Tracy Thorne-Begland, Emily Heck, and Ben Mishkin gave perspective on repealing DADT at a community meeting held at the Gay Community Center of Richmond. Photo by Eric Russell.
Right now, civilians are legally protected against discrimination under an executive order to work under any other federal agency – except the military.
The message was clear on Sunday night on why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” needs to be overturned.
“It’s a government mandated firing of employees,” Emily Heck said. Heck is Legal Director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
“You have to hide [your orientation] when talking about simple things like what did over the weekend with your roommate,” she said.
The group that spoke at the meeting shared stories they have seen over the course of DADT. They mentioned lesbian bating – a male service member will ask a female service member out. A rejection could lead to revenge by him saying she’s a lesbian, which under current law is enough ground for discharge.
Now with the states that allow gay marriage, if a service member is married, that marriage certificate is public record. The same goes for adoption records. Under DADT, gays are having to chose between their family life and building their military career.
Tracy Thorne-Begland, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond, shared his story serving as an openly gay Naval officer. He reached out to the Gay, Lesbians, and Bisexual Veterans and got caught in a whirlwind back in 1992 when the organization asked him to do a media appearance on ABC’s Nightline. The Navy began discharge preceedings immediately after the television appearance and he got caught up in a debate of what would be DADT.
A judge ordered him back on active duty before he was ultimately discharged.
David, a veteran in the audience, spoke up during the Q&A calling others to action.
“We believe in a nation that believes in us as a people. We still hold to a lot of the issues of the past, but we need to be true to who we are as a nation,” he said. “What can we do as people gathered for a purpose?”