Photo courtesy of Talk About Equality.
There are those who say acts of civil disobedience accomplish nothing. That they are merely childish temper tantrums and an embarrassment.
Well, I disagree.
Flashback to an earlier time--just two weeks ago--because it's easy to forget how very quickly the tone of the conversation changed this week.
Following mid-term elections, the gay community noted with dismay, that rumors were circulating the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be abandoned. Wall Street Journal declared "Drive to Repeal 'Don't Ask' Policy All but Lost for Now." There were also reports in Washington Post Senate Armed Services Committee Chair, Carl Levin was considering throwing in the towel.
On November 4, President Obama held a press conference and did not list "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal as among the lame duck legislative priorities. The CNBC headline read: Lame Duck Priorities: Taxes and Nukes. When asked by a reporter, President Obama would only say there was the "potential" to repeal DADT in the lame duck. Which isn't news to anyone. There is also the "potential" that Lt. Dan Choi could be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Let us not confuse a "potentiality" with a likelihood or a plan.
Senate Majority Harry Reid, seemed unsure of the path forward. He was quoted on November 4, that he would "try" and went on to explain all the reasons it might not work out.
"During a conference call yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would try to move the bill once the Senate comes back to session later this month. "The problem we have with a defense authorization bill is that it takes a while to get it done," he said. "If we could get some agreement from the Republicans that we could move the bill without a lot of extraneous amendments, I think it is something we can work out. Time agreements on a few amendments, that would be my goal."
On November 10th, White House Communications director was asked about DADT repeal by National Journal, he said it was "at least, worth a shot":
DON’T ASK. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told National Journal that repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military is "at least worth a shot" in the lame-duck session of Congress that starts next week. But lawmakers would have to hang around longer than some might like: The military’s study on the proposed repeal isn’t due till December 1.
At the time the action was planned, things looked bad. Really bad. Senate Armed Service Chairman was quoted in the Washington Post:
"See that bill?" Levin said as he removed a copy of the bill from a folder. "The bill has 849 pages and only two of them are 'don' t ask, don't tell.' The rest have to do with our troops, they have to do with a whole lot of critically important things."
Uh, oh. More important things to do. That never works out well for the gays.
On Monday, when I was picked up at the jail by a friend, I'd obviously been in media blackout for 8 hours, he handed me his iPhone. On it I saw a huge list of media outlets that were reporting on our action. It was long, and impressive. And I knew we'd done the right thing. We'd help change the conversation.
TOP-TIER, NATIONAL MEDIA:
Associated Press "Don’t Ask" Protestors Arrested at White House
The Atlantic Non-Violent Resistance
Washington Post "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" Splitting Gay Rights Groups
Huffington Post Gay Rights Activists Accuse Obama of Silent Homophobia
OTHER NATIONAL MEDIA:
Army Times 13 Arrested During DADT Protest (AP Story)
Air Force Times 13 Arrested During DADT Protest (AP story)
Keen News Service Two groups send mixed message on DADT repeal timing
The Advocate DADT Protesters Arrested at White House
WIRE and OTHER IMAGES:
Yahoo News Photos Don't Ask Don't Tell
Yahoo News Photos 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy
Washington Blade GetEQUAL Day of Action
SF Chronicle SFGate: Day in Pictures
ONLINE NEWS AND BLOG SITES:
Perez Hilton Lt. Dan Choi Accuses President of "Silent Homophobia"
Huffington Post George Heymont: I had a don’t ask, don’t tell dream (and John McCain’s not going to like it) – Lt. Dan Choi reference
Gay Rights Activists Accuse Obama Of ‘Silent Homophobia’
CITY LOCAL NEWS:
Washington Examiner 13 arrested outside White House during protest
NBC Washington 13 Arrested at Protest Outside White House
Minneapolis Star Tribune 13 arrested after chaining themselves to White House fence in 'don't ask, don't tell' protest
Seattle Post 'Don't ask' protesters arrested at White House
Ozarks First Protesters Cuff Themselves to White House Gates
Miami Herald Protesters Cuff Themselves to White House Gates
We Are Central PA Activists Chain Themselves to White House Gate
Agency France Presse (AFP) Gay activists chain themselves to White House gate
Straits Times (Singapore) Gay activists chain selves to White House gate
The Times of India Gay rights activists chain themselves to White House gate (AFP story)
The Gaurdian 'Don't ask' protesters arrested at White House
La Raza- La Casa Blanca con el ‘Dream Act’
Momarandu Homofobia silenciosa
Portugal Gay-EUA Manifestantes contra DADT sao presos junto à Casa Branca
CNN International Gay rights protesters demand Obama help end 'don't ask, don't tell'
LGBT NEWS AND BLOG SITES:
San Diego Gay/Lesbian News BREAKING NEWS: 13 people chain themselves to White House fence to protest DADT inaction
365 Gay.com 13 protesting DADT arrested at White House
Advocate.com DADT Vigil Held at Matlovich Grave Site
Washington Blade 13 arrested at White House in "Don’t Ask" protest
Pam’s House Blend Again, I’m near here the place I was last April
On Top Magazine Dan Choi, Robin McGehee Arrested Protesting DADT At White House
South Capitol Street GetEQUAL Hits Up White House Meeting For LGBT Orgs Tonight
Black Christian News WATCH: Homosexual Rights Activists Accuse President Obama of 'Silent Homophobia'
Firedog Lake DADT Repeal Turning Into Political Chaos
Fire Dog Lake GetEqual Protests the Veal Pen Re: DADT Repeal
365gay.com 13 protesting DADT arrested at White House
So what was accomplished? The headlines for day one of lame duck were all about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." This was clearly not the preferred message of the day. I think that would have been START and taxes, sorry to step on that, but we can't wait for our leaders to bring it up. We can't depend on the mainstream media to ask the questions for us. We have to generate our own press.
And the landscape surrounding repeal has change pretty dramatically in the last week. It may have anyway, it may not. That's something we'll never be able to know.
But last Monday, activists sent a message to the country and to our country's leadership. We're not going to make this easy for you. We're not going to back down. And we're going to give it just "more than a shot," we're giving it our all.
Our leaders want to talk in mealy language about the "potential" for repeal, "giving it a shot" and "trying." They want to talk about how hard it is, and how they have so little time until they get to go home to their families for Christmas. We're reminding them 2010 is yet another year when thousands of servicemembers may not even have the luxury of being able to call their loved ones over the holidays. Many will spend this holiday season alone, as they have many others. We speak for them. We stand for them. And we're asking this country's leadership to do so too.
Our message is: We're not going to quietly go away, just because they have let the clock run out with poorly-timed plan. We are going to act boldly, fearlessly and in no uncertain terms, with a single explicit message: End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." End it now. You promised you would. And we remember.
In the week since I took action, I've also had my creditability on the issue of DADT attacked repeatedly, and I've been accused of lying and being a "media hoe." (A curious accusation since I received--nor have I sought--any attention from "the media," and these are my first words on this action, outside of a few scattered comments on Facebook and Twitter.)
But I worry not about that. I have never presented myself as flawless or unerring advocate. I have only aspired to speak for LGB servicemembers who are compelled by Federal law to not speak for themselves. And I have earned the respect and confidence of that crowd.
And not just the famous ones. Sgt Ian Finkenbinder (last picture), is not only a hero but the group's clown, rarely letting his jocular manner drop. But for just a moment, when we were chained next to each other at the fence, his guard dropped. He looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you for being here." I could see he was grateful I, a civilian with no desire to serve, who had no direct stake in the battle, had involved himself so passionately in this fight. I think, for a moment, he felt less alone, less forgotten.
I've received thanks and praise from all over the country, from vast variety of people. Friends from high school, friends from my current life, fellow activists, even Capital Hill staffers.
And of course, many, many, many current and retired military people. I have been welcomed warmly into their fold. On Thursday night I stepped into Julius gay bar in New York City to join them for a drink. I was humbled to be greeted with a thunderous applause. These moments have meant the world to me and far, far, more than any slings and arrows I suffer from any quarters.
Organizers GetEqual just released this compilation video. It highlights their message, which got lost in the media maelstrom of facile reporting, please take a moment to watch it. I am especially proud of my friend, Specialist Rob Smith at the 0:56 mark challenging the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus to break their silence on this issue. DADT disproportionately affects servicemembers of color. Do they not represent those people of color as well?
Bulk orders of handcuffs and attorney fees and court fines do not come cheap. If you wish to support this action you may donate here.