PORTLAND, Maine - Pop star Lady Gaga visited the state Monday on the eve of a key Senate vote to urge its two U.S. senators to help repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.
More than 2,000 people attended a rally at Deering Oaks Park, where the Grammy Award-winning singer stood alongside Air Force, Army and Marine veterans who were discharged because of the policy, which prohibits service members from revealing if they’re gay and recruiters from asking about people’s sexual orientations.
Lady Gaga railed against what she called the injustice of having goodhearted gay soldiers booted from military service while straight soldiers who harbor hatred toward gays are allowed to fight for their country.
She suggested a new policy should target straight soldiers who are “uncomfortable” with gay soldiers in their midst.
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“Our new law is called ‘If you don’t like it, go home!’” she said.
The rally was organized by Washington-based Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The organization is trying to pressure Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine to vote to allow a repeal of the “don’t ask” policy, put in place in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton.
The House has approved a defense authorization bill that includes a repeal of the “don’t ask” policy. In the Senate, Democrats need 60 votes today to cut off debate and proceed to the bill, again putting Snowe and Collins in the role of casting what could be deciding votes.
Collins previously voted for a provision to repeal the policy in the Armed Services Committee, but she wants “a full and open debate” on the defense authorization bill as well as the ability for Republicans to offer amendments, her spokesman Kevin Kelley said.
Snowe hasn’t decided how she’ll vote today, a spokesman said Monday.
Speakers at Monday’s rally said they wanted to bring their fight to Snowe’s and Collins’ backyard. Mike Hall, a former Air Force major who was discharged after his superiors found out he’s gay, said he was proud when Collins voted in committee to repeal the policy.
“Now it’s time for her to do so again,” he said.
Lady Gaga, famous for such hits as “Bad Romance,” skipped her trademark outlandish outfits in favor of a black suit and glasses.
At last week’s Video Music Awards ceremony, where she won eight awards, she was escorted by ex-servicemen who were discharged or left the military as the result of the “don’t ask” policy.
She recently called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to repeal the policy during an interview with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.