Dallas-based Military Equality Alliance formed to lobby Congress to repeal 1993 rule on gays
John Ames would have liked to spend another 13 years in the Air Force before retiring and getting his pension.
But as he began to come to terms with the fact that he’s gay, he realized that if he were to get caught, he faced the prospect of a dishonorable discharge or even criminal sanctions. As a result, after seven years of service as a public affairs officer, Ames chose not to re-enlist in 1992.
“I figured it would be better to just get out and not live a lie anymore,” said Ames, 45, of Oak Cliff. “I keep wondering what my life would have been. I totally enjoyed the job while I was in there.”
Now, Ames has co-founded and co-chairs the Dallas-based Military Equality Alliance, a national organization formed to lobby Congress to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” And with the re-introduction of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act on Feb. 28, he and other gay and lesbian former servicemembers are gearing up for a fight.
“I think it’s a good possibility this year,” Ames said of the proposed repeal. “We’re going to give it our best shot.”
MEA, created July 4 last year, has a mailing list of more than 1,000, Ames said, as well as an extensive Web site, www.militaryequality.org.
Ames said the group will take a grassroots approach, targeting specific lawmakers in this year’s democratically controlled Congress and setting up meetings with constituents in their districts. MEA will coordinate with groups like the Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, the Log Cabin Republicans and American Veterans for Equal Rights.
Another member of MEA, Oak Cliff resident Pepe Johnson, said he and Ames first began discussing the idea three years ago, when they tried to start a chapter of AVER. Because AVER, more a veterans group than a political one, wasn’t meeting their needs, they began contacting others around the country interested in repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“We decided instead of having separate organizations in different little cities that we might want to put our resources together and come up with one national organization,” Johnson said.
Although Ames served prior to the inception of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in 1993, Johnson fell victim to it.
An Army sergeant stationed at Fort Sill, Ark., Johnson said he came out in defiance after superiors created a hostile work environment for gays and lesbians.
Johnson, who was quickly discharged in 2003 despite having been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill in 2001, said if “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed, he plans to try to return to the military.
“By eliminating “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ you can take advantage of sexual harassment complaints,” said Johnson, 28. “If I came across a situation like that again, it would be very different.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 13, 2007