What if They Held a DADT Trial and No One Came?

Did you know there is a major trial going on near Los Angeles dealing with the legality of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?  Did you know some of the top experts on DADT have testified?

If you don’t know, it’s likely because–as veteran LGBT journalist Karen Ocamb points out–the trial is largely being ignored by the large LGBT organizations and the press, with the exception of Ocamb and The Advocate.

Where was GetEqual? They can buy several very expensive tickets to a Barbara Boxer fundraiser to yell at Obama about DADT – but can’t show up with signs outside and buttons inside to demonstrate to the judge, the DOJ and the military representative that this trial matters to LGBTs and should matter to the public?

And where were members of Log Cabin Republican and DADT repeal supporters from Southern California? Surely more LCRs should feel more invested in their own case.

And what about supporters of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Servicemembers United who speak for the hundreds of military personnel, active or veterans, who serve in the numerous military bases around Southern California?  They could have at least sat in the gallery and glared at the DOJ when those young attorneys made snide objections.

Where were Equality California’s progressive get-out-the-vote volunteers who worked extra hard to help pro-marriage equality Assemblymember Mary Salas, (D-Chula Vista) in her primary contest against conservative Juan Vargas for that 40th Senate District? Surely, the people who volunteer for a pro-gay politician understand the importance of defeating the federal government in court on this issue of full equality. And what about marriage equality canvassers who might also want to advocate for LGBT servicemembers and their families? Hundreds of people drove to nearby San Bernardino from Los Angeles and San Diego for a sweltering, long, contentious post-Prop 8 meeting in the summer of 2008 – where were they?

The U.S. District Court in San Francisco made special arrangements for the expected over-flow crowd during the federal challenge to Prop 8 earlier this year. So the U.S. District Court in Riverside, expecting similar huge crowds, made similar arrangements. But the overflow room sat air conditioned-cold and empty, save for Log Cabin Republicans communications manager Charles Moran, who was fielding media calls and emails.  Yes, the American Foundation for Equal Rights had a built-in media generator with attorney Ted Olson. But LCR’s lead attorney Dan White of White & Case is also a straight Republican who has taken the case pro bono because – like Olson – he considers LGBT equality to be one of the most profound civil rights issues of our time.

Trial coverage is tedious and expensive, and this trial lacks the excitement (and San Francisco location) of the Prop 8 trial. It’s also fair to say national LGBT organizations can’t raise money off the back of DADT, except to have photogenic activists walk across the stage in uniform.

But where are the bloggers (largely attached to activist groups) who swarmed all over the Prop 8 trial? Why the lack of attention?

Good questions all.

4 Responses

  1. I actually wonder if part of the issue might be LCR themselves – I was bombarded with press releases/offers of interviews/factual analysis, etc., from the Prop 8 and DOMA trials. It seems to me that most activists/bloggers/media want to cover important gay issues, but they can’t cover what they don’t know about….

    We did a story, though:

    http://www.365gay.com/news/case-challenges-dont-ask-dont-tell-policy/

    And I’ve got to say, I think most blogs/sites did.

  2. Jennifer makes a good point — I haven’t seen much PR coming out of this trial. Bloggers can’t afford to seek out sources, so if there’s no press release, there’s basically no blogging.

    And I think there are several other things working against this story. I get the sense that relatively few members of the public perceive DADT as affecting them (compared to marriage). And unlike the Prop 8 situation, there isn’t a looming ballot fight over DADT.

    Finding an angle on this trial that sustains readers’ interest seems pretty hard.

    As far as attendance, I don’t know what signs and buttons and glaring would have accomplished, especially if the press isn’t there to capture it. I can understand why activists don’t see much opportunity for constructive visibility here.

  3. [...] Add Comment In a post on NLGJA’s “Re:Act” blog, board member Michael Triplett quoted a blog post from veteran LGBT journalist Karen [...]

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