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SLDN meets to repeal DADT

By | 2018-01-16T08:33:49-05:00 March 13th, 2008|News|

by Bob Roehr

In the 1960s, the Army served as a way out of a small town in South Carolina for 17-year-old Aubrey Sarvis. “If you checked the homosexual box you went back out the same door you came in…you weren’t quite fit to serve.”
Sarvis is now executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which opposes the antigay policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). He was speaking at that group’s annual dinner in Washington, DC on March 8.
“In a country whose founding documents proclaimed the truth as self-evident that all men were created equal, we were not,” he said. The policy today is, “If you are open and honest, you still cannot wear the uniform of your country…Since 1993 the law has declared that maybe it’s okay to be gay, but only if you are silent about it.”
“We have been too polite, to patient, and too silent for far too long,” Sarvis said. “This is not a gay cause, or a straight cause, it is a cause of all those who understand what it means when they place their hand over their heart and pledge allegiance to the flag and to that nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Tipper Gore, the wife of the former Vice President, recalled her experience as the wife of a young soldier shipping out to Vietnam, and how the military community supported those families. But the military demands “imposed silence” about their loved ones from gay men and women who serve. She called it “deeply hurtful, unfair, and frankly, un-American.” Michael Guest, former U.S. ambassador to Romania, and the second openly gay person to serve as an American ambassador, tied DADT into a larger context. “Let’s be clear, the legal discrimination we face remains in place because too many of our country’s leaders will not take a clear stand for freedom, inclusion and equality. America proclaims these principles to the world. How can our leaders deny them to you and me?”
“The simple reality is that a country of America’s stature can never stand on the shoulders of hypocrisy. We may be an inconvenient truth. But we will not allow that truth to be shoved into a dark closet,” added Guest.
SLDN created the Barry Winchell Courage Award to honor PFC Barry Winchell, who was murdered while he slept in his bunk at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in 1999. It remains one of the most notorious incidents of homophobic rage within the military.
During the evening, Winchell’s mother, Patricia Kutteles, presented it to Sgt. Darren Manzella, who last December, came out in an interview on 60 Minutes while serving in Kuwait.
Manzella said the experience “was not just an opportunity to tell my story, but also to give voice to the countless thousands of LGBT Americans who are serving under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. They have been silenced too long, forgotten too long, and left out of the American dream for too, too long…those men and women deserve the same freedoms they are defending at home and abroad. We are Americans, too.”
“Tonight, let there be no mistake that our message is this: If you are serving in silence somewhere, we give you our word, and our actions, to end your loneliness. If you have been in these shadows too long, know that we are here in our nation’s capital to welcome you into the sunshine. And if you have been told that you are somehow ‘less than,’ know that you are not. America is beginning to clearly see that you are not.”
Participants lobbied their members of Congress to repeal DADT in the days immediately before and after last weekend’os dinner.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.