A friend of mine still living in Winston-Salem, N.C., pointed my direction to a handful of ill-conceived, tasteless and offensive political cartoons syndicated by Cagle Cartoons and published by The Winston-Salem Journal following Wednesday’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal signing.

Perhaps the worst of the three political cartoons is Brian Fairrington’s which pictures a flag-draped coffin and a newspaper lying side-by-side. The paper’s headline reads, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repealed,” while a comment bubble over the coffin says, “You Go Girl!” The cartoon, in one fell swoop, manages to not only make light of the sacrifices of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers but also each and every American who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation.

Though the flag-draped coffin is the worst, the other two are just as tasteless. Again, they make light of the service of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers and the personal and public sacrifices they’ve had to make to serve this nation especially in this time of war. Mike Lester’s cartoon, picturing an older man imagining the worst possible “queering” of the military, serves only to perpetuate the exact prejudices and bigotry that made “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” possible and kept it in place for 17 years. The same is true of Daryl Cagle’s cartoon, picturing not a valiant and respectable gay servicemember but rather a servicemember “flaunting” his sexuality along with his service awards.

Gay and lesbian members of the U.S. Armed Forces are disrespected in these cartoons. Their tireless service on behalf of our freedoms and safety, along with that of their heterosexual colleagues, is reduced to serving as punch lines of insensitive jokes.

The cartoons are below. Two were published on the Journal’s site and one published in the paper on Dec. 23, 2010. Links to each cartoon on Cagle’s site are provided below.

Artist: Brian Fairrington. On Cagle: link

Artist: Mike Lester. On Cagle: link

Artist: Daryl Cagle. On Cagle: link

I’ve noticed a lot of mainstream news reports covering the DADT hearings int he Senate Armed Services Committee this week have run headlines like this morning’s McClatchy report: “Generals: Don’t rescind military gay ban.” The intro on the story: “Highest-ranking leaders urge Congress to keep ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”

But, what McClatchy is reporting isn’t exactly true.

Washington Blade has a better, more balanced and nuanced story. I reported on the DADT hearings as well at Campus Progress. From what I’ve watched myself and read elsewhere, the arguments put forward by military leaders don’t match up to McClatchy’s version of the hearings.

Military leaders (with the exception of Marine Corps Commandent John Amos, aren’t saying “don’t end DADT.” It’s more like: “We know DADT repeal is inevitable, and we can implement it faithfully, but don’t rush through it because we need time to make it work.” Even Amos has pledged to “faithfully implement” a repeal when (not if) it happens, and each branch chief, including the Coast Guard, has said they trust the leadership of Pentagon and Defense Department leaders to know when the armed forces are really ready.

That’s an entirely different kind of argument than “Don’t rescind military gay ban.”

A big, fat mainstream media #FAIL.

Photo: Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander, U.S. Army, Europe appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the findings of the “Dont Ask, Dont Tell” Comprehensive Working Group report on Dec. 2, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released, via Flickr).

Via Mike Stark…

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s current secretary of state, held their last televised debate this week in Chapel Hill.

News coverage of the event centered on what is now being called the “sharpest exchange” between the candidates while they shared the stage for an otherwise boring discussion. Pollsters say the election might already be decided; Burr shows a considerable lead over Marshall. But, as TPM notes, Burr’s and Marshall’s testy exchange over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) exposes stark differences between mainstream Republican and Democratic platforms on issues of LGBT equality.

TPM reports:

The exchange between Sen. Richard Burr (R) and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) isn’t likely to change the election’s outcome — polls show Burr with a big lead, and most observers expect him to cruise to reelection this fall.

But the debate offered one of the clearest views of the differences between Republicans and Democrats over LGBT rights found this year. Marshall called DADT “governmental discrimination,” equal to “judging people by the color of their hair, the color of their eyes, or the color of their skin, or other factors they have no control over.”

Burr said he had no idea whether homosexuality is a choice or biological and bristled at the idea that the battle for racial Civil Rights is equatable to granting LGBT rights.

“This is a very specific group of individuals,” Burr said to Marshall. “Don’t bring race into this.”

TPM goes on to note several polls and other data showing Americans’ general disfavor toward DADT. But, Burr’s and Marshall’s debate and the resulting news coverage didn’t center on the facts. Rather, it focused on whether being gay is a choice, an issue, as TPM also points out, that’s near moot among the majority of Americans.

The debate this week is a perfect example of why our community needs a “seat at the table.” In 2008, openly gay Chapel Hill businessman Jim Neil ran against party favorite Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. Then, as now, issues of LGBT equality cropped up during debate. Yet, silly and ridiculous questions like “choice” never rose to the surface (although slight arguments over comparisons of LGBT rights to the Civil Rights Movement did create some stir with one of the lesser known primary candidates).

Perhaps there are several reasons for this, primarily that the debate was between primary candidates not otherwise affected by party affiliation in an election season defined by absolute polarization. But, one could make the argument that questions of “choice” were never asked because of Neal’s mere presence.

The question of whether or not being gay is a choice is pretty insulting to the majority of gay folk. I’d bet many straight people are aware of that. In political discourse, the question serves to take the focus off any particular political or legal issue and places it squarely on a person or group of people. It’s a personal question. A very personal question. A question most civil and courteous folks wouldn’t necessarily ask to someone’s face. Perhaps the question never came up in 2008 because it would have taken the focus off the issues and put it solely on Neal, as a person — as a gay person, and not a contender for public office. Despite all the criticism against Hagan that year, perhaps she already believed being gay wasn’t a choice. Perhaps, she was just kind and polite enough to keep such a personal question off the table.

I don’t really know.

Regardless, I believe LGBT people are best served when we have a physical, personal presence in our communities’ and nation’s political debates. It’s easy to insult people when you aren’t sitting across from a person that insult directly attacks. Even if the question of “choice” comes up between a straight candidate and gay candidate, I have faith any intelligent, gay candidate seriously contending for office will quickly turn the question around, refocusing debate on real facts and real issues — facts that knock down most, if not all, anti-LGBT talking points.

At the end of the day, whether being gay is a choice doesn’t really even matter. What matters more is our nation’s promises and guarantees of equality, liberty and justice, those guiding principles and mores defined in our social contract — you know, that pesky thing we call the Constitution — that have kept this nation forever toiling to become better and brighter, forever wary of allowing our Great Experiment to fail before the ever-watchful eyes of a candid world.

But, for Republicans, I guess it’s easier and more politically expedient to debate moot points that serve only to stoke the fires of bias, prejudice and hatred. After all, if they debate facts we know what happens: We win, they lose.

Today and Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee’s 2012 convention site selection committee will visit Charlotte. While here, they’ll take a look at several criteria: transportation, security, convention space, hotel capacity and more.

Charlotte leaders, including Mayor Anthony Foxx, have been working hard to woo the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Their website, Charlottein2012.com, outlines facts, figures and statistics on the Charlotte area, and they are working on compiling a resource list of all the great things to do and see in and around the Queen City.

The first “fact” in their Fact Sheet (PDF) states we are “an energetic, innovative, diverse city on the move,” yet this quick “fact” forgets about one¬†key Democratic constituency that has often been ill-served and ignored by Charlotte’s Democratic leadership. Unfortunately, local and state leaders’ exhuberance over Charlotte’s possible hosting of the Democratic National Convention has overshadowed just how slow the area has been to making progressive change, particularly for LGBT citizens.

The Democratic National Convention stands to bring countless numbers of LGBT Americans to our city. It is an event for a political party whose ideals of equality and inclusion are rarely, if ever, taken to heart by our own local Democratic Party leaders.

At first glance, this lack of progress seems nothing but a negative stain on Charlotte but it doesn’t have to be. The Queen City has much more growing to do, and the Democratic National Convention’s presence here could help to highlight the many issues faced by our local LGBT community and push local leaders over whatever obstacles keep them from fully and publicly supporting LGBT people and citizens here.

So, here is my open letter to the DNC. I ask you to consider Charlotte carefully and provide a fair selection process to all potential host cities. But, in the end, I hope you do choose Charlotte.

Read on for an in-depth exploration of the state of LGBT Charlotte — both positive and negative — and how the convention could help our city move forward. Continue reading this post…

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Obama: Defender of Discrimination?

Throughout the campaign and through his first few months in office, we’ve heard Obama and his assistants say that the president is still committed to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Except, Obama’s administration isn’t fighting to repeal the ban. Instead, they’re fighting to defend it. The Associated Press reports (emphasis added):

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a challenge to the Pentagon policy forbidding gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, granting an Obama administration request to maintain the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” directive.

The court said it will not hear an appeal from former Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II, who was dismissed under the military’s policy.

[..snip..]

In court papers, the administration said the appeals court ruled correctly in this case when it found that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is “rationally related to the government’s legitimate interest in military discipline and cohesion.”

[..snip..]

During last year’s campaign, President Barack Obama indicated he supported the eventual repeal of the policy, but he has made no specific move to do so since taking office in January. Meanwhile, the White House has said it won’t stop gays and lesbians from being dismissed from the military.

To those who doubt that Obama will be an ally to the LGBT community (at one time including myself), the new White House website’s (which I’m told was updated at 12:01 p.m.) section on Civil Rights includes an entirely special focus on “Support for the LGBT Community.”

See the screengrab and click to enlarge after the jump…

Continue reading this post…

keithlarson_wbtIn his “Lavender Folder” segment, conservative Charlotte talk radio host Keith Larson took several shots at local LGBT organizations on Thursday, Jan. 15. His targets were the N.C. Pride Band and Lesbian & Gay Band Association, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, the Charlotte Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Queen City Gay Speed-dating, the Lesbian & Gay Community Center and local community leader, and drag performer, Roxy C. Moorecox.

Larson also spoke on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” asking what it meant to “serve openly.” He said gays wanted a lavender armband or ribbon to signify their sexual orientation. He also poked fun at the praise heaped on Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) by LGBT employees at the U.S. State Department after her testimony at her Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State. (Audio included after the jump.)

Continue reading this post…

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An Inside Look…DADT

dadtWow, it appears the submarine force is representing! I didn’t think the topic of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) would be discussed among submariners and boy am I surprised. Steven Hall, a former submarine commanding officer, came out and is working on a film about DADT.

On the blog “The Stupid Shall Be Punished” Joel Kennedy, former submarine officer, discusses Gays In The Military and says that he is torn on the issue. I can understand why he is, but I am not. I served 10 years in the military on three different submarines and I believe that it can and will work.

Let’s discuss the current situation and see how it is working now.

I served under DADT and as a gay sailor and struggled a bit. Why? It was not because my hormones were continuously raging and I was after my heterosexual comrades. In fact, it was just the opposite. I could not disclose the events surrounding times spent with a other, things as simple as chatting on the phone or going to dinner. I could never let them really know me and that meant I had to keep them at a distance concerning the most intimate part of my life; the person I loved. While they talked about their girlfriends and wives, I could only shake my head in agreement and pretend that I would one day get married to a women. BLAH!

Continue reading this post…

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Guest commentary: Shift in progress

[Ed. Note — Paul McNeal has a great guest contribution below. I’m encouraging him to become a regular InterstateQ.com contributor. I’m sure you’ll like his stuff and hope you encourage him to join the club, too! — Matt]

“When I am president of the United States, Gays and Lesbians will have somebody who will fight for equal rights for them, because they are our brothers, and they are our sisters…” — Barack Obama

In this video, Barack Obama eloquently discusses his vision for a United States of America. Growing up in a socially conservative environment, it was a struggle to talk about my feelings and emotions as a Gay Christian. To take it a couple of steps further, a Gay African American Military Christian Man –- try that one on for size. (smile)

What I am starting to notice, since my departure from the military (2001) is a cultural shift. I would call it an awakening but we have not really been asleep on the issues I will discuss, it’s actually been in discussion for quite some time.

Continue reading this post…