Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Law Sucks! - The day Lady Gaga came to Portland

At 7:39 pm on Sunday, September 19th, Lady Gaga announced that she would be holding a rally the following day in a park in Portland, Maine for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

By 3:00 pm Monday, there were roughly 5,000 supporters in Deering Oaks Park.

She didn't sing, she didn't wear a crazy dress, and she was only there for about 18 minutes, but the audience loved it. Everyone there not only wanted to see the pop sensation, they also cared about the cause she is fighting for.

To readers who may not know, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a law passed in 1993 that prevents military service members from being openly gay or bisexual. If someone is outed, voluntarily or not, they are fired without retirement benefits. It is the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge. Since the laws passing, nearly 15,000 service members have been fired for admitting their non-heterosexuality.

When people began speaking at around 4:15pm, the crowd was animated and supportive. I was impressed with the amount of young people there - about 75% of the attendees were in my generation - who really seemed to care about the speakers.

First to speak was Nicholas Mavodones, Jr., the mayor of Portland. A major supporter of gay rights, the democratic mayor is clearly extremely popular with at least the younger crowd in Portland.

A number of former service men and women then spoke about their experiences. Some of them had been fairly new to the military when they were fired for being gay, but most of them had been in service for at least a decade. What struck me most was how much these people want to do their jobs. If they are willing to do so while hiding who they really are, then it seems evident that they truly love what they do. Discrimination in the workplace with regard to sexuality has been illegal for quite some time - why is the military any different?

After the service persons spoke came Maine congresswoman Chellie Pingree, another supporter of gay rights. She, like Mavodones, drew huge cheers. This interest of the youth in their political leaders is heartening.

Finally, to chants of "This Law Sucks!", our keynote speaker arrived. She delivered her already famous Equality is the Prime Rib of America speech amid cheers and storms of applause.

It is wonderful to see that, as a celebrity who got her start because of her gay fan-base, Lady Gaga is really giving back to her supporters.

* * *

Even as I write this post, the senate has refused to debate on the bill including the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Republican senators, including Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, voted unanimously against the bill, due in large part to the fact that the bill included a number of other controversial issues - like illegal immigration - and that the Democratic senators were attempting to block any amendments to the bill by the Republican senators.

While generally on the Democratic side, I am severely disappointed that this loss may have been solely due to the fact that the Democrats were not willing to give the other side an equal say.

While this loss is extremely disheartening - especially considering that the election in November will almost certainly lose the Democratic majority in the Senate - I have to believe that, like the womens' rights and civil rights movements, sexuality equality will eventually become a reality. Our children will look back on these events and wonder why it took so long for all people to truly be equal, but at least their America will be more accepting than ours is now.

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