September 20th, 2011
Today marks the end of the last legally-sanctioned governmental witch hunt for gays and lesbians with the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That milestone isn’t sitting very well with anti-gay activists.On Friday, Elaine Donnelly, who really ought to be out of a job by now at her so-called Center for Military Readiness, demanded that Congress, which repealed DADT in the first place, reimpose the ban because, apparently, it’ll lead to active-duty unions in the military — or something like that. (Which is why I think we have Donnelly’s incompetence to thank for DADT’s repeal almost as much as the valiant efforts of LGBT advocacy groups.) A few members of the House appeared ready to take up that call, with Reps. Howard McKeon (R-CA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) calling for a delay in the implementation of the law that both houses of Congress passed less than a year ago. That call was met with stony silence from the Pentagon.
Then the Family “Research” Council took the opportunity to express their abysmally low opinion of America’s military on Friday when they said, “In a matter of days, the U.S. military will be embarking on its most difficult mission yet: celebrating homosexuality in its ranks.” That’s right. Most difficult mission. More difficult than Iraq, Afghanistan, Tet, Inchon, D-Day, and Guadalcanal. Star and Stripes shot that down with the precision of a smart bomb and predicted that the first day without DADT will be business as usual, and The Marine Corps Times prepared the way last week with a banner headline proclaiming, “We’re gay. Get over it!”
It’s nice to see the military establishment regarding today’s milestone as a non-event, but we’d be kidding ourselves if the passing of the last legal requirement for the governmental pursuit of gay people was meaningless. It’s not by a long shot. Here’s a round-up of today’s events:
Servicemember Comes Out Via YouTube: For several weeks now, a YouTube channel under the account name of “AreYouSurprised” has been featuring videos posted by a servicemember in Germany discussing the importance of DADT’s repeal and weighing the pros and cons to coming out to his unit. Until now, he has never shown his face. Until now, when he comes out to his father in Alabama with the camera rolling:
I hope you had a hanky handy.
“I Do,” one minute after midnight: With DADT tossed to the dustbin of history, one Navy officer and his partner celebrated two civil rights victories with a Vermont marriage:
When Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner were searching for a place to get married, they settled on a site in Vermont, in part because the state is in the Eastern time zone.
That way, the two men were able to recite their vows before family and friends at the first possible moment after the formal repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Just after midnight Tuesday, the partners of 11 years were married.
I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me…but it’s finally official,” Ross said early Tuesday.
White House Tweets DADT Repeal: Also shortly after midnight, the White House and President Barack Obama announced via Twitter that DADT’s repeal was official.
The White House has also posted this video commemorating the sacrifice of gay and lesbian servicemembers under DADT.
Stars & Stripes Reveals OutServe Co-Founder’s Real Name: Now that DADT is officially history, the founder of OutServe can show his face and say his name:
Finding out that 1st Lt. Josh Seefried is gay won’t be a shock to most of his co-workers at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. He has already come out to some of them, and dropped not-so-subtle hints for others. …But now that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law barring openly gay troops from serving in the military has been repealed, even some close friends who know Seefried’s personal life will be stunned to find out that he has an even bigger secret. For more than a year, Seefried has been using the pseudonym “J.D. Smith” as an organizer with OutServe, speaking on behalf of the group’s 4,000-plus gay active-duty and veteran members.
He has briefed officials at the White House and been a lobbying force within the Pentagon. He has been a regular in the press, including several national TV and radio spots. And he and the other OutServe founders have positioned the group as a critical bridge between closeted troops and the professional military establishment in the months following the repeal.
“I’m living a triple ‘double life,’ I guess,” Seefried said. “When I go into work now, my life will be completely changed. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting. And that’s how it will be for a lot of gay troops.”
“Diseased Aliens”: Michelle Benecke, who co-founded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network remembers the hysteria surrounding the imposition of DADT:
”People forget what it was like in 1993. The right wing portrayed us as diseased aliens who wanted to hurt the military – and raised the specter of AIDS at every opportunity,” she says. ”It’s hard to explain that time, but they manipulated people’s fear of AIDS to paint us as the other. For lots of reasons, not just because of AIDS, but definitely, gay people were painted as the other – as strangers trying to hurt the military.”
Looking at that landscape, she says, ”In my view, we were at a pre-civil rights framework. First, we had to get people to recognize our humanity, and servicemembers did that by telling their stories.”
And so, she and Osburn began SLDN the day after President Clinton signed the bill into law. From that early support, gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers became not just the subject of the law but a key part of its repeal.