Lady Gaga will headline rally in Portland today
Monday, September 20, 2021 5:17 AM

(Source: Portland Press Herald)By Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald, Maine

Sept. 20--PORTLAND -- Recording artist Lady Gaga will be the featured speaker at a Portland rally in support of repealing the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law, which bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

City officials and the rally's organizers confirmed Sunday night that the rally will start about 4 p.m. today at Deering Oaks park.

Lady Gaga, 24, who was performing at a concert in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday, chose Portland because she views Maine's two Republican senators as being critical votes in the upcoming Senate vote to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," according to a rally organizer.

She confirmed her plans Sunday night on Twitter. "Meet me in Portland, Maine 2moro, 9/20 to help repeal DADT. I'm holding a rally and speaking live in Deering Oaks Park," tweeted Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.

Lady Gaga is a passionate supporter of repealing the law, and brought four gay and lesbian service members with her to the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 12. She also posted a lengthy video, addressed to Congress, on YouTube regarding the importance of repealing the law.

Today's rally was organized by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization based in Washington, D.C., which supports repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law.

Aubrey Sarvis, the organization's executive director, said Lady Gaga hopes that by appearing in Maine, she can influence Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who are regarded as key votes in the upcoming debate.

"Her coming here was a strategy decision on her part," Sarvis said of the world-famous pop star who was included on the 2010 Time magazine list of the most influential people in the world. "She sees senators Collins and Snowe as being the bridge between the two sides."

Sarvis said the rally will feature three or four other speakers, although he did not know who they would be Sunday.

On Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled to consider the Defense Authorization Bill, which includes a provision to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law that was adopted by Congress in 1993.

Some Republicans, however, are upset that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he will not allow any amendments to the bill from Republicans. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has threatened to filibuster the vote on the military spending bill.

"The votes to break McCain's filibuster are not there. We need senators Snowe and Collins on board. They are key to us breaking the filibuster," Sarvis said.

But Collins, who in May voted to support the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law while serving as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is expressing reluctance.

"Sen. Collins was the only Republican (on the committee) to vote for the provision that would repeal don't ask, don't tell. ... She believes that our armed forces should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable to serve our country," said Collins' spokesman, Kevin Kelley.

Collins has encouraged Reid to work with Republican leaders to negotiate an agreement that would allow amendments to the Defense Authorization Bill, Kelley said.

John Gentzel, Snowe's spokesman, could not be reached Sunday night.

In Portland, city officials were scrambling to prepare for the arrival of one of the world's biggest pop stars, who is known as much for her evocative costumes as her music.

Lady Gaga made fashion headlines recently, appearing at the MTV Video Music Awards in a dress made of meat.

According to her Twitter profile, Lady Gaga is being followed by 6,390,000 people.

Her celebrity status is making waves at the Portland Police Department. Police met with the rally's organizers Sunday.

Cmdr. Vern Malloch said the city learned about her appearance over the weekend.

"This was really short notice," Malloch said. "She is not performing. She is only going to speak."

Malloch said there is plenty of on-street parking around the Deering Oaks area, which attracts large crowds during Portland Sea Dogs baseball games.

"We will do everything we can to get our members there (to the rally)," said Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, which led last year's campaign in support of same-sex marriage.

Smith said Equality Maine sent an action alert to its members Friday, urging them to contact Snowe and Collins' offices about the importance of voting to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

Sarvis said he has no idea how many people will show up for the rally. He said the numbers, due to the late notification, could range anywhere from 500 to 5,000 people.

Lady Gaga is scheduled to arrive in Portland -- he wasn't sure if she would be coming by airplane or car -- this afternoon.

"Lady Gaga wanted to go to a strategic state where she could have an impact," Sarvis said. "That's why she chose Maine."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:


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