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U.S. military > Gay service members




Debra Fowler, Lowell, Mass.

Specialist, U.S. Army, 1986-88. Korean Linguist.

Dishonorable Discharge, fraudulent entry,

outed when being investigated for security clearance.


Photographs by Vincent Cianni



Out, and Serving


Sunday Review

9 March 2014


















Matt McCary, right,

Orange Park, Fla. Airman First Class E-3, U.S. Air Force, 1998-2000.

Intelligence Specialist.

Honorable Discharge;

put under arrest after being singled out by co-worker;

discharged within five days with no investigation.


David Cochenic,

Orange Park, Fla. Chief Petty Officer E-7, U.S. Navy, 1992-present.

Field Medical Service Technician, Aerospace Medical Technician.


Photographs by Vincent Cianni



Out, and Serving


9 March 2014



















Dustin Hiersekorn, left, Boise, Idaho.

Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, 2010.

Discharged for medical reasons two weeks after enlisting.


Zachary Werth, Boise, Idaho.

Specialist, Idaho Army National Guard, 2007-10.

Medic. General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions.


Photographs by Vincent Cianni



Out, and Serving


Sunday Review

9 March 2014



















Steve Greenberg


26 June 2010



























the United States military > openly gay service members










cartoons > Cagle > Don't ask, don't tell repeal        USA        December 2010










"don't ask, don't tell''        USA


The policy known as "don't ask, don't tell''

was made law in 1993

amid a debate over the role of gays

in the military.


It limits the military's ability

to ask service members

about their sexual orientation (don't ask)

and allows homosexuals to serve

provided they keep quiet

about their sexual orientation (don't tell)

and refrain from homosexual acts.




































“Class II homosexual”












Corpus of news articles


 Gays, Gay / LGBT rights, Homosexuality




An Openly Gay Man Runs the Army


MAY 21, 2016

The New York Times

Sunday review




Last week an openly gay man, Eric Fanning, became secretary of the Army. Read that sentence again and contemplate what it reveals about how much and how quickly American society has changed. Only five years ago, openly gay people were barred from serving in its armed forces. During Mr. Fanning’s lengthy confirmation process, his sexual orientation was simply not an issue. That is a tribute to those who fought so hard to repeal the ban, and a measure of the nation’s at times uncertain, but as yet unfailing, march toward equality.

In retrospect the fight that convulsed this country over whether gay Americans should serve in uniform seems senseless, almost absurd. Yet it is instructive, if only because a Pentagon plan to allow transgender Americans to serve openly in uniform remains stalled by a similar, albeit quieter, debate.

There is broad agreement that prohibiting openly gay people from serving was a cruel policy that abetted bigotry. It legitimized the notion that being gay was shameful and incompatible with the valorous profession of arms. It cut short the careers of talented people who had been performing vital work in wartime, which weakened the military.

It is embarrassing now, even shocking, to revisit the arguments and laments of those who sought to keep the military gay-free.

In 2007, Gen. Peter Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Chicago Tribune, “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” A year later, Elaine Donnelly, who founded an advocacy group that has sought futilely to keep military personnel policy frozen in the mores of the 1950s, warned during a congressional hearing about “a sexualized atmosphere in our armed forces.” She expressed alarm about “forced cohabitation” and the spread of H.I.V.

Two years after that, when Congress appeared to be on the brink of repealing the ban, Gen. James Amos, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, cautioned that openly gay troops would be a distraction that could cost lives on the battlefield. “We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed with no limbs,” he pleaded in a last-ditch effort to keep service members in the closet. Senator John McCain indulged the general’s fearmongering. “Today is a very sad day,” Mr. McCain said somberly during the Senate debate on Dec. 18, 2010, as he acknowledged that he and other like-minded lawmakers had been outgunned.

The policy was repealed without a hitch. It didn’t result in weakened unit cohesion, lower morale or missing limbs. As service members came out to their supervisors, they were embraced. “Millennials just don’t care about sexuality the way past generations did,” said Lt. Col. Paul Larson, a straight Army infantry officer. “The rest of us didn’t care. We all knew gays were serving with distinction.”

The controversy over lifting the exclusion of openly transgender service members has been less caustic and less public. After Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter pledged last July to repeal that ban within six months, a few senior military officials pushed back. They steered clear of framing their misgivings on morality grounds, instead voicing concerns about “military readiness” and unit cohesion. Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, has been one of the leading skeptics at the Pentagon. In a recent interview, he said that “serious, significant issues need to be completely vetted and studied” before transgender people are allowed to serve openly. “I have to focus on the readiness of the force,” he said.

Those concerns cannot be indulged any longer at the expense of the civil rights and dignity of Americans who volunteered to serve in wartime. There is every reason to believe that repealing the transgender ban will be seamless. The Pentagon already has a blueprint of what it would take. Mr. Fanning, who was the first senior defense official to endorse military service by openly transgender people, is well positioned to help overcome the lingering misgivings of those upholding the Pentagon’s last discriminatory personnel policy.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Staff Sgt. Patricia King, a soldier in Colorado Springs who was the first person in the infantry to transition on the job.“To know that the secretary of the Army is supportive of open trans service, supportive of me not only as a soldier but as a person, is a comforting feeling.”


Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this editorial appears in print
on May 22, 2016,
on page SR8 of the New York edition
with the headline:
An Openly Gay Man Runs the Army.

An Openly Gay Man Runs the Army,
May 21, 2016,






Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’


December 18, 2010

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday voted to strike down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.

By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay, lesbian and bisexual troops as second-class citizens.

Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban, and said it was “time to close this chapter in our history.”

“As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best-led and best-trained fighting force the world has ever known,” he said in a statement after the Senate, on a preliminary 63-to-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts to block final action on the repeal bill.

The vote marked a historic moment that some equated with the end of racial segregation in the military.

It followed an exhaustive Pentagon review that determined the policy could be changed with only isolated disruptions to unit cohesion and retention, though members of combat units and the Marine Corps expressed greater reservations about the shift. Congressional action was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.

Supporters of the repeal said it was long past time to abolish what they saw as an ill-advised practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to serve their country.

“We righted a wrong,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut and a leader of the effort to end the ban. “Today we’ve done justice.”

Before voting on the repeal, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States at a young age, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements including passing a criminal background check.

The 55-to-41 vote in favor of the citizenship bill was five votes short of the number needed to clear the way for final passage of what is known as the Dream Act.

The outcome effectively kills it for this year, and its fate beyond that is uncertain since Republicans who will assume control of the House in January oppose the measure and are unlikely to bring it to a vote.

The Senate then moved on to the military legislation, engaging in an emotional back and forth over the merits of the measure as advocates for repeal watched from galleries crowded with people interested in the fate of both the military and immigration measures.

“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying earlier that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Monday.

The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the Senate diminished.

It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of barring gay men and lesbians entirely from military service.

Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide, advocates who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.

“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad day in history.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”

He and others opposed to lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would prove disruptive.

“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said about the policy. “It is working very well.”

Other Republicans said that while the policy might need to be changed at some point, Congress should not do so when American troops are fighting overseas.

Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over limits on debate of the measure.

In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.

The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days, and probably longer, while some other procedural steps are taken. In addition, the bill requires the defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the repeal “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”

“It is going to take some time,” Ms. Collins said. “It is not going to happen overnight.”

In a statement, Mr. Gates said that once the measure was signed into law, he would “immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully.” In the meantime, he said, “the current law and policy will remain in effect.”

Because of the delay in formally overturning the policy, Mr. Sarvis appealed to Mr. Gates to suspend any investigations into military personnel or discharge proceedings now under way. Legal challenges to the existing ban are also expected to continue until the repeal is fully carried out.

In addition to Ms. Collins, Republicans backing the repeal were Senators Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, John Ensign of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and George V. Voinovich of Ohio.

“It was a difficult vote for many of them,” Ms. Collins said, “but in the end they concluded, as I have concluded, that we should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing to put on the uniform of this country.”

Mr. Lieberman said the ban undermined the integrity of the military by forcing troops to lie. He said 14,000 people had been forced to leave the armed forces under the policy.

“What a waste,” he said.

The fight erupted in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration and has been a roiling political issue ever since. Mr. Obama endorsed repeal in his presidential campaign and advocates saw the current Congress as their best opportunity for ending the ban. Dozens of advocates of ending the ban — including one severely wounded in combat before being forced from the military — watched from the Senate gallery as the debate took place.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed Republican complaints that Democrats were trying to race through the repeal to satisfy their political supporters.

“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” Mr. Levin said. “I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.”

Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, NYT, 18.12.2010,






The Senate Stands for Injustice


December 9, 2010
The New York Times


On one of the most shameful days in the modern history of the Senate, the Republican minority on Thursday prevented a vote to allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly in the military of the United States. They chose to filibuster a vital defense bill because it also banned discrimination in the military ranks. And in an unrelated but no less callous move, they blocked consideration of help for tens of thousands of emergency workers and volunteers who became ill from the ground zero cleanup after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The senators who stood in the way of these measures must answer to the thousands of gay and lesbian soldiers who must live a lie in order to serve, or drop out. They must answer to the civilians who will not serve their country when some Americans are banned from doing so for an absurd reason, and to the military leaders who all but pleaded with them to end this unjust policy. They must answer to the workers who thought they were aiding their country by cleaning up ground zero.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that he would allow another vote on repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in a free-standing bill later this month. That long shot is likely to be the final test of whether the Republicans are interested in allowing military equality.

Republicans wanted extra days of debate, demanding the right to amend the defense bill that contained the repeal provision, and essentially killing the bill without quite admitting to it by suffocating it of time. Mr. Reid said he had concluded that they had no intention of repealing the repressive measure, so he called for a vote.

The outcome was three votes short of the 60 needed to break the filibuster. Only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, voted to end the filibuster. Two Republicans who said they would vote for repeal, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, voted the other way, as did one Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Brown stuck with a Republican pledge to support no other measures until the tax-cut deal had been dealt with.

Mr. Reid will undoubtedly be second-guessed on his decision to call for a vote, but given the other-worldly logic of a lame-duck session, it is hard to fault his hard-bitten calculation of the Republicans’ intentions. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that if debate on the 850-page defense bill did not begin this week, there would be no time to finish it in the remaining few days of the session.

The defense bill would also have raised pay for soldiers, improved their medical care and provided troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with additional equipment and support. It would be the first time in 48 years that Congress did not approve such a bill — all because of an irrational prejudice against gay men and lesbians.

The filibuster on $7.4 billion in medical care and compensation for the workers at ground zero will be harrowing for the tens of thousands who labored tirelessly for weeks and eventually had to seek care under a patchwork of temporary medical and research programs in the city. These police, firefighters and waves of citizen volunteers need ongoing care for illnesses being traced to the toxic fumes, dust and smoke at ground zero.

In the House, Democrats also took a wrongheaded vote to ban transfers of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to detention facilities in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has urged the Senate to strip the provision from the final bill.

Another measure of overdue justice — the Dream Act, which would empower the innocent children of illegal immigrants with education and public service opportunity — barely survived a Republican filibuster in the Senate after being tabled by proponents hoping to drum up support in coming days. There is little sign of encouragement, however, for that good cause or others as the 111th Congress expires in the grip of Senate Republicans demeaning public service as an exercise of naysaying.

    The Senate Stands for Injustice, NYT, 9.12.2010,






Military Equality Goes Astray


September 21, 2010

The New York Times


The best chance this year to repeal the irrational ban on openly gay members of the military slipped away Tuesday, thanks to the buildup of acrimony and mistrust in the United States Senate.

Republicans, with the aid of two Arkansas Democrats, unanimously voted to filibuster the Pentagon’s financing authorization bill, largely because Democrats had included in it a provision to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Another vote to end the policy could come again in the lame-duck session in December, but now there is also a chance it will be put off until next year, when the political landscape on Capitol Hill could be even more hostile to gay and lesbian soldiers.

The decision also means an end, for now, to another worthy proposal that was attached to the Pentagon bill: the Dream Act, which permits military service and higher education — as well as a chance for citizenship — for young people whose parents brought them to this country as children without proper documentation.

Republicans said the inclusion of both items in the defense bill was a blatant political attempt by Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, to bolster his chances for re-election by invigorating the party’s base. This is, in fact, an election year, but the debate over the military’s discrimination policy has gone on for years, and the looming balloting does not absolve Congress of the duty to address this denial of a fundamental American right.

No evidence has been found that open service by gay and lesbian soldiers would harm the military; in fact, a federal judge recently found the opposite. The policy has led to critical troop shortages by forcing out more than 13,000 qualified service members over the last 16 years, according to the judge, Virginia Phillips.

A Pentagon study now under way may help guide the implementation of a nondiscrimination policy, but it is unlikely to change the basic facts of the question.

President Obama, the House and a majority of senators clearly support an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but that, of course, is insufficient in the upside-down world of today’s Senate, where 40 members can block anything.

The two parties clashed on the number of amendments that Republicans could offer. Republicans wanted to add dozens of amendments, an obvious delaying tactic, while Democrats tried to block all but their own amendments. In an earlier time, the two sides might have reached an agreement on a limited number of amendments, but not in this Senate, and certainly not right before this election, when everyone’s blood is up even more than usual.

If the military’s unjust policy is not repealed in the lame-duck session, there is another way out. The Obama administration can choose not to appeal Judge Phillips’s ruling that the policy is unconstitutional, and simply stop ejecting soldiers.

But that would simply enable lawmakers who want to shirk their responsibility. History will hold to account every member of Congress who refused to end this blatant injustice.

Military Equality Goes Astray,










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