by Brad Luna
GetEQUAL – a direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization – and H.E.R.O. – an Arizona-based grassroots group of community organizers – interrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning. Members of the gay civil rights organizations stood up in the middle of the hearing in room SD-106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where they invoked images of those who have stood in the way of civil rights progress in the past and demanded Senator John McCain (R, Ariz.) immediately end his threat to filibuster language next week that would continue the process of repealing the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Video and photos of today’s action will be available after the action at www.getequal.org.
Last month, Senator McCain flipped his earlier opinion, claiming he had “no plan to filibuster,” and went to the floor of the United States Senate to continue railing against gay and lesbian service members serving with honor. Video of Senator McCain’s comments where he threatens a filibuster can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuWrMaLFdao.
This morning, supporters of H.E.R.O. and GetEQUAL confronted Senator McCain with images of past civil rights movements and the people who stood in their way, such as George Wallace and Bull Conor. They also held signs saying, “Senator McCain repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, do you want to be the next George Wallace?” and “Senator McCain repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it’s not too late to change your legacy. ”
“We have spoken loud and clear to Sen. McCain and his staff that we are not going away until the Senator stops playing politics with the lives of our men and women in uniform,” said Jimmy Gruender, co-chair of H.E.R.O. “Whether it is in Arizona or in our nation’s capitol, we will go anywhere, at any time of day to deliver the message to our Senator that he is standing on the wrong side of history and is betraying the patriotic men and women willing to risk their lives for their country.”
The Arizona-based H.E.R.O., made up of Senator McCain’s constituents, have performed two prior sit-ins at the Senator’s offices in Arizona. On both April 26 and May 11 of this year, H.E.R.O.’s members and supporters were arrested in Senator McCain’s district offices in both Tempe and Phoenix, Arizona. At both protests, H.E.R.O’s volunteers dropped off supplies for the troops currently serving overseas before commencing the act of civil disobedience. Senator McCain addressed the acts of civil disobedience on the campaign trail, during a town hall earlier this year. You can find out more information about H.E.R.O. at: www.herophoenix.com.
“Sen. John McCain is more interested in placating the McCain-Palin wing of the Republican party than he is in supporting our men and women in uniform,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. “My advice to Senator McCain is that he spend a little more time learning about equality from his wife and daughter and a little less time listening to the extreme wing of his party. When 80 percent of the American people, the Joints Chiefs of Staff, military leaders, and active-duty service members all agree that it is past time we stop the firing of critical military personnel, you can be assured that you’re standing on the wrong side of history. For that matter, he should watch campaign footage of himself in 2008 where he said if those same groups of people agreed on repeal, he’d support their decision – well, the time is now.”
Gruender said, “We urge all members of the LGBT community and our allies to continue to pressure the United States Senate and make your voices heard that we will continue to hold them accountable and we expect their approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, containing language that would continue the process of repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Any Senator hell-bent on stopping the repeal should take notice. They may be focused mostly on their own job protection in November, but our focus is on protecting those service members around the world who are continuing to serve under the outdated, discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.”