article placeholder

Out in the military: One year without ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

One year without DADT

On Sept. 20, the United States military will mark the one-year anniversary of the official repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the 1993 law that barred gays and lesbians from openly serving in the armed services. As the milestone nears, gay military members are thrilled to be able to be out, but note that inequities remain.

“During DADT, I did not ever hang out with other gays or even act on doing anything in fear of being caught so I waited until it was repealed to come out,” said Joshua Gravett, a gay Georgia native and sergeant in the U.S. Army currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Before repeal, Gravett — who enlisted at age 17 — planned to leave the Army. Now, he is considering completing the 20-year military career that would allow him to retire from the service at age 37.

article placeholder

Melissa Carter: Marking the first Memorial Day without ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Melissa CarterMy father was a war veteran. During a debate on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with me years ago, he shared his thoughts on why straight men in the military were uncomfortable with gays serving.

It had nothing to do with sexuality, my dad explained, but instead came from an interpretation of weakness. He personally had no concern about someone hitting on him, but he was convinced a gay man would lose his nerve in battle and cause my father to die along with him.

That was based on the way my father grew up, thinking the only gay men he knew were the extremely effeminate men he saw around town and misinterpreted their character and womanly gait as frail.

article placeholder

Soldiers in Afghanistan say ‘It Gets Better’

Soldiers in Afghanistan say 'It Gets Better'

A group of soldiers serving in Afghanistan are lending their voices to the “It Gets Better” project, a viral movement meant to reach out to bullied queer youth.

“It's hard being different when you're young and even when you're old. But once you realize that you have friends that are going to accept you for who you are, and the sooner the accept yourself for who you are, the sooner you'll realize that life gets better,” one female soldier says in the video.

A year ago, these soldiers could have been discharged under the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy. The discriminatory law was officially overturned on Sept. 20, 2011. Some 13,000 soldiers were discharged due to their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation before the law was repealed.

article placeholder

Top national story of 2011: ‘Don’t Ask’ is history

President Barack Obama signs the repeal for the military's

The anti-gay law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” finally came to an end on Sept. 20 after prohibiting open gays from serving in the U.S. military for 18 years.

No other news event had as much impact on the LGBT community as the lifting of the ban — allowing an estimated 66,000 gay people to begin serving openly — which is why we’re naming the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as the story of the year for 2011.

The law came to an end thanks to repeal legislation that President Obama signed into law in December 2010. The bill provided for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after 60 days passed following certification from the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

article placeholder

Pressure on GOP candidates over LGBT positions ahead of primaries

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

The Grand Old Party has had a hard time dealing with LGBT activists this campaign season. From “glitter bombs” to awkward responses in town hall meetings, this year's crop of GOP presidential candidates has been forced to stand by their positions on marriage, gays and lesbians in the military and employment non-discrimination.

Thanks to the power of social media and the accessibility of amateur video for the world to see, activists have been able to highlight the often hypocritical or nonsensical anti-gay positions as the GOP's candidates make their way across the early primary states.

Take Michele Bachmann, for example. She and her husband Marcus run a Christian-based counseling clinic that practices “reparative” therapy in her homestate of Minnesota. “Pray the gay away,” in other words. That, and Michele's anti-gay positions, led to a series of “glitter bombs” and even an occupation of the Bachmann clinic by “gay barbarians” over the summer.

article placeholder

Local veterans mark end of military’s gay ban

American Veterans for Equal Rights DADT repeal celebration

There were many poignant moments Sept. 19 as about 200 Atlantans gathered in Piedmont Park to mark the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But few were as touching as when Danny Ingram, national president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, brought to the podium the very officer who had discharged him from the Army for being gay almost 20 years ago.

Ingram was discharged in 1994, one of the first victims of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He explained how now-retired Colonel Kelly R. Jimenez, who is Latino, called him into a meeting with him and the second in command, who was African-American.

“My granddaddy had to get his ass kicked so I could serve in the U.S. Army,” Ingram recalled Jimenez saying.

article placeholder

Do Ask, Do Tell for Pride

What a difference a year makes.

“Hopes dim for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal this year,” read a headline in last year’s GA Voice Atlanta Pride issue, which hit the streets on Oct. 1, 2010.

Headline on page 36 of this Pride issue? “Atlanta celebrates end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Of course, the end of the military’s discriminatory ban on openly gay service members was years in the making. Efforts to repeal the ban began as soon as it was passed in 1993 as a disappointing compromise after newly elected President Bill Clinton had pledged to let gays serve in the military.

Clinton’s election played a small but meaningful role in my own coming out story. I never doubted my parents’ love, but they weren’t exactly thrilled in 1991 when they found out I was gay.