Going Gaga for gay rights

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  September 22, 2010

In the Senate, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal is tucked into the much larger defense appropriations bill, which would authorize more than $725 billion for US Defense and Energy department programs.

Republican senators, led by Arizona’s John McCain, had threatened to filibuster the bill, and incredibly complicated Congressional procedural nonsense dictated that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, needed 60 votes to prevent such a filibuster and move the bill straight to limited debate. (This, despite the fact that the overall bill certainly had the 55 votes necessary to pass if a filibuster wasn’t on the horizon — Vice President Joe Biden said so, to Rachel Maddow, last week.) Process!

And that’s why DADT-haters needed the support of moderate Republican senators like Snowe, Collins, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts. But they weren’t going to get Brown because of the DREAM Act immigrant measure (which would allow high-school graduates who came to the United States illegally as children to become citizens), and they weren’t going to get Snowe because although she agrees that DADT “is overdue for a thorough review,” she wants to wait for the Pentagon report before she votes. (And also possibly because, as the New York Times suggested earlier this week, she’s worried about being crushed in 2012 by the conservative Tea Party wave.) Other Republican moderates, including Ohio senator George Voinovich, backed away for their own reasons.

That left Collins. Who, again, is totally anti-DADT, pro-gays-in-the-military. “Let me start by making my position crystal clear,” she said Tuesday on the Senate floor, reading from a prepared statement. “I agree with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, that the don’t ask, don’t tell law should be repealed . . . The bottom line for me is this: if an individual is willing to put on the uniform of our country, to be deployed in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, to risk his or her life for our country, then we should be expressing our gratitude to those individuals, not trying to exclude them from serving or expel them from the force.

But Collins was pissed that Reid wasn’t going to let the Republicans offer any amendments of their own.

“I find myself on the horns of a dilemma,” she said in the same floor statement on Tuesday. “I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude Republican amendments.” That puts her in a position we have heard of before: She voted for repeal of DADT before she voted against it.

And it puts GLBT advocates in a position they’re used to: Wondering what went wrong, and waiting for their next chance to make it right.


WHAT SHE WORE Super-high black heels, a conservative pantsuit with wide shoulders, a white shirt and an American-flag motif tie, her hair in ’50s-glam waves, and oversized, black-framed glasses.

WHAT SHE SAID By now, everyone’s heard the hook of her (self-written) speech, “Equality is the prime rib of America.” The speech had three major themes. First, meat. Second, calling DADT what it is — homophobia. “I would like propose a new law, a law that sends home the soldier that has the problem,” Lady Gaga said. “Our new law is called, if you don’t like it, go home.” And third, frustration. When the 24-year-old screamed, “ARE YOU LISTENING,” it was not to the Deering Oaks audience. It was to the Senate, to John McCain, to military officers. To Susan Collins. It was a primal scream and by far the most moving moment of her appearance.

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