‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Banks Appointed to Citizen Police Oversight Board

Kris Banks

Kris Banks

On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board.  The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens.  The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department.  Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:

[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?

[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.

[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?

[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.

LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).

—  admin

UPDATE: Suspect arrested in D.C. shooting

Police in Washington, D.C., have charged Darryl Willard with “assault with intent to kill while armed,” in connection with the shooting early Monday of a transgender woman in southeast D.C.

Washington, D.C. police are investigating the death of this unidentified person who was found wearing facial make-up and carrying a pair of light-colored heels

According to the Washington Post, after being shot at about 1:50 a.m. in the 2300 block of Savannah Street SE, the victim walked to the Seventh District Police Headquarters to report the crime. The Post reports that the victim knew her attacker and gave his name to police. Willard later turned himself in to authorities.

The victim, who is not named in the newspaper’s article, was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover from her injuries.

In the meantime, police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a man whose body was found early Saturday, according to reports by the Associated Press. Police said that when the man’s body was found, he had makeup on his face and had with him a pair of light-colored high-heel shoes. The man appears to be Hispanic or Middle Eastern and between the ages of 25 and 30.

Police said they have no information on whether the dead man was gay or transgender, and that his body showed no signs of trauma.

The Monday shooting was the fourth time in less than two months that a transgender woman has been shot or shot at in the D.C. area. On July 20, Lashai Mclean died after being shot by a man who approached her as she walked with a friend in the city’s Northeast section. The man asked Mclean a question and then pulled a gun and shot her before she could answer, according to the friend, who was uninjured.

Eleven days later and just blocks away from the site of Mclean’s murder, a suspect approached another trans woman, asked for change and then pulled a gun and shot at her before she could answer. The shot missed and the woman was uninjured.

And in August, a D.C. police officer on medical leave was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon after he stood on the hood of a car and fired into the car containing two men and two trans women. One of the men was injured slightly in the attack.

—  admin

Colorado: officer resigns – posted hundreds of racist, homophobic comments on news sites on the job

It must be really difficult for someone to handle their own racism and homophobia that is so intense that you can’t think straight, as it were. A 13-year member of the Douglas County (Colorado) Sheriff’s office resigned for posting bigoted statements on public news sites while on duty and on a county computer.

Lt. Jeff Egnor resigned Tuesday after Douglas County officials confronted him about hundreds of postings on the 7NEWS website, www.thedenverchannel.com, and the KUSA-TV website, according to Undersheriff Tony Spurlock.

Posting under the screen name “Abu Mybutt“, Egnor commented on various stories from police shootings to the elimination of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that will let gay soldiers serve openly in the military. “New miltary slogans: The few, the queer, the Marines! Butt Rangers lead the way! Be as gay as you can be! Aim for a high hard one, Air Force! Join the Navy, see naked men!” Egnor posted on Dec. 20, 2010, misspelling military.

Two similar posts: “Now we have a new weapon against our enemies: the sissy slap! :-P ” and “I hear the Army is forming a new division: The Rump Rangers! :-D .” Egnor also made comments about religious figures and attacked liberals, saying Democrats are ruining the United States.

Egnor made it clear that he worked in government and when other readers of TheDenverChannel.com complained, 7NEWS filed an open records request to determine who was using the Douglas County Internet Provider address linked to the postings. After the 7NEWS request, Spurlock said superiors confronted Egnor Tuesday morning. He resigned that afternoon.

He also commented on stories about sports figures like the arrest of Parrish Cox for sex assault.

“Another member of the ‘thug’ culture that the NFL promotes. You can take the player out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the player! Hey I’ve got a great idea, let’s take a gangbanger from the hood, throw millions of dollars at him, worship him as a god, kiss his butt night and day, let the media slober all over him! Then they are all suddenly shocked when the thug acts like a thug!”

I think this shows you that many news sites (that often times are not moderated), are  havens for some of the most, um, unbalanced extreme commenters, who like to hide under the cloak of anonymity. That this ass disclosed that he worked for the taxpayers in Douglas County, saved everyone the trouble of purging Abu Mybutt/former Lt. Jeff Egnor from the comments. For now. Abu can now look for work.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Navy Officer Removed From Post

Owen Honors x390 (.gov) | advocate.comThe Navy officer behind a series of videos featuring simulated sex and
antigay slurs has been permanently removed from his post as commander of
the USS Enterprise.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

WND on DADT: Officer asks to be relieved of command over repeal

“I did not give up my constitutional rights and freedom of religion when I joined the military. I don’t believe in subjecting myself to all of the behavior modification and sensitivity training. They’re going to try to push the position that this is an acceptable lifestyle.”

– an unnamed Army lieutenant colonel, who, according to WND, has “asked to be relieved of command rather than order his troops to go through pro-homosexual indoctrination.”

Alvin posted earlier about the “butt sex” obsession of the documented hate organization American Family Association when it comes to DADT repeal. You can add WorldNetDaily to that list, under the headline “The gaying of America.”

Currently the commander of a battalion-sized unit in the Army National Guard, the officer also has threatened to resign his commission rather than undergo “behavior modification” training intended to counter his religious convictions about homosexuality.

The soldier sent the following letter to his commanding officer:

Subject: Request for Relief from Command due to Personal Moral Conflict with New Homosexual Policy

1. I respectfully request to be relieved of Command of XXX Squadron, XXX Cavalry prior to new policy implementation subsequent to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” My personal religious beliefs and moral convictions do not permit me to treat homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, compatible with military service, any more than adultery, illicit drug use, or criminal activity. I believe this lifestyle runs counter to good order and discipline in military units, and I refuse to sacrifice my belief system, protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in order to fall in line with the command policy that will logically follow. This new policy will undoubtedly include mandatory sensitivity training as well as same-sex partner inclusion in Family Readiness Group activities and integration into the full spectrum of other military benefits, as well as a whole new category of discrimination standards and investigative procedures. I will not, as a commander, put my signature on a training schedule or other document recognizing or legitimizing any of these things that contradict my personal beliefs.

2. I would like to remain in the XXX Army National Guard until I am eligible for retirement (at 20 years and 0 days), which would be in the late summer of 2012, but on grounds of my religious beliefs, I will not attend sensitivity or behavior modification training consequential to this policy change, even if it means disciplinary action. I regret that I cannot continue to serve in the military further, but feel that my efforts would be insincere because my heart will no longer be in it.”

 
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Mississippi Sheriff’s Department Fired Corrections Officer For Being Gay. And It Finds Nothing Illegal About It

Because there is no federal or state law barring the firing of gays for being gay, the Forrest County Sheriff's Department in Mississippi believes it's perfectly in the clear for removing juvenile corrections officer Andre D. Cooley, who is suing the department with the ACLU's help, saying he was ousted in June when his supervisor found out he was in a relationship with another man after a domestic violence incident drew attention. Retorts the defendants, which include Sheriff Billy McGee, in a court filing that asks for a non-jury trial: Yeah, so?


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—  admin

MISSISSIPPI: Sheriff’s Department Sued By ACLU Over Officer Fired For Being Gay

The ACLU is suing Mississippi’s Forrest County Sheriff’s Department for firing a corrections officer after learning he is gay.

On June 14, while at home and off-duty, Cooley called 911 after his boyfriend became physically violent. Among the officers who responded to the call was Chief of Corrections Charles Bolton, one of Cooley’s supervisors. After Cooley’s boyfriend told Bolton that he and Cooley were in a relationship, Bolton told Cooley not to return to work before speaking with his immediate supervisor. The next day, Staff Sergeant of Jail Operations Donnell Brannon informed Cooley that he was being permanently terminated. Cooley asked Brannon if he was being fired because he was gay, and Brannon responded, “Yes.” Cooley has never received a written explanation for his firing. He has never been charged or disciplined in connection with the domestic violence precipitated by his former boyfriend the day before he was fired. The official police report of the incident identifies Cooley as the victim. After firing Cooley, the sheriff’s department attempted to deny him unemployment benefits by alleging that Cooley had engaged in unspecified “inappropriate conduct and behavior while off duty, unacceptable for an officer.” But after a hearing, an administrative law judge concluded that the sheriff’s department failed to show that Cooley committed misconduct of any kind.

Another prime example of why we need ENDA.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

A letter to the Pentagon about DADT from Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian, USN (Ret.)

The Pentagon is currently surveying military spouses about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. SLDN “will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.”

Today’s letter is from a retired servicemember who lives “with a wonderful person who was fired because of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT).” Retired Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian describes the level of deceit required to serve without being exposed. It’s intense and it’s wrong. Pretty sure the Pentagon Working Group won’t be learning about what life is really like for gay and lesbian servicemembers from its survey:

August 25, 2010

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

I am a retired military sailor, living with a wonderful person who was fired because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).

Because of my experience with the military, I understand the life, the duty days, the underway time, the training cycles. Even the simple events of life at sea – how wondrous or disastrous mail call can be, depending on whether or not you get a letter; the whirlwind caused by the simple announcement of liberty call; and the sounds of the Navy – the bells, the whistles, the constant hum and different noises of shipboard living. These are just some of the various events and sometimes intense evolutions that occur around the universe called the United States Ship. I’ve been stationed on five of the best ships in the Navy. I speak the language, I know all the acronyms, and it’s an organization I’ve spent most of my closeted life in.

If my highly decorated and accomplished spouse had been able to stay in the Navy, her professional life would have included all of those same events mentioned previously, and more. She would have undoubtedly been stationed on board a ship of awesome capabilities. That ship would deploy, do training missions, visit foreign and domestic ports, and represent the world’s finest Navy. She would stand watch, hopefully in something better than a port and starboard rotation. If you don’t know what a port and starboard rotation is, just imagine working at your current job, six hours on, then take six hours off, then go back to work for six hours. Repeat 24/7 for the next 180 days.

She might even be sent on an Individual Augmentation (IA) to Iraq or Afghanistan while in her current assignment. During an Individual Augmentation, she would literally be loaned out to cover a critical needs job, however long that may be, in addition to her regularly scheduled deployment cycle.

I, however, would have to adhere to a strict set of rules when dealing with a deployment, whether it be an IA or ship deployment. Here are just some to think about – they reflect what life is like for military families under DADT:

· Set up an alternative e-mail account that wouldn’t show the gender of my name;

· Establish a very generic, genderless form of communications over e-mail;

· Never write “I love you” – or nothing that could indicate anything at all about the nature of our relationship;

· No access to the Ship’s Ombudsman – a point person for military families for all things very, very important relating to the ship and her crew;

· Create a plan for dropping her off at ship – making sure our goodbye or welcome is in secret;

· Never spending the remaining few hours on the ship like with the rest of families before a deployment;

· Worrying about how close to the pier I could be without raising suspicion;

· Before leaving home, be sure to say final goodbyes – no hugs and certainly no kisses allowed on or near the base;

· Not being able to participate in any family video postcards to the ship;

· Still trying to figure out how to deal with those pesky customs forms required when mailing anything to a “Fleet Post Office” – they require a name, so maybe use her parent’s name or the dog’s name;

· Don’t put anything too personal in care packages – those might arrive via barge, waterlogged and falling apart – therefore, they might be opened;

· As a result of the rough handling from a helicopter mail drop, any other boxes I send could be opened if damaged;

· Don’t get sick, seriously sick, and don’t get hurt while spouse is gone;

· Hope she doesn’t get hurt as no one would tell me – I can’t be listed as her next of kin in her service record without raising eyebrows;

· Remember to have her pack her personal cell phone and the charger for use six to nine months later – can’t use any of the ship’s communications, so the cell is the only way to coordinate a pickup upon return home;

· Knowing that when the other families are waiting at the pier, I wouldn’t be able to stand among them anxiously awaiting my sailor’s return.

This isn’t everything. It’s just a glimpse.

Sincerely,

Chief Petty Officer Lee Quillian, USN (Ret.)

CC:
U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Member, Senate Armed Services Committee




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Letter From Partner of Navy Officer Who Served in Silence

Last week, the Pentagon sent out 150,000 surveys to the heterosexual spouses of service members for their opinion on a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. With this family survey now in the field, our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, will release a letter each day this week from family members and spouses of former service members impacted by DADT. As the Pentagon reaches out to 150,000 straight couples on how their lives are impacted, these letters will share the perspective of those forced to serve under this law alongside their loved ones.

Today’s letter comes from Lynne Kennedy, the partner of an Navy officer who was forced into silence by DADT:

General Carter F. Ham
Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

Hon. Jeh C. Johnson
General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Chair, Comprehensive Review Working Group

CC:       U.S. Sen. Carl M. Levin
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain
Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Member, Senate Armed Services Committee

Dear General Ham and Mr. Johnson:

In 1990 – while working as a reference librarian at the Library of Congress — I met Joan Darrah, an active duty Naval Officer.  I already knew about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but I soon woke up to the harsh reality that loved ones of gay and lesbian family members are forced to serve in silence, too.

Over the years, Joan had adjusted to living two lives — in the closet at work and out after hours. For me, it was a bit of an adjustment as I had been fortunate to work for an employer who valued my skills and expertise and realized that my being a lesbian in no way detracted from my ability to do a great job.

I knew that Joan could be deployed at any moment.  She may be away from home for two or three years.  I realized that being with an active duty military officer was even more constricting than I could have possibly imagined and I worried constantly about Joan’s well being.  Yet, through it all, I knew our relationship was worth the compromises.  I knew we had to make it work for Joan to continue to serve our Country.

There were so many things that we had to be careful about. For example, Joan had asked that I not call her at work unless it was truly an emergency. When we were out in public if Joan saw someone from work, I learned to “disappear,” until Joan’s co-worker moved on.  We didn’t dare go to nice restaurants on Valentine’s Day or even Saturday nights. We could not show any familiarity while out in public.  I went to parties at colleagues’ homes alone lest a guest I didn’t know learn that Joan was in the Navy.

The events of September 11, 2001, caused us both appreciate more fully the true impact of DADT on our lives and the reality of our mutual sacrifices. At 8:30 a.m. that morning, Joan went to a meeting in the Pentagon.  At 9:30 a.m., she left that meeting.  At 9:37 a.m., the plane flew into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space that Joan had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of her colleagues.

In the days and weeks that followed, Joan went to several funerals and memorial services for her co-workers who had been killed. Most people attended these services with their spouses whose support was critical at this difficult time, yet Joan was forced to go alone, even though I really wanted to be with her to provide support.

As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone I would have been had Joan been killed. The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the “military family,” which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need.  But, none of that support would have been available for me, because under DADT, I didn’t exist.

In fact, I would have been one of the last people to know had Joan been killed, because nowhere in her paperwork or emergency contact information had Joan dared to list my name.

Whenever I hear Joan recount the events of that day, I relive it and realize all over again how devastated I would have been had she been killed.   I also think of the partners of service members injured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They are unable to get any support from the military and they must be careful about the amount of support they offer to their closeted service member loved ones.

The events of September 11th caused us to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process, we realized that this discriminatory law was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Eight months later, in June 2002, Joan retired from the U.S. Navy, and I retired from the Library of Congress.  If it wasn’t for DADT, we might both still be serving in our respective positions.

-Lynne Kennedy

HRC joins with our allies in the efforts to ensure passage of repeal in the Senate, as we work to muster the critical votes needed to end this discriminatory law. We are proud to join SLDN in the call to acknowledge the sacrifice of those partners of service members serving in silence under this failed law.

To join in HRC and SLDN’s joint campaign to garner support for repeal, visit countdown2010.hrc.org.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright