Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Pre-order Book!
Pre-order Book!



Roland Burris out loud on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
by John Fenoglio

This article shared 2760 times since Thu Apr 1, 2010
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

U.S. Senator Roland Burris, D-Ill., is a seasoned politician who considers himself a friend of the gay community. He's a co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Act; supports civil unions; and is an advocate of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ( DADT ) , the only federal law that requires an organization, like the military, to fire openly gay and lesbian people. The junior senator recently sat down with Windy City Times to discuss the status of DADT.

Windy City Times: You have stated that you are a friend and ally of the LGBT community. You've also said you had some conservative positions on LGBT issues in the past. How did your perspective on LGBT issues evolve?

Roland Burris: My support of the gay community goes all the way back to when I was attorney general. Fortunately a lot of us grow into a position of understanding all of theses issues within the gay community. I was fortunate to have gays and lesbians on my staff. And, together, we discussed a lot of theses issues, which helped me come to where I am now. It helped me move from a very conservative position [ on LGBT issues ] to a very understanding position. During my AG years I helped make crimes against people, based on their sexual orientation, hate crimes. I've been in the wars and in the battles with you all.

WCT: A lot of people in favor of repealing [ DADT ] say that President Obama is falling short on the issue—that he's a lot of talk and no action. Your thoughts?

Roland Burris: Well, President Obama has made his position very clear on the issue. He's made it very clear that he cannot tell Congress what to do. And, he's left it to Congress to deal with this. Right now, in the U.S. Senate, we don't have the 60 votes we need to get this repealed. Even though we don't have the support we need just yet, we're hoping we can get an immediate moratorium on Don't Ask, Don't Tell so that there won't be any more discharges of gay soldiers. We still don't know if we have the support to get a moratorium passed. This means we're facing a very uphill battle.

WCT: If, at some point, there is enough support to repeal DADT—at least 60 votes—do you anticipate a filibuster on the Republican front?

Roland Burris: We have to get more Democrats on board first. This is not a partisan issue in that respect. It is a personal issue, as I perceive it. Fortunately, some people on the Republican side, like John McCain, are coming around on the issue. You know, I was there when the chairman of the joint chiefs said that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was wrong, that it is dishonest to have our soldiers lie about who they are, while they're serving and protecting our country. It is hypocritical, on our part, to ask service members do this [ conceal their sexual orientation ] .

WCT: If DADT is, in fact, hypocritical, what do you say to your colleagues and other high-ranking members of the military who oppose repealing the law, or are still on the fence about whether or not to repeal it? Do you point out to them that their position is a hypocritical one?

Roland Burris: I do talk to them about it and I try to respect their positions on the matter. A lot of them say that this needs to be studied more and that there needs to be a right time to take action, if any, on the issue. I hear a lot of people say "If it's going to get done, it's got to get done right." Now, I don't what there is to "get right" on this, we've just got to do it. But, I do respect their positions.

WCT: With respect to the argument of waiting a year or longer to study this issue, there has been some pushback from folks who favor repealing DADT. Specifically, Lt. Dan Choi, the infantry officer and Arabic linguist in the United States Army, who served in combat in the Iraq war and received a discharge letter from the military after he publically revealed himself to be gay. I spoke with him by phone and he said that waiting any longer to repeal DADT is just "convenient politics since there is an election coming up in 2010." Do you think that waiting longer to repeal DADT is "convenient politics"?

Roland Burris: I hope the community isn't confused about what can be done here. This is a major controversial issue, especially since we are in the middle of two wars. I think the president, for example, has really stepped out on this issue. He has said that he is for repealing it. We have to be understanding of these different positions so that we don't turn everyone off and then not get anything. So, that time period of waiting is to let them get something back in the compromise process so that we can get the law changed. I'm just asking the [ LGBT ] community not to be too outraged that it hasn't gotten done at this point.

WCT: It goes without saying that this is a controversial issue. But, given the fact that we are mired in two wars, and that we need as many capable and willing soldiers as possible, doesn't it seem counterintuitive not to take swifter action on repealing DADT? Couldn't President Obama issue an executive order—stop-loss authority—to halt the enforcement of DADT?

Roland Burris: That kind of executive order could have a lot of repercussions, and we don't know what those are yet.

WCT: Other presidents have issued similar executive orders, including George H. Bush during the Gulf conflict. President Truman, in 1947, issued an executive order to desegregate the military so that African Americans could serve without fear of discrimination…

Roland Burris: And, when Truman did that there were a lot of repercussions against Black soldiers. I'm talking about horrible things: hate crimes, all those stories of mistreatment against African-Americans. Fortunately, that decision by Truman prevailed.

WCT: So then, we know that repercussions are inevitable. We know that hate crimes against gays, African-Americans, even women continue to occur, albeit not as much as they used to. We also know that we need battle-ready troops ASAP. Again, why can't the President use his stop-loss authority to, at least, temporarily halt the enforcement of DADT?

Roland Burris: All I can say is that this will take time. The President is for it, but it's going to take time. Look at how long it has taken other minorities in the military. Women aren't even serving, technically, on submarines and in combat. And, on the Democratic side of it, we still don't have the votes. People need to be patient. If the President were to use stop-loss authority, that requires him to weigh his political capital. That is a major move on his part. For this thing to change it's going to take time. Look at civil rights during the '60s, and what it took for black people to be treated equally. It took years. It took blood. It took a lot of struggle and it didn't happen overnight.

WCT: During my conversation with Lt. Choi, he also said the following: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell boils down to this question, 'Are you going to force people to be in the closet, or not?'" He went on to say that DADT affects not just the individual soldier, but their families, too. Senator, do you think DADT has any effect on families—that perhaps the repercussions of not repealing the law are hurting American military families?

Roland Burris: I suppose families could be affected, but I think it depends on the definition of family.

WCT: What I'm driving at is this: If a gay soldier has a spouse of the same sexual orientation and, together, they have children—two men or two women and their respective children—do you think that DADT puts an added strain on that family dynamic?

Roland Burris: You're getting in the weeds. I'm not there yet. I support partnerships and everything about partnerships, but I am not to the point of supporting marriage [ for LGBT people ] . Ok? Yes, it creates an issue for people and their children, but to call it a family, I've yet to come there. To me, that is a partnership. And, those people should certainly receive partnership benefits. Partnership to you might mean family. But, what I interpret family to mean is different. Partnership to me is partnership.

WCT: Are you saying two gay moms, or two gay dads, in the same household with children, is not a family?

Roland Burris: That's a partnership. They can call it family if they want to, but that doesn't mean "family" to me. My position is that marriage is male and female for the purpose of reproduction to maintain the human species. Therefore, I have not gotten to the point of saying that those unions are "marriage." Union-comparable terminology would be "partnership" and I support partnerships.

WCT: As you know, LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [ people ] . Is there any language in the bill to repeal DADT that includes recognition of transgender people?

Roland Burris: I don't know. We can get back to you on that. I think, though, that it refers to gays and lesbians. But, we'll get back to you on that.

As reported by Windy City Times, in the last five years the military has discharged almost 800 mission-critical troops and at least 59 Arabic and nine Farsi linguists under DADT. And, in addition to losing valuable military personnel, the implementation of the law—and the investigations, prosecutions and discharges ( of soldiers for being gay or lesbian associated with it—has cost taxpayers more than $360 million by last count, according to a 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission Report.

Senator Burris is a member of the Armed Services, Homeland Security and Veterans' Affairs committees.

To learn more about Senator Burris log on to

This article shared 2760 times since Thu Apr 1, 2010
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks Foundation Military Appreciation Night May 1 2021-04-30
--From a press release - The Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation, in partnership with USO Illinois and Boeing, will kick off May's National Military Appreciation Month with the team's Military Appreciation Night game on Saturday, May 1 as the ...

Gay News

Pentagon reverses Trump-era ban on trans military service, GLAAD responds 2021-03-31
--From a GLAAD press release - New York, NY - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, celebrates news that the Pentagon will issue ...

Gay News

Modern Military Association of America names executive director 2021-02-09
--From a press release - MMAA is pleased to announce that the board of directors has selected Jennifer Dane as executive director. Jennifer is a U.S. Air Force veteran and has served as the organization's interim executive director since February 2020. ...

Gay News

MMAA condemns Cong. Marjorie Taylor Greene's 'Hate American Flags' statement 2021-02-01
--From a Modern Military Association of America press release - WASHINGTON — Tonight, the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) — the nation's largest LGBTQ military and veteran non-profit organization — condemns Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's statement on 'hate Ameri ...

Gay News

Biden's repeal of trans military ban impacts over 15,500 adults in the military 2021-01-25
--From a Williams Institute press release - A summary of current data on transgender military service in U.S. Today, President Biden signed an executive order ending the ban on transgender military service. The directive instructs the Department of Defense to reinstate the 2016 ...

Gay News

LGBTQA+ organizations praise Biden's lift of trans military ban 2021-01-25
- After President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 25 lifting former President Donald Trump's ban on transgender individuals being in the military, several LGBTQA+ groups and individuals issued press releases praising the move: —LGBTQ ...

Gay News

Research on military trans ban shows urgency of Biden acting on pledge 2021-01-14
--From a press release by The Palm Center - President-elect Joseph Biden has promised to reverse the military's ban on service by transgender Americans on "day one" of his presidency. Research recently released by the Palm Center explains why lifting the ban is an urgent ...

Gay News

New reports from Palm Center look at military transgender ban, Biden's position 2021-01-01
—From a press release - President-elect Joseph Biden has promised to reverse the military's ban on service by transgender Americans on "day one" of his presidency. Research recently released by the Palm Center explains why lifting the ban is an urgent ...

Gay News

New study: Military transgender ban hurts readiness 2020-11-23
--From a press release - SAN FRANCISCO, CA — A new study has found that the current ban on military service by transgender Americans has harmed the armed forces, contradicting claims by the Trump administration that the ban was needed to ...

Gay News

WORLD Taiwan marriages, Nigeria court, protests, GQ Awards 2020-11-02
- Two women became the first military officers to marry their same-sex civilian partners at a mass military wedding in Taiwan—marking another landmark for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, reported. The island's defense ministry called it an ...

Gay News

New coalition advocates voting accessibility for military, veterans, including LGBTQs 2020-09-02
--From a press release - Today, the Military Vote Coalition (MVC) is taking action to protect access to the ballot box for military families and veterans. Among those groups is the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit organization dedicated to ...

Gay News

House members demand LGBTQ Pride flags be allowed on military installations 2020-07-31
- WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair and 30-year Army veteran Congressman Anthony Brown (MD-04), Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chair Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) ...

Gay News

U.S. House of Representatives votes to end Trump-Pence transgender military ban 2020-07-30
--From a MMAA press release - WASHINGTON — Today, the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA), the nation's largest LGBTQ military and veteran non-profit organization, released the following statement following the U.S. House of Representatives' vote ...

Gay News

Former state National Guard enlistee alleges anti-trans discrimination 2020-07-18
- Former Illinois Army National Guard enlistee Liam Papworth has filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) against Dr. Lawrence Gottlieb and UChicago Medicine, alleging anti-trans medical ...

Gay News

Pentagon confirms LGBTQ Pride flag banned 2020-07-17
--From a press release - WASHINGTON — Today, the Modern Military Association of America, the nation's largest LGBTQ military and veteran non-profit organization, responded to Secretary Mark Esper's decision to ban the LGBTQ pride flag. ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.