Servicemembers Legal Defense Network hosts Saturday bash
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I did not ever hang out with other gays or even act on doing anything in fear of being caught so I waited until it was repealed to come out,” said Joshua Gravett, a gay Georgia native and sergeant in the U.S. Army currently stationed in Afghanistan.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.
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.
Efforts to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy gained significant momentum May 27 when both the U.S. House and the Senate Armed Services Committee passed amendments to repeal the ban.
“Just like the military helped end segregation based on race, we should have put an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ long ago. It is an affront to human dignity and to the dignity and the worth of every man and woman serving in our military,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis said during debate on the House floor.
“We cannot wait. We cannot be patient,” Lewis said. “We must end discrimination in the military, and we must end it now. Discrimination is wrong, and we must end it now.”
Retired Army Maj. Jeff Cleghorn, a gay attorney from Atlanta, traveled to Washington, D.C., late last month to lobby Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The trip was part of an organized campaign by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund and the Human Rights Campaign.