Pelosi slams DADT boos at GOP debate

  • by David Duran
  • Wednesday October 5, 2011
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center, is flanked by<br>SLDN board Co-Chair Zoe Dunning and former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph<br>Rocha at the LGBT Community Center last week. They are holding signed copies of<br>a <i>Washington Post</i> front page reporting<br>the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (Photo: David Duran)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center, is flanked by
SLDN board Co-Chair Zoe Dunning and former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph
Rocha at the LGBT Community Center last week. They are holding signed copies of
a Washington Post front page reporting
the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (Photo: David Duran)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) told a crowd at the LGBT Community Center last week that she was appalled by the audience at a Republican presidential debate in Orlando who booed a gay soldier after he asked a question about the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" via video.

"They couldn't answer for everybody in the audience, these presidential candidates, but they could answer for themselves, and they didn't," Pelosi said September 30 during remarks with gay service members.

Just days after the September 20 repeal, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum responded to the soldier at the debate, saying, "What we are doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. That's tragic. I would just say that going forward we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president."

Santorum was responding to a YouTube question from a recently out soldier serving in Iraq.

"That policy would be re-instituted as far as people in, I would not throw them out because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration. But we would move forward in conformity with what was happening in the past."

The clip of the audience booing went viral and prompted President Barack Obama to comment.

"That's not reflective of who we are," the president said during a fundraiser in the Bay Area, according to press reports.

Life after DADT

In the weeks since the end of DADT, service members previously discharged under the policy are having trouble returning to their previously held positions. Many soldiers are now facing uncertainty when trying to return to the military, according to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Most have been told that they will not be able to return to their same position or their rank last held. The Army is reporting an overflow of military personnel and stating it doesn't have the space available.

This has frustrated out service members who were waiting for the repeal so they could return to the armed forces.

"It is difficult for any veteran to quickly return to the service, even more for the many that were discharged under DADT," said former Marine Danny Hernandez, who was discharged under the policy. Hernandez is planning his return to the Marines, but "Now I am approaching re-entry more cautiously and perhaps more realistically as I plan for my next step," he added.

While returning to the same rank might not be an issue for junior enlisted service members, it will be a problem for non-commissioned officers, senior non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, and all other officers who will have to compete for limited slots in their respective rank compared to the job they wish to do, according to SLDN, which has been monitoring the post-DADT landscape.

Since repeal, recruitment levels remain the same, according to reports. It appears as if the LGB community is not jumping at the opportunity to enlist. Recruiters in the Bay Area are reporting no spikes in enlistments since repeal took effect.

The majority of the recruitment offices in the Bay Area made no special changes for the day after the repeal. It was reported that recruiting stations in other parts of the country had decorated offices with rainbow flags and prepared for the big day with celebrations. This was not the case in San Francisco or the surrounding areas. LGBT community centers were also said to have hosted recruiters for the big day.

"The end of DADT is an important milestone in the acknowledgement that LGBT people have equal contributions to make to our country and deserve equal treatment," Rebecca Rolfe, executive director of the LGBT Community Center in San Francisco, told the Bay Area Reporter . She added, "We don't have any explicit plans to bring recruitment services into the building, but as with any other issue, we would be open to a conversation."

During her remarks last week, Pelosi stressed the fact that all families in the military needed to be treated the same. She praised the decision made by the Department of Defense that military chaplains are allowed to perform any lawful ceremony that is consistent with his or her beliefs and is not required to perform a ceremony that is inconsistent with those beliefs.

"When we pass this bill and we end discrimination in America in our military, we will be making America more American," Pelosi said, reiterating a previous statement she made. She was joined at the center by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network board Co-Chair Zoe Dunning and former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha.

Some people have been waiting for DADT repeal so they could finally join and serve their country. But it's possible that while waiting the 120 days after certification by the president and top military brass, some gays have changed their minds.

"I really wanted to join the Army, but after listening to the Republican [presidential candidates], I am a bit scared to join and then have the possibility of the policy being put back in place," said Wesley Santos, a Bay Area resident and recent high school graduate.

Discharged Army Captain Alberto Aryeh Perez-Dejesus is not fully convinced the repeal will do much to change things.

"People who were opposed to repeal are now finding creative ways to fire gay soldiers and those suspected of being gay," he said.

Perez-Dejesus is involved in a complicated legal battle over his case. "I wrote the governor of Connecticut, and launched seven congressional and senatorial complaints," he said.

DADT repeal has also been used as a reason to allow military recruiters and Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs back onto college campuses. For years, some college campuses refused to allow military recruiters to work and speak on their campuses, arguing that the discriminatory DADT policy was in direct conflict with their schools' non-discrimination policies regarding sexual orientation. Now, with that conflict resolved, recruiters are being welcomed back at some campuses.