Leonard Matlovich Hub




Legalizing Gay: The Service Members

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

MatlovichTo celebrate Pride 2012 and to honor the great civil rights and political successes we have earned recently, I would like to offer a series of columns on the lawyers, advocates, scholars, and individual leaders who have sacrificed so much, developed novel legal arguments, and won the legal victories upon which we stand today. It is impossible to include everyone; an entire life's work would fail to honor all of our forefathers. But these few representatives symbolize the contributions of the greater whole: a group of men and women, young and old, who have sacrificed so that we can live a life of freedom today. In today's column, the service members who fought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the military's ban on open service.

Thanks to President Obama and his Democratic allies in the last Congress, gay service members can serve openly in the military. But the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) only happened because brave men and women in the armed forces were willing to stand up and bring attention to odious discrimination at the risk of their livelihood, their careers, and, perhaps, their safety. 

WittIn the immediate run up to DADT's repeal, the banner of LGBT activism in the military belonged to people like Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, an F-15E weapons systems officer at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho who came out in 2008; Maj. Margaret Witt, an Air Force nurse who was outed by a girlfriend's jilted ex; and Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay Marine who also happened to be the first American seriously injured in the Iraq war. But, they and their legal and political successes stood on the shoulders of men and women like Joe Steffan, a midshipman in the Naval Academy in the early 80s; Margarethe Cammermeyer, an Army nurse; and Leonard Matlovich (above), the Vietnam veteran who was the first service member to challenge the military's discriminatory ban on open service. Mr. Steffan lost his case, Col. Cammermeyer won hers, and the late Mr. Matlovich started it all. Their cases tell the story of how the gay rights movement, in fits and starts, built a successful campaign in the courts and in the court of public opinion that eventually climaxed in 78% percent of Americans opposing DADT, a federal court case declaring DADT unconstitutional, and a smooth and mercilessly final repeal.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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GetEQUAL and Gay Vets Hold Sunrise Vigil at Grave of Discharged Soldier as Start to Week of Actions on 'DADT'

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(image robin mcgehee/twitter)

As the start of a week of actions meant to draw attention to the urgent need for legislative repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', activist group GetEQUAL and a group of gay vets this morning held a sunrise vigil at the grave of Leonard Matlovich.

Matlovich, a Vietnam war vet and gay rights pioneer who took up residence in San Francisco's Castro District in the late 70's, appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in September 1975 under the headline "I am a Homosexual"

According to the BAR: "[Matlovich] had told his commanding officers he was a homosexual but wanted to remain in the service. The Air Force kicked him out, and Matlovich sued the secretary of the Air Force. Matlovich settled out of court and received $160,000. The lawsuit did prompt the military after 1981 to switch from giving gay service members dishonorable discharges to honorable discharges."

Matlovich's headstone, in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, is well-known. It reads: "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

I don't expect this is the last we'll see of them this week.

The Hill warns today that abandoning DADT repeal would be "political disaster for Obama.":

But abandoning the effort to repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would be a political disaster for President Obama, who made a campaign promise to end the ban.

And with a Republican majority in the House and diminished Democratic numbers in the Senate in the incoming Congress, the lame-duck session may be the last chance to repeal “don’t ask” before the 2012 presidential campaign begins in earnest. 

If Reid isn’t able to move the repeal through the Senate, Obama will have to explain to his liberal base why he failed to follow through on a central promise from his 2008 campaign.

Mc And Politico adds that McCain's calls on Meet the Press for hearings have further dimmed the measure's chances for repeal:

If McCain can hold off Senate floor action on the defense authorization bill which contains conditional repeal language not only until December 1 but until after hearings on the Pentagon report, that may well kill repeal for this year. If the Senate waits until after hearings to move on "don't ask," it would then need time to bring the defense bill to the floor, debate and vote on what could be a lengthy list of amendments, end debate, pass the bill, conference it with the House, and re-pass it in the Senate. Even if the Senate began work on the bill this week, that would be a tall order and if the body takes no action until, say, the second week in December, it becomes hard to see how passage could be accomplished in the face of continued resistance by McCain and others.

"McCain... is stonewalling, trying to run out the clock on repeal by calling for congressional hearings,"  Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign complained in a statement Sunday reacting to McCain's comments.

Matlovich 
(image joe sudbay/twitter)


Watch: Memorial to Leonard Matlovich — Died 22 Years Ago Today

Matlovich

When he was in the military, they gave him a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one. Sadly, they still would today.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Castro Residence of Gay Vietnam Vet Leonard Matlovich Recognized

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Back in June I reported that the residence of Leonard Matlovich, a Vietnam war vet and gay rights pioneer who took up residence in San Francisco's Castro District in the late 70's and appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in September 1975 under the headline "I am a Homosexual", was to be recognized with a plaque thanks to the work of friends, including frequent Towleroad commenter Michael Bedwell.

MatlovichSaid Bedwell to the BAR at the time, "I wanted to memorialize him both to pay respect to him and to make newer generations aware of him. Mainstream society has countless examples of these which mark the people who came before, that inspire people, and reinforce people's identity themselves."

The TIME story concerned Matlovich's fight against the ban on gays in the military. According to the BAR: "He had told his commanding officers he was a homosexual but wanted to remain in the service. The Air Force kicked him out, and Matlovich sued the secretary of the Air Force. Matlovich settled out of court and received $160,000. The lawsuit did prompt the military after 1981 to switch from giving gay service members dishonorable discharges to honorable discharges."

Matlovich's headstone, in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, is well-known. It reads: "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

The plaque had a dedication ceremony last Saturday at San Francisco's LGBT Community Center. It is now up at the corner of 18th and Castro. Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988. He was 44.

In related news, over 100 of the U.S. military's retired generals and admirals called for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in a document released Monday.

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News: Leonard Matlovich, Bulgaria, Focus on the Family, Connecticut

road.jpg Comprehensive Prop 8 Update HERE.

road.jpg Obama to take presidential radio address to YouTube, beginning this Saturday.

Matlovichroad.jpg Memorial plaque to civil rights activist Leonard Matlovich to be dedicated tomorrow. From a press release: "The author of a November 12 article in The Washington Post wrote, "His last speech was in the rain in Sacramento, six weeks before he died, and he was hoarse and tired and dying, and he talked about love. A Georgia native who grew up in the military, he had the knack for taking your heart and making it catch for a moment, like the way he announced on national television that he had AIDS. He seemed to make people want to be braver than perhaps they were." The public event will begin at noon, Saturday, November 15th, in the Spencer Andrew Ceremonial Room of San Francisco's LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street at Octavia."

road.jpg Connecticut: 66 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples since Wednesday. "The state Department of Public Health has received data from 130 of the state's 169 cities and towns so far. A total of 94 licenses were issued Wednesday from those municipalities, including 28 to opposite-sex couples. Public Health Department spokesman William Gerrish says couples have 65 days to have their nuptials 'solemnized' by a minister, justice of the peace or other officiator."

road.jpg Anderson Cooper visits The Tonight Show - VIDEO.

Sexybackroad.jpg Ryan Gosling's bringing sexy back.

road.jpg Focus on the Family planning layoffs.

road.jpg Swastika and anti-gay slur drawn on Jewish student's locker at Saugus High School in California: "Her son Todd, a 15-year-old sophomore, is Jewish, but he is not gay, she said. 'They were mortified. They were frightened by the experience,' said Marcia Davis, who works as an instructional assistant at Saugus. 'It's not random. Somebody knows he is Jewish and is intentionally doing this.' Lt. Brenda Cambra of the Santa Clarita sheriff's station said the department is investigating the incident as a hate crime."

road.jpg 25-year-old Brazilian sentenced to 27 years in jail for murder of French tourist during Sao Paulo Gay Pride weekend in 2007.

road.jpg Jared Leto has GQ Style.

Tambovroad.jpg Governor of Russian Tambov region cleared of criminal complaint over remarks: "The governor of the Tambov region of Russia has been cleared of charges by an appeals court following an anti-gay outburst reported in the daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda last May. And in a separate, but related case, the Tambov city authorities give the reason that they banned a gay march was because the closure of streets 'breaches the rights of drivers'...'Tolerance? To hell! Faggots must be torn apart and their pieces should be thrown in the wind,' the newspaper reported the Governor as saying."

road.jpg Entertainment Weekly: Neil Patrick Harris is #25 of top 25 entertainers of the year.

road.jpg Daniel Craig gets waxed.


SF Castro Residence of Gay Vet Leonard Matlovich to be Recognized

Matlovich

Leonard Matlovich, a Vietnam war vet and gay rights pioneer who took up residence in San Francisco's Castro District in the late 70's and appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in September 1975 under the headline "I am a Homosexual", will get a plaque in the Castro on his former residence (at 18th and Castro) thanks to friends, who include frequent Towleroad commenter Michael Bedwell.

HeadstoneBedwell told the Bay Area Reporter: "I wanted to memorialize him both to pay respect to him and to make newer generations aware of him. Mainstream society has countless examples of these which mark the people who came before, that inspire people, and reinforce people's identity themselves."

The TIME story concerned Matlovich's fight against the ban on gays in the military. According to the BAR: "He had told his commanding officers he was a homosexual but wanted to remain in the service. The Air Force kicked him out, and Matlovich sued the secretary of the Air Force. Matlovich settled out of court and received $160,000. The lawsuit did prompt the military after 1981 to switch from giving gay service members dishonorable discharges to honorable discharges."

Many of you may have seen Matlovich's striking headstone, which sits in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC and reads, "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

MatSaid SF Supervisor and supporter Bevan Dufty: "I thought he was impressive. I was like 21 years old and this guy was amazing. He was out and proudly gay. Most gay men were closeted. It was kind of amazing somebody who had this military experience and all these military decorations for courage and service and bravery and he was an openly gay man."

Matlovich was an activist, a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, and died of AIDS in 1988. HE was 44. Bedwell, who spearheaded the campaign for the plaque, hopes to unveil it in the fall.

Friends plan plaque for gay Castro vet [bay area reporter]


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