Inside the 2006 Values Voter Summit (mp3 Player)


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Jeff Lutes’ initial report

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"In Our Nation’s Best Interest?" – 43 Arrested Across the Country as Gay Youth Confront Discrimination in the Military

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 29, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(Minneapolis, MN) — Since the beginning of August, 32 openly gay young people have attempted to enlist in the military as part of the nationwide "Right to Serve" campaign.

All 32 have been denied the opportunity to enlist. Several have been denied the chance to speak with recruiters at all, as military recruitment centers in New York, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, and elsewhere locked their doors in order to avoid confronting the federally-sanctioned discrimination of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The Right to Serve campaign seeks to ignite a national conversation about the 13-year-old federal policy. In order to draw public attention to the human and security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the rejected recruits are returning to the recruitment centers to hold sit-ins this fall.

According to campaign Co-director Haven Herrin, "Right to Serve is showing America young, physically fit, competent adults who genuinely want to serve their country, but bigotry is barring them from joining the armed forces. We hope people will ask themselves, ‘is this in our nation’s best interest?’"

Thus far, 43 enlistees and community supporters have been arrested at sit-ins in 17 cities.

Three students at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville were the latest Right to Serve campaigners to hold a sit-in. Rachel Miller, who hoped to enlist in the Air Force, made an appointment at a Charlottesville recruitment center on Wednesday. When Miller and other enlistees arrived at the center, she was informed that she did not have an appointment and barred from the recruiting officer’s office. The enlistees and their supporters began a sit-in, which continued on Thursday and resulted in two arrests on trespassing charges.

In coming weeks, the Right to Serve campaign will spread to Tampa, Providence, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Seattle. Eventually, this youth movement will instigate dialogue and reflection in 30 cities nationwide.

The Right to Serve campaign is sponsored by the Minneapolis-based youth office of Soulforce, a national civil rights organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

Military Recruiters Lock The Doors on Gay Americans

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 25, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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Last Tuesday, when Rebecca Solomon and Jesus Sanchez approached an Army recruitment station in Austin, Texas, they found the doors locked at mid-morning. That same day, Meg Sneed came to a recruiting center in Phoenix with the intention of enlisting in the Coast Guard, but found the office locked and dark. And on Wednesday, three more potential recruits traveled to the Armed Forces Recruitment Center in Times Square — reportedly the busiest recruitment center in the country — only to find the center empty and the doors locked for the duration of the day.

These would-be recruits are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a coordinated effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze national discussion about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The campaign comes at a pivotal moment, as military recruiters have eased standards in order to admit some recruits without high school diplomas and even some with criminal records. Since the beginning of the summer, twenty-five openly gay Americans have attempted to enlist as part of the Right to Serve Campaign. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Last week marked a turning point in the campaign, as recruiting offices across the country closed their doors rather than offer recruiting interviews to openly gay youth.

In New York, the Armed Forces Recruitment Center, which is normally open every day of the year, was closed without warning. When Right to Serve campaigners Curt Peterson, Kamal Davis, and Rhonda Davis found the center empty, they held an all-day vigil and sit-in outside the center. They were joined by more than eighty supporters from nearby schools and colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that their scheduled appointments had been cancelled without notice.

In Austin, Solomon and Sanchez had both attempted to enlist in recent weeks, but were turned away because of sexual orientation. They returned to the recruiting center with the intent of holding a sit-in with their supporters. Although the doors were locked, recruiters were plainly visible inside the office, and Sanchez and Solomon were able to slip inside when one of the recruiters exited. After a brief sit-in, Solomon and Sanchez were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

Greensboro, North Carolina was the only city where openly gay youth were given the opportunity to sit down with recruiters last week. Four young men and women began the interview process, but the interviews were terminated when the enlistees revealed their sexual orientations. The enlistees were promptly joined by community supporters, and they commenced a sit-in inside the recruitment center. The four recruits and supporters were arrested and removed from the center in handcuffs.

In Phoenix, Meg Sneed — an out lesbian with a longstanding dream of joining the Coast Guard — will return to the recruiting center another day to try to enlist again.

Throughout this week, Right to Serve campaigners will keep "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" in the public eye with attempted enlistments in Washington, D.C., and Spokane, Washington, on Tuesday and Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday. In addition, enlistees who have already been denied the Right to Serve in Madison, Wisconsin, and Charlottesville, Virginia, will gather supporters for sit-ins at military recruitment centers.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.

Inside the "Values Voter Summit" in DC

Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, attended the 2006 Values Voter Summit in Washington DC on Friday, September 22, 2006. The following is his initial report from inside the summit.


The room has an estimated 1600 in attendance. It is smothered in red, white, and blue . . . with white stars projected on the background and side walls. There are two huge video screens, 1599 Republicans and one bald Democrat who runs a gay rights organization.

Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA):
"Our society stands on the basis of the family unit and my state supreme court made a mistake . . . they should have focused on the children because marriage is about nurturing children…………We desperately need a Federal Marriage Amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman" (crowd cheers).

Announcer introduces James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Alan Sears (Alliance Defense Fund) and Tony Perkins (Family Research Council). Introduces them as a "power panel" and says later that "if the pro-family movement had a Mount Rushmore, their faces would be on it." The theme from "Rocky" plays as Dobson, Perkins and Sears come out to speak.

They all spoke about victories in multiple states to protect traditional marriage but urged the crowd to not become complacent and keep working to get out the vote. Alan Sears says that "All good people come together to protect God’s plan for marriage" and that the "homosexual agenda and religious freedom are on a collision course".

Tony Perkins agrees and says that "America is on a collision course between radical homosexuals and religious freedom" and that "the other side wants to silence the church" Dobson and Sears told crowd that IRS code allows pastors to preach values and talk about public policy and get out the vote. Tony Perkins says that "if any pastor is challenged (for preaching on public policy/values), then ADF will defend them free of charge. No longer in America when pastors take a stand will they be alone".

Alan Sears says "there is so much propaganda about the myth of oppression" and Dobson says homosexuals can get most of the marriage protections by simply visiting a lawyer. Alan Sears says that the crowd must be careful to not "further the homosexual agenda which is the abolition of marriage and the silencing of the church". Alan Sears has to leave early – tells crowd he has to fly to San Francisco. The crowd giggles and moans and Tony Perkins says "We’ll pray for you".

Tony Perkins refers to a lesbian couple who broke up less than two years after their state passed some marriage-like legislation for same-sex couples, and then says "That tells you about the their commitment to the institution of marriage". Tony Perkins says the last time he saw the President, the President asked him to have his people pray for him.

Tony mentions Barry Lynn and refers to him as the head of "Americans United for the Division of the Country". Dobson acknowledges that Barry Lynn registered for the summit and may be in the crowd. He then criticizes Barry Lynn, claiming that Barry doesn’t understand the difference between a 510(c) 3 and a 501 (c) 4 and reassures the crowd that Focus on the Family has done nothing wrong and is in no danger of losing their tax-exempt status. He jokes that Barry Lynn has made a living off attacking him and worries about what Barry will do once he (Dobson) is gone. Dobson tells a story about a recent hunting trip with his son Ryan in which Dobson shot and killed a bear. He then says to the crowd "Those of you who don’t like hunting and that story offends you . . .get over it."

After they leave the stage, another panel forms ("Love and Marriage" plays as they walk on stage) with Prof. Robert George (Princeton), Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Maggie Gallagher (author and syndicated columnist). Robert George talks about how same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy and says the Supreme Court is still a danger if it continues to follow the logic of Lawrence vs. Texas. Marilyn Musgrave says "If we have gay marriage our religious liberties are gone." Gallagher claims social science is clear kids need a mother and a father.

Next is Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) who states marriage is between a man and a woman and states confidently that Roe vs. Wade will be overturned in the future. He continues the argument that marriage is for the welfare of the children and encourages crowd to fight for the kids. He says that Dobson has been a wonderful gift to the country.

Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is next and says that marriage has always been between a man and a woman and, quote, "until Moses comes down with two tablets from Brokeback Mountain, let’s keep it like it is."

There was a break for lunch and the announcer reminds the crowd that any unauthorized taping is prohibited and if caught our tapes will be confiscated and erased. I quietly slip out with my recorder. As I exit the hall, I pass Don Wildmon from the American Family Association telling a reporter that the best thing the Republicans have going for them is the Democrats.

I swim through the sea of "values voters" until I get to the lobby, where I immediately call my partner Gary and tell him I love him and ask him to kiss the kids for me.

Jeff Lutes, LPC
Executive Director
Soulforce, Inc.

Help Soulforce Guard The Constitution This November!

Soulforce Guard the Constitution

Help Soulforce Guard The Constitution This November!

48 hours of nonstop protection outside the National Archives in Washington, D.C., November 5-7th, 2006

In this mid-term election, religious fundamentalists have waged a full scale war against the United States Constitution and the values of freedom, liberty, and the critically important separation of church and state. Well-organized and determined, they intend to create a "Christian Nation" in which every office is held by "righteous men" who attack basic civil liberties like marriage equality, adoption and foster-parenting (by LGBT parents), stem cell research, and a woman’s right to choose. Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and powerful others want an America in which their interpretation of the Bible trumps the Constitution in the governance of our great country. Soulforce needs you to help us sound the alarm, raise public awareness, and encourage fair-minded Americans to vote for equality this November.

Soulforce is organizing volunteers to symbolically "Stand Guard" outside the National Archives where the United States Constitution is kept. During the last 48 hours leading up to the election (Sunday, November 5 – Tuesday, November 7), fair-minded Americans will take turns standing vigil wearing "We the People" t-shirts and passing out materials that educate the public on the dangerous connection between Christian dogma and the resulting loss of civil liberties. Our founder and president, the Rev. Dr. Mel White, will share excerpts from his new book, Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right during a press conference.

Sign up for a 2-hour block of time.

Bring your family and friends to Washington, D.C. and help Soulforce Guard the Constitution!

"Standing Up for My Right to Be All I Can Be": Young Gay Activists Bring Nationwide Campaign to Times Square

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 18, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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What: Three openly gay young adults will attempt to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. If they are turned away, supporters will join them for a sit-in and vigil.
When: Wednesday, September 20, 2006. Press conference at 10 a.m.
Where: U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station, Times Square

 

(New York, NY) — This Wednesday, three young adults will enter the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square with dreams of serving their country. Like most potential recruits, they are motivated by patriotism, family tradition, ambition, and duty. But, unlike most of the hopefuls who travel to the nation’s most iconic recruiting station, these young people are openly gay, and they are not willing to lie about their sexual orientation as a condition of service.

Curt Peterson, Kamal Rashad Davis, and Rhonda Davis will all attempt to enlist this week as part of the nationwide Right to Serve campaign, which aims to call attention to the injustice — as well as the administrative and security costs — of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Since August, twenty-three fit, competent young people affiliated with the campaign have attempted to enlist in eleven cities, and all twenty-three have been turned away because of sexual orientation.

On Wednesday in Times Square, the potential recruits will be joined by supporters from Columbia, NYU, Pace, and other nearby schools. If the enlistees are rejected, some supporters will join them in a sit-in at the recruiting station. More supporters will surround the station on all of the side streets to vigil and pass out information about the issue.

One of Wednesday’s enlistees, Kamal Rashad Davis, puts this action in the context of other historic struggles for civil rights: "In the 1960s my grandfather participated in protests that lead to desegregation of Girard College in Philadelphia. Both my father and my uncle served in the military fighting for democracy and freedom throughout the world. I am proud of their service and I want to continue that legacy. So I’m standing up for my right to be all that I can be without hiding who I already am."

Kamal Rashad Davis will be accompanied by Peterson, a student from Vassar, and Rhonda Davis, a former Naval officer who was discharged this summer for violating "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Prior to her discharge, Rhonda Davis served as an award-winning Navy journalist and later as a public affairs officer for New York Navy recruiting district. She will attempt to enlist in the Army on Monday at a recruiting station near her home in Long Island, but will join the other New York enlistees in Times Square on Wednesday. At that time, Peterson will attempt to enlist in the Army, and Kamal Rashad Davis will attempt to enlist in the Navy.

Leaders of the Right to Serve campaign expect arrests on Wednesday. Thus far in the campaign, sixteen people have been arrested at sit-ins in military recruiting stations. These young activists hope to use civil disobedience to promote national dialogue and reflection on federally sanctioned discrimination. The Right to Serve campaign is a project of Soulforce, a national civil rights organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.

Additional contacts:

Alexey Bulokhov, City Organizer
Alexey@soulforce.org
212-203-5774

Rhonda Davis
Pride4evermore@yahoo.com
516-780-4871

Curt Peterson
Curt.peterson@righttoserve.org
845-380-5095

Kamal Rashad Davis
Lamak_sivad@msn.com
267-259-3064

Right to Serve Activists Arrested as Campaign to End 蔘�on蔘サt Ask, Don蔘サt Tell蔘 Spreads Across the Nation

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 15, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(Chicago, IL; Norman, OK; Shreveport, LA) — Young, gay Americans were arrested or detained across the nation this week as they continued their efforts to end "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The youth are part of the Right to Serve campaign, which aims to educate the public about the costs of federally sanctioned discrimination. To achieve this end, openly gay young people in 30 cities are attempting to enlist without hiding their sexual orientation.

In Shreveport, Louisiana, Rachel Powell and Eddie Lopez attempted to enlist in the Marines on September 6, but were turned away for being open about their sexual orientations. This Tuesday, the two returned to the recruiting station to hold a sit-in, but found the doors locked. Eventually, Powell, Lopez, and a supporter were able to enter the station through an unguarded door. All three were arrested for trespassing.

In Chicago, Illinois, Kelsey Pacha and Rob Fotjik also found the doors to a recruiting station closed to gay Americans. Pacha and Fotjik, both students at Northwestern University, attempted to enlist in the Army Reserves on August 22. After being denied the opportunity to enlist because they are openly gay, they returned with supporters to hold a sit-in on Tuesday morning, but the doors were blocked by Chicago police officers.

On Wednesday, Fotjik and Pacha returned to the recruiting office and were able to enter without difficulty. The youth sat on the floor in peaceful protest for about thirty minutes before police handcuffed them, put them in a squad car, and transported them to a police station. They were released without charges.

Also on Wednesday in Norman, Oklahoma, Nicole Rawls attempted to enlist in the Army as an open lesbian. When she was rejected, Rawls and supporters commenced a sit-in, indicating that they would not leave without police intervention. When police arrived, they removed the young activists from the building but did not arrest them.

Each of these young adults genuinely wants to serve in the nation’s military. Until they can serve with openness and dignity, the Right to Serve campaign is an opportunity to educate the public about a federal policy that has cost American taxpayers an estimated $364 million and resulted in the discharge of at least 11,000 servicemembers, including 800 in highly critical jobs.

In an effort to promote national dialogue and reflection on "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," next week the Right to Serve sit-ins will spread to four more cities, including Austin on Tuesday, New York and Phoenix on Wednesday, and Greensboro, North Carolina on Thursday. In New York City, potential enlistees will be joined by supporters for a high-visibility action in Times Square.

The Right to Serve campaign is sponsored by Soulforce, a national civil rights organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

For more information: www.righttoserve.org.

As President Bush Leans on Reservists, Openly Gay Youth Are Denied the Right to Enlist

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 5, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org

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(Madison, WI) — On August 30, three young Americans attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army. When military recruiters abruptly terminated their enlistment process, it brought to eighteen the number of openly gay men and women who have been denied the right to enlist since May of this year.

Earlier in the week, President Bush authorized an involuntary recall of Marine Corps Individual Ready Reservists to cover a shortage of volunteers.

The would-be volunteers in Madison are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a national effort in which gay youth attempt to enlist in order to educate the public about the human, financial, and security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Two of the men who attempted to enlist on August 30 are students at the University of Wisconsin. The third, John Alaniz, is a recent graduate with a degree in genetics and immunopathology. Alaniz has experience working with hazardous materials and an interest in counter-terrorism. All three men took aptitude tests and scored high enough to be eligible for any job in the military.

Madison was the eighth city to join the Right to Serve campaign. Oklahoma City joined on August 23, when two brothers — Michael and Robert Cich — attempted to enlist together. Robert, who is heterosexual, halted his own enlistment process when Michael, who is gay, was denied on the basis of his sexual orientation.

On September 6, the Cich brothers will rally supporters — gay and straight alike — and return for a sit-in at the recruiting station where Michael was rejected.

Several cities in the campaign have already staged sit-ins, and eleven youth leaders have been arrested at sit-ins thus far. The sit-ins are a peaceful means to bring attention to government sanctioned discrimination and to begin a national conversation about ending the unjust compromise of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Also on September 6, Shreveport, Louisiana will join the campaign when Eddie Lopez, a former soldier who served in the army for almost four years, attempts to re-enlist as an openly gay man. If Lopez is denied the right to re-enlist, he and his local supporters will return for a sit-in on September 12.

The Right to Serve campaign is sponsored by Soulforce, a national nonviolent organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.

Right to Serve Video Part 1

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Get Flash Player. (required to play)

This is part 1 of the video clip of the Right to Serve enlistment in Minneapolis, MN on May 30, 2006. The Right to Serve campaign for summer/fall 2006 is a project in 31 cities around the country working to end the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of banning openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service in the United States military. Jake Reitan, Haven Herrin and Ezekiel Montgomery, all openly gay/lesbian individuals, chose to enlist as openly GLBT citizens in the Minnesota National Guard. They held a press conference to announce their direct action with supporters accompanying them and then went in to enlist.

Part 1 of the video (be sure to see Part 2) begins with Jake and Haven’s press conference, followed by a statement by the public spokesperson from the Minnesota National Guard. Jake and Haven then went in to begin the enlistment process.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign to raise public awareness on and end the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell bannin g openly GLBT individuals from serving openly and honorably in the United States military, go to www.righttoserve.org or contact jake@soulforce.org or haven@soulforce.org.