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LGBT MILITARY NEWS

Armed Forces Updates

 


FIRST LESBIAN GENERAL OFFICER

Brigadier General Tammy Smith

 

August 2012

 

Less than a year after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," former Army Colonel Tammy Smith was promoted to brigadier general making her the first general officer to come out while serving.

Tammy Smith received her stars from her wife Tracey Hepner in a private ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

According to the Stars & Stripes military newspaper, Smith, 49, has been assigned as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve. Before "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, she told the military newspaper last year that she was not planning on coming out to her colleagues, but would be relieved when she and Hepner would be able to go out together without worrying about being outed.

 

“Finally my partner and I will be able to go out and have drinks together without worrying,” she said then.

A year later, Smith, 49, said she is still more focused on the work ahead than the significance of her personal life. But her wife, Tracey Hepner, said the last year has been a dramatic transformation for both of them.

 

“The support we’ve received has been amazing,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised that people were so accepting, but in some cases it has been even celebratory. It’s like nothing has really changed for us, and yet everything has changed.”

 

Smith’s wife is much more of an activist than she is. Hepner co-founded the Military Partners and Families Coalition, a key voice in the debate over benefits and military programs for same-sex partners.

 

Friday’s private promotion ceremony for Smith wasn’t the first that Hepner has attended, but it was the first where the pair didn’t have to hide any details of their relationship. The pair have been together for more than a decade.

LINKS:

 

Advocate Mag: Tammy Smith Becomes First Lesbian Genl Officer
Stars & Stripes: Smith Becomes First Gay Genl Officer to Serve Openly

11 Major Milestones After the End of DADT

End of DADT Means Decision Time for Gay Troops


MARINE HOMECOMING KISS

US Marine's First Official Gay Kiss

 

February 2012

 

When he returned from Afghanistan and saw his partner waiting to welcome him home, "four years of pent-up emotion and secret love" just seemed to naturally lead to "what felt like an eternity kiss," said Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan.

 

"I looked to my left" and saw Dalan Wells, his partner, Morgan said. "My legs started going numb ... and I didn't care who was around. ... I wanted to show him how much I cared for him."  They've known each other for four years.

 

 

And the post-kiss reaction sparked by the posting of their photo on the internet has made him "very hopeful," Morgan said, "because even though there's been a lot of negative responses, the positive responses have been overwhelming."

 

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy that had barred openly gay men and women from serving in the US military ended this past September. 

 

LINKS

 

New Hampshire Public Radio Report
ABC News: Gay Marine Kissing Boyfriend
Video: Gay Marine Homecoming Kiss
NPR News: Pent Up Emotion and Secret Love
Huffington Post: Gay Voices Report

 


HISTORIC GAY HOMECOMING KISS

US Navy's First Official Gay Kiss

 

December 2011

 

On December 21, 2011, when the USS Oak Hill pulled into its Virginia port last week after a three-month deployment, the sailor who stepped off and bestowed the customary first homecoming kiss on a waiting loved one made history. 

 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta greeted her girlfriend, Citlalic Snell, on the pier with a kiss and embrace, making them the first same-sex couple to be chosen by the Navy for this very public moment. The crowd cheered. 

 

 

The kiss seen 'round the world between two women sailors was more than a traditional kiss marking a Navy ship's return home.

 

It was a small but significant sign of progress in the U.S. military.  The repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is less than a year old; Gaeta and her girlfriend — who is also a sailor — could not have kissed so publicly at a homecoming a year ago. (Gaeta won the “first kiss” spot in a raffle among the crew.)

 

It's been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who's been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition - the first homecoming kiss.

 

In this case, that woman is 22-year-old Citlalic Snell. She's a sailor herself, assigned to the destroyer Bainbridge, but today she's in civilian clothes - jeans, boots and a stylish leather jacket. Watching pierside as the Oak Hill pulls into port, she absentmindedly twists the small diamond ring on her left hand.

 

A uniformed liaison who is with her explains how it's going to work: Snell's sailor will be among the first off the ship, and when it's time, Snell will be escorted onto the pier for the kiss.

 

"It's a big deal," Gaeta says. "It's been a long time coming."

 

They explain that they've been dating for a little over two years, about as long as they've been in the Navy. They met right after boot camp. They were roommates at their first training school, where they both became fire controlmen.

 

Until September, when the military's ban on openly gay service was lifted, they worked hard to keep their relationship secret. When Snell came home from her last deployment in August, kissing on the pier wasn't an option.

 

"This is the first time we can actually show who we are," she says.  Adds Gaeta, "It's nice to be able to be myself."

 

LINKS:

 

YouTube: Historic Lesbian Kiss in US Navy
Guardian: Sailors Share US Navy's First Official Gay Kiss
America Blog Gay: Two Female Sailors Kissing
Winona Daily News: Gay Sailor Kiss An Important Milestone
Herald-Tribune: Sailors' Homecoming Kiss
Virginian-Pilot: Two Women's First Homecoming Kiss
MSNC Photo Blog: Two Women Share First Kiss at US Navy Ship Return
The Day: End of DADT Sealed With a Kiss
Chicago Pride: Lesbian Sailors Join Navy Tradition

 


REACTIONS TO THE REPEAL

Commentary About the End of DADT

 

August 2011

 

DADT has been repealed!  What does it mean to you?  "It's about time!" has been the general reaction to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.  President Obama signs the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law on December 22, 2010.

 

“What does it mean to me?" said one respondent. "That finally the many, many gay people who serve our country don't have to hide who they are, as if being gay makes them somehow less noble, less brave, less strong. It is about time!”

 

Another person submitted this comment: “It means that I can feel good knowing the men and women who proudly serve the country I love can be free to be themselves without shame or forced secrecy. To know that the American freedom they fight for is something they too can enjoy in uniform makes me even prouder to be an American.”

 

Another comment: "Heterosexual, homosexual, black, white, brown, yellow, conservative, liberal, moderate - I don't care what you are. The minute any American chooses to defend our country and the freedoms we get to live every day - I thank you, I respect you, and I only ever wish the best for you. I am forever humbled by your nobility and sacrifice - and I appreciate all you do, always."

 

In less than 30 days, on September 20th, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will officially end. Click below to read a sampling of the responses people have submitted to the Barack Obama for America website.


LINK:

It's About Time: Reactions to End of DADT

 


GAY SOLDIER LEAVES LARGER LEGACY

War Hero Andrew Wilfahrt

 

July 2011

Andrew Wilfahrt, 31, was killed in Afghanistan on February 27.  According to a CNN report, he is first known gay soldier killed in war since the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. 

His parents, Jeff and Lori, have become crusaders for same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

All they ever wanted was for Andrew to be Andrew. At 29, he sat his mom and dad down at the kitchen table and told them his life was missing camaraderie, brotherhood. "I'm joining the Army," he said. The news surprised them. Why would Andrew enter the military, where he'd be forced to deny a part of who he is?

 

It had never really crossed the minds of his left-leaning parents. Yet, just as they'd done with all three of their children, they supported him. It wasn't easy. It became dreadfully painful. Then, on February 27, 2011, the Wilfahrts learned their oldest child was gone.

 



Andrew was among the smartest in the half-million force, scoring a perfect score on his aptitude test, a feat the Army says is rare.  Andrew was so well-liked his comrades named a Kandahar combat outpost for him. To his buddies, it is not named for a gay soldier, but for one who fought with valor.

 

But with his death, his parents have taken up the cause of gay rights. Andrew fought for his nation in a foreign land. His parents' war is being waged in their home state of Minnesota. To them, it's about defending the Constitution -- protecting the rights of all citizens.

 

In a state that has produced GOP presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty -- who have made careers fighting gay marriage -- these parents of an American hero present a major challenge to the establishment.  They'll take their battle to the Supreme Court, if that's what it takes. To the Wilfahrts, denying gays the right to marry is discrimination against a group to which their son belonged.


LINK:

CNN: Gay Soldier Leaves Larger Legacy

 


REPEAL OF DADT POLICY

Gays & Lesbians Can Now Serve Openly in US Military

 

December 18, 2010

 

The US Senate has finally voted to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy by a 65-31 margin. This repeal of DADT reverses the US military's 17 year ban on gay men and women openly serving among their ranks.

“Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell...perfect holiday gift!”

-Patricia Todd

“By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will patriotic Americans be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”

-Barack Obama

 

“Thank you Senators for pushing us one step closer towards full equality,”

-Ellen DeGeneres

"This is a stepping stone to further advances for the gay and lesbian community."

-Joe Solmonese / HRC President

 

 

DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only US law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation's military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty.

Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation's armed forces.

 

Senator Joe Lieberman said, "This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign."

LINKS:

HRC: US Senate Votes to Repeal DADT
Huffington Post: DADT Repeal Passes Senate 65-31
John McCain: This is a Very Sad Day
Boston Herald: ROTC Program to Return to Harvard
CNN: Celebs Chime in on Repeal of DADT
Slate:
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Come Back?

 


SURVEY OF MILITARY MEMBERS

Courage Campaign Report on DADT

 

December 2010

 

As of December 2010, 69,360 Americans -- including 12,462 veterans and their families -- have signed Rep. Patrick Murphy's Courage Campaign petition to Senate leaders to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.  The Courage Campaign also launched an advertising blitz on military web sites sending John McCain and Republicans a message that veterans and their families support the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

On December 2-3, military leaders will testify in the U.S. Senate on repeal, following the long-awaited release of the Pentagon survey of active-duty servicemembers, in which 70% predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

 

Also, here is an important message from JD Smith (name anonymized), an active-duty servicemember who recently helped launch OutServe, an underground network of more than 1,200 active-duty gay and lesbian members of the military:

 

A few months ago, I was blackmailed under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Some people who knew that I was gay -- and serving in the military --- tried to use it against me to get what they wanted. After years of serving my country, I couldn't take it any longer.  

So I started talking with fellow gay and lesbian servicemembers and we decided to take action. Over the past few months, we've organized Outserve -- the largest network of active duty gay and lesbian servicemembers ever assembled. Using hidden social media, we are all connected, we can see each other, communicate with each other, and most importantly, support each other.

In the last few months, Outserve has created 27 chapters around the globe, with more than 1,200 members. We are as diverse as the military and our country as a whole. We are among those serving right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. And like all who wear the uniform proudly, we are united by an unflinching commitment to give our lives, if necessary, in service to our country.

Now, with the Senate set to consider repeal of DADT, we -- gay and straight veterans alike -- are speaking with one voice. We're in this fight together and, together, we're going to finally put an end to a failed policy that hurts our military, undermines the trust our troops need on the battlefield, and contradicts the values that generations of veterans have fought and died to defend.

 

For years, I have served openly as a gay servicemember in the ranks. Most of my straight brothers and sisters in arms have been nothing but supportive. In fact, they are the ones I owe for saving my career under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

When I came under investigation under "Don't Ask Don't Tell," it was my straight fellow servicemembers who came to my aid. It was my straight colleagues who saved me from being discharged.

While elimination of DADT is supported by President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, majorities in both houses of Congress, and 78% of the American people, Senator John McCain has threatened a filibuster. He says he wants to hear from our troops and their families. We are going to make sure he does.

 

(From Rick Jacobs/ Courage Campaign)

LINKS:

 

Courage Campaign
Out Serve
Testimony: Take a Stand

 


SUSPENSION OF DON'T ASK DON'T TELL POLICY

Judge Orders Halt to Ban Openly Gay Troops

 

On Again...  Off Again...
 

For the first time in 17 years, no one is going to be booted from the U.S. military for being gay, at least for now. At least while the Obama Administration's appeal seeking relief from such action wends its way through the courts.



Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/10/14/dont-ask-dont-tell-enforcement-suspended/#ixzz12wAnUu00

For the first time in 17 years, no one is going to be booted from the U.S. military for being gay, at least for now. At least while the Obama Administration's appeal seeking relief from such action wends its way through the courts.



Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/10/14/dont-ask-dont-tell-enforcement-suspended/#ixzz12wAnUu00

For the first time in 17 years, no one is going to be booted from the U.S. military for being gay, at least for now. At least while the Obama Administration's appeal seeking relief from such action wends its way through the courts.



Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/10/14/dont-ask-dont-tell-enforcement-suspended/#ixzz12wAnUu00

For the first time in 17 years, no one is going to be booted from the U.S. military for being gay, at least for now. At least while the Obama Administration's appeal seeking relief from such action wends its way through the courts.



Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/10/14/dont-ask-dont-tell-enforcement-suspended/#ixzz12wAnUu00

October 2010

 

According to the Associated Press, A federal judge issued a worldwide injunction Tuesday, October 19, 2010 immediately stopping enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, suspending the 17-year-old ban on openly homosexual U.S. troops.

 

The injunction goes into effect immediately, said Dan Woods, the attorney who represented the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay-rights group that filed the lawsuit in 2004 to stop the ban’s enforcement.

 

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips has suspended enforcement of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy as a result of her earlier opinion in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States that the policy is unconstitutional.

 

Ordering the government "immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding" begun under DADT, Phillips's permanent injunction is about as broad an order as she could have issued in the case.

 

The government has 60 days -- until Monday, December 13, because the 60th day falls on a weekend -- to appeal the trial court decision. In the interim, the government could seek a stay of Phillips's decision from Phillips, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit or, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Christian Berle, deputy executive director of LCR, praised the judgment in a statement.

"No longer will our military be compelled to discharge service members with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination," he said. "The United States is stronger because of this injunction, and Log Cabin Republicans is proud to have brought the case that made it possible."

 

LINKS:

Huffington Post: DADT Temporarily Upheld
News Weekly: DADT Suspended
USA Today: Govt Seeks Stay of DADT Ruling
CCN: Ruling for Gays in the Military Reaffirmed
Yahoo News: Judge Orders DADT Injunction
AOL News: Gay Vets Seek to Re-Enlist

 


DAN CHOI

Gay Veteran, Activist, Hero
 

 October 2010

 

"I passed." That's what gay Iraq war veteran Dan Choi announced today on his Twitter page after taking the skills test to re-enlist in the Army.

Choi, who came out on national TV and then handcuffed himself to the White House fence to protest the "don't ask, don't tell" law, is one of at least three gay veterans who sought to re-enlist now that the controversial measure has been suspended.

Last month, a federal judge issued an injunction against the law that bars anyone from serving in uniform if they're openly gay. On Tuesday, recruiters for the U.S. military were told to begin accepting applications from openly gay people. The policy's final fate will eventually be settled by the courts or Congress, but for now, the law is considered to be suspended.

The Obama administration, however, did ask a federal appeals court to suspend the judge's ruling.
 

 

Dan Choi, an Iraq war veteran who was discharged from the military in July because he announced publicly that he is gay, waits to enter the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Times Square on Tuesday, hoping to re-enlist.


The legal turn of events sent 29-year-old Dan Choi to a military recruiting center in New York's Times Square on Tuesday. "I'm headed to the Times Square Recruiting Station," he announced on his Twitter page, encouraging supporters to join him at an impromptu rally there.

"Today is a great day we can all celebrate," Choi told ABC News after filling out recruitment papers. He'd hoped to join the Marines this time, but age requirements prevented him, so he re-enlisted in the Army instead. "I'm very excited to be in service to this country."

Choi, a 2003 West Point graduate, is fluent in Arabic and served two tours in Iraq as an infantry platoon leader. After returning from deployment, he became one of the most vocal critics of the "don't ask, don't tell" law.

He revealed his sexual orientation publicly for the first time last year on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," prompting the Army to begin proceedings to discharge him. In March, he was arrested along with an Army captain for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence while in uniform to protest the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Civil disobedience charges against Choi and the other soldier were later dropped, but his discharge paperwork went through in July, putting the war veteran out of a job.

About 100 supporters gathered outside the Times Square recruiting post while Choi was there. Among them was Justin Elzie, a 48-year-old fellow veteran who was the first Marine ever investigated under the "don't ask, don't tell" law.

"This is a very important moment in our country," Elzie told DNAinfo, a Manhattan news website. "I'm getting chills up and down my spine."

Choi, who lives in New York City, founded KnightsOut.org, a group of West Point graduates who support the rights of gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual soldiers to serve openly in the U.S. military. He was training with the National Guard, preparing for a possible deployment to Afghanistan, when he was discharged in July.

 

In a tweet today, Choi said he refused to lie on his new application. "I was discharged in 7/2010 from the US Army because I told the truth about my sexual orientation and refused to lie about my cherished lover and partner," he wrote on the application, which he photographed and posted on Twitter.

Choi said he expected to undergo a medical screening on Monday. "I'm just really excited," he told CNN today while standing outside the Times Square recruiting station. "It's been a long time coming."

Almost giddy, he added: "I've been going through all this entire year wondering if I'm going to get fired, was I called back to duty? And now here I am, and this is a really exciting day, not just for gay people but for all of America."

Choi is one of at least three gay veterans who have started the re-enlistment process since the Pentagon told recruiters Tuesday to consider the "don't ask, don't tell" policy moot, according to The Associated Press.

Former Marine Will Rodriguez, who was discharged in 2008 for being gay, registered at a recruiting post in San Diego, but officials there told him he has to wait until January until more slots open up.

A gay soldier discharged in 2006, Randy Miller, was turned away from a Stockton, Calif., recruiting station by sergeants who said they hadn't heard about the policy change. Miller went to a Navy recruiter next door and signed up there instead, the AP reported.

 

(From Lauren Frayer / AOL News)


GAYS IN THE MILITARY

Should Gays Be Allowed to Serve?
 

The military's top uniformed officer declared that gays should be allowed to serve openly in uniform, arguing that it is "the right thing to do."
 

Adm. Mike Mullen's statement was the strongest yet from the uniformed military on this volatile issue, although he stressed that he was "speaking for myself and myself only."   He told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday he is deeply troubled by a policy that forces people to "lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

 

 

Mullen said he knows many will disagree about abandoning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and said there are practical obstacles to lifting the 1993 ban. But he said he thinks the military can handle it. Mullen is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief military adviser to President Barack Obama.
 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the panel he is tapping his chief legal adviser and a four-star Army general to lead a landmark study on how the military would lift its ban on openly gay service members.
 

Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson and Gen. Carter Ham, who leads Army forces in Europe, will conduct the yearlong assessment.

 

 


Sen. John McCain, the ranking committee Republican, publicly bristled at the Pentagon's decision to launch a yearlong study into allowing gays to serve, saying he is "deeply disappointed" and calling the assessment "clearly biased" because it presumes the law should be changed.
 

McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the current policy is not ideal, but that it has been effective.
 

McCain said he wanted to hear more from the military on this issue. But Gates suggested that lawmakers keep the intensity of debate in tow until the military can get a better handle on how to proceed. He told the panel: "Keep the impact it will have on our forces firmly in mind."

LINKS:


MSNBC Report: Admiral Mullen Says Gays Should Serve
CNN Commentary: Allow Gays to Serve Openly in the Military
Washington Times: Tough Fight Ahead for Obama

 


VOICE OF THE GAY MILITARY
On Line Newsletter for Gay Service Members
 

Gay Military Signal is a monthly on-line publication edited by Denny Meyer.  It is billed as "The Voice of the Military Rainbow Community."

 

Gay Military Signal is dedicated to providing a voice to the movement to achieve equality in America's armed forces so that patriotic American volunteers may serve our nation openly and in pride regardless of sexual orientation.

This internet newsletter offers articles, information, discussion, and helpful resources and links relevant to the needs and concerns of LGBT persons serving in the US army, navy, air force, and marines.
 


SUPPORT GROUPS
Organizations Offering Help to Gays in the Military
 

Below is a list of advocate and activist groups and organizations that offer support, resources, and assistance to gay, lesbian, and transgender people who served in the US armed forces.

 

LINKS:

 

Out Serve
American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER)

Blue Alliance
Citadel Gay and Lesbian Alliance
Defence Gay & Lesbian Information Service (DEFGLIS)
Gay & Lesbian Service Members for Equality (GLSME)
Gay Military Signal
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legacy of Service
Integrity in Service
Knights Out
The Michael D. Palm Center
Proud 2 Serve
Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni Network (SAGALA)
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)
Servicemembers United
Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA)
USNAOut.org

 

 

 

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A L G B T I C A L    Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama