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Civil Rights Ambassador / Civil Rights Advocate, Equality Fighter & Strong Advocate In Political Causes. That Need Our Attention This Very Moment & Our Over All Future As Humans That We Must Start Giving Back. I Have Been Enlightened & Learning Everyday Of My Life & Now It Has Been My Turn To Help Others Be Enlightened. Maybe Not Have To Go Thru Many Of The Things I Have Had To, My LGBT Generation Has Had To Go Thru, Bring Change…

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Gays celebrate repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

Cassandra Melnikow, foreground left, and her sister Victoria Melnikow,  right, sit in New York's Times Square as news of the Senate approving the repeAP – Cassandra Melnikow, foreground left, and her sister Victoria Melnikow, right, sit in New York's Times …
NEW YORK – Word that the world's largest military power will allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military brought strong and swift reaction Saturday, with supporters declaring a civil rights milestone and detractors insisting it would weaken and divide the armed forces.
In New York, home to one of the nation's largest gay communities and a gay pride parade whose grand marshal this year was an openly gay, discharged serviceman, 28-year-old Cassandra Melnikow glanced at a news ticker in Times Square announcing the repeal and said: "Excellent! It's about time."
"I don't see what difference (sexual orientation) makes in the fighting military," said Melnikow, a public health researcher. "What's the big deal?"
President Barack Obama had made repealing "don't ask, don't tell" a campaign promise in 2008, and rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for him. By the time President Bill Clinton proposed allowing gays to serve in the military in 1993, they had been explicitly barred from military service since World War I.
Foes of lifting the ban argued that the military shouldn't be used to expand the rights of gays and that allowing them to serve openly would hurt troop morale and a unit's ability to fight — the same arguments used against women and blacks.
In the end, Congress agreed to let gays serve only if their sexual orientation remained secret.
Repeal means that for the first time in U.S. history, gays will be openly accepted by the military and can acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being discharged. More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
The change wouldn't take immediate effect, however. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.
Conservative organizations said the vote didn't reflect the sentiments of rank-and-file military members and should not have taken place so close to the end of the current session of Congress.
"The issue that really disturbs me more than anything else is that legislation that's controversial tends to be done in lame-duck sessions when a number of the elected representatives are no longer accountable to the people," said Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.
The Massachusetts Family Institute said Republican senators who voted for the measure broke a promise they had made not to vote on the repeal until the federal budget was resolved.
"In doing so, they not only have put special interests above fiscal interests but also have put our troops at risk during wartime," said Kris Mineau, the group's president.
Some supporters of the repeal traveled to Washington to witness the vote, including Sue Fulton, a former Army captain and company commander who is spokeswoman for Knights Out, a group of 92 gay and lesbian West Point graduates who are out and no longer serving
Driving back home to North Plainfield, N.J., the 51-year-old Fortune 500 executive told The Associated Press that she thinks the repeal will have an effect on the civil rights of gays in America.
"As more people realize that gay and lesbian citizens are risking their lives to defend this country, perhaps they'll be more willing to acknowledge gays and lesbians as full citizens in other ways," she said.
Others monitored the vote from afar.
Several gay service veterans and others supporting the repeal stood around a small computer screen to watch C-SPAN coverage of the vote at San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. They erupted in cheers as the final tally was read.
Zoe Dunning, a retired U.S. Navy commander who continued to serve after declaring she was gay, cried and hugged other supporters.
"I'm living proof that the mere presence of an openly gay person in your unit does not harm either cohesion or morale," she said. "After 18 years working on this, I witnessed the end to this destructive policy, and these are tears of joy... I'm so happy to be present for this day that I'd always dreamed of."
Warren Arbury of Savannah, Ga., served in the Army for seven years, including three combat tours, before being kicked out two years ago under "don't ask, don't tell." But he said he planned to re-enlist once the policy is officially abolished.
"As soon as they give me the go, I'm going to march into the recruiter's office," he said. "And I want retroactive pay and rank."
Arbury said a fight for other social changes — such as allowing gays to marry and easing obstacles they face in adopting and raising children — still lies ahead, however.
"I think it's one step in a very long process of becoming an equal rights citizen," he said. "Even though this is really huge, I look at it as a chink in a very, very long chain."
In Brazil, where soldiers have been kicked out of the military for publicly commenting on being gay, gay rights advocacy groups said the Senate's vote would help advance their cause worldwide.
"The vote was an extremely important step forward for the United States and a major event for the world," said Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Association for the Rights of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals. "I just hope that Brazil and other countries follow the American example."
Aaron Belkin, director of the California-based Palm Center — a think tank on the issue — said the vote "ushers in a new era in which the largest employer in the United States treats gays and lesbians like human beings."
For thousands of years, he said, one of the key markers for first-class citizenship in any nation is the right to serve in the military, and Saturday's vote "is a historic step toward that."
Associated Press writers Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., Jay Lindsay in Boston, Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, N.J., Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco, and Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.


Senate nears repeal of military's curbs on gays

WASHINGTON – Congress is close to ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military, with the Senate ready for a landmark vote that could deliver a major victory to the gay community, liberals and President Barack Obama.
Senators planned a procedural vote Saturday on a bill ending the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy as lawmakers held an unusual weekend session in their race to finish the year's legislative business.
If at least 60 senators vote to advance the bill as expected, the repeal, which passed the House this week, could win final passage by late afternoon. Republicans opposed to changing the law could demand extended debate although early indications were that they might not bother.
With opposition from Republicans weakening, passage would mark a triumph for Obama, who made repeal of the 17-year-old law acampaign promise in 2008. It also would be a win for congressional Democrats who have struggled in the final hours of the lame-duck session to overcome Republican objections, and for gay rights groups who said Saturday's vote was their best shot at changing the law because a new GOP-dominated Congress will take control in January.
Advocates vowed to leave nothing to chance and stepped up lobbying efforts in the hours before the vote, including a silent protest in the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor.
"We simply cannot let the clock run out and lose this historic opportunity," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, whose supporters vowed to sit in the Senate gallery until the law was repealed.
Repeal would mean that for the first time in U.S. history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out. More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers — the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — are required to certify to Congress that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' ability to fight. After that, 60 days must pass before any changes go into effect.
The House approved the bill earlier this week by a 250-174 vote.
A small but vocal group of Republicans led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the law shouldn't be changed during wartime.
"We send these young people into combat," said McCain. "We think they're mature enough to fight and die. I think they're mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness."
The Democratic push for repeal was strengthened by the release of a major Pentagon study that concluded gays could serve openly without affecting combat effectiveness. The assessment found that two-thirds of troops predicted little impact if the law is repealed.
The study was strongly backed by the Pentagon's top leadership, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
McCain has dismissed the study as flawed and cites concern among troops assigned to the front lines. Some personnel predicted openly gay troops would cause problems. Most of them were in combat arms units such as infantry and special operations.
The chiefs of the Army and Marine Corps warned Congress that repeal could pose serious problems if the law is overturned when troops are still fighting in Afghanistan.
Gen. James Amos, the head of the Marine Corps, has become the most outspoken opponent and claims letting gay troops serve openly could cost lives.
Gates and Mullen say this fear is overblown. They note the Pentagon's finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no impact on their units' morale or effectiveness.
The bill appeared all but dead earlier this month when Senate Republicans voted for a second time this year to block the measure. The language was tucked into a broader defense policy bill that many GOP senators said required more debate than Democrats would allow. They also objected to taking up any legislation before addressing tax cuts and government spending.
Senate Democrats addressed many of the procedural objections, including completing the tax-cut legislation. They also stripped the repeal provision from the defense policy bill.
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