Pop star Lady Gaga visited the state on 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’ rights.
“There were no strobe lights, no outlandish costumes and only a mediocre sound system. But Lady Gaga was here, and the crowd jumped up and down, snapping photos as a whirl of platinum-blond hair emerged from an S.U.V. and walked up a concrete ramp to a tiny stage,” Katie Zezima wrote on the NY Times.
More than 2.000 people attended the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Grassroots Rally at Deering Oaks Park, near the University of Southern Maine campus, 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.
“There she is,” a girl shrieked. Not the typical reception for someone who is on hand to deal with a Congressional filibuster.
Lady Gaga, the pop music sensation whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, was here to make an impassioned speech to the crowd of college students, parents with small children, teenagers and service members calling for the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
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.
“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 U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Supporters of a repeal are not sure they have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster. Maine has become the last-minute battleground for them because its two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, are publicly undecided on the issue.
“Equality is the prime rib of America, but because I am gay, I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer,” Lady Gaga said, referencing a dress she wore last week to the MTV Video Music Awards that was made out of cuts of steak.
“Shouldn’t everyone deserve to wear the same meat dress I do?” she said.
In recent weeks Lady Gaga, who has long supported gay rights, has made repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” a personal mission. Last week, she appeared alongside four discharged service members whom she took to the awards show, then took on Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, on Twitter and made a YouTube video calling for the policy’s repeal.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which organized the Maine event, said his group reached out to associates of Lady Gaga weeks ago.
“I want to be strategic. I’ll go to Washington, but I’m not sure there are any votes in Washington,” Mr. Sarvis said. She finished a concert in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday night and drove 15 hours in her tour bus to get here for a 5 p.m. appearance.
Lady Gaga called on Senators Snowe and Collins and Senator Scott P. Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, to support a repeal.
In an e-mail, Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Ms. Collins, said that the senator was the only Republican on the Armed Forces Committee to vote for a repeal and that “she believes that our armed forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable to serve our country.”
Ms. Collins, however, is calling for an open debate on the issue and for allowing committee members to offer amendments to the bill.