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Monday, April 19, 2010

The jig is up – Morgantown WV says “repeal don’t ask, don’t tell”

Morgantown, West Virginia rocked the night away the evening of April 17th for the “Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” campaign at Vice Versa Club’s annual Military Ball. Hundreds of locals gathered to sign postcards for Senator Byrd and other elected officials to ask them to repeal DADT. I was on hand representing Fairness WV to promote the cause. The Human Rights Campaign and ServiceMembers United are sponsoring the national campaign.

The diverse crowd was very receptive to the repeal DADT cause. Supporters included people of all backgrounds, ages, races, current and former veterans, straights, gays, lesbians and transgendered folk. It was a veritable cornucopia of queer fans!

Incentives to participate included signing a postcard to Senator Byrd and other elected officials to receive a "repeal DADT" badge and dog tag. Postcard signers were entered into a t-shirt raffle for later that evening.

There were a number of interesting encounters with participants throughout the night, and some unexpected surprises.

For starters, I recruited Michael “Brandon” Clark to be our advocate for the evening. Clark, AKA “Samuel Colt” the notable dancer when not at his day job, is a retired Army veteran from California. Clark shared a story about when he was a 4-year ROTC scholarship winner in college and he was asked to resign after participating in a campus gay/straight student group. He went on to serve his country proudly but silently for the next decade.

Another ally, we'll call her "Mary", from West Virginia, is presently serving in the Army Reserves. She admitted that her Recruiter and in fact her entire unit knows she is openly a lesbian yet it has made no difference to anyone. They trust and know her for the fine soldier she is. Mary is scheduled to deploy in May.

Although there were no hecklers in the crowd, I was approached by Marine Vet who was concerned that if DADT were repealed then in his view many currently serving military men would have a problem with that. Further he asked “What would prevent a homophobic soldier from pulling the trigger on ‘the gay guy’?”

I couldn’t believe I was hearing this, especially from an allegedly straight guy in a gay bar in a public setting (AKA closeted gay wolf homophobe in seemingly sympathetic sheep’s clothing). I was appalled, but quickly jumped to my senses.

I responded, “Yeah, right, what if instead of ‘the gay guy’, the minority was black or female?” Did anyone ever get shot with the integration of women or blacks into the military? I think not! So why should sexual orientation be any different? It’s no one’s business, period. But wait, there’s more. Unit cohesion is best when no one has to lie and everyone can trust each other without question. That is the most honest, rational and sane approach. DADT just reinforces distrust and promotes divisiveness among the ranks, thus puts troops at risk.”

The ex-Marine couldn’t say anything except “Well, I’m just saying…”, and he left with a cordial handshake. Such is the hard work of changing minds.

Between dance sets, I raffled off Repeal DADT t-shirts by drawing from postcard signers. I explained to the audience that Senator Byrd and all of our elected officials will be hearing from us. Fairness WV and HRC representatives will deliver these personal messages form constituents by the truckload to elected officials on Veteran’s Lobby Day, May 11th. "Your voices will be heard!”, I shouted. The crowd went wild with enthusiastic cheers to repeal DADT.

The next and final repeal DADT event in Morgantown will be a "Voices of
Honor" Panel Discussion to be held Saturday, April 24th at the WVU Law Center.

Photos on Facebook

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