Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Breaking: Harry Reid Commits to Vote on DADT

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk... Representatives for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told a group of LGBT activists this afternoon that the Nevada Senator is committed to bringing Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal to a vote as part of the National Defense Authorization Act after the Thanksgiving recess.
Kerry Eleveld of The Advocate reports:
“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame-duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and the Center for American Progress, which all had a presence at the meeting.

The White House aides present at the negotiations included deputy chief of staff Jim Messina and director of legislative affairs Phil Schiliro as well as Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, and Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Majority leader Reid was represented by his chief of staff, David Krone, and his senior counsel, Serena Hoy.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he had asked the majority leader to take up the bill after the Pentagon issues its report and following hearings he plans to hold on the matter, “which should take place during the first few days of December.”

"I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that 'don’t ask, don’t tell' is repealed and the NDAA --- which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops --- is adopted," he said.
In a related story, GetEqual Co-Founder Robin McGehee was called to the White House this afternoon for a private meeting with Bryan Bond, just two days after being arrested with a group of twelve other DADT protesters, including Lt. Dan Choi and Justin Elzie, who fought his dismissal under DADT and served four more years as on out and proud gay soldier.

McGehee told LezGetReal's Melanie Nathan, that she went to the White House determined to bring transparency to the issue and refused to promise not to discuss what went on behind closed doors. She tols Nathan, “when the White House found out that the bloggers had been informed and broken the news of our meeting they were angry. But I told them that I was not willing to do any back room deals – but that I wanted to be transparent. That I wanted my LGBT community to see and hear everything that happens.  It is their equality at stake and they deserve that." She added that she would rather leave than not be transparent.

Bond told McGehee that under those terms, he would listen, but not speak, because he did not want his words to be "used against them."

Bond took notes while McGehee spelled out the following list of demands (from LezGetReal):
McGehee told him that she would like to hear from the White House where LGBT equality legislation stood, specifically that she wanted to hear about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

She asked for an Executive Order by years end.  She asked why the White House was not going ahead with an executive order to stop discharges; she said the LGBT community was insisting on it at the very least; Why is DADT different from any other legislation? Why is the President not pushing and persuading Senator Snowe and Collins, the fence sitters? Why is the President not spending some political capital here for DADT?

She told Bond that not one single member of the Military should be discharged and that the President ought to be reflecting that by his actions.

Mr.  Bond told Robin that they  are working as hard as they can; saying “ we want to see that happen” – Robin pushed further and said there is a difference between wanting to make it happen and making it happen. It must happen.

McGehee said although she was there about DADT- she could not allow the opportunity to be exclusive to that as the only LGBT issue; and so she pulled out a picture of her two children and introduced them to the group.  She said that Although she realized DOMA may not be repealed at this time, she wanted the President to revert to his old pre- Presidential campaign position on marriage equality where he did support same sex marriage.  “Everyday  that our families live without dignity, the President should think of going back to his original stand  and he must support marriage equality- as person of faith he  should think of our dignity.  Remember he came out and said that his religious beliefs precluded him from endorsing same-sex marriage for gays- well,  as a person of faith the President ought to reflect on his denying our families and community the right to live with dignity.

Additionally she asked that the White House stop all future Federal Contracts that do not include protections for Transgender people; and she informed him it was her belief that if in fact this happened it would encourage more corporations who wanted to Contracts to do the same.
The interesting thing about McGehee's meeting is that it was reported before the Reid announcement was made. The other groups were meeting with White House staff and Reid's reps separately, presumably afterward. Had McGehee agreed to not disclose what went on in the meeting, she probably would been part of the closed door meeting. Kudos to Robin for sticking to her guns. The fact that she was invited to the White House just two days after GetEqual's direct action is a sign that the powers that be are paying attention and that there is room at the table for everyone.

The other side of the coin is that, by shutting her out of the main meeting, the White House was demonstrating that there are rules to be followed and consequences for not following them. It sucks, but it's the way the game is played ion DC.
Who knows, we may just pull it off in the eleventh hour of this legislative session. Keep your fingers crossed and your eyes and ears wide open.
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