Servicemembers Legal Defense Network hosts Saturday bash
Local groups commemorate, honor America's fallen soldiers
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Some 13,000 soldiers were discharged due to their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation before the law was repealed.
Activists with Atlanta's Occupy movement will occupy the Riverdale home of Brigitte Walker and her partner, Ajai Craig, the group announced this week.
Walker, an Iraq War veteran, is on 90 percent disability stemming from injuries she sustained while serving in the military and is facing foreclosure from her mortgage holder. Organizers say that her fixed income, along with her bank's refusal to negotiate new terms, have put her home “deep into the foreclosure process.”
Occupy Atlanta will host a press conference at Walker and Craig's home later today, organizers said.
Now that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the United States military, the next step in the legal battle is to secure the same partner benefits for married same-sex couples that heterosexual couples enjoy.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network today filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki on behalf of eight former and current active duty soldiers over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law which prevents the government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even those performed legally in jurisdictions that allow them.
“The plaintiffs, each legally married, want the armed services to recognize their families and seek the same family support and benefits for their same-sex spouses that the services and Department of Veterans Affairs provide to opposite-sex spouses,” SLDN said today via a media release.
Retreat Ceremony tonight at Piedmont Park commemorates end of military gay ban
Sept. 20 marks the end of an era for gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military, and the non-profit Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is trying to prepare gay active duty service members for the historic change.
Since 1993, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has banned gay Americans from serving openly in the armed services. The policy will officially end Sept. 20, the day a 60-day review period will have ticked away following certification of military readiness to implement repeal.
Not surprisingly, some organizations, including SLDN, plan to celebrate the end of the 18-year-old ban. Two such events — a Retreat Ceremony on Sept. 19 and Repeal Day Celebration on Sept. 20 — are scheduled for Atlanta.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that ended the military careers of more than 14,000 lesbians and gay men, moved a step closer to the rubbish bins of history Friday as President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, formally certified its repeal.
Congress voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Obama signed the bill into law in December 2010. But the legislation required Obama, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to certify to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that the military was ready to implement the repeal.
A federal appellate court issued an order late July 15 prohibiting the U.S. government from discharging additional service members under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” while allowing recruiters to continue to bar openly gay people from enlisting in the armed forces.
The order from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals partially reinstates a stay on an injunction barring the enforcement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The injunction was reissued by the appellate court July 6 after it was first issued by a U.S. district court last year.
“[T]he stay entered November 1, 2010, is reinstated temporarily in all respects except one,” the order states. “The district court’s judgment shall continue in effect insofar as it enjoins appellants from investigating, penalizing, or discharging anyone from the military pursuant to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”
The United States Army has put together an informational website regarding the upcoming repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
According to the Army, the website was launched last week to provide the most up-to-date information for servicemembers and their families on the law's repeal.
"It's a way for the Army to provide the latest and greatest information about the repeal to Soldiers, family members and the public," said spokesperson Lt. Col Timothy M. Beninato via a media release.
Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been officially repealed with President Barack Obama’s signature, when the repeal will actually be implemented is still not determined.
For more than 20 years, American Veterans for Equal Rights has sought fairness for LGBT people in the military and to make sure LGBT veterans have access to benefits, says Danny Ingram of Decatur. Ingram is the former Georgia AVER chapter president and now serves as the national president for the nonprofit organization.
Each year the Georgia AVER chapter holds a Taps service at Piedmont Park on Memorial Day.
“The national organization started about 21 years ago in Washington, D.C., and the Georgia chapter was formed about eight years by Jeff Cleghorn, who is now a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund,” Ingram says.