As a co-founder and former executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Fort Worth native Dixon Osburn says Saturday’s Senate vote to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a huge moment for him.
It was even bigger still because Saturday also happened to be Osburn’s 46th birthday.
“It was a pinch-me moment,” Osburn told Instant Tea earlier today. “It’s been a long hard fight, and watching the votes take place, I was shaking and crying and smiling and cheering all at once. I thought it would take us 20 years, and it took 17. It’s a great birthday present, and it shows that Texans are helping carve paths for equality.”
Osburn graduated from Trinity Valley School before obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Stanford and his law degree from Georgetown. He launched SLDN with former Army captain Michelle Benecke in 1993, the same year he says President Bill Clinton “capitulated” to DADT.
Osburn, who’d volunteered at SLDN’s predecessor, the Campaign for Military Service, launched the new group because he felt DADT was a defining moment in the history of gay rights — the first time our lives had been discussed on a federal level.
Osburn spent 14 years as SLDN’s executive director before stepping down in 2007. He worked as a consultant and wrote a book before recently joining Human Rights First as director of law and security.
“My focus is on the intersection of national security policy and human rights … trying to ensure we don’t return to a regime of torture, trying to ensure that those suspected of terror receive fair trials,” Osburn said. “All the years of work with generals and admirals with SLDN, is what I’m doing now on these sets of issues.”
Below is Osburn’s full, official statement on Saturday’s vote:
“Today is my birthday, and this is the best birthday present I could have asked for. The real gift, though, is to our nation, which believes in our national security and equality. This victory is a tribute to the 60,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual troops serving our nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe. It is a tribute to the one million LGBT veterans who have been willing to shed blood for out country in defense of our freedom and liberty; they now have been accorded theirs. The repeal of DADT and implementation of non-discrimination policies by the Pentagon will be judged among the pantheon of civil rights advances in our country. Today, no state government, local government or private business can substantiate discrimination when our military does not. Diversity is strength.
“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen for leading. I want to also acknowledge the many advocates both individual and organizational that have helped this moment arrive. From Baron von Steuben, likely a gay man who helped organize the colonists during the American Revolution to the gay WWII vets who formed vibrant LGBT communities in NYC and San Francisco after the war, to Frank Kameny who protested the ban in the 1960s and 1970s in front of the Pentagon to Brigadier General Keith Kerr, Brigadier General Virgil Richards and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who came out as gay on the 10th anniversary of DA DT, to so many more who have fought for what is right for our nation and our armed forces. We owe you a debt of gratitude. December 18th is a great day.”