948 election? That was not placed there randomly. Somebody there thought, based on evidence, albeit faulty evidence, that Truman was destined for defeat, i.e., that he had long since spent all of his political capital.
posted by blucevalo at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2009


You're equating the war crime of invading Iraq with letting gay and lesbian soldiers serve with dignity?

That "war crime" was authorized by Congress.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 9:08 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


My dad is a retired Air Force pilot. He's in his seventies now, and he has mellowed a lot, thank God.

But he still pops off at random about gays. I mean, really, at random. I was visiting the folks a year or two ago, and was working in the dining room on my laptop, just sitting there, quietly. He comes walking through the dining room, on his way elsewhere, and he stops, and just unleashes some random vitriol about how bad gay people are - I forget what he said exactly. Just completely out of the blue. He waited for some reaction from me, I think I shrugged or something, and he went on.

I am straight, married, kids, etc. No reason to think that was directed at me.

He still does that. The other day we were talking about my seventeen year old nephew, and dad was all, "Well, he's got a girlfriend, thank God, you know what I mean?" Beat. Yeah I knew what he meant...but why would he even think that? Why try to extract acknowledgment from me? Was kind of a wtf moment for me, out of many on that particular subject with my dad.

I have started to wonder about dad, recently. He is a total John Wayne type, and he grew up in the 40s and 50s. Breaks my heart to think he would have conflicted feelings about something that he may have suppressed for decades...and it weirds me out, to be honest.

There are people out there who have a great deal of antipathy towards gays, and they can't explain why. Neither can I. I think the upside of the whole DADT issue, is that we can even discuss the fact that there is an issue. It has taken us generations just to get to this point, and though I know the progress is really slow, it may take another couple of generations to get the majority of people to deal with this in an adult, compassionate way.
posted by Xoebe at 9:10 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it would be great if the armed forces prosecuted sexual harassment cases with the same vigor as they do DADT cases. I'd like to see a policy where you can talk about your partner back home (of whatever gender) but if you so much as blow a kiss at a fellow soldier (male or female) you're out.
posted by fermezporte at 9:14 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


C17H19NO3: "That "war crime" was authorized by Congress."

Yes. Point being?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:18 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Xoebe: The other side of the coin is that the things you've witnessed from your dad are a direct result of a society that represses this kind of thing, which is exactly what DADT does.
posted by odinsdream at 9:21 AM on June 10, 2009


The "conservative activist" bit is unsupported by the article linked or by common sense, and smacks of GYOBFW.

It is an observation about the character of the Court as defined by those Justices who make it up and by the decisions they make, including, most importantly, the one which is the subject focused on in this post.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:33 AM on June 10, 2009


"In his message, Truman [said] ... that he would issue executive orders ending discrimination in federal hiring practices and segregation in the US military .... The president's message was generally well received outside the South, but an editorial in the Washington Post predicted that Truman would not follow through with his proposals. The paper implied that the president's only purpose was to embarrass the Republican Eightieth Congress and to win black votes by showing African Americans that the Republicans had no civil rights agenda. Generally, the Post was right. Truman's ... message was clearly political, and the president did not intend to deliver substantially on his civil rights proposals before the election. To carry the big industrial states, he needed African-American votes in November, and he needed an issue for the campaign that he knew would place him in the liberal column and on the side of civil rights." -- Gary Donaldson, Truman Defeats Dewey
posted by blucevalo at 9:38 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]



The court sided with the Obama administration, which had urged the justices not to hear the appeal against the policy, even though Obama is on record as opposing it.

That's a real head-scratcher. But I guess Washington is a complicated place.


While every day that Obama doesn't do more to overturn this policy is a day I'm a little more disappointed in him, his position regarding urging the justices not to hear the case was the exact same opinion held by the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network because they believe that another case in the pipeline is a better case for bringing this issue before the Supreme Court.

The Obama administration may have had their own reason for not wanting this before the Court currently, but it's the same opinion held by those whose mission it is to overturn DADT as well as most of the original plantiffs of the case.

Like you said, DC is a complicated place.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:04 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The 1948 election was close because the Dixiecrats (slogan: "Segregation Forever!") split from the Democratic Party because of Truman's order integrating the military. Their candidate, Strom Thurmond, won Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. (By the way, this was the election that Trent Lott wished Thurmond would have won.)

November 2008, Obama to delay 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal:
President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.
From a Washington Post online chat, about why the Supreme Court didn't take this particular case:
Here's the thing: the court accepts just about 1 percent of the cases presented to it. To those of us who cover the court, it was pretty clear it would not accept this one...Further, there was no disagreement yet among the lower courts. Such "circuit splits" are most often what the court looks for in deciding whether to accept a case. Now, there could be such a split before long; the 9th Circuit has decided to let such a challenge go forward. That would seem a more likely case for the court to take, should the policy not be changed in the meantime.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:08 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm tired of how often the call to uphold the ban is framed as something that must be done for the sake of unit cohesion or retention numbers at the lowest level. Even putting aside the idea that laws shouldn't be made to cater to bigots, who are the people telling us that openly gay servicemembers will cause a breakdown in unit cohesion? These guys? Congressmen? Can they at least stop pretending that their prejudice has anything to do with unit cohesion?

In my limited experience, many soldiers just do not give a shit. A few years ago, I was changing an infantry soldier's IV bag when he admitted to two other guys on his team that he was gay. Their reactions were along the lines of "uh, okay, and...?" Neither of them cared. Gee, amazing. And that's not something I'd consider an anomaly.

There are homophobic assholes everywhere unfortunately, but when the government finally gets rid of DADT, the sky is not going to fall and the people serving in the military will get the fuck over it.
posted by lullaby at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2009


You're equating the war crime of invading Iraq with letting gay and lesbian soldiers serve with dignity?

Nope, mostly being facetious, with a splash of truth. Even when I totally agree with the Prez, I think it's a good idea to have an apparatus of control in place rather than maintaining the precedent of "I order it, for I AM KING!" that the previous admin had going on.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:48 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gays Have Served Honorably in the War on Terror
I was a line infantryman in the Army's Ranger regiment from 2000-04, earning a promotion to sergeant within three years. In that time, my platoon performed dozens of combat missions on the front lines. Our lives depended on complete mutual trust.

Several of my colleagues knew I was gay. We lived in the closest possible conditions. When there were showers, we showered together. When we were out overnight on the cold, bare mountains of Afghanistan, we slept huddled together for warmth. It should go without saying that there was nothing remotely sexual about these situations. We had uncomfortable experiences -- we were at war, after all -- but my buddies were never uncomfortable with me.

The reason I didn't come out to more of my comrades wasn't out of concern for morale. I was worried about losing my job.
posted by lullaby at 10:48 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


So gays are bad for the military, according to the homophobes?

The greatest military leader the world has ever known, Alexander the Great would not be good enough for the U.S. military. They wouldn't want him to even be a cook, lest he make gay food for the soldiers and cause units to lose cohesion. Meanwhile, a felon and gang member is worthy soldier material (providing he's straight, of course). This pretty much says it all about the rational grounds for excluding gays from the military. Next time some Pentagon official tells us what is good for the military, I'll know to safely ignore it - considering their credibility is about zero.

http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,125220,00.html

"Military Accepting More Ex-Cons

More recruits with criminal records, including felony convictions, are being allowed to join the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as the armed services cope with a dwindling pool of volunteers during wartime."

posted by VikingSword at 11:19 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


For more fun Gays in the Military History Facts: Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, 1st Duc de Parma, one of the creators of the Napoleonic Code was


".....widely believed to be responsible for decriminalizing homosexuality in France. The fact that he himself was homosexual seems to give credibility to this common but entirely mistaken belief. His sexual orientation was well-known, and he does not seem to have made any effort to conceal it. He remained unmarried, and kept to the company of other bachelors. Napoleon is recorded as making a number of jokes on the subject."

I was told his friendship with Napoleon was why the new Napoleonic Code decriminalized homosexuality, but Wikipedia says that's more rumor then fact. (Yah I know, the irony)
posted by The Whelk at 11:28 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with people that makes them think that the love these two men share is somehow less valuable than the love shared between a m+f couple? Honestly, I don't get it.

Maddening, isn't it? I share your outrage 100%, and I think it's a systemic problem just as much as an individual one. It's not just something wrong with people, it's something wrong with our entire culture.

Suzanne Pharr has some interesting thoughts on this in her book Homophobia - A Weapon of Sexism:

"Homophobia has worked very effectively to keep women and men frightened of stepping out of the gender roles and identities that imprison us. And these are the roles that underpin male power and control...When they say that lesbians and gay men are a major threat to the family and to moral structures, they are actually saying we are a major threat to...a hierarchy that places men "over" women and children in a system that [considers] women and children inferior. [...] As long as sexism exists...I do not believe we will ever eliminate homophobia."
posted by velvet winter at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


If Gore Vidal can be believed, "straight" guys were sucking and fucking each other to beat the band back in the Forties.

I've spoken to a few guys who've served on submarines who wax nearly rhapsodic about how some nights one dude would start whacking off in his bunk, and pretty soon nearly everyone else would join in. The guys felt closer and more bonded with each other ... more cohesive one might say ... than before the experience.

Insert seamen snark here
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Agreed, there is more than one way to do things. Fun bonus challenge: Do all approaches succeed equally well both in their stated and indirect objectives?

I'm sure Dick Cheney would agree that compromising one's ethics for a larger goal is worthwhile.
posted by nomisxid at 12:15 PM on June 10, 2009


The 1948 election was close because the Dixiecrats (slogan: "Segregation Forever!") split from the Democratic Party because of Truman's order integrating the military. Their candidate, Strom Thurmond, won Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. (By the way, this was the election that Trent Lott wished Thurmond would have won.)

But the election wasn't that close, and the Dixiecrats only got 39 electoral votes. Not that they didn't have an impact, but in the end, they rallied more support to Truman than they took away.
posted by blucevalo at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2009


The argument that Obama has the power to stop DADT prosecutions comes from two different legal powers. First, the ultimate decision on what to investigate is up to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense. The second issue is that the authorization behind the stop-loss policy can be used to suspend certain forms of dismissal.

DU and jock@law: The arguments that Obama's lack of action on this are necessary due to a lack of political capital, doesn't match the fact that this is one of the few issues that Democrats and Republicans both agree on. Furthermore, both the White House and Congress have a pretty deep staff and it's not as if the people working the committees on military affairs are necessarily deeply involved in economic stimulus or health care.

The growing bad reputation the Obama administration has on gay rights issues is a combination of big promises made during the campaign, followed by a blunder with the inauguration and almost four months of White House Spokescritter who ducks the question with perpetually lame evasions. At this point, expectations are pretty darn low, and just getting the White House on the record might be progress.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2009


Back when DADT was first proposed, I was living in DC and working at Lambda Rising, DC's gay bookstore.

One day, just before the Congressional hearings started, three or four young, well-dressed and painfully straight-looking people came in. They browsed around and pretty soon came up to the counter with a whole bunch of books. All of the books were variations on "Hot military dudes have sex with each other!" - they were nicely bound porn. So one of them hands over a credit card, and my co-worker Keith (a Navy vet) looks at the card and goes "Are you from the Hill?". There was mumbling and finally one of the
said yes. Keith ran the card and they left.

The card was from a congressman's office - I don't remember who anymore - and the books were "evidence" of what gay people would do if they were allowed to stay in the military.

The books were returned to us (in saleable condition) a few days after the hearings. Keith just rolled his eyes.

They've never been interested in anything other than lies and fearmongering.
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on June 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


The whole thing with Obama and gay rights is so weird.

When i was volunteering for him in Nevada, one of the people working at the HQ tried to give me a "Obama Pride" sticker with a rainbow on it.

ME: "Um, i think this is a sticker for gay people for Obama."
HER: [mean look]
ME: Do you have a regular one?
HER: Well if you're *uncomfortable* with it...
ME: No, not at all. But some of the people I'm trying to convince to vote for Obama might be.

Leaving aside the fact that this person thought it was a good idea to go try to convince undecided Nevada voters, many of them elderly, to vote for Obama while wearing a "Pride" sticker, leaving aside that she was nice enough to imply I was a homophobe without knowing anything about me (participated in "No on 8" protests, gave money blah blah blah), what's really interesting is the balls the Obama campaign had in creating "Obama Pride."

BARACK OBAMA IS AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE. He is on the record about that, many many times. I'm still semi-glad I campaigned for the lesser of two evils, but the hypocrisy is pretty breathtaking at times.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:39 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why do gay people want to be in the military so badly?

Wow, umm. I'll contribute one reason. (Obviously, there are more.)

The military isn't all shoot-em-kill-em. There are actually some awesome military jobs - sweet deals for those who are qualified. Even if you can't understand the appeal of "serving one's country"* as a grunt, maybe you can understand why someone with a science background would want a job that makes use of their training, and that would also give them experience that could help land a job in the private market later.

Denying gay people a chance at those jobs cuts them off from a whole range of career opportunities that are available to their straight peers.

* Not rhetoric that I agree with, but being gay doesn't mean that you have to have the same feelings about patriotism and national service that I do.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


maybe you can understand why someone with a science background would want a job that makes use of their training, and that would also give them experience that could help land a job in the private market later.

No, I can't, Because they're still devising newer and better ways to kill foreigners who have resources that we want and decent people don't do that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:04 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


drjimmy11 is right. KirkJobSluder is right. Barack Obama is on the record against same-sex marriage. His position on same-sex marriage during the campaign was not just political expediency; it's clearly how he really feels, on a gut level. Nothing I have ever seen him or heard him say convinces me, to be honest, that he has anything but profound discomfort with having to deal with any sort of gay stuff at all, including ENDA, including "Don't Ask Don't Tell," including repealing DOMA, including even saying one paltry sentence about the fact that Prop 8 was upheld by the California Supreme Court, despite the rhetoric of his campaign, the polemics of his handlers, and the few mild steps he has taken since January in the direction of expressing tepid support for gay stuff. He has appointed a gay man, Brad Kiley, to be director of the Office of Management and Administration. That's about the extent of the stretching he's done, the extent of the risk he's been willing to take. It's not much.

This was the biggest reservation I had about voting for him, even though vote for him I did, knowing the alternative would be far worse. I know that there are those who say he's an incrementalist and/or a pragmatist, that he has to toe a careful line, that as soon as he's done with "bigger" issues that he'll come around to dealing with gay stuff. I wish I had the confidence to trust that he will eventually be convinced, or that he will convince himself, to see the importance of not maintaining his usual cerebral distance from this picayune set of messy social issues (because Obama clearly disdains a lot of "social issues," or else he plays a good game of feigning disdain). But I don't trust him, not on this set of issues.
posted by blucevalo at 6:22 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the election wasn't that close, and the Dixiecrats only got 39 electoral votes.

OK, fair enough, but the election "considered by most historians as the greatest election upset in American history. Virtually every prediction (with or without public opinion polls) indicated that incumbent President Harry S. Truman would be defeated by Republican Thomas E. Dewey."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:13 PM on June 10, 2009


If you (you being everyone in this thread) haven't read Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, you should do so ASAP. It's very thorough and hard-hitting. I found it slow at the beginning (the beginning is the history of DADT and lots of Clinton-era political stuff); if I had a do-over, I'd start from chapter 5 (the beginning of the really hard-hitting arguments), read to the end, and then read 1-4.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:26 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Basically, we have the same song and dance that Dems have been making since Clinton. I doubt that GLBT people and their supporters are going to change our votes. But we might decide to spend our limited funds and energy on referendum or court battles.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:09 PM on June 10, 2009


Joe Beese: That's a real head-scratcher. But I guess Washington is a complicated place.

Why is that a head-scratcher? “Don't ask, don't tell” has some clear flaws—that is, it's not real equity, and it keeps people closeted—but every military person I know says that it'll probably be a decade or two before the military is ready to change. “Don't ask, don't tell” clearly has benefits and drawbacks; the biggest sign of this is the fact that Clinton himself didn't really want to enact the policy but did so as a compromise when the policies he'd hoped for were shot down by military leaders.
posted by koeselitz at 8:53 PM on June 10, 2009


OK, fair enough, but the election "considered by most historians as the greatest election upset in American history. Virtually every prediction (with or without public opinion polls) indicated that incumbent President Harry S. Truman would be defeated by Republican Thomas E. Dewey."

I don't think we're disagreeing, kirkaracha. I never said that the 1948 election wasn't an upset. I just said that the result wasn't that close.
posted by blucevalo at 9:35 PM on June 10, 2009


Hi, queer Army vet here. Discharged under DADT. I lucked out, my company and battalion commanders kept it quiet until the honorable discharge was signed; my battalion CSM had been on a post when a guy got beat to death when he got outed.

Anyway.

There's a story I tell to help illuminate my view of DADT. Early in basic, when I was fine with all the pushups and rucking and running and digging holes and then sleeping in them, I couldn't get over the reality that all the shit you have to yell to prove you're "motivated" is stupid, soI always half-assed it. I had a drill come over to me in the middle of PT, bend down (because I am short and he was tall) and whisper real scary-like into my ear "you better fake it 'till you fuckin' make it, Soldier." Somehow I managed to find some motivation.

And that's the reality of the military. Maybe you think brown people are untermensch and should be ground up for fertilizer, but when you're in the Army you will shut your mouth and do as you're told. So all this nonsense about how the military "isn't ready," or whatever is just that: nonsense. The President is the Commander in Chief. He could issue the order tomorrow and the generals and admirals can either resign or carry that order out. The same goes for everyone on down the line.

Maybe there are broader political costs he doesn't want to pay. Maybe, in the long view, that makes sense. But I hope he remembers that people like the interviewee are paying those costs every day, albeit in a different coin.
posted by kavasa at 5:18 AM on June 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is an observation about the character of the Court as defined by ... the decision[] ... which is the subject focused on in this post.

The Court receives countless petitions for certiorari. Often the clerks perform the first review of the cert pool and only pass on those petitions that raise interesting Constitutional issues or address circuit splits (issues on which the law is markedly different in different federal jurisdictions in the U.S.).

The justices themselves only actually debate whether to grant certiorari in a very limited number of cases (and obviously only do grant certiorari in an even smaller number of cases).

You, Blazecock Pileon, have absolutely, utterly, indisputably no clue whether cert was rejected by the clerks or by the Court itself. Even if you did somehow know that the justices seriously addressed the petition, you would have absolutely, utterly, indisputably no clue as to how they voted and therefore whether it was only the conservatives denying it. And even if, somehow, magically, you did know whether they addressed it themselves and how they voted, it would still not be an "activist" decision because (besides the fact that it's not actually a decision) there's nothing remarkable or radical about it -- the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction is entirely discretionary.

The Court or its clerks declined to hear a discretionary case involving things that are entirely within the powers of the political branches. Of everything the Court has ever done, this ranks among the most banal, inane, and quotidian of the lot.

In short, you are talking out your butt about something you know literally nothing about. Get your own blog. Your editorializing ruined this post almost as much as the fact that you utterly missed the key point: Obama didn't want the administration defending DADT in the Supreme Court (which would have been the result of granting cert, just FYI). Not to lay the innuendo on too thick (partially for fear of enflaming the eventual U.S. Sup. Ct. confirmation battle), but an interesting aspect of that is who the Solicitor General is.
posted by jock@law at 8:00 AM on June 11, 2009


Last month President Obama wrote a handwritten letter to Sandy Tsao promising to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I believe that he fully intends to end the policy, partly because I don't think he's stupid enough to making a written promise like this without intending to deliver. He should definitely be held to his promise.

That said, it seems clear that he feels the best way to end the policy is through legislation in Congress. He said so in his letter, and the administration said so in November. Congress is supposed to make the laws, the president is supposed to see that they're carried out. That's a reasonable position, especially for a former Constitutional law professor, especially after eight years of President Bush's signing statements.

I also believe he's taking the origins of Don't Ask, Don't Tell into account. Bill Clinton promised to end allow anyone to serve regardless of sexual orientation, he got resistance from Congress (including Democrats) and the military, and this bullshit compromise is the result.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This story where they are attempting to make the policy more humane irks me. The only humane solution is repeal. For someone who claims to have an open administration, he sure has been quiet about why he is taking so long on this issue. Congress has deferred on the issue in part because he said he would act. There is a bill pending but it appears to be going nowhere.
posted by caddis at 8:33 AM on July 1, 2009


More on the humaneness of DADT from Americablog:
Your post about making DADT more "humane" reminded me of The Code Noir. Back in the day, slavery as practiced in French colonies like New Orleans was considered more humane than that throughout the rest of the South. Slaves were given certain rights and priveleges unheard of in other parts of the South. Some excerpts (per Wikipedia):

- slave husband and wife (and their prepubescent children) under the same master are not to be sold separately (art. 47)
- slave masters 20 years of age (25 years without parental permission) may free their slaves (art. 55)
- slaves who are declared to be sole legatees by their masters, or named as executors of their wills, or tutors of their children, shall be held and considered as freed slaves (art. 56)
- freed slaves are French subjects, even if born elsewhere (art. 57)
- freed slaves have the same rights as French colonial subjects (art. 59)
- masters must give food (quantities specified) and clothes to their slaves, even when they are sick or old (art. 22 - 27)
- (unclear) a master who falsely accuses a slave of a crime and has the slave put to death will be fined (art. 40)
- masters may chain and beat slaves but may not torture nor mutilate them (art. 42)
- masters who kill their slaves will be punished (art. 43)

In the context of slavery, one could certainly argue that some of the rights granted here were exceedingly generous. But that doesn't change the basic fact that they were still practicing slavery plain and simple. No one in their right mind nowadays would argue that this form of slavery is acceptable because it's more "humane." And while I don't mean to compare DADT to slavery, I really am dumbstruck that anyone could think that a more "humane" form of DADT would be similarly acceptable.
posted by caddis at 8:17 AM on July 3, 2009


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