Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, testified at today's House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee's hearings on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and if I were on the side of the folks who want to continue the ban on gays and lesbians openly serving, I'd lock her up for the duration. She was literally laughed at during the proceedings, the room erupting at her lunacy, which included visions of rampant "lesbian assaults" and contorted gay sex on submarines if the ban was lifted. But she was ready for her closeup. Look at her ridiculous testimony (courtesy of HRC; Chris Johnson liveblogged it):
3:00 - CJ: Questions from the subcommittee members. Arkansas Congressman Vic Snyder (D) admonishes Donnelly for unnecessarily bringing up HIV in her testimony and tells her that, ironically, by her logic, she should only want to let lesbians into the military. Loud laughter all around. (Meanwhile, that old woman is stern-faced....)
2:35: CJ - Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness is speaking. There is an audible burst of laughter when Donnelly throws in a "San Francisco left" phrase just for dramatic effect. Another guffaw from the crowd when Donnelly expresses her concern over gay men sharing a "cramped submarine" with other soldiers.
OMG: There is on older lady in the room who just turned around to the room brimming with youngsters and issued the warning, "Show respect while she speaks!" She looks right at me when she finishes. WELL OKAY!
The room keeps laughing at Donnelly's outrageous statements. The older woman is obviously losing this fight. "They're just disrespectful people!" she hisses.
"Equal opportunity is important, but the needs of our military must come first," are Donnelly's closing words. I guess the words from generals and veterans who have actually served in the military don't mean anything to her, huh?
Donnelly, btw, has never served in the military, and admits she has no qualifications or expertise on sexuality. WTF is she doing up there, then? Is this the best the fossils on the Right can do?
Staff Sergeant Eric Alva testified. Here is the text of his remarks. A snippet is below the fold. Eric Alva, the first American soldier wounded in Iraq:
My military service came to an end on March 21, 2003. It was the first day of the ground war in Iraq; mine was one of the first battalions in. Three hours into the invasion, we had stopped to wait for orders. I went back to the Humvee to retrieve something - to this day I can't remember what - and, as I crossed that dusty patch of desert for the third time that day, I triggered a landmine.
I was thrown through the air, landing 10 or 15 feet away. The pain was unimaginable. My fellow marines were rushing to my aid, cutting away my uniform to assess the damage and treat my wounds. I remember wondering why they weren't removing my right boot - it wasn't until later that I realized it was because that leg was already gone.
Another landmine detonated, though I couldn't hear it because the first had temporarily deafened me; it wasn't until later that I learned it had taken the leg of my friend and fellow Texan Brian Alaniz, then a medical corpsman in the Navy, as he tried to help me.
When I awoke, groggily, in a hospital tent outside Kuwait City my right leg was gone, my left leg was broken, and my right arm permanently damaged. I also had the dubious honor of being the first American injured in the war. I received the Purple Heart, along with visits from the President and First Lady. I was told I was a hero.
...Even under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I was out to a lot of my fellow Marines. The typical reaction from my straight, often married friends was "so what?" I was the same person, I did my job well, and that's all they cared about. Today I'm godfather to three of those men's children.
Normally, I was cautious about whom I divulged my secret to - I felt I had to be. Then one evening, out with some guys from our unit, I let my guard down. One of the guys commented on some women in the bar; when my response was less than enthusiastic he asked me, jokingly, if I was gay. "As a matter of fact, I am," I responded. He swore to keep my secret, but I suppose he thought it was just too good a piece of gossip to pass up. He was wrong. No one he told cared. The response from everyone was the same as it had been from the friends in whom I'd confided: "so what?" I was still Eric, still one of them, still a Marine; I was still trusted.
...Those who support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" claim that they do so in the interest of unit cohesion. Well, as a former Marine, I can tell you what it takes to build unit cohesion: trust. It takes trust in your fellow unit members to have your back and do their job. And I can also tell you that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" does nothing but undercut that trust, and with it our nation's security. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" imposes secrecy and undermines unit cohesion, ousting gays and lesbians at the expense of the military readiness of the United States. Allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual service members to serve openly will only improve unit cohesion and in turn our military. I urge the members of the subcommittee to rethink this failed policy and thank you for the opportunity to share my story today. Thank you.
John Marble of Stonewall Democrats pointed out the clear choice when it comes to the views of John McCain and Barack Obama:
Senators Barack Obama and John McCain on the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Senators Barack Obama and John McCain take vastly different positions on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. Barack Obama supports the passage of legislation that would repeal the current ban. John McCain strongly supports the ban and opposes Congress revisiting the issue.
Barack Obama: "Let's repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and demonstrate that the most effective and professional military in the world is open to all Americans who are ready and willing to serve our country." (2008 LGBT Pride Month Message)
John McCain: "It think it would be a terrific mistake to even reopen the issue. It is working, my friends. The policy is working and I'm convinced that is the way which we can maintain this greatest military. This [current generation of military personnel] is the greatest. Let's not tamper with it." (2008 South Carolina Republican Presidential Debate)