Silence Equals “a Tacit Approval of an Incredibly Ignorant and Fundamentally Homophobic Point of View”; Joins Servicemembers United in an Online Petition Highlighting Survey’s Waste of Taxpayer Money
WASHINGTON – Today, GetEQUAL, a direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, called on President Barack Obama to immediately and unequivocally speak out against comments made last Friday by a Pentagon spokesman suggesting that “facilities adjustments” may be necessary to accommodate gay and lesbian troops, should “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be fully repealed.
The comments, made by Department of Defense Spokesperson Geoff Morrell, were in relation to a highly-criticized survey released last week, and sent to over 400,000 service members, gauging their comfort level around “homosexuals” and seeking input from active duty troops and their families. However, the design of and questions in the survey do nothing to solicit feedback from those most truly affected by the policy– gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members and their families. Morrell said the survey — which has been publicly criticized for its inherent homophobia by a number of different advocates, veterans and equal rights organizations — might prove the need for “facilities adjustments” by the Pentagon to deal with heterosexual service members’ uneasiness over sharing living quarters with their openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual counterparts.
Morrell later backtracked, and claimed that he never suggested segregating gay troops, even though the Marine Commandant and the Secretary of the Army had both mentioned the possibility over the past year. Morrell now claims that he was simply suggesting that the Pentagon might buy new shower curtains to address any concerns shown by the troop survey.
“It is absolutely stunning that this White House continues to stand silently by while this survey demeans our men and women in uniform, including thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members currently on active duty. And if that wasn’t bad enough, our ‘fierce advocate’ has yet to denounce his own Department of Defense’s comments trying to justify the need for the survey by suggesting that straight troops might need shower curtains to protect themselves,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and co-director of GetEQUAL.
“Considering the survey is costing nearly $4.5 million, those are rather expensive shower curtains. If the President is unwilling to publicly condemn these bigoted remarks, by one of his own employees, then our community can only interpret his silence as tacit approval of an incredibly ignorant and fundamentally homophobic point of view.”
McGehee continued, “On Wednesday, two courageous gay service members will stand trial for their protest against the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. If the Pentagon’s working group is truly interested in the effects of this discriminatory and outdated law on the men and women in uniform, perhaps they’ll take a few hours and come hear testimony from just two of the 14,000 patriotic veterans whose lives have been shattered serving under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Maybe then they will gain a little more understanding about why gay, lesbian and bisexual service members are so outraged at their focus on shower curtains, instead of looking at our allied military counterparts’ integration of gay, lesbian and bisexual service members in other countries.”
On Wednesday, July 14, Lt. Dan Choi and Cpt. James Pietrangelo will stand trial in DC Superior Court on charges stemming from Lt. Choi’s and Cpt. Pietrangelo’s arrests on March 18 and April 20 when they chained themselves to the White House gate, in an act of non-violent, civil disobedience, to protest the President’s lack of leadership on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The men are facing a non-jury trial on two counts of “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order,” pursuant to DC Municipal Regulations (18 DCMR 2000.2 (1995).
Additionally, GetEQUAL also announced today that it has joined with Servicemembers United in calling on the Pentagon to refund the American people the millions of dollars it has spent on conducting this demeaning survey. The online petition, which can be viewed in full at www.surveyrefund.org states, “The Department of Defense just paid the research firm Westat the outrageous sum of $4.4 million to design and administer an email-based survey about the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” and demands that Westat and the Pentagon, “repay the American taxpayer for this outrageous waste of $4.4 million.”
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL, please visit: www.getequal.org . You can follow GetEQUAL on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/getequal, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GetEQUAL, or on YouTube at www.youtube.com/getequal.