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Maine Goes Gaga

Maine Goes Gaga


Jessica Barajas heard the news Sunday night that Lady Gaga would be holding a rally in Portland, Maine, on Monday urging the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." So Barajas and friend Tim Burns hit the road from Bangor the next morning around 8 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m. were two of about 50 Gaga fans staking out front-row turf for the event.

"I think it's awesome that she's holding a rally in Maine -- 'cause it's Maine," she laughed, acknowledging how unlikely it is for a star of her stature to swing through the Pine Tree State on a whim. "And it shows how much passion she has for what she believes in."

Barajas, a 20-year-old accounting major at the University of Maine, said she doesn't believe the law should remain on the books. "If you're willing to fight for your country, what does it matter what your sexuality is?"

Among the lineup of speakers who were discharged under the policy, Stacy Vasquez highlighted the point illustrated by Barajas.

Vasquez urged the crowd of roughly 3,000 to call their member of Congress, and if they weren't of voting age, she suggested they speak to their parents.

"Because this generation doesn't like this policy," Vasquez yelled to the onlookers, holding signs that read, "2, 4, 6 , 8, Don't Assume Your Kids Are Straight" and wearing shirts emblazoned with "I Love Lady Gay Gay."

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree reminded the young crowd that not long ago the military barred women from serving in combat positions alongside men and the arguments made against changing that policy were the same ones being made today about allowing openly gay women and men to serve.

"And when we debated ending that ban of women in the military, critics predicted that if women were allowed in combat, discipline would dissolve and unit cohesion would crumble," she said. "None of those grim predictions came true."

Lady Gaga applied her unusually creative sense of style to the text of the nearly 20-minute speech she wrote, declaring, "Equality is the prime rib of America."

She proposed making a new law that expels soldiers who are homophobic and called it, "If you don't like it, go home."

"Doesn't it seem to you that we should send home the prejudiced -- the straight soldier who hates the gay soldier?" Lady Gaga said to piercing screams from her admirers.

In her view, Gaga said, the U.S. Constitution guarantees equality for everyone.

"If the president and the Senate are not going to repeal this 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, maybe they should be more clear about who our military is fighting for," she said. "Should soldiers and the government be able to pick and choose what are we fighting for in the Constitution? I wasn't aware of this ambiguity in the Constitution, I thought the Constitution was ultimate, I thought equality was nonnegotiable."

She said gay soldiers "should have the same rights, the same piece of meat" that straight soldiers enjoy.

But what most of the revelers didn't know was that the two senators at whom Lady Gaga directed her comments seemed unmoved by the star's message. In fact, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine issued an ominous statement shortly before Lady Gaga took the stage.

In a press release, Snowe criticized Senate majority leader Harry Reid's limit on Republican amendments to the defense authorization bill, to which DADR repeal is attached, and said, "It is therefore imperative that Senate deliberations on the defense bill be conducted without limitations and in a manner that allows for the consideration of all related amendments that senators may wish to offer."

Snowe also indicated she supported waiting for the Pentagon Working Group DADT study to be complete before voting on legislation repealing the policy.

"We should all have the opportunity to review that report which is to be completed on December 1, as we reevaluate this policy and the implementation of any new changes," said Snowe's release.

Snowe's fellow Maine senator, Susan Collins, remained low-profile throughout the day. An e-mail from her spokesman mostly reiterated talking points from last week.

While the senator "believes that our Armed Forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable to serve our country," he wrote, "she has encouraged Senator Reid to work with Republican leaders to negotiate such an agreement so that the defense bill could be brought to the floor this week."

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis said "the fight isn't over" but expressed disappointment with Snowe's position on needing to see the Pentagon's report prior to voting.

"That's a tired old talking point, and it's disappointing to hear it from her," he said. "I understand her frustration about reaching an equitable agreement [on the amendments]. I'm hopeful that that can still be addressed. I would hope that she would also recognize that opponents of repeal, like Senator McCain, were opposed to repeal before the Pentagon's working group and the study was announced."

Sarvis acknowledged that Snowe's statement would make it "tougher" to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster at Tuesday's vote.

Andrew Harmon contributed additional reporting.

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