HRC Blog

Veterans Meet with Sen. Bill Nelson’s staff, Urge Vote to Repeal DADT This Year

The following post comes from veteran Tom Minette: HRC organizers have been busy in Jacksonville, Florida. Two weeks ago, the Voices of Honor tour visited the University of North Florida and last Friday, a group of four veterans and three supporters of DADT repeal met with Senator Bill Nelson’s Jacksonville staff. The veterans, some whom served before DADT and witnessed its implementation, provided first-hand accounts of their experiences with the military policy when they met with Sen. Nelson’s North Florida Regional Director. The greater Jacksonville area has three large Navy bases and all four veterans served in that branch of the service. Paul, whose service began before the implementation of DADT, gave an account of his interactions with this discriminatory law. He described how after DADT, discharges began to increase and commanders were forced to get rid of high performing gays and lesbians in their command. James described his service on a submarine and how everyone knew who was gay and who wasn’t. For a majority of sailors, no one really cared. He said sailors would obey their commanding officers if they were told not to discriminate based on sexual orientation. When it came to me, I talked about some of the concerns and safeguards I had to take when I was dating a soldier in the Army. We would meet in the commissary parking lot instead of at the barracks to avoid starting any rumors -- something I would never have had to do if I was dating an Army woman. Another veteran had been in a long-term relationship when his Marine partner was transferred to Japan. Because they had to hide their relationship, he was not able to take advantage of programs and benefits that would allow him to relocate. Their relationship was effectively ended by the US government. The group also included Tim McVeigh, who was the Chief of the Boat on the USS Chicago when the Navy researched an email allegedly sent by him indicating he was gay. He successfully sued the United States government because the Navy broke communications laws in searching his computer. Unfortunately, this privacy law went away under President George W. Bush. Tim, an 18 year veteran, settled and was able to retire from the Navy. I provided an update on a recent announcement that there were 443 discharges under DADT in fiscal year 2009. This is a record low, which shows that enforcement is being ignored and the law needs to be repealed. Several of these vets will join over 300 veterans from around the country, who will travel to Washington, DC on May 11 to attend the national Veterans Lobby Day.

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