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Celebrating the End of DADT as Bisexuals

Posted: 10/08/11 12:23 PM ET

As we celebrate the end of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that kept service members from serving openly, we celebrate the bisexuals who served the country and suffered from the witch-hunts and purges, as well.

Cliff Arnesen joined the Army in 1965. When they discovered that he wasn't straight, he was arrested and paraded through Fort Dix at gunpoint, court-martialed, and served a year in a United States military prison for his bisexuality. There, he was subject to death threats on a regular basis. He didn't receive half a court martial, and they didn't threaten to beat him up "halfway." Bisexuals in the military were treated the same as gays and lesbians.

Courageously, Arnesen persevered and became a nationally recognized advocate for GLBT veterans. In 1989 he became the first and only openly bisexual veteran in U.S. history to testify before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations under the House Congressional Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Subsequently, he has testified on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. He became the National Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America and the President of the New England chapter. He continues to advocate tirelessly on their behalf.

Signed into law in 1993, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was a compromise to permit gay men and lesbians to serve without fear of harassment or expulsion as long as they kept their sexual orientation to themselves. But since the military's gay ban became law, more than 14,500 men and women have been discharged for being lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network. As we celebrate the end of DADT and the expulsion of gays and lesbians from our military, remember that some were bisexual, and hopefully we can work toward fair treatment of transgender service members and veterans.