As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

CA-10: Anthony Woods

We've been hearing rumors about this for some time, but Lisa Vordebrueggen went public, so now we can begin to tell this story. Anthony Woods, an African-American, openly gay Iraq War veteran with two tours of service who publicly came out to challenge the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, may enter the race to replace Ellen Tauscher in CA-10.

Harvard Magazine’s January-February edition features a very interesting story about Woods’ decision to leave the Army. Woods has a masters degree from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Woods was born on Travis Air Force Base and attended high school in Fairfield, according to a spokesman. He is now considering moving back home and running for Congress.

Woods was traveling and unavailable for comment today but as soon as I have an opportunity to speak with him at length, I will file an updated post about him.

I was able to speak with someone knowledgeable about Woods and his decision-making process today, and he told me that he would figure out whether or not to run "in the coming weeks." With no timetable for Tauscher's confirmation, certainly Woods, who also staffed for New York Gov. David Paterson, has some time.

Everyone who I've talked to about this characterizes Woods as a deeply impressive individual. He fought in Anbar Province and elsewhere in Iraq for two tours before deciding to take a stand on their discriminatory policy with respect to gays and lesbians. Here's a bit from that Harvard Magazine article Vordebrueggen cited:

In early November, Woods learned he would be “eliminated” from the army on the grounds of “moral and professional dereliction” and required to repay $35,000—the amount of his scholarship to attend the Kennedy School.

A military career may seem a curious choice for a young man who is gay or even questioning his orientation. But for the son of a single mother, growing up in an Air Force town in northern California, acceptance to West Point was an honor—and an opportunity—beyond compare. Woods focused on the professional to the exclusion of the personal; with the country at war, that wasn’t hard. But two years at Harvard gave him space to think—and to face his dismal prospects for upward mobility in an organization with an explicit homosexuality ban and a strong culture of marriage and children. Even if he had stayed closeted, he says, “It wasn’t going to be possible for me to fit the mold, and I knew that because of that, there was going to be a glass ceiling.”

Even after the invasive court-martial process—the military conducts interviews with friends and family to verify homosexuality, presumably to prevent fraud, for instance by soldiers who wish to avoid an additional tour in Iraq—Woods is reluctant to malign the officers who carried out his investigation. He says they are simply implementing a policy. Change might come from Congress, but Woods believes the Supreme Court is a more likely venue: “I think it’s going to take a landmark court case, like Brown v. Board of Education.”

That we would bar talented people who want to serve their country from that option makes absolutely no sense at all. But perhaps this is a blessing. Perhaps Woods can return to his hometown and find another way to serve - as part of a fresh group of lawmakers who have a new insight to these time-worn challenges we face and maybe some new strategies to tackle them. I hope to interview Woods very shortly should he decide to enter the race. Stay tuned.

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