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Entries in Don't Ask Don't Tell (24)

Friday
Jul202012

First Military Base Same-Sex Wedding Held in NJ

Courtesy of Jeff Sheng(WRIGHTSTOWN, N.J.) -- Two men became the first same-sex couple to marry on a military base when they held their wedding ceremony last month at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali and his partner, Will Behrens, married June 23 on the base where Umali, an active member of the Air Force, had been stationed.  It was a decision that would have been unthinkable just nine months ago, before the law requiring them to keep their relationship a secret was repealed.

“We asked [about holding the ceremony on the base], and they were very open about it, but [said], ‘No one has ever asked us this question before,’” Umali said in a Facebook chat hosted by Slate.  “We did not get any push back from the base or leadership.  All they asked was that we be patient because this was the very first one.”

Both men say this positive reaction is the same sort of response they have gotten since going public with their relationship to Umali’s peers in the military.  After Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed last September, Umali decided to open up about his relationship with Behrens.

At a farewell luncheon hosted for him on his military base before he left for a special assignment, Umali came out in a very public way.  In a speech in front of 40 fellow airmen, he thanked his partner and fiancé.  His fellow airmen responded with a standing ovation, according to Slate.

About 150 friends and family attended the ceremony, which was officiated by Evangelical Lutheran Church Navy Chaplain Kay Reeb.

Not everybody has been so accepting of their relationship, however.  Both men grew up in strict religious families.  Behrens’ parents don’t approve of his homosexuality, and Umali’s parents in the Philippines are still struggling with his homosexuality.

Both Behrens and Umali were previously married to women, and both have two children, all of whom were at the wedding.

“One thing that we know and want to show our kids is to be true to yourself and love everyone no matter what,” Umali said.  “This is a victory for us because our kids still love us and we love each other and that is what they see.”

The family of six all went to Disneyland after the ceremony.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep202011

Before 'DADT' Repeal, Gay Soldier Comes Out on YouTube

Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Just hours before the official end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military, a U.S. solider decided to come out in perhaps one of the most open ways imaginable: YouTube.

In the video he posted Monday, 21-year-old Randy Phillips, under his handle “AreYouSurprised,” calls his father to tell him -- as the video description says -- “the hardest thing that gay guys will ever have to say.”

“You promise you’ll always love me? Period?” he asks his father, his voice shaking.

He takes a beat, and then says it: “Dad, I’m gay. I always have been. I’ve known for...forever.”

But this video is not his first. The “faceless soldier,” currently serving in the Air Force in Germany, has been garnering Internet fame since April, when he first began chronicling his experiences coming out, while serving abroad.

Six months ago he wouldn’t even reveal his face. But with last night’s midnight appeal of "DADT," he’s slowly revealing much more.  And using the power of the Internet as his guiding tool.

If there’s one thing he hasn’t been secretive about though, it’s his mission online, openly describing himself on Twitter as a “military member in the closet, using social media to build up the courage to come out to family, girlfriend, friends, and coworkers.”

“I am tired of hiding this,” he says.

And while he no longer has to, his story -- and courage -- has already touched thousands along the way. And as of 2 p.m. Tuesday, his video already had more than 3,000 likes and 30,000 views. And counting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep192011

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Only the Latest Military Barrier to Fall

Bill Clark/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If the Military Leadership Diversity Commission has its way, a full repeal Tuesday of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, won't be the last brick to fall from the U.S. military's sporadically crumbling barriers that have excluded African-Americans, women, Muslim clerics and even overweight recruits.

The panel recommended earlier this year, for instance, that the Department of Defense eliminate its "combat exclusion policies," meaning women would be assigned to units involved in "direct ground combat."

The record is long on diversity milestones that have changed the face of the nation's armed services.

Here are a few:

Women on Combat Ships
Woman can't serve in direct land combat but Congress enacted a law in 1993 that did allow them on combat ships, as well as bomber and fighter aircraft. And the military lifted its ban last year on their serving aboard submarines.

Muslim Chaplains
The Army signed up its first Muslim chaplain in 1993, followed later in the decade by a Navy chaplain who became the first Muslim to serve the Marine Corps.

Racial Desegregation
Whether it was because of President Harry S. Truman's 1948 executive order integrating black servicemen or the later need for soldiers in Korea, the military moved deliberately to desegregate its ranks. The last all-black unit was disbanded in the mid-1950s.

Ex-Convicts
The military has even opened the door to more ex-convicts in recent years, although by necessity. "The significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told the Washington Post in 2008.

Overweight Recruits
Similarly, recruitment targets have prompted the military to be more lenient when it comes to enlisting overweight recruits, as Americans grow plumper and plumper. But a portly soldier is less likely to be a successful one, so he or she must adhere to a weight-control regimen to stay in good graces.

All-Male Academies
Women were long thought to be incapable of withstanding the rigors of military-oriented colleges, so they were denied access until the Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that the all-male Virginia Military Institute admit them under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
Republican Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers, the first woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, proposed a bill in 1941 that would result in creation of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC -- although an amendment to give woman full military status failed, so they were not part of the regular army.

They are today, but, as the Military Leadership Diversity Commission noted in its March 15, 2011, report to President Obama and Congress, the Defense Department and armed services "should report to Congress the process and timeline for removing barriers that inhibit women from achieving senior leadership positions."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul222011

President Obama Certifies Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Friday certified a repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military, a law which he said “undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.”

“Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian,” Obama said in a written statement.

The president announced that he has formally repealed the 17-year-old law after an Oval Office meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. The repeal will take effect 60 days from now.

“As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country,” said Obama, who initially signed legislation to repeal the law in December.

The president commended the nation’s civilian and military leadership for moving forward with the change and thanked the men and women in uniform for their “professionalism and patriotism” during this transition.

“As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness,” he said.

“Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans,” Obama said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul212011

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Moves Forward

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon will announce Friday that the secretary of defense and the heads of each military branch have certified that "don’t ask, don’t tell," the military’s controversial policy barring openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces, is ready to be repealed.

The leaders of each service branch have determined that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will not harm military readiness. The move paves the way for the policy to be overturned in 60 days.

The announcement will take place in an event at the Pentagon Friday afternoon, just shortly after new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is formally sworn in.

This is one of the final steps in overturning the longstanding policy whereby service members are not allowed to admit they are gay and the military is not allowed to ask if they are. President Obama pledged to reverse the policy, but only if military leaders agreed it is the right thing to do.

Congress repealed the "don’t ask, don’t tell" law last December, but the Pentagon still had to complete the certification.

As part of an effort to reassure the military leadership, individual service members and concerned members of Congress, last year the Pentagon circulated confidential surveys to members of the military and their families asking their views on gays serving openly and what effect they believed it would have on their ability to perform their duties in battle and at home.

The results ultimately contributed to the certification that will be announced Friday.

This year the policy has also been subject to a seesaw battle in the courts, that confused commanders, recruiters and service members about whether the policy was still in place and whether service members could still be discharged under it.

The Pentagon has already begun training programs to prepare service members and their families for the change in policy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul152011

Federal Court Asked to Reconsider Order on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The legal saga concerning the repeal of the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" military policy continued Thursday night.

The Obama administration filed papers on Thursday asking a federal appeals court to reconsider an order from last week ruling that DADT was no longer enforceable worldwide.

Even though Congress has passed a law that eventually will repeal DADT, the order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called for an immediate halt to the policy.

In court papers, lawyers for the Obama administration argue against an "abrupt" court order putting an end to the policy in favor of an "orderly transition" put in place by the political branches.

The Justice Department lawyers said they expect the military will certify the repeal of the law sometime by the end of July or early August, after which there will be a 60-day wait before the law will be taken off the books.

A gay rights group challenging the law has been frustrated with the Obama administration's timeline.

"'Don't ask, don't tell' is an offense to American values that should have been gone long ago," said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, in a statement.  "It is shameful that a president who has taken credit for opposing the policy is taking extreme measures to keep it on life support."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul062011

Court Rules Against DADT Even Though Pentagon Weeks from Full Repeal

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Even though the Pentagon is midway through an ongoing process to repeal the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" policy banning openly gay men and women from the armed services, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the policy can no longer be enforced worldwide.
 
Although Congress passed legislation in December saying that the controversial policy would be repealed, the legislation specified that the repeal would only take effect once the military had certified that it was prepared for the change.
 
On Wednesday a three judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that because “circumstances and balance of hardships have changed” the need for an injunction blocking a lower court ruling that found DADT to be unconstitutional was no longer necessary.
 
The ruling is a legal victory for gay rights groups who had grown frustrated with the Obama administration’s timeline, but it probably won’t have a lot of impact because the military has said it is “weeks away” from certifying the repeal. But the ruling is something a victory for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that had grown frustrated with the time the administration was taking to certify the appeal.
 
“The court’s ruling today finds that the government especially had no basis for putting that injunction on hold so that it could continue to investigate and discharge patriotic service members merely for their sexual orientation,” said Dan Wood, an attorney for the Log Cabin Republicans. “This is a tremendous victory for the many Americans who want nothing more than to serve their country honorably and patriotically without regard to their sexual orientation, but the real winner here is our Constitution, which guarantees the rights of all Americans, gay and straight, whether serving in our armed forces or not.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

DADT Discharge Was Because of Voluntary Outing

Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The first case of a gay service member being discharged since the signing of the law that begins the process of repealing the Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask Law involved an Airman who voluntarily outed himself to get out of the Air Force.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law barring gays from serving openly in the military is likely to be repealed in a few months, but until then the law still remains in effect.

Under the repeal signed into law last December, DADT won’t be reversed until 60 days after Defense Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and President Obama certify that the readiness of the force has not been affected.  To that end, all of the services are in the midst of training their forces for what will change when repeal occurs.  Top Pentagon officials have said they expect certification to occur in mid- summer; that will begin the 60 day clock to repeal.

But last night the Air Force confirmed that a DADT discharge had occurred on April 29.  The news was surprising because last October, Gates had raised the bar so high for a DADT discharge to occur that none had occurred since then. Under Gates’ directive a servic emember’s discharge could only occur after consultation between the secretary of the relevant service, the Pentagon’s General Counsel and top personnel chief.

That was all done to prevent a gay service member from being discharged involuntarily under the law, but it didn’t prevent a service member from declaring themselves to be gay and wanting to leave the service and that’s exactly what happened in this case.

According to Air Force Spokesman Maj. Joel Harper on that date, “the Secretary of the Air Force approved the discharge of an Airman under the provisions of 10 USC 654, after coordination with the DoD General Counsel and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Each of these officials evaluated the case carefully, and concluded that separation was appropriate.  The Airman in the case asked to be separated expeditiously.  Until repeal occurs, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains the law."

Harper says the Air Force expects to finish its training on June 30th, and there have been no reports of problems with the training.

In a statement reacting to news of the discharge, Alexander Nicholson, the Executive Director of the advocacy group Servicemembers United said “this appears to be a classic case of someone simply trying to use the fact that the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law is still technically on the books to get out of his or her service obligation.”  However, he said “it shows why the DADT law is flawed and harms the military - it can also be abused to allow someone to receive expensive training and then skip out on their commitment to serve, or it can simply be used to quit the military early by forcing an early separation."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar282011

'OutServe' Magazine Launched for Active-Duty Gay and Lesbian Troops  

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An underground group of gay and lesbian service members Monday launched a new magazine, OutServe, hoping it will spread awareness about the contributions of gay troops and serve as a watchdog for the full repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

OutServe, the group behind the magazine, was formed last year to create a supportive community for active-duty gay service members who still cannot reveal their sexual orientation out of fear that they might be discharged while "don't ask, don't tell" is being repealed. The 18-page magazine, published electronically, represents the latest step in that mission, with feature stories, photographs and contact information for OutServe chapters around the world. The publishers plan to make the next edition available in print as well as online.

"We definitely hope to have it in select [military] installations, as well as the Department of Defense," J. Mills, the editor of the magazine, who is active-duty in the Air Force, said, asking that his first name be withheld to avoid reprisal from the military.

Mills pulled together the first edition of the magazine with a team of three other people but, he said, he expects the May-June issue to be twice as long with work from more contributors. He said OutServe has already been contacted by potential advertisers and others who simply want to give their time and talents.

"The magazine really is a grassroots efforts by our own people to reach out and support our own," Mills said.

As the formal repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" progresses, Mills expects the magazine to share stories about OutServe members and focus on still-contentious issues such as benefits for partners of gay service members, he said.

OutServe was formed in July and has rapidly grown to include about 2,900 members in more than 40 chapters. The group says that members come from all five military branches, including a mix of officers and enlisted men.

President Obama signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" into law in December but the implementation of the repeal is occurring gradually. The Pentagon has said that the training process will be completed this year, with different timelines for each branch of the service.

OutServe magazine is aimed primarily at active-duty lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops, but its editors hope it might also make a difference to others in the military who come across the publication.

"It just helps us get our message out and helps people to see that this is no big deal," Mills said. "Full implementation is right around the corner, and we think it's a great thing to get this out sooner rather than later."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar092011

Navy Sailor Faces Discharge for Falling Asleep With Another Man

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- A Navy petty officer facing discharge for falling asleep in bed with another male sailor last month says his ouster is motivated by homophobia, not a legitimate crime, a claim that has some gay rights advocates worried about life after "don't ask don't tell."

Stephen Jones, 21, a student at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston, South Carolina, says he and friend Brian McGee inadvertently fell asleep together while watching the Vampire Diaries on a computer in his quarters Feb. 6.

Jones was wearing pajama pants and a white t-shirt, laying on top of the covers; McGee was in boxer shorts under the blanket on Jones' twin bed, according to both men's account of the situation.

When Jones' roommate, Tyler Berube, walked in shortly after midnight, the sailors woke up, got dressed and went back to their rooms.  Several days later, however, Jones and McGee were cited with dereliction of duty for "willfully failing to exhibit professional conduct in his room," according to the Navy report specifying the charges.

McGee accepted the charge and received docked pay.  But when Jones refused to accept a penalty, instead hoping for a court martial to prove his innocence, he was ordered separated from the Navy for good.

While there was no evidence of homosexual conduct presented in the statements given by the three men to military investigators, Jones and his civilian attorney Gary Meyers believe homophobic suspicions were motivation for the charge.

"The roommate is concerned about what he sees, even though he sees nothing," Meyers said.  "And his statement doesn't indicate he saw anything.  Two men woke up and they left the room.  It's a bizarre overreaction."

Meyers contends that because the command had too little evidence to start an investigation under "don't ask, don't tell," which is still technically military policy, it used a subterfuge to achieve the same result.

"I asked several times about what was unprofessional about what I did, and every time they said it's just unprofessional.  Period," said Jones, who is appealing the decision.

"Guys are always playing video games, watching movies, in other people's quarters," Jones said.  "Brian and I hung out on a regular basis.  Curfew was 2 a.m.  We woke up between 12 and 12:30, and were back in our rooms before 1.  I have never been in trouble ever in all of my life."

A copy of the Navy's investigative report confirms that Berube discovered the two men asleep in bed, well before the 2 a.m. curfew Feb. 6, but does not detail how Jones or McGee may have exhibited unprofessional behavior.

A spokesman for the Naval Nuclear Training Command did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment but told the Washington Post, which first reported on the case, that "the determination was that two sailors sharing the same rack was unprofessional."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio