’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Champion Visits Fire Island

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Wednesday June 8, 2011

It was a family affair for former Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy on Fire Island this past weekend.

He, his wife Jennifer and their 3-year-old daughter Maggie and 1-year-old son Jack caught up friends, attended dinner parties and walked along the beach. His son even called out for his "daddy" at Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)'s annual Fire Island Pines fundraiser on Saturday, June 4, but the former congressman was on the beach to stump for support for his Pennsylvania attorney general campaign.

"The people in Pennsylvania need people who are going to stand up and fight for them and not be beholden by special interests," Murphy told EDGE before he spoke to more than 100 Pines residents at David Castelman and Seth Weissman's Ocean Walk home on Sunday, June 5. "You have to fight crime no matter where it happens-whether it's on the street, in the corporate boardroom or as an outsider to Harrisburg, as I am. I've spent a lifetime protecting families and I'll continue to do that as the next attorney general."

An Iraq war veteran who was a captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Murphy spearheaded the bill that repealed the Pentagon's ban on openly gay servicemembers. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law late last year, but Murphy narrowly lost his re-election bid less than two months before.

Murphy: I Stood Up for What I Believe In
Murphy, who announced his attorney general candidacy on April 20, said he remains unsure whether his stance on the issue cost him the election. "At the end of the day, I stood up for what I believe in," he said. "I vote my conscience and I don't apologize for that, and I'm able to look at myself in the mirror everyday knowing I did what was right, not necessarily what was always politically popular."

During his speech, Murphy referenced a letter he received from a company commander who was on his fourth deployment in Afghanistan. The commander learned about his "don't ask, don't tell" repeal efforts in the military's "Stars and Stripes" newspaper. He had just received a "Dear John" letter from his partner in which he said he couldn't "do it anymore-the multiple employments and the strain on our relationship." Murphy referenced the same letter in a speech he gave at Equality Forum's annual International Equality Dinner in Philadelphia on April 30.

"He said it's breaking my heart," said Murphy, as his overtired son began to cry loudly. "The reason why I'm telling you that is because this guy said 'Patrick, I never knew about you until I read this article in the "Stars and Stripes" military newspaper, but he said I'm sitting here at 3 o'clock in the morning in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I'm holding my .9 mm weapon and I'm thinking about blowing my brains out. He said the only thing that is giving me hope is you. So keep fighting." [This reporter posted a video of Murphy's entire Pines speech on YouTube a few hours after he delivered it, but a campaign staffer requested he take it down.]

DADT "Personally and Professionally Offensive
Murphy enlisted in 1993, the same year DADT became law. He categorized the Clinton-era policy and especially the discharge of gay Arabic linguists in Iraq as "personally and professionally offensive."

"I've seen so many great leaders get thrown out because they happen to be gay, not for anything for misconduct and I was going to champion what was right for our military and also what was right for our country," said Murphy.

He remains optimistic the DADT repeal process will be complete before Defense Secretary Robert Gates retires on June 30.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.