For a year now, I’ve been involved with a newly established LGBT grassroots group in the Queen City. The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE), born after the LGBT community’s stunning defeat in the California Prop. 8 fight, is a loose and slightly informal network of grassroots activists and community members working toward LGBT civil and social equality through public awareness-building events and non-violent direct action campaigning.
In late February, CRANE teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign to stage a rally on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the federal law which prohibits gays, lesbians and bisexuals from openly and honestly serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The rally and its preceding press conference, held on Feb. 26, included local, openly gay veteran Michael Noftzger and HRC DADT spokesman Eric Alva, a gay, former Marine staff sergeant and the first American injured in the war in Iraq.
At the press conference, CRANE announced its March on Myrick campaign. The group plans to collect 13,500 plastic toy soldiers, each representing the gay and lesbian patriots who risked life and limb to serve their nation and defend the freedoms they could not themselves enjoy. On April Fool’s Day, CRANE will deliver the 13,500 toy soldiers to the Charlotte offices of Rep. Sue Myrick and ask her to co-sponsor the Military Readiness Enhancement Act to repeal DADT. The message is simple: DADT is a failed law and a threat to national security. Only a fool would support a policy that weakens our military during a time of war.
While turnout was small (about 40 or so folks turned out during business hours on a bone-chilling Friday), the resulting media coverage was gold. From local media to national media, Sue Myrick, one of the North Carolina’s most pro-military congressmembers, was put on the spot with three options:
1. Immediately say “no” to a DADT repeal and be forced to explain why (even though such a position wouldn’t jibe with her already stated, strong support for national security and military readiness);
2. Say “yes” to a repeal and stand up for equality (and risk upsetting portions of her conservative base); or
3. Take a politically careful, “wait-and-see” approach.
The first option wasn’t what CRANE wanted and the second option would have been the most encouraging. Myrick chose
“I support the position held by Gens. George Casey and Norton Schwartz, and believe that the military should finish its study on the impact of repealing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy before any Congressional action is taken,” Myrick said in a written statement to The Charlotte Observer.
Myrick’s answer wasn’t the best option. It wasn’t the worst option. It was safe. And, we should acknowledge and thank Myrick for her willingness to at least look at the issue. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves. Myrick has never been a friend to the LGBT community. She’s rated a full zero percent on the HRC Congressional Scorecard. And, reading between the lines, Myrick’s statement isn’t all that promising.
Consider, for a moment, the position of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.
“I do have serious concerns about the impact of repeal of the law on a force that is fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight and half years,” Casey said in a U.S. House hearing on DADT in February. “We just don’t know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness.”
We don’t know the impacts? Talk about denial.
In 1993, when DADT was originally under consideration, the National Defense Research Institute compiled a report on the possible effects of open and honest service by LGB members of the Armed Forces. The report concluded, in part, that “circumstances could exist under which the ban on homosexuals could be lifted with little or no adverse consequences for recruitment and retention.”
As recently as last Novemeber, a RAND Corp. survey of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan found most servicemembers’ attitudes on DADT and openly gay service changing and leaning more toward repeal. Additionally, they found military effectiveness and unit cohesion were less affected by gays than other, more important issues.
“The important factors for cohesion and readiness were officer/non-commissioned officer quality, training quality and equipment quality,” a release from RAND read. “Beyond these factors, knowing a gay or lesbian person in the unit was not associated significantly with ratings of unit cohesion or readiness.”
It’s great Myrick says she wants to look at this policy. Again, she should be thanked. But, if she really values a deep look into DADT, she should stop and take the time to look at all the research already done. We’ve looked at the policy for far too long. The time for repeal is now.
Tongue in cheek, foot in mouth
In our Feb. 20 print edition, I took to writing my usual Editor’s Note column and decided I wanted to be a bit feisty, in a humorous tongue-in-cheek way of course. I wrote about the recent financial troubles at the Christian Action League, an anti-gay, fundamentalist political action organization based in Raleigh.
See, here recently, the League’s executive director, Mark Creech, has been pounding the pulpit trying to raise money. To entice his supporters and potential donors, he’s made issue of Equality North Carolina’s recent legislative successes and the round of grants they received in order to work on employment non-discrimination this year.
“Meanwhile, and this is really what’s got poor Creech’s knickers in a twist, Equality North Carolina is drowning in a flood of cash,” I wrote in last issue’s column. “Along with a coalition of parent, youth and education groups, ENC successfully pushed for an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bill last year. This year, they’re embarking on an initiative to end anti-gay discrimination in state employment. And, North Carolina remains without an anti-gay marriage amendment. For six years in a row. Maybe Creech should get some singing and dancing lessons?”
The issue hadn’t been online or on the street for too long before I got a kind email from Kay Flaminio, Equality North Carolina’s development director: “Though I love the idea of Equality North Carolina drowning in a flood of cash, it just ain’t so! While it’s true that our educational nonprofit Equality NC Foundation received year-end grants to build awareness about discrimination, it’s still tough to raise funds for our lobbying organization Equality NC, which got the anti-bullying bill passed, and our state political action committee Equality NC PAC, which supports pro-equality candidates, so please encourage folks to keep their donations coming!”
While at the Human Rights Campaign Carolinas Gala in Raleigh at the end of February, I made sure to check in with our hard working Equality folks. Nope. They’re clothes are dry and they are still breathing. No drowning.
So, tongue-in-cheek pokes at the Christian Action League were funny, no doubt. The drowning in cash part – not so much. I got just a teeny bit carried away. But you really have to admit, the “Queers are raising lots of dough” spoof on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” was hilarious. Or so I thought.
Learn more about Equality North Carolina or offer them your support at equalitync.org. : :
This article was published in the March 6—March 19 print edition.