GUEST POST: Mountaineers Deliver Message to Senator Manchin

The following is a guest post from U.S. Army Veteran and repeal advocate Pepe Johnson:

Today Jared Towner and I carried hundreds of petitions and individual letters to the office of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III calling on him to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Fairness WV created an election petition Monday morning and in less than 36 hours gathered the names of hundreds of Mountaineers who support integrity and equality in our armed forces. On top of the petition were added numerous handwritten letters from more constituents collected by various volunteers including the WVU Young Democrats.

As I printed the petitions out the night before I was moved. There were names from all over the Mountain State – from Shepherdstown to Bluefield, over to Logan, up the Ohio River Valley to Ripley, Wellsburg and Newell, into the heart of the mountains in Elkins, and across the central and southern part of the state picking up places like Sutton, Hinton, Craigsville, Poca and too many mountain hometowns to mention in this blog post.

I recognized some of the names, too. There were elementary school teachers and high school principals, doctors and nurses, ministers, department store clerks and oil field workers. And a lot of veterans – people I’ve met along the journey we’ve taken in West Virginia for DADT this year. There were friends and family – people I’ve known all my life and new friends I’ve made.

Across this state there are people that truly believe in our state’s motto and believe it applies to everyone – including LGBT Mountaineers. We took their message to Senator Manchin today and we’ll continue to remind him that “Mountaineers are always free.”

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Mountaineers Ask Joe Manchin to Stand Up for Service Members

At West Virginia University, spirits are high that we can show Senator-elect Joe Manchin that Mountaineers support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

Last spring I spent a lot of time here in Morgantown and found tons of support from various pro-equality groups like BiGLTM (Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Mountaineers) at WVU and OUTLaw at the WVU Law School. Also integral to our work are the WVU College Democrats. This past week has proved no different, as we reconnected to get the message to Manchin: repeal this discriminatory law now.

It never ceases to amaze me how personal this issue is to people from every walk of life; gay, straight, veteran and non-veteran.

On Thursday night, BiLGTM brought its members together to write letters to Manchin. One student wrote “Repealing DADT is important to me because my father fought in the Vietnam Conflict, and I know his sexuality has nothing to do with his bravery. Anybody who is willing to put his or her life on the line for our country should not be discriminated against”.

What matters in this campaign is that our Senators hear these stories in the most powerful way. It wouldn’t be possible for me to help West Virginian’s ensure their stories are told without the help of Fairness West Virginia. Fairness has been absolutely important to our work to repeal DADT this year. We’re continuing to work side by side to ensure that Senator-elect Manchin hears our message.

Can you make a phone call? Can you host a letter-writing party like BiGLTM did? Former Army Sergeant Pepe Johnson, who sits on boards for both Fairness West Virginia and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will be delivering hand written letters directly to the Senator-elect’s office.

We hope that we’ll have your story in hand. Please contact me today at for more information.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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