Last night at the VMAs, Lady Gaga walked the red carpet with four gay former servicewomen and men to protest Don't Ask Don't Tell. Meanwhile, a lesbian military nurse's legal battle for her reinstatement hits the courts today. What's next?
Gaga's guests included David Hall and Mike Almy, formerly of the Air Force and discharged under the policy, Stacy Vasquez, formerly of the Army and discharged under the policy, and Katie Miller, the West Point cadet who resigned in protest (and whose account we published here). She also tweeted,
Meanwhile, the trial of former Major Margaret Witt begins today in Seattle. Witt was honorably discharged in 2004 after the husband of her civilian girlfriend wrote to the Air Force chief of staff. When she fought her dismissal in court, a federal appeals court panel said "the military could not discharge service members for being gay unless it proved that the firing furthered military readiness." The Justice Department has said that she was discharged in part because her adultery violated other codes of conduct.
Witt's trial could be another nail in Don't Ask Don't Tell's coffin:
"There's already political momentum to do something to repeal this unfair statute," said Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who is on Witt's legal team. "Judicial opinions from multiple jurisdictions saying there's a constitutional problem with this ought to encourage Congress to act more swiftly."
In the wake of last week's success in a California federal court, which ruled the policy unconstitutional, activists and sympathetic members of Congress are arguing that the military can already halt Don't Ask Don't Tell-related discharges, and at the very least the Justice Department can decline to appeal on behalf of a policy the administration says it doesn't support. (That, Rachel Maddow said of President Obama in August, "would take some political capital, that would take some guts.") They point out that the various appeals could take forever.
Meanwhile, the Senate returns today after its summer recess. Senators have about a month of lawmaking before leaving to campaign at home — and after that, who knows what the midterm elections will do for the chances of legislative change for the rights of gays and lesbians. Top military brass have said they want to wait to act until after the House-ordered study on a repeal's effects (including asking service members how they'd feel about serving with openly gay members), which wouldn't be until December. But gay rights activists have been asking supporters to petition their senators to vote on the Department of Defense budget authorization bill that includes the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, during the week of September 20. You can do that here.
Lady Gaga At VMAs Calls For Repeal Of Don't Ask, Don't Tell [WP]
Lesbian Seeks Reinstatement To Air Force In Trial [AP]
Politicians, Advocates Push For Repeal Of DADT Amid Court Ruling [Firedoglake]
Senate Urged To Repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' [AP]
Related: Countdown 2010 [Human Rights Campaign]