The Human Rights Campaign sent out “Joe’s Weekly Message” — a weekly update from the organization’s president, Joe Solmonese — detailing the progress of the week of March 19, on “don’t ask, don’t tell”:
Repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” requires strong, decisive actions from our president and Congress, which means that our community and allies must put the pressure on and keep it on. This week, the message from our community was clear: The time for repeal is here, and we hold our leaders accountable for delivering it.
Earlier this week, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander responsible for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, declared that the time has come to consider changing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
In addition, two accomplished veterans, Major Michael Almy and Lieutenant Junior Grade Jenny Kopfstein, provided the Senate Armed Service Committee with compelling testimony about “don’t ask, don’t tell” failing them. Unfortunately, we [HRC] were appalled by the committee testimony of former NATO commander Gen. John J. Sheehan.
Gen. Sheehan, who only spent 3 of his 35 years of service under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” made the baseless claim that the presence of openly lesbian and gay service members in the Dutch army led to the massacre of Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995. This groundless claim was not only an insult to a U.S. ally, but also a disservice to our national debate on a serious policy issue.
We can make good laws and policies with truth; lies have no place in lawmaking. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the committee and a supporter of repeal, rejected Gen. Sheehan’s assertions and fought back against his baseless claims during the hearing.
The Dutch ambassador to the U.S. [Renée Jones-Bos] also set the record straight and gave openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members the respect that they deserve by saying, “I take pride in the fact that lesbians and gays have served openly and with distinction in the Dutch military forces.”
Funny thing about that e-mail, there is no mention of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rally HRC coordinated this past week in Washington, D.C, hosted by Kathy Griffin. What’s more outrageous, there is no mention of Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, both armed forces officers who fell victim to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” chaining themselves to the White House in protest of the policies directly following the HRC rally they attended. Yeah, HRC forgot about some good, old-fashioned direct action.
Not only is it appalling that the mainstream media largely ignored this incident (Let’s be honest, if it were any other group that chained themselves to the White House, all other news would fall by the wayside.), but to have the main political action group for LGBT Americans ignore it, it’s downright hurtful.
We, including HRC, must stand behind our fellow community members. The Thursday “don’t ask, don’t tell” demonstrations and ENDA sit-ins have changed the face of equality. We are no longer satisfied with shutting up and politely waiting for our turn or when the time is right; the right time is now, and we must take our destiny into our own hands by demanding our rights and calling politicians and political action groups out on their crap.
I’m sick of waiting for politicians to get around to us and our rights — equality is not something that should be taken lightly, used as a bargaining chip or an empty promise of hope to voters. Politicians are politicians, regardless of their party affiliation. They care about nothing more than re-election. So we need to remind them they answer to us, their constituents; it’s not the other way around. The floodgates have opened and we cannot keep quiet anymore.