Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
I am personally grateful to Kathi Westcott for any number of important reasons, not the least of which is that she, and her life partner Teri, kindly offered their assistance in vetting a guy I met in July 2001 to see if he was “husband material.” I fondly recall going to dinner with Kathi and Teri on Tuesday, July 17, 2001 and asking them if they would mind if a guy I had met the Saturday prior could join us. Kevin Kirby joined us for dinner, and now – coming up on seven years later – he jokingly, and affectionately, refers to that night as the “lesbian inquisition.”
I had the great pleasure of working with Kathi as an SLDN Staff Attorney, and she was a valued friend. Given my past treacherous dating history, coupled with her personal knowledge of me, it made good sense to reach out to her for an assessment of Kevin. I am proud to say that her assessment was quite positive and – as the test of time has proven – accurate.
Accuracy is Kathi Westcott’s stock in trade, and compassion is her greatest attribute. She came to SLDN in May 11, 1999 and has these nine years later left her mark by having zeroed in on the legal issue impacting the lives of many hundreds of service members, providing them with accurate and compassionate legal representation. Kathi’s considerable legal skill led to her eventual rise within SLDN to the position of Legal Director.
June 30th marked Kathi’s final day at SLDN, as she is leaving to take a new position with Change to Win. As all of us who know Kathi, and particularly those of us who have been privileged to work with Kathi, can attest, this is Change to Win’s gain and SLDN’s loss.
I can’t even begin to express how valuable her effort has been to SLDN, and to so many of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered troops. I think the defining case of Kathi’s SLDN legal career may well have been that of PFC Barry Winchell. PFC Winchell was brutally murdered in his sleep on July 5, 1999 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, by two other soldiers who believed he was gay.
Beginning almost immediately following the murder, SLDN received multiple reports from gay and lesbian residents of nearby communities that the Army was attempting to whitewash the anti-gay aspect of PFC Winchell’s tragic death. Kathi was immediately dispatched to Fort Campbell and she spent countless hours traveling between Washington, D.C. and Fort Campbell to watch over the Army’s investigation into the murder and, later, to watchdog the courts martials of the two defendants.
Thereafter, following two murder convictions, Kathi turned her attention to the Fort Campbell chain-of-command, to include the then Commanding General who SLDN concluded had allowed a climate of harassment and hostility to fester targeting perceived gay and lesbian soldiers. Kathi can rightfully take credit for having led the fight that resulted in the first ever documented instance of a General Officer paying a price for official indifference to the well-being of their gay soldiers (the General’s promotion to his third star was delayed for nearly two years, with several U.S. Senators, led by the courageous Sen. Edward Kennedy, publicly opposing his promotion).
Several months following the Fort Campbell murder convictions, the Army post received a new Commanding General. I had the pleasure of traveling with Kathi to meet with the new Commander, Maj. Gen. Richard Cody (who was later promoted to full General and served as the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff). Kathi eloquently urged Maj. Gen. Cody to avoid the mistakes of his predecessor, and to implement programs to ensure that all of his soldiers were truly treated with dignity and respect.
When the history book of SLDN is written, Kathi Westcott’s accuracy and compassion will be rightfully recognized. I think I can confidently speak for every LGBT service member and Veteran when I say to Kathi how very much she is appreciated, and how very much she will be missed.
06-30-08 Comment (0)
Last week SLDN released new data
showing that women in the Air Force and Army make up a disproportionately large percentage of discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). While women make up approximately fifteen percent of the armed forces, they account for nearly half of all discharges from those two branches. Why are women being singled out so disproportionately? Only the Pentagon can say. But what seems fairly obvious is that DADT is being used in an arbitrary fashion to target women in the military.
SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis considers
why a tool as arbitrary as DADT even exists. While our allies in Canada and Britain allow their military commanders to judge who is fit for service, why does the U.S. Congress feel the need to take this decision out of the hands of our military leaders? Why hasn’t Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?
to visit Huffington Post and learn more about why we need, now more than ever, to repeal this law and why Sarvis is saying, “Women’s Liberation? No, Oppression.”
Labels: Huffington Post, women
06-30-08 Comment (0)
Openly gay Army Sergeant Darren Manzella was discharged on June 10
under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law forbidding military service by openly gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans. Manzella spotlighted the injustice of DADT when he was profiled by the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes
in December 2007. In that interview he told correspondent Lesley Stahl that he served openly during much of his time in the Army, with the full support of his colleagues and command.
Manzella, 30, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002 and was twice deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge for providing medical care to his fellow soldiers, Iraqi National Guardsmen and civilians while under fire.
SLDN: How did it feel to learn of your discharge?
Manzella: When I first found out that I was being discharged I was disappointed even though I knew that it was a possibility. However I had begun to hope that the Army was going to retain me because I was an asset to the military and this country, regardless of my sexual orientation. When my commander informed that me I was being recommended for discharge, I had received orders and was anticipating a transfer to Fort Drum, NY to begin a hospital position at their medical facility.
It was difficult to be told, despite serving in a war zone for two rotations and proving my skills in combat, that the Army no longer wanted me to continue serving. And to be told that I was being discharged, not because of bad conduct or poor work performance, but because of who I am was frustrating.
What was the reaction of your fellow soldiers to your appearance on 60 Minutes, and now to your discharge?
After my appearance on 60 Minutes I received a lot of support from most of my colleagues. Some were surprised that I made such a public statement but told me that they were proud of me for standing up for people who could not speak out. To them, I was still SERGEANT Manzella though. I really didn’t notice a change in how I was treated or viewed.
Many of my peers and co-workers voiced to me that they felt it was unfair that I was being discharged. They felt, as many people in our military and society feel, that an able and competent soldier should be retained especially in this time when we are fighting two wars and need every capable man and woman who is willing to put on a uniform and serve their country.
Do you have any regrets about coming out on national television?
I do not and will not regret ever speaking out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I feel that I had an opportunity to use my voice and offer it to the thousands of gay and lesbian service members who are forced to serve in silence. I had the opportunity to request a board and rebut my statements that were seen on the 60 Minutes segment. I declined the option and said I would never take back what I said, and that I would never live my life in silence again.
How has SLDN helped you through this process?
SLDN has been by my side for over two years now and I am extremely grateful for all of their advice and support. In addition to their exceptional legal advice, my attorneys, Aaron Tax and Kathi Westcott, helped me weigh the consequences of going public with my story.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working with SLDN in Washington, DC. I have been helping to plan and organize events across the country in an effort to educate and inform citizens of the harm and disservice that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” imposes on our society. I have started traveling to these events and have the opportunity to relay my story in an effort to offer some personal perspective and put a face to a story.
What advice would you offer to young gays and lesbians considering a career in the military?
I have been asked for advice by young gay men and women contemplating a career in the military. I tell them what I would tell anyone whether they be male/female, black/white/Hispanic/Asian, gay or straight. If you choose to defend your country just do your job the very best you can and don’t let any classification make you feel as if you are not worthy of wearing that uniform. And if a situation occurs, much like what I recently experienced, you will know that you are a true American patriot, even if an outdated policy says that you are no longer fit to serve your country.
How is the transition back to civilian life?
I am still adjusting. I do not miss meeting early for morning exercise or standing in the rain for formations, but I miss the pride of serving and helping to make our nation more safe and secure.
Labels: Darren Manzella, SLDN on 60 Minutes
06-27-08 Comment (4)
This morning’s New York Times
reports on Pentagon data collected by SLDN
showing the Army and Air Force discharged a disproportionate number of women in 2007 under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law.
Reporter Thom Shanker writes
, “While women make up 14% of Army personnel, 46% of those discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, 49% of its discharges under the policy last year were women.”
According to SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis, “Women make up fifteen percent of the armed forces, so to find they represent nearly fifty percent of Army and Air Force discharges under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is shocking,”
to read the article in its entirety.
Labels: don't ask don't tell, New York Times, women
06-23-08 Comment (0)
Sunday June 22nd marked the 20th Anniversary of the death of Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, USAF. In 1975 Matlovich captured national attention by appearing on the cover
Magazine in his Air Force uniform above the banner headline: "I Am a Homosexual." His openness and honesty marked the first time many Americans ever considered the unequal treatment endured by gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members.
In his latest Huffington Post blog
, SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis examines legacy left by Matlovich and considers why SLDN continues to fight for open and honest military service.
to visit Huffington Post and learn more about the need for principled leadership, and why Sarvis is telling the President that there should be “A Medal for Sergeant Matlovich?”
Labels: Huffington Post, Matlovich
06-23-08 Comment (0)
Talking Points Memo
and Huffington Post
are both floating the possibility that Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, USA (Ret.), the highest ranking female officer in Army history, might be considered as Barack Obama’s Vice Presidential running mate.
Speaking at SLDN’s 2006 Annual Dinner, General Kennedy told SLDN supporters, “Army values are taught to soldiers from their earliest days in the Army. Those values are: loyalty, duty, mutual respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. We teach our soldiers that these are the values we expect them to live up to. I believe that as an institution, our military needs to live up to the values we demand of the service members. Military leaders need to respect all service members. We need to recognize that loyalty and selfless service are exhibited equally, by service members of every color, gender and sexual orientation.”
We at SLDN are pleased to see General Kennedy receiving the attention she is due. She has been a strong and vocal champion of all our men and women in uniform, regardless of their sexual orientation, and would also bring enormous military and national security credibility to the Democratic ticket.
Labels: Barak Obama, Claudia Kennedy
06-20-08 Comment (0)
SLDN marks the 20th anniversary
of the death of retired Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich by renewing its call for repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning military service by gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans. Matlovich, who appeared on the September 8, 1975 cover of Time magazine over the headline “I Am a Homosexual: The Gay Drive for Acceptance,” was the first person to challenge the ban on openly gay men and women in uniform, and a hero to the LGBT community.
Matlovich passed away on June 22, 1988 and was buried in Congressional Cemetery. Upon his headstone, carved in stone lie the words which will forever be his legacy, "When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."
06-20-08 Comment (0)
First Lieutenant Eli White (kneeling right ) and General Peter Pace (third from left)
On January 1, 2006, I was deployed at LSA Anaconda, Iraq, serving as the Operations Officer to the Provost Marshal’s Office. On that day, Gen. Peter Pace, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led a USO tour to the base to entertain the troops and thank us for our service. My troops, military working-dog teams, and I were detailed to augment his security team, providing protection both at the event and serving as mobile security escorts. Throughout the day, Gen. Pace repeatedly thanked us for our exceptional service, and personally gave each of us his coin. I distinctly remember my excitement in being assigned the mission, and felt a bit of butterflies in my stomach as we met and shook hands. He surprised me with his approachability, eagerness to listen to our stories and concerns, and genuine care for us and our loved ones. My personal interaction with Gen. Pace left me with an even greater respect for him than that which came with his distinguished title.
A year after my return from Iraq, I opened up my hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, and was appalled by Gen. Pace’s comments degrading gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. In over three years on active duty, I served alongside gay, lesbian, and bisexual Airmen, Soldiers, and Sailors, both stateside and in Iraq. I saw firsthand how “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” silences these dedicated troops from sharing their lives with some of their best friends – their fellow service members. Despite risking their lives daily, they could not talk about their loved ones, and routinely were force to hide their true selves.
Today, I no longer wear the uniform of the U.S. Air Force, yet I continue to serve my country and my fellow military brethren as a member of the SLDN team. As I left the military to enter law school, the ban on openly gay service members weighed heavily on my heart, and led me to SLDN, where I currently serve as a summer law fellow, supporting our legal services, litigation, and policy programs. I am grateful for this opportunity to help those affected by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and hope that our efforts soon materialize into the repeal of this discriminatory law. I wish Gen. Pace was part of the solution, rather than the problem.
As Gen. Pace traveled throughout Iraq, thanking the troops for our service and dedication, he shook the hands of many gay and lesbian service members silenced by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy; troops who, in his eyes, are “immoral.” He recognized their bravery, courage, and selflessness in the Global War on Terror, yet he failed to provide them with the leadership and respect they deserve. Our gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members are anything but “immoral”, they are brave men and women, dedicated to protecting our country and serving honorably.
SLDN Legal Fellow
Labels: peter pace
06-19-08 Comment (1)
Tomorrow General Peter Pace, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) will join an elite club that includes Neil Armstrong
, Jonas Salk
, Martha Graham
, Harper Lee
and Friedrich Hayek
when he receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The medal is our nation’s top civilian award and has previously been bestowed upon a host of distinguished Americans
Armstrong was the first human being to walk on the face of the Moon. Salk discovered a vaccine for Polio. American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham revolutionized the art of dance and is considered one the of 20th Century's great artists. Harper Lee wrote the American literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, and Friedrich Hayek defended American ideals of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against communism and socialism.
In contrast, General Pace, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) used his position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a platform to judge and degrade patriotic Americans during a time of war. In a 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune Pace called lesbians and gays “immoral” before adding, "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” He stands behind the failed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that denies qualified lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans the right to serve our country. Under his watch, in order to meet personnel goals, the Pentagon relaxed enlistment standards regarding age, physical fitness, and education and criminal records.
Labels: peter pace
06-18-08 Comment (1)
Gregory Herek, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Davis, and on his blog, Beyond Homophobia
, Dr. Herek shares his thoughts about sexual prejudice and its relationship to cultural events and public policy.
Last week the Norwegian Parliament passed legislation legalizing gay marriage. This week Dr. Herek looks at the Norwegian example noting that every NATO nation which has recognized gay relationships (in marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships) has also allowed lesbians, gay and bisexuals to serve openly in the military.
to read more and learn why Dr. Herek believes that when it comes to gay civil rights there is a clear case of NATO vs. the USA.
Labels: foreign militaries
06-16-08 Comment (1)
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