Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis responds to the first-ever message from Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta, who apparently has long been open to gays serving in the military, thanking gay and lesbian servicemembers and LGBT civilians for their service. Sarvis said:
“A year ago, our brave gay and lesbian service members were still serving in silence due to the discriminatory DADT law. Today, in this historic message, Secretary Panetta has affirmed their invaluable contributions to our nation’s military and in doing so, shined a bright light on how far we have progressed toward full LGBT equality in our military. There is still more to do, but today we pause to celebrate all men and women in uniform and their patriotic service.”
From Josh Seefried, Co-Director of OutServe:
“This historic video confirms the message that the military supports all service members and civilian employees, based on their merit. This is a tribute to our core military values: respect and integrity. If there is any remaining doubt that the military has executed DADT repeal with excellence, and that LGBT people are serving our country with honor, Secretary Panetta has firmly put that to rest. This is leadership directly from the top.”
The Human Rights Campaign also called the video and message “historic.”
The Human Rights Campaign is commending U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for releasing a historic video message to members of the military commemorating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, which takes place each June. This marks the first Pride season in which service members can openly participate. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in December 2010, and repeal was implemented last September.
“Secretary Panetta’s Pride video is a tremendous indicator of the progress we’ve made for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “It sends a powerful message to the brave men and women of the military that they are valued for their dedication to our country and their expertise, and that they are deserving of the exact same respect and equal treatment that their straight counterparts receive. By embracing Pride month, Secretary Panetta also is telling LGBT youth in communities across our nation that they live in a country that values them for exactly who they are. We hope this is a sign that the Department of Defense will continue tackling the obstacles that prevent lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from receiving full equality.”
Open service has strengthened the state of our military. In addition to support from Secretary Panetta, the nation’s top military leaders also back open service. The day after repeal was implemented last September, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said: “… with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said at the time: “Thanks to this change, I believe we move closer to achieving the goal at the foundation of the values that America is all about: equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans.”
While Pride month provides a powerful opportunity to reflect on the change we’ve seen in the military in just the last eight months, there is more work to be done to ensure full equality in the military for all members of the LGBT community. The discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act still denies hundreds of critical benefits to same-sex military families; and officials must do more to address the obstacles that prevent transgender Americans from serving their country.