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Homophobia on Trial in DADT Case

Homophobia on Trial in DADT Case


In a second day at trial, attorneys challenging "don't ask, don't tell" relied on witness testimony by DADT experts as well as critical statements made by President Barack Obama and a seminal tweet by a top defense official in making their case against the 1993 law.

Attorney Daniel Woods, representing the plaintiffs in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America, cited Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen's testimony during a February Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the policy, where he said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." Woods also submitted to the court a February 2 tweet from Mullen's personal Twitter account, which read, "Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity[.]"

"This is one of the greatest admissions of all time," Woods said to U.S. district court judge Virginia A. Phillips during Wednesday's proceedings.

Nathaniel Frank, a DADT scholar and author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, testified for a second day about research he conducted as a senior fellow for the Palm Center, including studies on foreign militaries that had successfully integrated openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members.

Assistant U.S. attorney Paul Freeborne assailed Frank's testimony as that of a biased advocate whose credentials did not merit expert witness status in court. During cross-examination, Freeborne quoted Gen. Colin Powell, who during 1993 congressional testimony said that although other militaries had integrated gay troops, no other nation had military operations comparable to that of the United States. (Powell has since said that he does not believe the military should institute a law banning gays and lesbians from openly serving.)

Frank also addressed the "close quarters" argument often made by conservatives and opponents of allowing homosexuals to serve openly. Sharing close quarters with gays and lesbians is nothing new to military life, he said, pointing out that gay people have always served in the armed services.

Stephen Vossler, a former Korean interpreter for the Army and a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal activist, also testified on Wednesday. Early in his military career, Vossler, who is straight, was given a room assignment with Darren Thomas, a soldier who was in the process of being discharged under DADT. Vossler said his roommate was highly qualified in his work as a language specialist but was given menial tasks, such as cleaning latrines and filing paperwork, as punishment due to the DADT investigation.

"Homosexuality was fair game. There were rules protecting gender, rules protecting religion and race, but no rules protecting homosexuality," Vossler said. "So it was something to make fun of ad nauseam."

Wednesday court proceedings concluded with testimony from University of California, Hastings College of the Law, professor Elizabeth Hillman, a military law expert who spoke about the disproportionate amount of women discharged by the ban. Though women comprise 14% of military personnel, they account for about 34% of all discharges. Women of color are particularly vulnerable to the policy, she said.

"Women are a minority," Hillman said. "Women in male-dominated positions are more likely to face resentment and barriers put up by their male colleagues."

During cross-examination, assistant U.S. attorney Scott Simon, representing the Justice Department, asked Hillman whether the disproportionate impact on women due to "don't ask, don't tell" was a deliberate action, to which she replied, "No, I believe it was not intended by leaders of the military."

Former Air Force major Mike Almy, Palm Center director Aaron Belkin, and former petty officer 3rd class Joseph Rocha are scheduled to testify on Thursday.

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