I have a confession to make. When my husband, A1C Daniel Henderson, and I first volunteered to represent Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at Denver Pride, we had an ulterior motive in mind. Yes, we were happy to share our story about our struggle for marriage equality within the military, but in addition, we knew this opportunity would get us out of Cheyenne, Wyoming for a weekend! Daniel and I are stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, and we live a very quiet, unassuming life in a sleepy little town in a very conseravtive state. So, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to spend the weekend in the "big city."
As plaintiffs in SLDN's DOMA challenge McLaughin v. Panetta, we were asked to share our story with the public attending Denver Pride and to help educate people about the many inequalities that remain in the military following the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). While there are many, many things that still need to be changed before there is true equality for LGBT military members and their families, Daniel and I soon realized that it was as important for us to educate the public about the services SLDN provides as it was to share our own story.
Yes, we mentioned to a few people that we were plaintiffs in a law suit challenging the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, but we encountered so many young gay and lesbian military members who had never heard of SLDN before. So, it was just as important for us to let people know about the wonderful work SLDN does - as has done for almost 20 years on behalf of LGBT service members and their families.
And I can't tell you how many former military members came up to our booth and told us stories about how SLDN had helped them fight discharge, discrimination, or harassment. One man, a former intelligence officer, told us that in 1994 SLDN saved his life. Another current service member told us about how SLDN helped him fight being discharged just months before DADT was officially repealed.
There were so many moving stories that people shared with us at Denver Pride, and listening to them is really made me feel proud. Pride celebrations for the LGBT community are opportunities for us to come together and acknowledge who we are as people. But for me, this year at Denver Pride, I wasn’t just proud to be gay. I was proud to represent an organization that does such vital work on behalf of the LGBT military community. While I certainly don't mind the limelight or the attention the law suit has brought my husband and me, we both realize that the fight for full equality is bigger than ourselves, and we are so proud and so honored to be represented by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jerret Henderson lives in Cheyenne, WY, with his husband, Airman First Class Daniel Henderson. The two are plaintiffs in SLDN's landmark case, McLaughlin v. Panetta, challenging the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other federal laws that prevent gay and lesbian service members and veterans from equal support and recognition.
06-24-12 By Jerret Henderson |