The normally mild-mannered city of Portland, Maine, will find itself at the crossroads of pop culture and American politics on Monday afternoon (September 20), thanks to Lady Gaga . The singer will be the special guest at a rally in the city to draw attention to Tuesday’s planned procedural vote in the Senate that will decide whether to break the filibuster over the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” laws and allow the House-approved bill to come to a vote.
The event, put on by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, seeks to prove to Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins that there is enough fervor in their constituency to justify their breaking party ranks and voting to end the filibuster.
But Gaga isn’t just a gun for hire. Rather, she is the whole reason the event is happening. “This has been a very organic process, and it all came from Lady Gaga,” SLDN’s Emily Sussman explained to MTV News via Skype. “She heard the stories of some discharged servicemen and women and insisted that she get involved.”
That involvement has manifested itself in a number of ways over the past few weeks. Following a concert in Washington, D.C., Gaga got the chance to meet some former members of the military who were discharged because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violations. She was so moved by their stories that she brought several with her to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, where they accompanied her on the white carpet while she rallied for their cause. Gaga also recently produced a pair of YouTube videos instructing fans on how to contact their senators and then showing off some of the responses she’d received.
“Lady Gaga could not have gotten involved at a better time legislatively,” Sussman said. “The House has already acted, and now is the time the Senate has to act. She motivated her base, and her little monsters responded.”
Not only have her actions brought about celebrity-assisted attention to the cause, but they have also yielded tangible results. “The response has been huge,” Sussman said. “All I ever want is for people to start calling their senators, and all of a sudden [Gaga] tweets it, and the phone lines start blowing up! One of the first videos we saw in response was of two girls in Boulder, Colorado. They picked up the phone and called Senator [Michael] Bennet, and within a couple of hours, he made a YouTube video responding to it. This is really personal democracy in action. It’s pretty exciting.”
The event will not only feature Gaga (who will speak about her experiences with members of the military) but also several former military members — both gay and straight — who will recount their stories. Gaga has even started to rally around the Twitter hashtag “4the14k,” which represents the 14,000 members of the military who have been discharged because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”