As a transgender veteran, Autumn was prepared to put her service – and her pension — on the line for repeal of DADT. The Blend is proud of her sacrifice in the name of equality.
Our hopes swelled when President Obama promised at the State of the Union to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the policy that discriminates against lesbian and gay servicemembers. But his words mean nothing without action. And he has an opportunity to take action right now. The Defense Authorization Bill (DAB) provides funding for all military operations, and it will soon be up for renewal.
President Obama knows that the DAB provides a way to repeal DADT immediately. And he knows that repealing the policy quickly and decisively is the right thing to do for LGBT servicemembers and for all of the armed forces. But recent reports suggest that the Administration is trying to delay any law change until December or even later.
Join us in supporting Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd, and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas as they take action at the White House to demand that DADT be repealed through this year’s DAB
Photo 2 courtesy of John Aravosis @ AMERICAblog. Follow Joe Sudbay’s Tweets as he is on the scene.
The full release is below the fold.
Corporal Evelyn Thomas, who participated in today’s action said, “A few weeks ago I saw Lt. Dan Choi take dramatic action at the White House and it made me realize that I needed to do something to stand up for all the Black female soldiers who have been discharged under DADT. Many people don't know that we Black women are discharged disproportionately more than others under DADT.”
GetEQUAL.org, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist organization, coordinated today's action and is also calling on the public to join the soldiers in their ask on President Obama at: http://GetEQUAL.org/GetDADT<http://GetEQUAL.org/xxxxxxxx> .
Today's activities come a day after GetEQUAL activists interrupted President Obama’s speech at a fundraiser in Los Angeles for Senator Barbara Boxer.
Involved in today’s action are:
Lt. Dan Choi served as an infantry officer with the United States Army in Iraq in 2006-2007. Choi graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is fluent in Arabic. In June 2008, he transferred from active duty Army to the New York National Guard. After coming out on The Rachel Maddow Show in March 2009, he was notified that the Army had begun discharge proceedings against him. Choi is a founding member of KnightsOut, an organization of West Point alumni that advocates for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, and he speaks frequently
in support of rights for LGBT members of the military.
Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, a former infantryman and lawyer originally from Ohio, served in the United States Army until he was discharged in 2004 under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Pietrangelo fought in Iraq in 1991 as an infantryman and returned as a JAG officer for the second Iraq War. As he was readying for a third combat tour, he was honorably discharged for declaring he is gay. Pietrangelo sued the government, charging that the policy is unconstitutional. He appealed to the Supreme Court, but in June
2009, the Supreme Court rejected the case and refused to intervene, at the request of the Obama Administration.
Petty Officer Larry Whitt was born in Barnwell, South Carolina, and grew up in Florida. Fulfilling a lifelong goal, Whitt joined the Navy after high school and served for 12 years. He received the Outstanding Sailor Award aboard the USS Compass Island, was a Sailor of the Month aboard the USS Caloosahatchee, and retired as a Petty Officer First Class. He was stationed with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, and
received a Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Good Conduct Medals, and a Navy Expeditionary Medal. Whitt was honorably discharged in October 1982, after he requested discharge for fear of being turned in for being gay. Currently, he is the Color Guard Coordinator for the Florida Gold Coast Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights in Ft. Lauderdale.
Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen was born in Northridge, California and raised in Los Angeles's San Fernando Valley. Sandeen joined the United States Navy in 1980 as a Fire Controlman. She served on two Guided Missile Fast Frigates as a Mark 92 Fire Control System technician, and one Guided Missile Fast Frigate as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician. Her last ship was the Third Fleet Command Ship, the USS Coronado, where she served as a Mark 15 Close-In Weapons System technician from 1996 to 2000. She retired after 20 years as Fire Controlman First Class. At the end of 1999 and
beginning of 2000, Sandeen was sexually harassed by a subordinate and Executive Officer for being perceived as an effeminate gay male. After retiring from the U.S. N
avy, she was awarded a Veteran's Administration Service Connected Disability rating. She began transitioning as a male-to-female transsexual on February 6, 2003. As a transgender activist, she has worked with many transgender advocacy organizations. She is currently the transgender chair of DOD FedGlobe, and she writes for the blog
Pam's House Blend.
Cadet Mara Boyd, originally from and currently residing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, completed three years in the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Colorado at Boulder and graduated in the top ten percent of her basic training class before she came out as a lesbian to her commander in the fall of 2002 and was honorably discharged under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in June 2003. Before she came out, Boyd held the position in her cadet detachment of Cadet Captain, Character Development Officer, having been nominated by the officer cadre and cadet corps to handle the character
development and moral guidance of the entire detachment. Boyd's ROTC scholarship, which had paid for two years of nonresident tuition, was revoked upon her discharge, and the government demanded that she repay her scholarships and book stipends. Boyd ended up with $30,000 of tuition bills to pay. Boyd returned to UC Boulder and completed her degree, but she is still paying back the scholarship debt.
Airman Victor Price, originally from Asheboro, NC, served as a Bioenvironmental Engineering Specialist with the United States Air Force.
During his tour, he obtained a BA in business marketing at Delaware State. A Senior Airman, Price was honorably discharged in 2000 under Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Corporal Evelyn Thomas, who was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Texas, joined the Army National Guard and then the U.S. Marine Corps. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman. She was then honorably discharged in 1991. In October 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who fear they may be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality. The Sanctuary Project Veterans is a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA, and it provides a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.
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GetEQUAL is a new online lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activist community. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBTQ community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information on GetEQUAL visit www.getequal.org