You have to hand it to [article id="1647683"]Lady Gaga[/article]. In addition to being a record-setting winner at Sunday night's Video Music Awards, the international pop icon is a woman of conviction.
Case in point. Last Tuesday, during the Washington, D.C., stop on her Monster Ball Tour, Gaga, a longtime gay-rights advocate, told her team that she wanted to meet with some members of the U.S. Armed Services who had been discharged because they are openly homosexual. Gaga was interested in learning more about the recent push to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy instigated by a California judge's ruling last week that the Clinton-era military rule was unconstitutional and a vote by the House to repeal the legislation.
"We met her before the show last week and told her our stories, and that's when she said she wanted to do more," said David Hall, 36, a former member of the Air Force who was booted out in August 2002 after a female cadet told his commander that he was gay and in a relationship. When confronted, Hall said he told his commanding officer he had no comment, but "he took her word for it over mine," and Hall, a five-year veteran, was discharged.
"We talked to [Gaga] for a bit and she said, 'It would be great if I could bring you to the VMAs,' " he said. A longtime Gaga fan, Hall was ecstatic about the idea, but said it seemed unlikely that they could pull it off on such short notice. But when you're Lady Gaga and you have 13 VMA nominations, it seems anything is possible.
"I just kept thinking, 'How can we get this together? Can we do it that fast?' " Hall said. "To my surprise, we were able to pull it off."
Hall and three of his cohorts — Katie Miller, Stacy Vasquez and Mike Almy — ended up [article id="1647651"]walking the white carpet with Gaga[/article] and chatting with MTV's Sway before they took their seats right behind Gaga in the Nokia Theatre in some of the most primo spots in the house.
Hall has been working with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN.org) since 2006, helping the advocacy organization push to have "Don't Ask" repealed. He said even with all the work he's been doing for the organization, having Gaga spread the word to her 6 million Twitter followers and millions of VMA viewers was a huge boost.
"I've done tons of media over the past four years ... but I knew she would reach out to her Little Monsters and tell them about the repeal of 'Don't Ask' on the white carpet and [it would have a huge impact]," he said. "You couldn't ask for a better person to do it. She's very genuine. It's not some ploy to get attention. She really wanted to know about the repeal and why we need to get rid of 'Don't Ask.' "
Though President Clinton had campaigned on the promise to allow anyone to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation, the DADT policy was implemented in 1993 as a compromise gesture with Congress. It bars military officials from asking service members to reveal their sexual orientation, but also mandates that they could be discharged for offering the information themselves. It has long been criticized by the LGBT community over claims that it has led to harassment of service members, investigations based on rumors, and a double standard based on the military's code of honesty and integrity. To date, more than 14,000 service members have been fired under the law.
Gaga's decision to use the VMA platform to publicize the attempt to push the repeal of "Don't Ask" through — a commitment President Obama made during his campaign and which he has repeatedly said is his goal — came at just the right time, according to Hall.
"The Senate is just coming back and we're hoping that they will pass something this month," he said, noting that Democratic control of Congress could possibly be weakened if Republican candidates score key victories in the November elections, which could set the repeal process back once again. "We were telling her that it is very important to speak out on this now," Hall said of SLDN's message to Gaga, who paid for the service members to fly out to Los Angeles for the VMAs.
In addition to their swank seats and walk down the carpet, Hall said the organization members met with Gaga as she was prepping for the show earlier in the day Sunday to go over talking points. They also were invited to attend the post-VMA party put on by Gaga's Interscope Records label, where they chatted with Mother Monster and her actual mother, Cynthia Germanotta.
Hall's highlight? "She gave us a shout-out during the acceptance for her first award," he said. "And the interview with Sway on the white carpet ... But every time Lady Gaga won, it was great. And when she won [article id="1647732"]Video of the Year, I loved her meat outfit[/article]."
The Moonmen have all been handed out and the stars have gone home, but there's plenty of 2010 MTV Video Music Awards news, interviews, behind-the-scenes scoop, party reports and more still to come, so keep it locked on MTVNews.com.