Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN
11-28-11 By Emily Tisch Sussman, SLDN Government Affairs Co-Director | Comment (0)
I was privileged to join a distinguished group of speakers for a Veterans Day celebration hosted by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of New York City on Friday night. As the sun went down on the first Veterans Day since the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law, our spirits were lifted by a program that included the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus and remarks by representatives from American Veterans for Equal Rights, OutServe, Knights Out, and Service Women’s Action Network.
I was proud to share the story of my Dad, a Vietnam veteran who came back to a country very divided about his service. I was equally proud to tell the 150 or so gathered about how much my experience working with the brave LGBT service members with whom I have come in contact at SLDN has heightened by own appreciation for the unique sacrifices our veterans have made to keep our nation safe throughout the generations.
And while everyone had a personal and compelling story to share about how they had been impacted by the men and women who serve our country, there was one theme that each speaker came back to over and over again. And that is, when it comes to the job of securing full equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters in the military, there is more work to be done.
So, even as we paused to reflect and honor our nation’s great patriots, we recommitted ourselves to continuing this fight – to winning full recognition, benefits, and support for all military families; to advocating effective DADT implementation and protecting service members from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and to ensuring that, once and for all, our military is a welcoming place for all qualified patriots who wish to serve the country they love.
11-14-11 By Zeke Stokes, SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)
Time, if nothing else, has given me license to pen some thoughts about Veterans Day. After all, I have had the honor and privilege of being entitled to wear the uniform of the United States Army for more than half the years that Veterans Day, earlier called Armistice Day, has been in existence.
President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed November 11, 1919, as Armistice Day to honor America’s fallen during World War I which had ended on the Western Front in France at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the year before. In 1954, President (and Five Star Army General) Dwight Eisenhower signed a law expanding the meaning of November 11th to include the honoring of ALL veterans, and Armistice Day then became Veterans Day.
I had the chance to visit Arlington Cemetery early one morning this week. The day was beautiful and clear with a low sun shining through still leafy trees showing off their golden and rust colored hues and shading the rows of headstones representing our honored veterans at rest. A beautiful place yet very poignant and sad.
Another funeral was in progress. The newly fallen veteran was probably a senior Army officer, judging by the horse-drawn caisson awaiting a flag-draped coffin still inside the Fort Myer Chapel and the presence of a large “Old Guard” Honor Guard and the full Army Band forming outside. I wondered, looking back at the cemetery’s headstones, just which and how many of them represented veterans who had been secretly LGBT while alive, and who might have been denied the honor of final rest at Arlington had their truth become known.
My thoughts returned to a day when, as a teenager driving through a small Pennsylvania town with my family, I saw a monument in the town square dedicated to our war-dead veterans. I read the inscription and have not forgotten it since: "They gave their young lives so that democracy might grow old -- and become fully inclusive." Of course, the last four words were not in the original inscription because it was written years before the civil and gay rights movements even began. But, if I had my way, they would be added now as we continue along our path toward a more perfect Union.
This Veterans Day I am grateful to be a member of the SLDN family, a team dedicated to attaining full equality for ALL our veterans, whether they serve currently on active duty or in the reserve components, if they are former service members, or if retired. Unfortunately, even after this year’s repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT), some veterans are still treated differently from their comrades, by law. SLDN will not rest until ALL our veterans receive equal benefits for their equal service and equal sacrifice in defending our country.
11-11-11 By COL. E. A. (Andy) Leonard, USA (ret.) and Co-Chair of SLDN’s Military Advisory Council | Comment (0)
On Sunday, I was honored to represent SLDN and join the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA) at Congressional Cemetery for its annual memorial service honoring LGBT veterans. Held at the grave site of Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, veterans, current service members and allies gathered to honor those who have come before us, as well as the new generation of LGBT military leaders.
Just a year ago, and only a few months after my own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharge, I remember the same memorial but with a different tone: we were still advocating for LGBT service members who were serving in silence. This year, with a successful vote, certification and repeal behind us, we were able to celebrate history, knowing that for the first time gay and lesbian members of the military could not be discharged under DADT. Attendees of the memorial event reflected on this fact, acknowledging that there is still work to be done before full equality is achieved.
With Veterans Day approaching later this week, we take time to thank all the brave Americans, including the LGBT patriots and their families, who have sacrificed so much for the well-being of this country. We recognize the commitments of everyone who has ever worn a military uniform and salute them for their service.
11-09-11 By Danny Hernandez, SLDN Development & Communications Assistant | Comment (0)
Last week, President Obama issued a proclamation to mark Veterans Day, a “tribute to our veterans, to the fallen, and to their families.” We thank the President for this important acknowledgement, and as veterans, we salute all that he and the First Lady continue to do on behalf of those who have worn the uniform of the United States of America.
From the proclamation: “We offer our sincere appreciation and respect to our veterans, to their families, to those who are still in harm's way, and to those we have laid to rest, let us rededicate ourselves to serving them as well as they have served the United States of America.”
Sadly, our nation’s LGBT veterans and service members are still treated as if their sacrifices to this country are not as deserving as the service of their heterosexual peers. That’s why we joined the lawsuit brought by SLDN recently on behalf of married gay and lesbian service members past and present – and their families – to receive the same recognition, support and benefits as their straight, married counterparts.
Read more about the lawsuit: http://www.sldn.org/Equality4Families
We are the two retired veterans in the law suit, and between us, we have almost sixty years of service. We earned those benefits, and we have families, just like our straight counterparts, who deserve recognition. We have made the same sacrifices, faced the same dangers and taken the same risks as all others who served.
It’s time for our nation to honor every veteran equally.
Captain Darrah (left) pictured with her wife Lynne Kennedy.
Colonel Stewart Bornhoft (right) pictured with his husband Stephen McNabb
11-08-11 By Colonel Stewart Bornhoft, USA (Retired) and Captain Joan Darrah, USN (Retired) | Comment (0)
In September, I retired after twenty years of service to the Air Force - a day I didn’t think I would see. After nearly three years of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” investigations and discharge proceedings– with SLDN by my side providing the legal help I needed to stay in the military– I was able to retire on time and receive my full retirement benefits.
But SLDN’s work is far from over. Last week, they filed suit in federal court, challenging DOMA and other federal statutes that prevent gay and lesbian military families from receiving the same recognition, benefits, and support as their straight, married peers. To learn more about the suit, click here.
That’s why I’m traveling the country to help strengthen support for SLDN. This week, I’ll be in Southern California with SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, and I hope you will join us for one of the events below. We’ll be discussing the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and SLDN’s ongoing work to achieve full LGBT equality in our military.
San Diego: Thursday, November 3rd: www.sldn.org/SanDiego2011
West Hollywood: Saturday, November 5th: www.sldn.org/WestHollywood2011
We hope to see you there!
11-02-11 By Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, USAF (Ret.) | Comment (0)