“On the White House fence today, and in a jail cell this evening, are 13 American patriots,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL, in a press release.
“Included in the 13 arrested are veterans and advocates spanning three generations of brave and courageous Americans, who sacrificed their careers and lives to see the day this discriminatory ban on openly gay and lesbian service in the military finally goes into the history books. Today, we have sent a loud and clear message to the U.S. Senate and President Obama that we expect them to make good on their promises to end this inhumane law this year, during the lame-duck session of Congress.”
Before handcuffing themselves to the White House fence, the advocates and vets held a vigil at the National Congressional Cemetery gravesite of U.S. Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He made the cover of Time magazine after he came out as openly gay in the 1970s. His tombstone is inscribed with the popular phrase, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Those arrested, according to a press release from Luna Media Group:
• Five veterans (Lt. Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, and Cadet Mara Boyd) who were arrested in March during the GetEQUAL organized “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” act of civil disobedience at the White House fence demanding President Obama show leadership on repeal.
• Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL, and Dan Fotou, action strategist for GetEQUAL.
• Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom, who was discharged in 1976 for declaring and admitting she was a lesbian. She became the first-ever LGBT servicemember reinstated to her position in the U.S. Military, by a U.S. Federal District Court. On July 30th, 1993, Miriam and 26 other protesters were arrested at the White House fence for protesting then-President Bill Clinton’s broken promise to repeal the gay ban – instead signing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill into law.
• Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie who, in 1993, became the first Marine ever investigated and discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Elzie was also the first soldier to be discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to fight his discharge and win – resulting in his service as a Marine for four years as an openly gay man.
• Former U.S. Army Arabic Linguist Ian Finkenbinder, who was discharged from the Army in December 2004 after announcing to his superiors that he was gay. Finkenbinder is an Iraq war veteran and was about to return for a second tour of duty when he was discharged.
• U.S. Army Veteran and Repeal Advocate Rob Smith, who was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait before being honorably discharged after deciding not to re-enlist in the U.S. Army due to the added pressure of living under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
• Father Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest who spoke out against the church’s official stance in support of California’s Proposition 8, removing the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Because of his stance against Prop 8, Father Geoff Farrow was removed as pastor of St. Paul’s by his bishop and suspended as a priest.
• Scott Wooledge,a New York-based LGBT civil rights advocate and blogger who has written on the movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at Daily Kos and Pam’s House Blend.
• Michael Bedwell, long-time LGBT civil rights advocate, close friend of Leonard Matlovich, and administrator of the site www.leonardmatlovich.com.
GetEQUAL is planning other direct actions this week urging Congress to repeal DADT. You can also follow GetEQUAL’s actions on Facebook.