Lady Gaga Dives Further Into Politics, Set to Headline DADT Protest Rally
By John Mitchell Posted Sep 20th 2010 01:30PM
Lady Gaga is stepping up her role as an activist in the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the military policy that bans gay men and women from serving openly in the nation's armed forces.
On Monday, Gaga will headline a rally in Portland, Maine, calling on the state's two Republican senators -- Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe -- to vote to take up a defense appropriations bill that includes authorization to repeal the policy. Gaga announced the event to her 6.3 million followers over Twitter.
The pop star has recently been speaking out against the policy and urging her fans to take action, as Senate Democrats attempt to block a Republican filibuster of the bill, according to CNN.
The rally will be held in Deering Oaks Park in Portland, near the University of Southern Maine campus. It is being organized by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a grassroots organization working to overturn DADT. SLDN also helped in the development of a YouTube video Gaga released last week urging her fans to contact their senators to encourage them to vote in favor of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's planned cloture vote to cut off debate on the bill so it will include a repeal of the Pentagon policy once it reaches the senate floor.
In the video, Gaga urged her fans to get active in the fight to repeal DADT:
Republican senators John McCain, Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe have threatened to block the inclusion of the repeal in the bill through a filibuster, and proponents of the measure need both Collins and Snowe -- moderate Republicans who have voted in support of gay rights measures in the past -- to vote across party lines in order to stop the filibuster, get cloture and end the amendment process so the bill can be brought to the floor of the Senate and voted upon. The House passed a similar defense bill, which included a repeal of DADT, this summer. The Senate is set to vote on the issue Tuesday afternoon.We are not asking you to agree with or approve the moral implications of homosexuality; we're asking you to do your job, to protect the constitution ... I have called both of the senators that operate in my district. I will not stop calling until I reach them and I can leave them this message: 'I am a constituent of the senator, my name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also known as Lady Gaga. I'm calling to ask the senator to vote with Senators Reid and Levin to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and oppose John McCain's shameless filibuster. We need to do this for our gay and lesbian soldiers, and finally repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
Gaga has called McCain's filibuster threat "a way to obstruct the Senate floor from discussing or voting on a given law ... essentially [it is] a tactic to hijack our debate."
With a vote on the issue set, the pop star has been more outspoken than usual; however, Gaga has a long history of speaking out on gay rights issues and against Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
At the MTV Video Music Awards last Sunday, Gaga was accompanied down the white carpet by soldiers who were discharged under the Pentagon policy. She was also a featured speaker at last year's National Equality March and performed at a Human Right's Campaign dinner, where a grinning President Obama, who was the keynote speaker at the event, famously joked, "It is a privilege to be here to open for Lady Gaga. I've made it."
Many people shrug off the political opinions of pop stars and actors, but some pundits think Gaga may exert a bit more influence over her vast flock of devoted fans than many other celebrities and caution that anyone with an audience of over 18 million (more than the President!) on Facebook and 6.3 million on Twitter is a political force to be reckoned with.
"She's in a unique position in popular culture," Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University, told Politics Daily last month. "She is widely popular with a big segment of the population even more so than Madonna was 20 years ago. Being a celebrity with YouTube and all of the social media is more powerful than it has been in the past."
"When you have someone like Lady Gaga speaking out on it, it may give some people reason to reconsider their position," Levinson continued. "When you had John Lennon singing give peace a chance, more people were turned against the war. A pop icon can be much more persuasive in politics than a politician. She is doing a great service to the Democratic process."
Indeed, within 72 hours of Gaga's Twitter and YouTube endorsements, more than 107,000 people visited the SLDN website -- 93 percent of whom were first time visitors. The YouTube video, which contains contact information for the SLDN and the telephone number for the U.S. Capitol switchboard, has already received nearly 1.5 million views. And U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Majority Leader Reid have both personally responded to Gaga on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Reid responded to Gaga through his campaign account, saying, "There is a vote on #DADT next week. Anyone qualified to serve this country should be allowed to do so." Gillibrand, who as a senator from the state of New York actually represents NYC resident Gaga, also reached out to the pop star: "I couldn't agree more and am helping lead the fight to repeal DADT. Do you have a moment to talk later today?" the senator tweeted.
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