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July 30, 2010

Active duty member of Outserve speaks to the Blend about life under DADT

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Most of the voices we have heard from related to the effects of serving under DADT have been men; the Blend has had an opportunity to interview (via email) one of the members of OutServe (formerly known as Citizens for Repeal), an organization of actively serving gay troops. Her background story is heartbreaking.

I have been the military for 12 years. I am a Warrant Officer and I am in Iraq right now. I love the military, and from my first day at basic training, I knew I would stay in for at least 20 years. I am divorced with two children, and I have partial custody. I was lucky to get partial custody. I told my ex-husband that I was gay and didn’t think it was fair to him to stay married, when he could be with someone who actually was attracted to him.

Ever since that moment, he has used Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell against me, threatening to call my chain of command any time I acted in a way that he didn’t like. At our custody hearing, he told my lawyer to let me know if I asked for full or even joint cusody, he was going to end my career. So since 2007 I have been torn apart, having to chose between my children and my career.

Without my job, I have no idea what I would do to make money, support myself, and pay child support. Without my children, I want to die. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ruined the relationship I have had since my divorce. The first failed because I had to move from one duty station to another, and without the ability to have relocation bebenfits, like straight couples have in the military, my partner was unable to move with me.

We tried to have a long distance relationship, but the deployment to Iraq was too much stress for her. She realized that if I was hurt, she couldn’t come to the hospital to see me. If I were killed, she wouldn’t even be notified. We had to speak in code on the telephone as not to be overheard by my “friends”, or discovered if the phone call was being monitored.

As I have said, I love the military, I love serving my country, but I have lost a lot in order to do it. I volunteered to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the piece of paper that says All Men Are Created Equal, but that piece of paper does not defend me.

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Q: What are your thoughts about President Obama’s handling of DADT repeal to date? What do you hear

I understand that President Obama has many things to fix, from the environment and the economy, to heath care and immigration. However, I am disappointed in President Obama’s slow reaction to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. If he truly believes that the law is discriminatory and unjust, then he must apply more pressure to get it repealed. Why can’t he issue an executive order?  Instead, there are two surveys, a study, and vote in Congress to get through, before the “integration” methods can be vetted by the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and the President. At least stop the discharges until the surveys and studies are completed.

I have asked Soldiers I work with what they think about DADT. Out of 11 Soldiers, 8 were for arepeal because, as they put it, “it is stupid”; 2 did not care; and one was against repeal solely because he is worried that gays who are open will be harassed. None of the Soldiers knows I am gay, we were just sitting around the table at work and I asked them. The oldest Soldier was 26, and only two were female. I think that says a lot about our military, and how out of touch many high ranking officials really are.

Q: Do you believe that the President should use an executive order to stop the discharges, or wait?

I do think that an executive order should be used. President Truman integrated the military and they weren’t fighting two simultaneous wars. Waiting for a study or a survey or a vote only perpetuates the belief that civil rights can be granted or not granted at the will of the public, which makes even less sense in the military, where we better than anyone understand rules of order and how to follow them.

Q: Have you seen/taken the survey or know someone who has? What are their impressions?

No one I know was afforded an opportunity to take the survey. I wonder if it was even sent to service members serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Q: What would you say to members of Congress who are on the fence in terms of voting for repeal?

I would ask them to put themselves in my shoes for one week. Literally come with me, work with me and live with me and see what it feels like to live your life in secret. I am a divorced mother of two. I have a 4 year old and a 7 year old. I could not fight for custody because my ex-husband threatened to call my chain of command and out me. On the 1st day of our custody hearing he told my lawyer to let me know that he was ready to tell the entire court room that I was gay. In doing so, he tied my hands. I could not fight for my children, and to this day, if I upset him in anyway, he can get me fired from my job. How would I support myself or pay child support if he did that? I haven’t seen my children since September of 2009, about a month before I came to Iraq.

Imagine being in a relationship with someone deployed in a war; if that person is injured, you cannot visit them because you have no rights; you won’t even be notified of that injury or death, because you can’t be the next of kin. Phone calls from a deployed Soldier on government phones are monitored, so you cannot even tell your significant other that you love them.

I love the military and my country, and it should be obvious that I do, because the Constitution of the United States of America says that all men are created equal, and I swore to protect that Constitution, but the Constitution doesn’t protect me.

Q: Once repeal occurs, there are many legal issues that remain, such as partner benefits, because…

DOMA is a hurtful and discriminatory law that denies millions of Americans recognition of marriage and the protections that come with that marriage. The most obvious are Social Security survivors’ benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, the right to take leave to care for a spouse, Once again, Congress needs to live for a week in someone else’s circumstance. Powers of Attorneys are disregarded all of the time. Marriage is not unique to Christianity or any other religion, because if that were the case, atheists would be prohibited to marry, just as gays are. Marriage is a legal agreement between two consenting adults, and those protections and the benefits it brings should be afforded to all adults. Plus, imagine the new revenue that would be gay marriage would bring…wedding licenses, caterers, wedding planners, tuxedos, dresses; talk  about a boost in the economy!


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