Servicemembers United, with the support of the South Carolina Log Cabin Republicans and the Alliance for Full Acceptance, will be hosting a preview screening of "Ask Not," a documentary looking at the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
With the new progressive administration, and the reconsideration of several retired military officials who once fought against open service for gays and lesbians, there's hope that we will see a repeal of DADT in the near future. The film not only looks at the impacts of the discriminatory policy, but also the activism that has risen up in hopes of defeating it.
One of the service members featured in the film is Alex Nicholson, whom the City Paper wrote about in 2006 as he began a tour to speak out against DADT. Nicholson will be at the screening.
The event is at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at the American Theater, 446 King St. Admission is free. There will be a cash bar.
We should also note a new Quinnipiac poll found 56 percent of Americans want the ban repealed
Local gay rights advocates at the Alliance for Full Acceptance have two new billboards up on I-26 with a message that should spur conversations about how today’s movement for gays relates to the long fight for racial equality.
One of the billboards has two water fountains with one labeled “straight” and one labeled “gay” — a reference to the days of segregation of whites and blacks in every facet of daily life — with the tagline “Gay Rights Are Civil Rights.”
“If there are images that will stop people and make them think about it, then I think we should use it,” says Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of AFFA. “We can’t keep dancing around issues of language. We’re going to have to use imagery to show the connection.”
The idea for the billboard had been gestating until the Obama administration’s “Civil Rights” agenda was released with a host of reforms for gays and the transgendered, including repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, expanding hate crime laws, and providing civil union and federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
“That energized us,” Redman-Gress says. “It was almost like the president was sanctioning this kind of language.”
AFFA is using the term civil rights out of admiration for the predecessor to the gay rights movement.
“We’re not saying the experiences are the same,” he says. “But we can learn from the civil rights movement that came before us.”
One black leader who is welcoming the flattery is NAACP President Julian Bond. At a gay rights dinner last month, Bond told the crowd that his group is proud to support anti-discrimination efforts regarding sexual orientation.
“Black people of all people should not oppose equality,” he said. “And that’s what gay marriage is.”
The AFFA billboard campaign is expected to run for three months, along with a combination of print, TV, and radio ads.
And the local gay rights group isn’t the only one trying to bridge the divide between gays and blacks.
South Carolina Equality, a statewide group the presses for gay rights reforms, is developing an Opening Doors program that will work to find common ground in the two communities. A first effort will be Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner — pot luck events around the state that will facilitate the discussion on civil rights and what can be accomplished together.
“Discrimination is discrimination,” Redman-Gress says.
“I am proud to join with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters in celebrating the accomplishments, the lives, and the families of all LGBT people during this Pride season. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans.
“It’s time to live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. Let’s enact federal civil rights legislation to outlaw hate crimes and protect workers against discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Let’s repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and demonstrate that the most effective and professional military in the world is open to all Americans who are ready and willing to serve our country. Let’s treat the relationships and the families of LGBT Americans with full equality under the law.
“We are ready to accomplish these goals because of the courage and persistence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who have are working every day to achieve equal rights. The gay couple who demand equal treatment in our family laws as they raise their children; the lesbian soldier who wants nothing more than to serve her country openly and honestly; the transgendered workers who asks for the simple dignity of being judged by the quality of their work. Generations of LGBT Americans, at once ordinary and extraordinary, have made possible this moment in our history. With leadership and hard work, we can fulfill the promise of equality for all.”
News from the Capital City that is Columbia via The State:
Irmo High School Principal Eddie Walker said this morning he does not plan to announce his resignation today.
Walker declined further comment noting the school is dealing with the death of a student.
Reports indicated Walker would announce his decision to leave the district during morning announcements. The decision was apparently related to personal conflict with the formation of the Gay/Straight Alliance Club at the school.
In a letter writter to the "Irmo Nation" Walker wrote:
"However due to a recent conflict involving my professional and religious beliefs I sent Dr. Angela Bain a letter of resignation effective June 30, 2009. On May 14, 2008, I was instructed by email to allow the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High School. On May 15, 2008 I told Ms. Ann Pilat to allow the formation of this club for the 2008-2009 school year. Allowing the formation of this club on our campus conflicts with my professional beliefs and religious convictions. I considered resigning this year but reconsidered because to not fulfill my written contract for the 2008-2009 school year would also conflict with my professional beliefs and religious convictions. In my opinion failure to fulfill my contract would constitute a breach of trust with School District Five of Lexington and Richland County, my student heroes, returning Irmo High School employees, and new employees who have chosen to work at Irmo High school for the 2008-2009 school year."
Lexington-Richland 5 spokesman Buddy Price confirmed the resignation this morning and provided a statement from the district:
"While the District respects Mr. Walker's position in this matter, our attorneys have advised us that because Irmo High School has permitted the formation of a number of non-curricular clubs at the school, the federal law known as the Equal Access Act does not permit the school to discriminate against a club based on the club's purpose and viewpoint by not allowing it to form unless the purpose of the club is unlawful; for example, the school would not have to permit the formation of a marijuana club."
-- From Staff Reports
While the move was initially hailed as progress for the rights of gays in the military, today many see it as a liability.
Writing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" into law meant that no new President can eliminate the ban without first convincing a majority of Congress to go along — a far higher hurdle than Clinton faced. All the Democratic candidates favor lifting the ban; the GOP candidates support keeping it. "I think President Clinton meant well, but when he set out to implement his vision he ran into a buzz saw," says Aubrey Sarvis, an ex-GI and executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group dedicating to lifting the ban. "I see very few, if any, good things about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' — it means you have to lie or deceive every day."