Larry Kissell

CRANE statement on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ vote

The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) released the following statement concerning the U.S. House of Representatives’ and U.S. Senate’s actions to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which passed the Senate Armed Services Committee 16-12 and the House 234-194 on Thursday, May 27, 2010.

The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) commends the efforts of those elected officials who supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), including Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Larry Kissell, both of whom were targets of CRANE’s Stand with Honor campaign this spring and who voted “yes” to the repeal measure on Thursday, May 27, 2010.

Through March and April, CRANE, along with activists, community members and constituents across the state, launched several grassroots campaigns to engage local communities and elected officials on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the anti-gay law that prohibits open and honest military service by lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans and has resulted in the discharge of over 13,500 patriots willing and able to serve our nation and protect its security.

The campaigns collected five sets of 13,500 plastic toy soldiers — each soldier representing one of the lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers discharged under DADT — for delivery to Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Reps. Sue Myrick, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell.

CRANE extends its gratitude to Sen. Hagan and for showing her continued public support of a DADT repeal by voting “yes” on the measure. Rep. Kissell, who had not publicly spoken about his thoughts on repeal, was receptive to CRANE’s campaign throughout its communication with his office. We thank him for his affirmative vote.

CRANE is disappointed that our efforts, representative of hundreds of constituents, failed to strike a chord with Reps. Myrick and McIntyre and Sen. Burr, all of whom voted against repeal. We urge them to reconsider their stances on LGBT civil equality and remind them that only a fool would stand in the way of our national security and military readiness during a time of war. We hope they will join us and their colleagues on the right side of history on other issues of basic equality and fairness.

Wrap-up: A day in D.C. on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

On April 28, six activists and constituents made their way to the Capitol Hill offices of Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre.

Matt Comer, Randy Floyd and Lacey Williams of CRANE were joined by fellow organizers Ryan Burris, James Elks and Melissa Siegel.

Since March, CRANE and activists across the state have worked to build awareness on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) through Charlotte’s March on Myrick, Raleigh’s Stand with Honor and Wilmington’s March on McIntyre campaigns. The goal: Collect 13,500 plastic toy soldiers — each representing a gay or lesbian patriot discharged under DADT — and deliver them as a stark, visual reminder of the cost of DADT to our elected officials.

At a bright, and early start of 8 a.m., we made our way from their hotel to downtown Washington, D.C. and the Capitol Building. There, we set up our display of just one set of 13,500 soldiers we’ve collected for Burr, Hagan, Kissell, McIntyre and Myrick. We spoke with passers-by about DADT, many who already supported repeal and others who did not. In one exchange, Matt Comer spoke with a group of Christian high school students whose adult chaperone believed “homosexuals shouldn’t serve at all.” Asking how it is right, just or fair to force a person to live in fear and lies, the Christian chaperone responded: “There is no fear in the Lord.” Convincing the adult chaperone of the value of a DADT repeal was fruitless but standing on Capitol Hill grounds speaking to these Christian young folks was well worth it: If they haven’t engaged LGBT issues with LGBT people, they have now. And, if there were one or two closeted LGBT youth there, our group was there to say: “You are not alone.”

As we met with the offices of our elected officials, we were able to deliver a portion — one-tenth of the 13,500 to be exact — to our two senators and two representatives. (Half of Myrick’s 13,500 were delivered on April 1.) Each of the offices we visited responded with either surprise or interest to our 1,350 soldiers. It made an impact — a constituent message unlike the many postcards, emails and letters they receive on a daily basis and one they won’t forget anytime soon… especially when the rest of their soldiers can be delivered at a later date.

Here’s the recap from each office visit…

Richard Burr

Raleigh’s Melissa Siegel and Wilmington’s James Elks met with Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s Defense Legislative Fellow Vaughan Byrum and Military Legislative Fellow Kevin Kane. Although the meeting went reasonably well, Siegel reported the two staffers seemed quite confrontational, eager to defend DADT and uncomfortable with the thought of gay people serving openly and honestly. The staffers told Siegel and Elks that Burr would wait until after the Department of Defense’s study on DADT  to make his decision on repeal.

Mike McIntyre

Representing the Seventh District of North Carolina, Mike McIntyre is a conservative Democrat who has often taken on positions harmful to the LGBT community. Wilmington residents Ryan Burris and James Elks, along with Charlotte resident Matt Comer, met with Rep. Mike McIntyre, who said he would wait until after the Department of Defense study on DADT before making his decision. Elks shared his personal story regarding his attempts to join the military. McIntyre seemed genuinely interested. Regardless, McIntyre stands by the assertion he made when last meeting with Burris and Elks in Wilmington this February: If a DADT repeal came up for vote today, McIntyre would vote against it.

Kay Hagan

Constituents Ryan Burris, Matt Comer, Randy Floyd and Melissa Siegel met with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s Legislative Assistant Julie Holzhueter. Hagan, who announced April 14 she firmly supports a repeal of DADT, has yet to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Senate’s Military Readiness Enhancement Act as introduced by Sen. Joe Leiberman on March 3. Constituents presented Holzheuter with the 1,350 soldiers and urged the staffer to relay our message to the senator: Please take leadership on this issue and sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal DADT.

Larry Kissell

Kissell constituents Randy Floyd and Lacey Williams — along with Matt Comer, who works in Kissell’s district — met with Legislative Assistant John Tripp. Floyd has previously met with Tripp and Rep. Kissell, a Democrat who represents the sprawling Eighth District including portions of Charlotte, Fayetteville and Ft. Bragg. In his previous meetings, Floyd had learned the congressman fully supported ending discrimination in the workplace (although he had yet to publicly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act). Constituents urged Tripp to remind the congressman of his principles and stand by them on the issue of DADT. Tripp responded positively to our constituent message of 1,350 soldiers. Later in the day, constituents received good news regarding Kissell, although not on the issue of DADT. The congressman will finally support ENDA, although it isn’t clear whether he will be a co-sponsor.

Press coverage from the day

Congress.org: Activists push on Don’t Ask issue

The Georgia Voice: DADT pressure continues

Photos from the day

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North Carolina constituents take ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ campaign to Capitol Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 26, 2010

Contact: Matt Comer, 336-391-9528, matt.hill.comer@gmail.com

North Carolina constituents take ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ campaign to Capitol Hill

Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington residents visit with Burr, Hagan, Kissell and McIntyre

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 28, 2010 – A group of North Carolina constituents and grassroots activists are taking their message to end the anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) to Capitol Hill, and plan on meeting with Sens. Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D) and Reps. Larry Kissell (D-08) and Mike McIntyre (D-07).

In March, the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE) began their “March on Myrick” campaign to collect 13,500 plastic toy soldiers, each representing one person discharged under DADT, and attempted to deliver the soldiers to Rep. Sue Myrick (R-09) on April 1, 2010. At Myrick’s Charlotte office, constituents were initially turned away and later allowed to deliver only half of their constituent message. At the time, building security said the constituents were “soliciting” and threatened arrest although no laws were being broken. Constituents plan to deliver the remaining soldiers at a later date. (See rainbowaction.org/myrick for more.)

Since then, the Charlotte DADT awareness campaign spread across the state to target North Carolina’s senators and other representatives key to a DADT repeal. The message sent by constituents is loud and clear: Only a fool would stand in the way of our national security and military readiness. The time to end DADT is now.

“In working to raise awareness on the much-needed repeal of DADT, we have spoken to and worked with hundreds of constituents,” said Matt Comer, CRANE spokesperson. “Those who helped us collect these 67,500 soldiers represent a sizable constituency who believe – like 75 percent of all Americans and 73 percent of U.S. servicemembers – that all people should be able to serve their country no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Sens. Burr and Hagan and Reps. Kissell and McIntyre – each serving in their respective chambers’ Armed Services committees – should immediately sign on as co-sponsors to a DADT repeal.”

The constituents will gather at the East Lawn of the Capitol (Independence Blvd. SE and First St. SE) on Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There, they will display one set of 13,500 plastic soldiers from the 67,500 they’ve collected over the past two months and reach out to Capitol visitors and passers-by to engage them on the issues and raise awareness. Due to package restrictions at Capitol Hill office buildings, they will deliver only a portion of each set of soldiers collected for each elected official.

“Although we’ll only be delivering a portion of the 13,500 soldiers to each of our elected officials, they should know that their constituents want this law repealed and they want it repealed now,” said Comer. “Their constituents also expect their message to be delivered in full, unfortunately something we can’t do today. As with our March on Myrick campaign, we’ll deliver the remaining message at a later date.”

The U.S. military has discharged more than 13,500 gay and lesbian service members since DADT’s implementation in 1994, including more than 800 mission-critical troops. In the past five years, the military has discharged at least 59 Arabic and Farsi linguists. Further, our government has wasted between $250 million and $1.2 billion enforcing the law, critical funds that could have been used to support rather than undermine our military readiness. The facts point to only one conclusion: DADT is a threat to national security and must be repealed. Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is just one step our elected leaders can take in their commitment to keep our nation strong and safe. We call on Burr, Hagan, Kissell, McIntyre and Myrick to co-sponsor the Military Readiness Enhancement Act today and support the repeal of this wasteful and damaging policy.

A coalition of constituent, activist and student organizations across North Carolina worked to raise awareness with constituents. They include: Blue Devils United (duke.edu/web/bdunited/), Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality/CRANE (rainbowaciton.org), Equal People Organization (equalpeople.org), HRC Carolinas (northcarolina.hrc.org), NoH8NC (noh8nc.com), N.C. State GLBT Center (ncsu.edu/student_affairs/glbt/), N.C. State GLBTCA and UNC-Chapel Hill GLBTSA (unc.edu/glbtsa/).