Monday, November 3, 2008

Quick read: Veterns for equality and against Don't Ask, Don't Tell

If you've been following some of the election races in Minnesota, you know there's tight competition for several seats, including Norm Coleman's Senate re-election bid against Al Franken (with recent allegations of money funneled to Coleman's wife by an associate), Michele Bachmann's House seat (complicated by her comments on rooting out "anti-American" members of Congress, generating an unexpected fund-raising boost by her competitor), and the open House seat in the 3rd District between Ashwin Madia (D) and Erik Paulsen (R) (who allegedly darkened/desaturated Madia's skin in a tv ad).

However, the Minnesota Independant has a great article out today about Madia's equal rights stance and how he arrived at that opinion during his time as a U.S. Marine:

Madia’s turn-about happened while he was a U.S. Marine. As a member of the judge advocate general’s corps in the Marines, Madia was assigned to defend the case of a servicemember who was being discharged because he is gay. Madia was one of the first attorneys in history to successfully defend a fellow Marine against the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“Real patriotism sometimes means taking on the system if you know what you’re doing is the right thing,” he said of taking the case.

In 2005, Madia took on a client who had downloaded gay pornography on a government computer and was caught. The same day, another Marine had gotten caught doing the same thing, only the pornography was heterosexual in nature.

“The gay Marine was given a demotion in rank; loss of pay; restricted in his movements on base; and, most severe of all, an administrative separation from the Marine Corps with an Other-Than-Honorable (OTH) discharge, just one step below a court martial,” Madia said. “The straight Marine received a verbal reprimand by the commanding officer.”

Madia successfully argued to a panel of Marines that the disparity in punishment was unjust. They agreed.

His client was able to continue his career with the Marines, but Madia was concerned about the man’s well-being now that he had been outed as gay. Madia checked up on him. “When PFC Smith got on the phone, he was calm and his voice level toned. He said, ‘Sir, nobody cares about that stuff,’” Madia recalled.

“If the Marines, some of the most conservative members of our society, can look beyond sexual preference, maybe the rest of America can do so too,” says Madia. “If someone is willing to wear the uniform, fight, and possibly die for this country, it shouldn’t matter who they are and who they love.”

Check it out.

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