Today is the one year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), a policy that discriminated against lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the military. The idea behind DADT was that if heterosexuals in the military knew they were serving beside lesbians, gays and bisexuals, they would freak out and fall apart. The policy forced people who are not heterosexual to live in fear and to have to hide important and vital parts of their lives. It punished upstanding people, who only wanted to serve their country. It reinforced negative attitudes toward LGBT people in America. The repeal of this policy is an enormous step forward for equality.
I had the good fortune to be an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention this year. One of my favorite parts of the experience was the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus meetings. There were many mentions of the repeal of DADT throughout the caucus meetings. Today I will share with you a couple of them.
I put together this video from the caucus…
The first man to speak is Chair of LGBT Caucus Rick Stafford, an accomplished and dedicated LGBT rights activist. Rick Stafford has been involved with the Minnesota AIDS Project—as an early staff member, volunteer, and on and off client—for more than 20 years. He lives at Ford House, a housing project developed by the Minnesota AIDS Project and currently administered by CommonBond. Rick serves on the board of directors of Ford House and is deeply committed to political involvement. He is a former state chairperson of the Minnesota DFL party and served on Bill Clinton’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1995 to 1999. He is known as a strong and passionate advocate for the rights of Transgender people.
The second man to speak in my video is former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Douglas Wilson. Wilson was the first openly gay assistant secretary at the Pentagon. Wilson, whom the Senate confirmed in February 2010 to a senior position at the Pentagon, served as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. His duties included being a principal adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on public information and community relations.
In the video he told of his experience meeting U.S. troops at Fort Hood, an Army base. The head of the base arranged for him to meet with solders assigned to an Army tank, with the implication being that it would be difficult for an out gay soldier to work in close quarters with straight soldiers.
Wilson asked the men assigned to the tank how they would react if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed and they find out one them is gay.
“The first one said my brother is gay. And the second one said my cousin is gay,” Wilson told the caucus. “The third one said I have all kinds of gay friends from high school and it doesn’t matter to me. And the fifth one said if this tank is burning I want someone to pull me out of there and I don’t care if they’re gay or straight, I just want to know that they’ve got my back.”
The third man to speak in my video is Brian Bond, a member of the Democratic National Committee. He is also the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Bond has an extensive background in constituency outreach and coalition bridge-building. Most recently he served as the National Constituency Director for the Obama for America Campaign in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to that, he served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee’s Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council. He also served several years as the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization committed to training and electing Out LGBT candidates for public office. A former Executive Director of the Missouri Democratic Party, Bond is a Missouri native has a degree in Public Administration from Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
The fourth man to speak in the video is Jim Messina. Messina is a political adviser who was the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011 and serves as the campaign manager for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He’s somewhat of a controversial figure in the LGBT community. Some see him as a person who had to be pressured to advance our civil rights. Some see him as a savvy hard-fighting strategist who had what it took to get the job done under difficult circumstances. I lean toward the latter interpretation.
Story by Lauren Michelle Kinsey