Entries in Military Gays (4)


Troops Reflect on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For many gays and lesbians in the military, the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring them from serving openly has put an end to the distraction of living in fear, allowing them -- as one said -- to "focus on the mission."

It was a year ago this past week that President Obama signed into law a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."  Although that ended the legal underpinnings for the ban on openly gay troops, it was only on Sept. 20 that the nearly 18-year-old policy was fully repealed.

For many of the thousands of gay and lesbian troops who will continue to serve in the military, it was a major burden lifted from their shoulders.

"Now I don't have to worry about someone trying to end my career," Staff Sgt. Steve Proctor told ABC News' Jake Tapper. "It's very important to me to be a soldier and also to be a leader of these soldiers, especially other soldiers that are gay like me."

Proctor said one of the biggest misconceptions he dealt with were doubts about whether he'd be able to effectively lead troops despite his sexual orientation.  "It was a struggle," said the 27-year-old staff sergeant, who's served for almost 10 years. "I had to make sure no one knew about it for the simple fact that if they did find out, I didn't want someone to try kicking me out."

Capt. Eric Sattleberg said that before the repeal of the policy, he was forced to lead a double life in the military. For the past decade he chose to hide under the umbrella of "being straight" so his homosexuality was never in question. He'd visit strip clubs with other soldiers and partake in conversations pertaining to relationships with women.

"I didn't want to come in and battle that, battle that fight with being gay in the military," he said.

Sattleberg wasn't the only one living an alternate life. Petty Officer Erin Jones said that before the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," her experience in the military was "sickening."

"I would go and date other men and I would go out with guys and spend a lot of time with guys trying to make it look like I was straight," she said. "I had a huge battle with my sexuality for a long time."

Jones said a lesbian couple serving with her was forced to separate, and she knew of another lesbian couple who was kicked out. Fearing her superiors would figure out the truth about her sexual orientation, Jones said she would even try to have relationships with men on her base.

Jones told ABC News that a lot of soldiers she knows were angry about the focus placed on repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

"We're in a war, we don't need to focus on gays being allowed to serve," she said.

But she said that for her, at least, putting an end to the ban meant an end to one of the major distractions she faced. "Since the laws changed, we can focus on the mission and we don't have to worry about being strung up for who we are," Jones said.

She said it was a relief, mostly because now soldiers won't have to endure the struggle that she and other homosexual soldiers lived through. "I wanted to talk about my girlfriend, but I would have to change the pronoun and have to say 'him,'" she said. "It sickened me inside to have to do that."

For other soldiers, though, the transition wasn't as smooth.

Proctor broke the news to one of his best friends and said the friendship ended soon after.  "One of my best friends in the army of 10 years and I told him," Proctor said. He also said he didn't regret his decision because he was tired of fighting with his identity.

"I thought I could trust him, he's denied that, some people aren't going to accept you for who you are, we all know that," Proctor said.

For Proctor and several other soldiers, the repeal lifted a heavy weight off their shoulders. Proctor says many soldiers may still not open up due to their personal lives at home, religion, or that they still haven't seen higher ranking soldiers coming out.

"We have to show the standard that we can still lead troops, I am gay as I want to be and you can do the same thing," Proctor said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Perry Confronted by Teen over Gays Serving Openly in Military

ABC News(DECORAH, Iowa) -- A 14-year-old openly bisexual girl collared Texas Gov. Rick Perry after his town hall in Decorah, Iowa, Sunday evening and challenged him to explain the reasoning behind his belief that gays should not serve openly in the military.

“I just want to know why you’re so opposed to gays serving openly in the military, why you want to deny them that freedom when they’re fighting and dying for your right to run for president,” Rebecka Green, a high school student from Decorah, asked the Texas governor.

“Here’s my issue.  This is about my faith, and I happen to think, you know, there are a whole hosts of sins.  Homosexuality being one of them, and I’m a sinner and so I’m not going to be the first one to throw a stone,” Perry said.  “I don’t agree that openly gays should be serving in the military.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was working and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday, he said, ‘How would you feel if one of your children was gay?’  I said I’d feel the same way.  I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander-in-chief of some 20,000-plus people in the military is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy and I don’t think it was good policy, and I don’t think people in the military thought it was good policy.”

After her confrontation with Perry at the Winnishiek Hotel, Green told reporters she disagrees with the governor’s position on the issue.

“I’m openly bisexual and I don’t want to be told that if I wanted to serve in the military that I couldn’t, and I just think that policy is completely ridiculous that he thinks that.  I just don’t like it,” Green said.  “Him or nobody should be able to tell somebody who they can or can’t love.”

Perry was unaware that she was bisexual when she approached him with the question.

Rebecka’s father, Todd Green, a Democrat and professor of religion at Luther College, expressed disappointment in Perry’s response to his daughter.

“For a group of women and men to fight for the freedom to run for president, to gather here peacefully and assemble here peacefully in a place like Decorah, but not for them to have the freedom to be open about who they are but he can be free to be open about who he is, to me it seems to be a major contradiction and very hypocritical,” Todd Green said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Perry’s New Ad Tackles Obama’s ‘War on Religion,’ Gays in Military

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an attempt to appeal to conservatives who disagree with the progressive social policies adopted by the Obama administration, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest TV ad accuses President Obama of launching a “war on religion” and criticizes the policy of gay men and women serving openly in the military.

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school,” Perry, wearing a tan jacket and blue shirt while walking and looking directly toward the camera, says in the ad. “As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

The 30-second ad, called “Strong,” is the Perry campaign’s second effort in the past week to play up its candidate’s conservative credentials. In a move to court social conservatives and evangelicals in Iowa last week, Perry released an ad called “Faith,” that touted his religious commitment by proclaiming, “I’m not ashamed to talk about my faith.”

Bill Burton, senior strategist for Priorities USA, called Perry’s latest ad, “astonishingly intolerant” and termed the TV spot a, “war on gays.”

In an ABC News/Yahoo interview last month, Perry said he would be “comfortable” returning to the military policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

“I think ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ worked very well,” Perry said in an ABC News/Yahoo interview with Christiane Amanpour. “I think the idea that the president of the United States wanted to make a political statement using our men and women in the military as the tool for that was irresponsible.”

It is not known at this time when or where this ad will begin running.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DADT Repeal on Track for Mid-Summer Certification

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A House Armed Services subcommittee heard from top Pentagon officials on Friday that the process for implementing the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is on track and that the process to certify the full repeal could occur in mid-summer.

Friday’s hearing was the first time officials publically mentioned a potential target date for when certification of the repeal could occur.

The repeal law signed into effect last December requires President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mullen to certify that operational readiness has not been affected by implementing the repeal. In the meantime, the DADT policy remains in place. When Obama, Gates and Mullen sign the certification, it will begin a 60-day countdown that will result in the full repeal of DADT and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Each of the services have their own training timetables: the Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard say they’ll finish by the end of June, and the Navy at the end  of July. The Army thinks it will finish training its active duty soldiers in mid-July and its Guard and Reservist by mid-August.

Appearing before the Military Personnel Subcommittee, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Cliff Stanley and Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, director of the Joint Staff, both said mid-summer looked like the target date for that certification to occur.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio