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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 13, 2005

Congress is beset by intolerance, says a former senator

Washington, D.C.--�The real American values are the liberation of the human spirit and recognition of our God-given diversity,� said Carol Moseley Braun during an interview before she gave the keynote address to a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network fundraiser in Washington on May 7.

�And it�s up to us to make that case so fair-minded people can appreciate it,� added the former Illinois senator, ambassador and Democratic presidential candidate.

Moseley Braun became the first African-American woman elected to the Senate in 1992, and was one of the few who voted against the 1993 compromise that became �don�t ask, don�t tell,� effectively barring gay servicemembers from serving openly.

She also voted against the federal �Defense of Marriage Act� in 1996.

Those two votes were used to help end her Senate tenure in 1998. President Clinton appointed her ambassador to New Zealand from 1999 to 2001.

During the 2004 presidential race, Moseley Braun was one of three Democrats to support full marriage equality for gays and lesbians, equating civil unions with school segregation.

Moseley Braun told the Gay People�s Chronicle that Congress is worse off than when she was there.

�There�s an atmosphere of demagoguery and intolerance that was not as prominent when I served,� said Moseley Braun. �But we shouldn�t be intimidated by that.�

�Instead, we need to continue efforts to engage in coalitions with similarly situated groups and keep the issues in the public discourse until we reach a positive tipping point.�

�We lobby Congress by lobbying congressional constituencies,� said Moseley Braun. �Members of Congress are not going to make a political decision that their constituencies don�t understand.�

Moseley Braun said the political climate changes when people are willing to be public in their advocacy.

�Work with people where they are and try to show them the error of their ways,� said Moseley Braun, �and remember that respect for others is patriotic. If you speak from the heart and say what you believe, people will receive you.�

Mosely Braun addressed 700 people who turned out to raise money for SLDN, an advocacy organization which monitors military compliance with �don�t ask, don�t tell� and works to end it.

While there, she talked about the power of an individual to change the world.

For two days following the dinner, SLDN trained 85 lobbyists who visited members of Congress May 9 and 10, explaining to members why �don�t ask, don�t tell� should be repealed.

Among the lobbyists were plaintiffs in the federal suit against the policy that SLDN filed in October and other discharged gay and lesbian servicemembers. Joining them were Wally and Pat Kutteles, the parents of Pfc. Barry Winchell, a soldier beaten to death at Fort Campbell, Ky. in 1999 because he was perceived to be gay.



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