Skip a Meal, Send a Plate for DADT Reform

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Skip a Meal, Send a Plate for DADT Reform

Before he was elected to office, Washington-insiders took a look at Barak Obama’s agenda – touching on many of the same issues as Bill Clinton’s 18 years prior – and said, “no way.” No way would Obama be able to deliver on universal healthcare, no way would he pull entirely out of Afghanistan, no way would he make gay people free of all the restrictions enacted on us 15 years ago, a time when the Gay Rights movement was just getting underway. Was Obama amazing? Yes. Was he the Second coming of Christ? No. In fact, he probably ultimately proved as liberal as Clinton in all matters of Washington, eventually getting schooled on the powers of the presidency – and the re-election trigger issues – as soon as he got there.

Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo

Still, he continued to promise and promise big, especially when it came to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” the compromise for which President Clinton bargained when he couldn’t push through his agenda to allow gays and lesbians to openly serve. Though Obama’s negotiations turned out much better than those of his mentor/nemesis, Clinton – a Congressional vote to allow the Defense Department to repeal the ban on openly gay people to serve in the military – it’s still not enough for two gay soldiers, Lt. Dan Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo, who were discharged from the military after publicly coming out in 2009. Unsatisfied with the delay in a complete reversal of DADT, the two men launched a hunger strike last Friday, vowing not to eat until Obama capitulates to a rather tall order of three demands, outlined on Choi’s website and his Facebook page:
1) End the Comprehensive Working Group “Study” which insults the dignity of all Americans.
2) End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharges forever.
3) Replace all discriminatory regulations in the military with a comprehensive non-discrimination policy.
Immediately, cries went out across the gay activist blogosphere to stand in solidarity with Choi and Pietrangelo, follow them into battle, so to speak, support their strike, which has mistakenly – and unfortunately – been compared to that of Ghandi’s

Comments [24]

SMBrown's picture

What am I missing??

Am I missing something here?  Full plate or not, DADT is about to be repealed, AND they're doing it ahead of the Working Group study--and ahead of the mid-term elections, which is the real impetus.  

Also, one more time, for those still criticizing that study--it's about HOW to implement the repeal, not WHETHER to.  Do you really want the military plunging ahead without sufficient procedures and protections for gays in place?

Rusty's picture

exactly right

Mystics, you are right on all counts. What you're missing—Obama's not doing it the way Dan Choi wants him to.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

nerdyboi's picture

The time is always right.

"The time is always right to do the right thing." --ML King

Thanks for raising this issue, but I also have to disagree. In recent years, the military has wasted tons of time and money investigating soliders for being gay. Dealing with those procedures, even stalling them, also takes up Obama's time. So it's not like the current situation is labor-free.

DADT prevents GLBT soldiers, many of them parents, from getting the jobs they deserve. It also hurts the military's effectiveness, whether in the Gulf of Mexico or the Middle East. These problems are all connected, so once we start putting off justice for one group, then everyone gets dragged down together. The best solution is to repeal DADT immediately.

minniesota's picture

DADT needs to end now

Ending DADT is a matter of justice. One of my brothers, who is retired from the military, sent an email to my family members on Memorial Weekend asking our family to support the repeal. If my conservative brother, who served many years for his country, can see the injustice, I predict the writing is on the wall. My props to Senator Carl Levin for pushing the legislation.

Also, it is not selfish of us to wish for this injustice to end, no matter how much is on Obama's plate.


Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Rusty's picture

it's not about justice, equality, or fairness

Minnie, it's not about justice, equality, or fairness to GLBT service members because none of those things matter to the mission of of the military.The only thing that matters is defending the United States.

Luckily, getting rid of the ban happens to coincide with defending the country and I am confident that the report will say exactly that. Discharging GLBT service members hurts the mission and that's why we need to get rid of the ban. I'll bet that if your brother thought lifting the ban would make it harder to defend the county he would oppose it no matter how much he loves you.

Unfortunately, we are debating the wrong issues and both sides are at fault — anti-gay bigots and gay rights groups are treating this as a political issue. The ReThugs made it a political issue in 1992. Bill Clinton, who had been tagged as a draft dodger in the election, did everything he could to appear pro-military. Signing DADT into law as part of the Defense Budget was one of those things.

We need to make the argument that DADT is bad for the country.

Some GLBT organizations support Choi's hunger strike but organizations dedicated to helping GLBT service members haven't jumped on the bandwagon. In fact, Servicemembers United, "the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their allies" supports the compromise just passed by the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture

My thoughts

I have made the argument that DADT is bad for the defense of this country because we lose dedicated individual and expertise that is need to defend this country due to the policy. But, that is not the only problem I have with DADT. I strongly believe that it is morally wrong to ask people to lie by omission about who they are in order to serve their country. Even if gays are still willing to serve despite DADT, it is still morally wrong to exact that price. The military does not operate in a moral vacuum and it is not always right.

By the way, my brother sent that email to the family all on his own with no prompting from me. He based his argument on the fact that thinking gays are not qualified to serve is based on an outmoded way of thinking about gays. Surprised the heck out of me when he said that.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Rusty's picture

right message - wrong audience

I understand your argument. And most of the GLBT understand and support your argument but we're not the ones needing persuading. See my comments below to Tae where I list the arguments we should be making to get the military and hard core conservatives on board.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Not2Taem's picture


If we put country above all else, will that country still be worth defending?

Rusty's picture

the uniform

As civilians "we" aren't required to "put country above all else." But the mission of the military is to defend the country. And when I wore the uniform that was my job—I was a soldier above all else.

The first article in the Code of Conduct states:

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Not2Taem's picture

2 different things

I have no problem with that code. People close to me have given their lives in defense of our country. But there is no excuse for expecting them to degrade themselves in the process by lying about or hiding who they are. If someone is willing to put herself on the line to that extent, then we owe her the basic decency of honoring her as an individual.

We may have to agree to disagree on this one.

Rusty's picture

military mind

When you take the oath that's the deal you make. I wasn't drafted and I'm sure not many still serving today were. The job of the military is to fight wars not go on strike for social change.

Audience analysis is key to winning any argument. We need to make the arguments that will sway military minds not the minds of VPers. For example:

We should repeal the ban because in place it makes it harder to defend the country. We have too many men and women doing 2, 3, 4, and now 5 tours. In the meantime, we are discharging people who are highly trained and good at what they do. We are throwing money away by training people and then discharging them.

Also, the ban is bad for troop cohesion and morale because we have people who are scared to death to leave birthday cards signed by persons of the same sex on display in their barracks; women have been raped and then discharged because the assailant used their lesbianism as an excuse; men and women who were afraid to go for counseling to their chaplains or other professional because they couldn't be honest (that is now corrected). We are forcing people to lie and that stress makes for bad soldiering.

The reasons why the ban hurts the military are countless and very real.

Those are the arguments that will get through to the military mind — "We need to get rid of the ban because it's unfair or unjust won't cut it."

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture


Rusty, I guess you disagree with President Obama then. Did you read his proclamation for June:

Much work remains to fulfill our Nation's promise of equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.  That is why we must give committed gay couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  We must protect the rights of LGBT families by securing their adoption rights, ending employment discrimination against LGBT Americans, and ensuring Federal employees receive equal benefits.  We must create safer schools so all our children may learn in a supportive environment.  I am also committed to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so patriotic LGBT Americans can serve openly in our military, and I am working with the Congress and our military leadership to accomplish that goal.


Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Rusty's picture

hmmm back at ya

Minnie, what part of I oppose the ban and want DADT repealed are you not getting? All I'm trying to do is point out the arguments that we need to make to the military. Obama is preaching to the choir. Of course I want DADT repealed. I'm pointing out the reasons why ending the ban is good for the defense of the country.

And I oppose Choi's actions because they're not helping the cause. The only people who will be moved by his hunger strike are those who already oppose the ban.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Robin Rigby's picture

I think Minnie is saying that

I think Minnie is saying that Obama's reasons that he has given for why the ban should be repealed are the very ones that you are saying are not good arguments.   

"equal justice under law for LGBT Americans"

"so patriotic LGBT Americans can serve openly in our military"

Rusty's picture

call me an Aristotelian

So it's at the end of a laundry list in a proclamation. If the reasons to repeal DADT are to attain equal justice or to be fair then that's not good enough. And maybe that's why it's harder to get rid of the ban than it should be. Progressives are making arguments that they find persuasive. And if I were grading that debate or persuasive speech I'd give it a D+. Methinks it's time to go back to teaching Aristotle's Rhetoric in the schools.

If I thought that ending DADT would hurt the military's ability to defend the country I would oppose lifting the ban.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture

My final answer

Rusty, I disagree with you. The military also would not have been persuaded by the moral argument to end segregation of blacks in the military in the 20th Century. However, it was a moral issue and President Truman was right to end segregation because it was unjust. The military took years to finally end segregation but they were forced to deal with it. I repeat: The military is not always right.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Rusty's picture

Too important for me for this to be my final answer

There's no way to prove this one way or the other but I would argue that it took so long for the military to accept integration because it was put forth as a moral argument. There are solid reasons why segregation in the services was bad for our national defense and integration should have been sold on the premise that it would "make us a better fighting force."

Persuasion works when you fashion your appeal to answer the objections of your audience. You have to appeal to the military mindset with appeals that will persuade them — do this because you will be better able to defend the country. Many, but not all, service members don't care if it's moral, just, right, fair, etc. It's not their concern.

I'm not talking about the military being right or wrong. Their job is to defend the country and if you want them to accept change you need to show how the change will help them do their job better.

We could just change the law, but without the buy in of the troops and the company level commanders this wouldn't change anything for the gay and lesbian service members. They would still be afraid to come out even if they were legally protected.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture

Okay that wasn't my final answer

I am not arguing about military buy in or the need to put in place procedures for when the law is repealed. You told me that DADT is not a matter of justice.

It is.

We must always remember the underlying principle of justice or we risk the law and/or policy being changed again at the whim of expediency, political gain or bigotry.


Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Rusty's picture

We're not going to agree on this.

Saying that the policy is being changed because of justice in no way guarantees that it won't be changed again in the future at the "whim of expediency, political gain or bigotry." I haven't even seen your definition of justice. We could spend several days debating that. Some could argue in a Hobbesian sense that the ban is just because it's based on public, authoritative rules.

I'll stick to pragmatism.Lift the ban so that the military can do its job better.


"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture

The thread is getting skinny

I can't argue any more because I have to start my new pragmatic job.

But I want the last word:

Word. Tongue

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Joanne Robertson's picture

More collective action

needs to be taken by the community (strong intelligent protesting etc), but I'm not into martyrdom.  Hunger strikes & victimising one's self further is not the way to go.

Tiff's picture

I don't know....

Part of me agrees with this post completely. Another part of me disagrees wholeheartedly. Actually, most of me agrees that now, Obama has too much on his plate to make DADT a priority. I've been having this argument for a month with friends back home (in and around Nashvile, TN) who are upset that President Obama hasn't paid more attention to what my state's currently experiencing. The same weekend that Tennessee flooded, there was an oil spill in the gulf and a bomb threat in New York.

I totally understand that now Obama has more pressing matters to deal with; however, I do not understand what kept him from just repealing DADT when he first took office. Well, I can comprehend the politics behind the decision, but I still think it sucks. I voted (twice--including the primaries) for Obama, and I would vote for him again today if necessary, but this is the one issue that I think has been completely misshandled. It could have been taken care of, and he was too busy playing Mr. Bipartisan. Now he really does have more than he can handle.

I'm frustrated, but refuse to give up hope. It's all we've got left....

Rusty's picture

exactly right

I agree 100% and will go further to say that I called this when Choi first started his public campaign — he doesn't get the politics.

And on the other hand, some civilians giving their full-throated support don't get the military. It is unlike any other job they might have held. The public protests are exactly what military commanders fear from gays in the military — disruption of good order and discipline. Servicemembers do not go on strike - period.

And though Choi has been recommended for discharge, the decision is still pending. So technically Choi is "government issue." When you join the service your body is no longer your own. He could be arrested and force fed.

(I'm not sure about Pietrangelo's status.)

People can complain about the politics involved but this is our system and until you change the system you play by the existing rules.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Not2Taem's picture

Not really. I have never

Not really.

I have never bought into the idea that there is just not time to address an issue. If you take on the job of running a country, you better be able to multitask. Also, the idea of leaving one bad policy in place in order to garner votes on another issue just stinks. Its akin to turning your head while the bully picks on someone else, and it is ruining our country.