LOS ANGELES -- Across America, patriotic Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) veterans expressed anger this week over the Republican party's radio advertisements titled "Moral Crisis." According to an Associated Press (AP) analysis by Sandra Sobieraj, the goal of the Dole-Kemp '96 Campaign Committee is "to rally Dole's bedrock constituency, Christian and social conservatives, by painting Clinton as an extreme and dangerous liberal."
One portion of the 60 second commercial outraged LGBT veterans. The segment says:
"It is part of a whole liberal agenda like GAYS IN THE MILITARY. And condoms for school kids. That tells you a lot about Bill Clinton, it does. Me? I'm voting for Dole. He has a strong moral center. He's lived the values I want my children to have. Bob Dole, definitely, definitely."
Tom Swann, who won an important ACLU case when the Navy retaliated against him in 1993-94 for supporting President Bill Clinton's stated desire to lift the military ban has been coordinating the LGBT veterans for Clinton-Gore. Swann said, "If this Dole Campaign radio advertisement is supposed to rally Christian and social conservatives for the Republican Party then it has been a dismal failure. Instead, the ad has solidified LGBT for Clinton-Gore. The ad confirms what we already know about Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Jr. They both personally enjoy close relationships with lesbians and gays. The White House has held meetings with LGBT veterans. At least 4 top officials in the Clinton administration have promised to fix the current "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy in a second term. For that reason, LGBT veterans are working to elect a gay-friendly and family-friendly Congress and to re-elect Clinton-Gore."
But don't take the Proud Gay Veteran's word for it - read what other leaders in the LGBT community have to say:
Foremost, Paul Yandura of the Clinton-Gore '96 Committee Lesbian and Gay Outreach office said his staff first heard about the new Dole ad when the Clinton-Gore press office showed it to them. The channels of communication in the campaign are very clear. Whenever there is a question about an issue of concern to the LGBT constituency then the Lesbian and Gay Outreach Director reviews it for accuracy. That is why later in the week when the Clinton-Gore campaign mistakenly ran an UNAUTHORIZED ad listing the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) as proof Clinton "fought for our values" it was pulled from the air and replaced in 3 days.
Clinton signed the DOMA early on a Saturday morning to minimize news coverage and said he hoped the legislation would not be used to justify discrimination against gays. In last night's second and final Presidential debate, Sen. Dole said he opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); basically equating gay employment equality with "special" rights and blasted Clinton for signing DOMA over the weekend. Clinton expressed his continued support for ENDA and advocated the virtues of diversity, unity and ending violence and hatred against people with a different lifestyle.
Yandura said he investigated the Clinton radio advertisement which was placed by a company hired by the Clinton-Gore '96 campaign. If he (Yandura) had known about it in advance, he said "it would never have gone out."
Swann said, "I have worked in campaigns since 1972 and the final days are very long and hectic. You scramble to buy last-minute radio and television ads so you can respond to your opponent's charges. Yandura heard about this and called it a "mix up." Then (to his credit) he pulled the ad in 3 days and replaced it with something better. The Clinton-Gore '96 campaign spent a lot of resources (time and money) pulling the first ad and then producing a second radio spot. They have proven they listen and care about the feelings of lesbians and gays."
Brian Bond of the Democratic National Committee confirmed that the Clinton radio ads were UNAUTHORIZED. Then Bond reported that "money was raised to help lesbian and gay Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts for the election. This is a first by the National Party and I am very proud of this as a program to build on and for Party building period."
The GOP has no budget or organized effort to encourage the gay community to vote. The Washington Blade poll shows 88% of gay voters intend to vote for Clinton-Gore.
While the Clinton-Gore campaign was positively responding to lesbians and gays, the GOP was continuing their attack ads. In Palm Springs, CA KSEQ TV 3 has a commercial which shows a Catholic Priest telling viewers that "it is a sin to vote for President Clinton."
In Santa Barbara, GOP incumbent Rep. Andrea Seastrand continues to attack lesbians and gays suggesting that the Northridge earthquake in California is God's punishment against lesbians and gays. The Santa Barbara Stonewall Democratic Club responded with a drag show with Andrea Seastrand performers. They also offer T-Shirts that say:
"Dear Congresswoman Seastrand, If homosexuals were responsible for all of the earthquakes in California there would be dance music in the background. Love, God."
Tony is a transgender veteran and member of the Gold Coast California Chapter of the national Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA). He served as a Navy Corpsman from 1969-74. He said he was offended by the Dole radio ads that depict President Clinton's support for gays in the military as proof Clinton lacks a "strong moral center." Tony helped with the drag show and said, "if anyone lacks morals it is Bob Dole and Rep. Seastrand."
Phyllis Randolph Frye aka the Phyllabuster is a transgender veteran (1LT USAR) and trial lawyer in Houston. She said:
"I am casting a very proud vote for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. My vote is none of the crap I hear about lesser of two evils or hold my nose and cast a vote. My vote for Bill Clinton and Al Gore is a proud vote for a team that has delivered to the lesbigatr community and to America. Yes I am politically aware of the various fumbles they have made on gays in the military, I know that TG's are still not welcome in the White House, and I know that he signed DOMA. In the big picture of the next four years, I say, "So what?"
Phyllis then lists six reasons to support Clinton-Gore. They are inclusiveness and more access for lesbigatrs; experience; appointing good judges; improved economy and environment; and "I feel like this nation is finally coming to grips with healing the sickness of racial division. In sum, America, in my opinion, is much better than four years ago. I plan to stay with this President and hope to give him a Congress that he can work with: one that is less Newt Gingrich as the Speaker of the House."
Cliff Arnesen in Boston wanted to offer his view as a bisexual veteran. Cliff feels that bisexuals are often forgotten or left-out when the news media talks about issues impacting the LGBT community. Arnesen is one of five co-founders of the national GLBVA which was organized in 1990. He was the first bisexual veteran to testify before Congress and is featured in a new book about bisexual leaders in America. Arnesen said:
"First of all, as a bisexual Vietnam era veteran who has fought for nine years to help secure human and civil rights for ALL members of the "Gay Community," I stand in awe that the Log Cabin Republican organization has chosen in the face of all logic, to give money to and endorse Bob Dole as their candidate for President...It is analogous to aiding and abetting the enemy! It is an insult to the gay community and myself, and a near act of treason, for an organization to endorse a candidate who could care less about our brothers and sisters who everyday suffer and die from AIDS; endorse a person who uses the Bible, the conservative and religious right, special interest groups and of course, his own party, to fan the flames of discrimination and prejudice that incite hatred in the hearts of our fellow Americans. They have divided our nation and her people by instilling an irrational "fear of the unknown" in the hearts of many who are all to eager to carry out their misguided and generalized hatred in the form of violence. In turn, this fear and hatred creates a mob-like mentality and results in the murders of such honorable men as Harvey Milk and Allen Schindler, and the "Undesirable" military discharges of thousands of LGBT people - including myself."
Arnesen then cited several reasons to support Clinton including a promise to address the military issue, inviting a national delegation of LGBT veterans to the White House for a summit on June 12, ENDA and increased funding for AIDS research.
Arnesen concluded the interview by saying:
"Next time the members of the Log Cabin (GOP) or anyone else inside the "gay community" who endorsed Sen. Dole and his minions as a ticket, pick up a newspaper and read that a gay man was attacked and brutally killed outside a bar by a bunch of savage hoodlums who had heard the hateful messages of the extreme right, or hear on the nightly news that a lonely lesbian teenager was kicked out of her house and committed suicide, they have only to look in the mirror to find the reason why!"
Swann said, "I don't think people realize how much progress we have made in the past four years. In the Bush administration I responded to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) speak-out program which encouraged gays and lesbians to write their members of Congress. Twice I wrote letters as a Navy civilian employee with a secret clearance to Republican Congressmen asking that the military ban be lifted and sexual orientation protection be provided for Defense Department workers. Both times my GOP Congressmen (Lagomarsino and Gallegly) turned the letters over to the Pentagon which then wrote me threatening replies. Basically I was "outed" to the Navy brass by my Congressmen. Later I was assaulted by U.S. Marines at a retirement party. I received a mutilated doll at Point Mugu Navy Base and was the brunt of cruel AIDS jokes. I found flyers on my desk that advocated, "kill the wicked Sodomites and release their tormented souls." The ACLU defended my First Amendment rights and we settled out of Court. The Navy is the only branch of the U.S. military to have sexual orientation protection. The Navy allows the Navy Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees (GLOBE) to post meeting notices on official Navy bulletin boards. If Dole wins then my ACLU litigation will be reversed by Sen. Dole, Speaker Gingrich, Rep. Steve Horn, Rep. Seastrand and Rep. Dornan. That is why I am working for Bill Clinton, Rick Zbur, Walter Capps and Loretta Sanchez."
Rick Zbur of Long Beach could become the first openly-gay person ever elected to Congress. Walter Capps is hosting a weekend fundraiser with former Texas Governor Ann Richards. His opponent (Rep. Seastrand) is attacking gays and lesbians and holding events with Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. Polls show Clinton leads Dole by 11 points in Rep. Bob Dornan's Congressional district. That is why the Latino and gay communities are so excited about Loretta Sanchez who describes herself as "The People's Choice to Beat Bob Dornan."
What about our lesbian veterans? How do they feel? In Chicago Miriam Ben-Shalom (beloved founder of the GLBVA) asked the political parties for a place at the table. Recently a lesbian veteran working for Amgen Inc in Newbury Park, CA heard Jack Kemp's speech to the employees. This former Navy officer was one of the first women appointed to the Naval Academy. Her classmate during that difficult and historic time was none other than the "Admiral" himself - David Robinson - star center of the NBA San Antonio Spurs.
This Gold Coast CA GLBVA member was a C-130 pilot in the Navy and landed her huge plane on skids at the Navy Base in Antarctica. When she was discharged the Navy was especially vicious and stamped "Lesbian Act" on her discharge paper. Some feel it was retaliation because she lobbied Congress to lift the ban during the 1993 March on Washington. She has a two year-old son and because of the message on her discharge paper she could not get a job with one of the airlines. She struggled to make ends meet and received some public assistance. Now, finally working, she heard Jack Kemp talk to the Amgen employees about "family values" and "tax credits for families."
This Mother told me, "I don't think Kemp understands what my son and I went through when the Navy gave me such a nasty discharge. It ruined my career in aviation. My son and I are a family but he (Kemp) doesn't seem to care about our problems. I don't need a tax cut, I need someone who feels my pain and will end job discrimination in and out of the military. I just want a fair discharge so I can get a job as an airline pilot."
James Apedaile is national vice president for Veterans Affairs of the GLBVA. He is a retired Army SSG and lives in the rural Northern California town of Modesto. As a delegate to the California State Democratic Party Central Committee, he spoke in favor of the platform that calls for lesbians and gays to serve in the military without question. Apedaile said in a personal statement:
"President Clinton has been there for the LGBT community. He has shown that he is very concerned about our rights. He has invited a contingent to the White House. His staff members met with gay veterans this past June to discuss our concerns. What has Sen. Bob Dole done? He (Dole) has constantly attacked Pres. Clinton on the gays in the military. He (Dole) voted against lifting the military ban. In the debate he said that he opposed the ENDA. Can we trust Sen. Bob Dole? I say no way! He has accepted money from and the endorsement of the Log Cabin GOP with a promise to not attack Pres. Clinton on the gay issues. Then he attacks Pres. Clinton for meeting with gay leaders (including veterans) and calls the ENDA "special rights." Why? He (Dole) can not live up to his word. Sen. Dole is not the person to lead all of us into the next century."
Mark Repass and his lover Kevin have been a family in Fairfax Virginia for 18 years. Mark served in the Navy in Vietnam from 1970-71 and eagerly awaits the February 1997 national GLBVA Conference aboard the U.S.S. Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Mark was warmly welcomed into Kevin's family last weekend when they all went together to see and hear Vice President Al Gore, Jr. read the names of panels of the AIDS quilt. They stood together and saw eight panels for SGT Leonard Matlovich.
Mark felt that the Dole attack on gays was "ridiculous" and "will definitely turn GOP voters away who are open-minded."
In 1995 when Tom Swann retired from the U.S. Navy on AIDS disability he celebrated the occasion at the national GLBVA conference in West Hollywood. Swann said, "the Navy did not offer me any nice retirement ceremony like they gave Keith Meinhold. My ACLU litigation sought to prosecute Navy officials for their violation of numerous civil-service rules. My ACLU case asked for an investigation of U.S. Marine Corps officers who distributed the hateful video "The Gay Agenda" on Capitol Hill. If convicted, Navy officials would have been suspended and/or fined. So when I left the Navy I was not very popular; in fact Navy officials were happy to see me go; but I won a new policy that lasts forever. So my retirement party was held with gay and lesbian veterans - my comrades in the struggle to overcome military homophobia."
The venerable Morris Kight, former adviser to President Jimmy Carter on LGBT issues and co-founder of the Stonewall Los Angeles Democratic Club was the keynote speaker at the retirement salute to Swann. Morris is right now busy preparing his marvelous collection of LGBT art for the November 9-10 Palm Springs California Pride Celebration. Morris heard the Sen. Dole radio advertisement and issued this statement from his Los Angeles office:
"I am long since beyond outrage or disappointment of the anti-gay statements of Bob Dole, and then he went off and issued another anti-gay statement which brings my sense of outrage back into play. A radio ad called "Moral Crisis" trashes President Clinton for his attempt - which did not work - to bring fairplay to LGBT servicemembers. By Bob Dole's negative statement he is saying that we are immoral. How cruel of him to make such a morally incorrect statement? LGBT people are tax-paying, working, achieving, and socially committed persons...but he (Dole) can't possibly have known that in his isolation." Signed Morris Kight, Gay Liberationist."
Steve Valkenburg, volunteer chair of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club in Orange County, CA called the Dole radio ad "ridiculous and scapegoating by such a nasty person who has to name-call in order to get elected." Don Cannon of North Hollywood, the Epicurean Activist said "the moral crisis is not Pres. Clinton supporting gay rights. It is Sen. Dole who will do anything to get elected. Then we have Jack Kemp who gave up his principles on affirmative action - anything he had to offer in the area of leadership - just so he could be the vice presidential running mate."
Bill Py, moderator of Prodigy's LGBT bulletin board said, "Bob Dole's campaign is so desperate he is now resorting to a stepped-up level of Clinton mudslinging just to have a remote possibility of catching up in the polls...A vote for any other candidate puts Dole that much closer to winning, and you know what disastrous effect that would have on the queer community."
Ken Jacobsen, Jr. in Chicago said:
"I would say though that the LGBT communities across this country cannot trust Bob Dole to carry our issues into the White House except for the purposes of tossing them into the trash can or even worse to see that we move further backwards."
Many people have read the news releases from the national Log Cabin GOP about President Clinton. It is also noted that these press releases offer no vision for America or any good reason why the Log Cabin endorsed Sen. Dole. Ken said, "I would have been much happier with them had they at least taken the same position as they did four years ago and refuse to endorse any candidate for the office of President."