DADT Repealed, But the Fight is Not Over
September 22, 2011
This post comes from HRC Board of Director Meghan Stabler.
At one minute past midnight on Tuesday the discriminatory law called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that had been in force for almost 18 years was gone. DADT officially became history and something that we’ll tell our kids about — and President Obama, along with so many others helped to finally close this sorry chapter in discrimination.
According to Servicemembers United, a total of at least 14,346 courageous, hardworking and loyal service members were discharged pursuant to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and prevented from serving the country they love simply because of the person they love.
Texas has one of the largest populations of military personnel throughout the state, from Ft. Hood to Randolph AFB to Brooke Army Medical Center. There are close to 200,000 active duty service members per American Forces News Service.
As part of the celebration of DADT Repeal, the Human Rights Campaign, along with the local Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), hosted an evening event for with over 150 veterans, active duty personnel and supporters attending.
HRC Austin Steering Committee member and former US Navy service member Glenn Bagley started the evening with a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. Everyone stood at attention and saluted the flag, many with tears in their eyes.
One of my good friends and fellow activists is Omar Lopez, a former Navy petty officer, spoke at the event detailing how he was discharged after he revealed he was gay during a medical examination in 2006. Now he is ready to re-enlist.
Chance Birdsall, of SLDN Austin, and US Navy veteran, also gave a moving account of his discharge from the Navy in the mid-90s.
Despite the milestone of repeal, much work remains to ensure we continue toward full equality in the military. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the military from extending a number of benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian service members, such as health insurance benefits, housing, access to legal services, and spousal relocation support.
I spoke about how DADT Repeal is both an actual and symbolic step toward our nation’s full acceptance of all people, including LGBT people. “But unlike many of our allied nations, such as the UK, Canada, Australia and even Spain open service for transsexual, intersex and transgender service members is still denied. This is still another battle we must fight.”
I reminded those attending that, “We must do everything we can to ensure that transgender Americans are able to serve in the U.S. military. Our fight is not over.” I asked everyone to join me in for a moment of silence for all of those transgender people who will still face military discharge and so that we reflect on the work still to be done for full LGBT equality.
It was emotional for me and for many in the audience, at times during my speech I was close to tears and I fully appreciated the hugs from veterans who stood with me. Ultimately I appreciated their commitment to our nation and the service they gave. With DADT repealed, they can now hold their heads up high and not only be proud of the country they served, but proud of who they are and who they love.
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