The Pentagon held the first-ever LGBT Pride month celebration this week and it has sure caused a lot of uproar from veterans. This was the first celebration of its kind for the Pentagon after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
This wasn't a typical gay pride parade or what you would expect from a major city. Instead, it was more of a standing-room-only crowd of 400 uniformed and civilian employees and their supporters that filled a Pentagon auditorium Tuesday. The hour-long ceremony included testimonials from three openly gay civilians and service members with varied and successful military careers: Gordon O. Tanner, principal deputy general counsel of the Air Force; Capt. M. Matthew Phelps, who serves at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego; and Brenda S. "Sue" Fulton, a West Point graduate on the military academy's board of visitors and founding board member of OutServe, a professional association for gay service members.
The next step toward full equality for gay service members is benefits for troops in same-sex marriages and for same-sex domestic partners, who are limited by federal law from receiving health and other benefits. An estimated 66,000 gay and lesbian troops are on active duty, advocates say. The prohibition on serving openly forced more than 13,000 from the armed forces since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was adopted during the Clinton administration.
Facebook was all a stir with mixed emotions. A particular post from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) had a range of comments from flat out offensive to extremely supportive. There were just as many "likes" as there were comments on the thread and the post did not spark any back and forth debate between members. The VBA does not stand for nor represent any form of discrimination and I'm assuming that any derogatory statements were immediately removed from the thread. In the past, VBA has allowed a free flowing discussion on the agency's Facebook page to include criticisms of the Administration and its leadership. Comments that disparage women, minorities and the LGBT community have been moderated, however. Some of the comments that were taken directly from the post are below:
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others...
A proclamation by the pigs who control the government in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite.
Unbelievable... this is the problem with this garbage. There's no straight pride day. You want to be gay or whatever then do it. This isn't "raising awareness" this is shoving it down everyone else's throats. Doesn't the Pentagon have a war to fight? Troops are still being killed and they wanna do this garbage, its a disgrace. Sickening.
As a vet, I think this is a phenomenal idea. When I was in Iraq, I didn't care if my guys were straight or gay -- just that they shot straight; and I didn't care whom they loved, so long as they loved the country for whom they fought.
Personally, I don't think this hour long "celebration" that really was just more of a presentation in a room, was that controversial. It really could have been a lot more than it was. I think it's only fair to celebrate diversity in all forms, but especially celebrate LGBT service members, especially when this particular group of soldiers has had to serve without full recognition. These are soldiers that volunteered for their country even when policies wouldn't allow them to be open about who they were. I agree, we should thank all service members as a whole, but LGBT troops very much, in my opinion, deserve a special thank you for having had put up with the discriminatory policies that were in place.
Having had served in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, I experienced first-hand how the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy ruined lives. I served as a paralegal and processed discharges, some of which were due to the DADT policy. But that being said, over the span of a decade, I also witnessed a major change in opinion from within our military. The younger generation was more open to the repeal of the DADT policy. Soldiers didn't care so much about sexual orientation, but more cared about staying alive in a battle zone.
This week was a huge milestone for our LGBT troops and veterans. Much more work has to be done, but as the majority of opinion is shifting in this country more towards equality, I predict more stories of support vs. stories of indifference.
Follow David Duran on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrdavidduran