30 Days of Pride!
As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, SLDN is highlighting individuals and organizations making a difference in the fight to achieve full LGBT equality in the military. Check back each day for a new profile!
In October 2011 Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) announced the filing of landmark federal litigation, suing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, on behalf of current and former service members seeking equal recognition, benefits and family support for equal sacrifice and service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
At 22 years old, Senior Airman Randy Phillips garnered international media attention when he recorded and released a You Tube video documenting coming out to his father via phone on the day of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The video went viral and gave more than 6 million viewers a window into the lives of the brave LGBT patriots who had previously been forced to serve in silence.
Ariana Bostian-Kentes has become a strong and effective voice for LGBT military spouses and partners whose voices were previously silenced by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) and now face unequal treatment in the face of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). When “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still the law, Ariana, the partner of an active duty US Army officer, fought fiercely for repeal, sharing her story with the Pentagon Working Group.
Evan Wolfson is founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide. Since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he has led the way at Freedom to Marry to spotlight service members who are denied federal recognition for their marriages.
Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt are tireless and effective advocates for LGBT rights. Married for 33 years and residents of Minnesota, they have attended countless events across the country speaking on behalf of equality - and their love for their gay son, the late CPL Andrew Wilfhart.
CDR Zoe Dunning has been a champion for military equality for more than two decades and is now taking her advocacy to the policy-making arena. Just yesterday, she won the Democratic Primary - her first campaign for public office - to become Democratic County Central Committeewoman in the City of San Francisco.
Kay Moore enlisted in the Navy in 2005, immediately after graduating from high school, and served for five years before enrolling at the U.S. Naval Academy. In September 2011, after her first year, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, Kay began researching the possibilities of starting a gay-straight alliance program at USNA.
Brenda "Sue" Fulton has been a leader in the fight for full LGBT military equality for nearly two decades and since the repeal of "Don' Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) has only intensified and accelerated her commitment and involvement in the movement.
Discharged unjustly under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). Leaders in the fight to repeal the law. Now, two members of SLDN's Military Advisory Council are serving their country in uniform again. Today, we meet SGT Pepe Johnson and MC1(SW) Jeremy Johnson, shining examples of gay service members, wearing the uniform of our nation with honor and distinction.
Tracey Copper-Harris has bravely refused to allow anyone to silence her voice. Tracey served 12 years in the Army receiving more than two dozen medals and commendations. Tracey left military service at the rank of Sergeant. She publicly supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” choosing to share her personal struggles, serving in silence, as part of SLDN’s “Stories from the Frontlines” campaign.
Allyson Robinson applied to West Point three times and served as an enlisted combat medic in the U.S. Army Reserve before finally receiving her appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. After graduating in 1994, she spent five years on active duty as an Air Defense Artillery officer, commanding PATRIOT missile units in Europe and the Middle East, before leaving the Army to pursue a calling to Christian ministry.
Mevin Dwork never gave up on his fight for justice. After enlisting in the Navy in 1943, Dwork worked with the hospital corps, caring for the sick and wounded. Despite what was later described as an “exemplary period of active duty,” he was suddenly escorted off base to his surprise. Then, following weeks in the brig and a psychiatric hospital, he was unjustly discharged from military service for being gay.
Almy v. U.S., filed in 2010 by SLDN, challenges the constitutionality of three discharges under the discriminatory “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” (DADT) and seeks the reinstatement of the plaintiffs to active duty. To date, two of the three have been reinstated since the repeal of the DADT law, and the case of the third, former Air Force Major Mike Almy, remains pending. Today, we meet the plaintiffs.
Colonel Ginger Wallace joined the military in 1990 as a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. She has served more than two decades as an intelligence officer and is currently deployed to Afghanistan, participating in an initiative called the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands Program, which supports Operation Enduring Freedom by ensuring the U.S. achieves its government objectives in the South Asian region.
RADM Jamie Barnett notes that the his passion for civil rights was sparked when his high school was integrated during his sophomore year. Growing up in Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement instilled within him a respect, understanding and passion for equality.
Kristen Kavanaugh is a 2002 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. She served for five years as an officer in the Marine Corps, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. Unwilling to compromise her integrity, Capt Kavanaugh voluntarily decided to leave the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) after no longer being able to lie about her sexual orientation.Read more
Elizabeth Shirey was raised in Cincinnati, OH and Sacramento, CA, graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College in 2010, where she double-majored in Political Science and French. During college Elizabeth interned for Rep. Doris Matsui part of the Wellesley in Washington program. She also interned on Bolling AFB with the Air Force JAG Corps, working on General Law and Military Justice cases.
Colonel Diane Schroer has always been a fighter. She spent twenty five years in the Army receiving numerous decorations and commendations for her service and retiring at the rank of Colonel. Following her retirement she accepted an offer as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress. When Schroer informed her new employers that she was in the process of her gender transition, the Library of Congress rescinded the employment offer, giving the job to the next qualifying candidate.
SLDN's summer legal interns Desiree Woods, David Wexelblat and Rachel Schulman joined the team in May 2012. Today, we meet these future leaders.
1st Lt Josh Seefried joined with Ty Walrod, a civilian, to launch OutServe, an association of LGBT actively serving military personnel. The organization originated with a secret Facebook group to connect active duty gay and lesbian service members online. Using the pseudonym J.D. Smith, he and others expressed what it was like to be gay and in the military.
Emily Tisch Sussman is the Executive Director of Young Democrats of America, the nation’s largest partisan, youth-led political organization. Emily formerly served as the Co-Director of Government Affairs for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, where she represented LGBT servicemembers as was a leading figure in the movement to repeal the discriminatory "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) law.
Anu is the first Executive Director of the Service Women's Action Network. SWAN is an organization dedicated to supporting, defending, and empowering today’s servicewomen and women veterans of all eras, in order to transform military culture and secure equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault.
Thomas Roberts is an award-winning journalist and anchors MSNBC Live on weekdays at 11a.m. He also serves as a fill-in host on MSNBC’s “First Look” and NBC’s TODAY.
Prior to his addition to MSNBC’s dayside team, Roberts served as a correspondent for CBS News. He also contributed to several entertainment shows including “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider.” Prior to that, he was a news anchor for CNN Headline News.
Captain M. Matthew Phelps is a native of Illinois and is currently finishing his command at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego as the Commanding Officer of the Receiving Company. He enlisted in the Marines in 2002, and after attaining the rank of Sergeant in 2005, decided to commission as an officer.
Stephen Peters, is President of The American Military Partner Association, a support and resource network for the partners and spouses of LGBT servicemembers and veterans. Launched originally in 2009 as the “Campaign for Military Partners” by Servicemembers United, the initiative grew and on September 20, 2011, the American Military Partner Association was born.
Leon Panetta most recently served as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency before being confirmed as the 23rd Secretary of Defense in the summer of 2011. Panetta oversaw the certification process of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) after Dr. Robert Gates, then Secretary, retired from the post.
This month, Chad Griffin became President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT lobbying and advocacy organization. Already, the Arkansas native is addressing head-on the issue of youth bullying with the release of a report, “Growing Up LGBT in America.” The findings, using survey responses from more than 10,000 young people across the country, provide valuable insight into some of the most pressing issues LGBT teens face in their hometowns and schools.
Congressman Adam Smith has represented Washington state’s 9th district since 1997. Currently, he is the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services committee, and was an important ally in the fight to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
Aubrey Sarvis, former chief counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee and later executive vice president of Verizon Communications, joined SLDN as its executive director in October 2007. He is also a member of the SLDN Board of Directors.
Over the month of June, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network profiled individuals who continue to make significant contributions to the LGBT military community as we continue the work for full equality within the armed forces. The individuals we are recognizing today will remain anonymous. They are both active duty service members; they have served their minimum time and have re-enlisted, at least once.