Shivaun Nestor

Shivaun Nestor
San Francisco, California, USA
June 10
Shivaun Nestor Design
Lady of loud laughter, lover of politics, poetry, sex, the moving image, metaphor, and most things queer. Web/graphic designer, health/sexuality educator, veteran San Francisco hill walker, frequent gourmet cook, and occasional party grrl.

JUNE 30, 2009 10:09AM

President Obama on DADT “Love is Worth Fighting For” UPDATED

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Dear Mr. President,

As June comes to a close and San Franciscans finish celebrating Pride, I want to thank you for officially declaring June LGBT Pride month.  I also want to thank you for celebrating the 40th anniversary of Stonewall yesterday with a commemorative reception today, June 29, 2009.  I now hope that on the morning of Lieutenant Dan Choi’s trial for "moral and professional dereliction" under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”  you will make good on your campaign promise to repeal this policy.  While it is too late to make a difference to the 265 servicemembers who have been discharged since you took office, it is not too late for Lt. Choi.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) has been harmful not only to patriotic LGBT servicemen and women like Lietenant Choi, but to the United States.   By the start of 2009, U.S. armed forces had lost over 13,000 troops to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”  more than the equivalent of an Army division.  Of these, like Lt. Choi who is an Arabic translator, over 700 possessed mission critical skills.   As you stated during your campaign in an interview with The Advocate, “….we’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military... That doesn’t make us more safe, and what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology.”

Why, when you confirmed the harm that DADT does to our country’s military readiness during your campaign, are you “stonewalling” now? While, as you argue, it is up to Congress to repeal DADT, researchers at the Michael D. Palm Center have already provided you with a framework for moving towards repeal. As President you have "the authority to issue an executive order halting the operation of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.’”  In other words, you you could stop these losses with the stroke of a pen! Congress would have no choice but to finally follow suit.

Despite your words yesterday, your administration recently expressed concern that repealing DADT might impact military readiness.  You are already familiar with the  extensive body of research conducted on this issue.  Why don’t the following findings allay your concerns?

  • In his book, “UNFRIENDLY FIRE: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America” (2009, St. Martins Press), researcher Nathaniel Frank clearly documents that the policy was “created out of prejudice, not cause.”
  • As early as 1993, a report by the conservative Rand Corporation determined that allowing LGBT military personnel to serve openly will not compromise unit cohesion, recruiting, retention or morale.
  • Israel allows LGBT citizens to serve openly in the military, as do all 23 of our NATO allies with the exception of Turkey. None of these countries’ armed forces have been compromised by allowing LGBT soldiers to serve openly.

Certainly, you already have a great deal on your plate.  I understand why you might not want to derail an ambitious agenda regarding the economy, health care, and the environment by taking on controversial issues so early in your first term in office.  However, a majority of U.S. citizens already supports an end to the DADT, as does a significant proportion of the U.S. military:

  • In a 2007 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75% of Americans stated openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, including 64% of Republican respondents. 
  • A 2006 Zogby International poll of military members found that 72% of respondents who had experience with gays or lesbians in their unit said that the presence of gay or lesbian unit members had either no impact or a positive impact on their personal morale, while 67% said as much for overall unit morale. 
  • In 2008, 104 retired Generals and Admirals, including General John M. Shalikashvili, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for an end to DADT.

Mr. President, as someone who came of age during the silencing days of the pre-Stonewall era, I thrilled when you spoke so directly to LGBT concerns during your Presidential campaign. You stated that you would seek an end to DOMA.  You committed yourself to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  You came out unequivocally in support of broad domestic partnership rights.

Like many other LGBT Californians, rather than to campaign against Proposition 8, I  gave up my weekends and used my own funds to canvass for you in Nevada.  I did this because I believed that we could not risk eight more years of Republican political hegemony and that you would right the wrongs of the previous eight years of Bush Administration abuses.  I put country over personal/group interest in full faith that you were the staunch ally of our community that you claimed to be.  

Now, along with so many others in my community, I ask that you show the same faith in the U.S. military and the American people.  Make good on your promise to repeal DADT now, before Lt. Choi and others like him are discharged. Allow those estimated 65,000 patriotic LGBT servicewomen and men to remain in uniform openly and without fear, not only for their own good, but for the good of our country.

To quote, Lt. Choi, “Love is worth fighting for.”

UPDATE, 7/1/09 @ 4:15PM PDT:

The results of the verdict are in.  Lt. Choi is being fired from the military for refusing to lie about who he loves.  However, the fight continues - we need to take this to congress, which has the ability to repeal the policy.  How to do this?  Here are three actions:

1. Sign the Courage Campaign petition to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, urging the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

2. Contact your congressional representatives and urge them to pass H.R. 1283, the 2009 Military Readiness Act sponsored by Rep. Ellen Tauscher [D-CA10]. (Feel free to use any elements of the above letter, no credit necessary!)  To learn more about political advocacy, read wakingupslowly's very excellent recent "how to" post on how to influence the health care debate.

3.  Contact the White House (again, feel free to use any or all elements of the above letter) and thank them for supporting the repeal of DADT.  Public pressure is having an affect - according to a new press release from the Palm Center, Gates Plan May be Beginning of the End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, "In the wake of yesterday’s unexpected Pentagon announcement about gays in the military, experts say the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy may be on the brink of irreversible change that would speed up its demise. After speaking with President Obama last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked military lawyers to explore how to modify enforcement of the policy in ways that are 'more flexible until the law is changed.' "  Click here to read the full press release.

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Well said - well written - way to go Shivaun. Thanks for this. (Can't believe I almost missed it!)
For a very funny take on the President’s “stonewalling” on LGBT rights, see this segment from the Colbert Report.

To send a copy of Nathaniel Frank’s book “Unfriendly Fire” to Congress, click here.

To join the 130,000+ people who have signed a letter in support of Lt. Dan Choi as he faces his military trail for "moral and professional dereliction" under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on Tuesday, please visit
Wow, Owl, you're fast! We were posting comments at the same time!
It's the advantage of flight and night vision. :~)
Very well-written post, Shivaun. The stats you provided were also very helpful, and gave much-needed context to the debate. I really enjoyed your clever use of the word "stonewalling." Right back at you, Mr. President! Rated.
This is a very strong presentation of the issues with great supporting facts and figures.

Obama said, "...what I want are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are making decisions based on what strengthens our military and what is going to make us safer, not ideology.”

One thing that too many seem to be avoiding addressing in this debate is that it is a largely religious ideology that is the problem here. As long as we continue to dance around that elephant in the room, this kind of backwardness will reign.

From your essay, "Israel allows LGBT citizens to serve openly in the military, as do all 23 of our NATO allies with the exception of Turkey."

How many times are we going to hear our nation placed into the same category with Turkey before we wake up as a people and start marginalizing that particular type of ideology?

I fully expect Obama to waffle on this matter just as he has on every other matter so far. He's doing it with everything, including healthcare. But Choi has my full support.

Roy and Owl, thank you! I don't hold out much hope but feel like pushing is still in order. However, I now think that we have to start pushing Congress to pass Tauscher's Military Readiness Act ( 2009 H.R. 1283), because I think that Rick's right, the President isn't going to budge on this one.

Colin, if only the "stonewalling" was mind (it was Colbert's - forgot to credit him) but I did come up with "stop these losses with the stroke of a pen". ;)

Rick, I think that you are right on the religious aspect of this. Most of the 1000 officers who signed that March letter to Obama have admitted that they see this as a religious moral issue. Interesting that - haven't been able to gather all of the proof yet, but apparently, a number of the "1000" who presumably signed the letter were already dead when they did so, and many others who were credited with signing it say that they never leant their names to the cause - now how's that for radical religious right morality?
Shivaun, you are a great advocate, and I encourage you to keep up the fight. But there is much change needed in this country ... long neglected change that can not be accomplished overnight. It has only been six months. There is an economic storm still swirling. Healthcare is a hot potato. Two wars. Gay Rights. A full plate.

I ... a Republican who supported Obama ... did so because I felt he was the first real breath of truth to hit Washington in my lifetime; one who could accomplish so much. I still have total faith in him. But I know he can't do it all at once, nor can he do it alone. He has to pick his fights and pick his time, and he has to at least attempt to maintain harmony, if not in fact do it, while he is doing everything else.

Trust me on this: Those of us who put our faith in him will stand with you in your cause. But we also have to trust him when it comes to timing. It's your cause, but it is his battle. He's the one who has to swing the sword. It is important that he succeed in all his efforts.

Keep marching!
Rod, thank you for stopping by and for your excellent comments. I agree with you that President Obama has much on his plate, but this is something that he could move forward on now without compromising his agenda. The public is ready for it, and despite those "1000 officers" I think that the military - especially the younger folks who are on the ground fighting - are ready for it. Everyday that the President doesn't issue a stop loss order, we lose other valuable servicemembers. To me, it comes down to a matter of national security.
Very well done. Thanks for this.

I just went in and signed the support letter. Thanks for the link.
thanks for this very informative post!
Absolutely exquisitely argued! I hope you're sending it to Obama! The Colbert link was a hoot! I haven't learned how to reddit and digg yet, but I'm definitely posting this link to my FB. Thanks so much and right on, sister, write on!
You are right, Shivaun. frnakly, my comments were about the larger issue of gay rights as a whole. But to end this nonsense in the military could be quick and easy and at no great expense to any other agenda. You have my support on that.

By the way, I just saw the one-man play/documentary about the Marine who resigned becasue he was gay ... I believe it's called Semper Fi ... and it was very moving, direct to this point. It was on one of the movie channels, written & presented by the marine, Jeff Key. You probably know it. But if you don't, you can google it.

I am with you. I am signing the letter, too.
As others have stated or implied, this is quite the worthy cause and an issue primarily existing only in the narrow-minded. I'm more familiar with the aspects of DADT than many on OS (probably than most), and it struck me while reading your well-argued piece that in the beginning, DADT was intended as a softening of the more stringent regulations existing in the military at that time. It is ironic how what was meant to be a first step to open the door to gays in the military has now become a hindrance.
Unfortunately there is no RIGHT to serve in the military; and our readiness is more harmed by having gays in the military than by not. DADT should be removed that is for sure. It should be, no gays in the military, period. The military is a different animal than any other type of job. Being gay is a lifestyle choice and this is a job where you don't simply go to work 9-5 and then go to your OWN home at the end of the day. These are people you work with and literally LIVE with. Those in the military who say that it is a non-issue are morons. They are always OFFICERS. How convenient. Yes, you are right, how have such a pulse for overwhelming majority of those who serve who don't have the luxuries that you do. They don't get their own place to stay in. They have to all live together. Who makes up this part of the military...the South. Don't be fooled, there are a few here and there who come from all over, but the South is what makes up our forces. Go compare recruiting centers anywhere you want and see where the volume is. The South outmatches anywhere else BY FAR. Do you really think for these people from the south that gays in the military is a non-issue?? How stupid are you?? How is our readiness harmed? Are we losing translators? Hello!! We do have a thing called serving as a DOD civilian and that is not anything where gays are limited in serving. Guess what!! You can do essentially the exact same job, especially as a linguist since those are the most vital always mentioned by the gay rights supporters. Glad to know the overwhelming amount of gays get their hands dirty doing all that linguistic work!! Yes, let's make sure we overhaul THE MILITARY for that!! Go be a linguist for DOD. No one should be made to live with someone who is of a different sexual preference than there own. Period. But in the military, this is what happens. So, if you really want gays in the military, then your solution is to do this...remove all gender based anything. Both genders share rooms, share showers, share everything. Oh, let's also make them share physical standards of capability while we are at it. Why should anyone be forced to live and shower with someone who is of a different sexual preference than their own, however that may fall? There is no answer to that. You just have to accept that the military is one of those places where not everyone gets to serve. It's not because gays can't do pushups or fire a weapon or any particular task of any kind. It's because this is a job that also requires you to live together and as such, you have to conform to the overwhelming makeup of the force.
For Citizen Justice ( assuming you come back): I am as hetero as they come. I could bore you and all those who read this with my hetero escapades just to prove that point. Or you could hang with me a couple of days to experience it. I tell you this because you need to know who I am when I speak. Listen up:

You need to see the movie, "Semper Fi." Hear Jeff Keys' story. The military didn't try to fire him. He resigned. He stood by his beliefs. But if you watch it ... and are willing to listen ... listen closely to what his hetero buddies who were in Iraq with him say about him. He was their guidepost, their friend, their defender, and a man of honor in the truest sense of the word. Only a fool would not want him as their alley in combat ... and in life.

Prejudice in a paralysis, my friend. Let it go.
Mal Beck - spot on! That's the great irony, isn't it - the number of discharges for homosexual conduct increased rather than decreased after it was instituted?

Rod, you answered Citizen Justice so beautifully! Thank you!

Citizen Justice, many of your same arguments (e.g., who would want to take a shower with them?) were used against racial integration of the military back in 1949. And yet, the recent Zogby poll found that the majority of military people who had knowinglyserved with someone who was gay or lesbian support repeal of DADT. As a Texan, born and bred, I would only add that you sell our part of the country short - I know many people in the south who are not bigoted.
Butchy Babbles and Kathy, thank you!

wakingupslowly, thank you for signing the petition - am about to post a link to your recent advocacy post in my update.
another casualty to the craziness. I saw terrible things happen to gays in the military '72 to' 74. I will do the liking and messaging.
Thanks Shivaun for posting the addendum. I missed this the first time. Your words are a call to arms and I'm staking action. So well-written.
I'm always glad when commeters like Citizen Justice show up to posts such as this one. People like CJ serve as a clear reminder of the levels of ignorance, even stupidity, we face as a society when we try to move forward. Reading CJ's comment leaves me scratching my head as to whether CJ is even serious or not, but I conclude he is.

In neutralizing CJ's brand of ignorance and bigotry, actions like Lieutenant Dan Choi’s will be invaluable.
Thanks for this. Here is the good news:

"In a 2007 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 75% of Americans stated openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, including 64% of Republican respondents. "

I think that's a huge change in the past decade. The gov't is actually about 3 steps behind the population on gay issues, IMO.
Letter gladly signed. Good luck LT

I hate to say I told you so, but I TOLD YOU SO.

The world seemed to think Obama was our next savior, the second coming of jesus h christ himself.

Now, I'll be the first to admit, he's a far cry from King George II, but that's a little like saying Ted Bundy's a far cry from Richard Ramirez.

Obama's a politician, a politician who will say ANYTHING to get elected. Hell, the guy's still on the campaign trail, in fact that seems to be all he knows how to do. It's what got him elected, his ability to bullshit.

Where's the beef, Obama. I know a lot of people who are growing tired of thies jesus H christ crap of yours.
Mr. Mustard, thank you. I suspect that they were lucky to have you in their unit. It amazes me the people who served under duress rather than taking the easy way "out."

Thank you, Athena, for joining the fight.

Rick, we are in total agreement here.

Silkstone, Bob - I think that's the way of it - even with Obama in office, we still have to fight. Thank you!
Unfortunately for the sake of debate, Citizen Justice's believes his own bigotry is the moral compass of the military. Apparently, he couldn't even bother actually reading the post as if he had, he would have learned that the overwhelming majority of those currently serving in the military are supportive of overturning DODT. This isn't exactly some hidden fact. It's been played all over the media.

I'm also a native Texan who went to college in Virginia. I've spent most of my life in the South. I really detest that someone of his calibur feels he can speak for the rest of us.

Thank you for writing this. Gays and Lesbians need an intelligent, educated voice who is pushing to stop the bigotry.
Wonderful piece and may we finally have a wonderful peace in the military as well as an accepting one.
Thanks for this fantastic post, Shivaun!

You wrote, “I really detest that someone of his calibur feels he can speak for the rest of us.”

For what it is worth, many of us realize your frustration from afar.

Thank you, Rick.

Thank you again, Shivaun, for your excellent post.
RenaissanceLady & Rick, thank you both. I have to agree - also from afar.

Peacebeing, thank you.

Kind of Blue, yes, let us hope! You know, when I was living in Japan, among the military's task was to create the ice sculptures for ice festivals in Hokkaido!
Apparently you idiots also need to work on your reading comprehension. I ALSO am against DADT; so any stats that you may want to show that link soldiers wanting to repeal DADT doesn't mean they are FOR gays in the military; it means they are simply against DADT, so don't go and draw YOUR own conclusion that such a vote against a policy is ALSO a vote in favor of gays serving. None of you...NONE OF YOU, addressed a single point that I made; you compare it to race issues from prior years; apparently you are unaware of the difference between differences in gender, race, and sexual orientation; apparently all of you think they are the same and they all carry the same weight and consequences. If you truly do, then you would have nothing against my suggestion of breaking down ALL barriers; make everyone live together, make everyone have the exact same standards no matter what. No differences for your all live together, shower together, eat together, EVERYTHING, no more LOWER standards for being a little girl, you carry the same weight, do the same number of pushups, run just as fast and prove you really are equal and capable...AFRAID??? You bet your butt you are. Age...too bad, getting older doesn't give you lower standards either...this is the military. Gay or straight...too bad, you all live together. For those of you who really think this doesn't matter to service members, you clearly have never served. For those who say they don't care, it's because they don't feel they will have to be the ones to actually live with their gay counterparts. The point is, NO ONE, no man, no woman, should be forced to have to live, shower, etc. with anyone who is of a different sexual preference than their own. There is no argument against that. This is not some regular job where you each have your own homes afterward. And for all those gays we are you can tell, the overwhelming are not in combat forces, but rather support forces where there are DOD options available. The military is not designed to be an equal opportunity employer. Fat people don't get to serve, it doesn't matter how great you can shoot. Old people don't get to serve. People with too many problems with the law don't get to serve. You don't get to serve just because you want to; you must meet their standards; they do not meet yours.
Well, you came back. In other militaries, gay and straight folks serve and shower together with no problems. Enough said.
Enough said? This is not a military where everyone is forced to serve, this is an all volunteer service, so don't go comparing it to the military of any other country that doesn't build its force in the same way. You want to use Israel. Well guess what, Israel doesn't give women any breaks. Everyone has to serve at the same level, period! Don't hear you crying for true equal rights in the military. And just why do you think we've had so many gays come out in the last few years? Because they don't want to have to actually go do what they signed up for. Join the military...great. Okay, time to deploy...WHAT?? Um, I just signed up for free college money and a paycheck. Wait, wait!! I'm gay!! Kick me out so I don't have to go!! Oh, and then let me complain about how unfair it is.

You think there would be no problems serving and breaking down all those barriers? Great, then make your call for true freedom and equality in the militiary, not just for your own little piece that you want, while ignoring other injustices. Call for equal standards across the board. Call for everyone to live together no matter what. Wait, actually having to be equal is too much to ask.
We could always make up the force of nothing but gays. I mean, these people evidently are the best of the best! We won't be able to stop anyone, but at least we'll not be short on interpreters.
Apparently the Rennaissance Lady is unable to distinguish the feelings that those who serve in the military from the south overwhelmingly have about the issue of gays in the military as opposed to just people who live in the south. Oh, it's always so very easy for those who never lifted a finger to protest. To those who demand conditions be imposed on others because they certainly aren't going to have to go serve with those gays. Gays who feign being upset for being discharged when they only voice they are gay when they get tired of deploying, if they ever go at all. Funny how when the job was easy and you were just able to collect that paycheck you never felt the need to voice your "injustice"; only after deployments start. Glad to see where your true service to country was to begin with!!
Citizen Justice, against my better judgment, I am replying to you one last time. It is difficult to argue with someone who is so angry and who presents opinions as facts. The facts are available to refute everything you are saying if you explore the links provided in the actual post. However, it seems clear to me that I would get nowhere by responding to you. You have an obvious agenda accompanied by an obvious set of prejudices. Thank you for upping the number of comments I have received for this post. I could not have done it without your help.
I'll have to remember to use your tactic of not actually refuting any point, but just saying that I did, and that when someone shows how wrong your perspective is, you counter not with fact but instead claiming some form of prejudice. I don't know how our military has even lasted all these years being so incredibly weakened in its state of readiness by not allowing gays? Nice counter argument about the gays who only feign being upset or how they only seem to appear during times when they actually might have to go and fight or deploy. Wait, there was no counter-argument. Yes, clearly that position has been thoroughly defeated!! Why was there no response...because it's TRUE!!
Thanks to its origins in Christianity and Islam, the persecution of, and discrimination against, gays and lesbains continues into the 21st century. Most white men have stopped murdering and lynching blacks, but it's still OK to beat up, even kill, a gay man. I personally know gays to whom this has happened. Our society still allows those manly, macho, superior straight guys, fighting their own homosexual urges, to assault gays! What a country!!