Stephen Funk
Queer & Antiwar in the Marine Corps.

In 2003, when Stephen Funk became the first person in the military to publicly dissent against the Iraq War he immediately became a polarizing figure, even within progressive and conservative groups. Callers to Rush Limbaugh couldn't decide whether Funk was an unpatriotic coward or a patriotic Marine exercising his free speech. Meanwhile, the antiwar movement found its first cause célèbre, while the LGBT community debated whether his coming out of the closet and against the war would have a negative impact over the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

As the first public conscientious objector, Stephen quickly became a prominent voice in the antiwar movement. While stationed in New Orleans awaiting court-martial, he traveled around the country throughout 2003 speaking out extensively at antiwar demonstrations to encourage other people in the military, or those thinking about enlisting, to examine their consciences and question the morality and legality of the war. At the time, Funk was charged with "shirking important duty" during a period prior to the May 22nd UN Resolution - by international law Stephen had every right to refuse to serve. Nonetheless, and even after being acquitted, Funk was found guilty of "unauthorized absence" of 47 days for which he was fined, demoted, given a Bad-Conduct Discharge, and sentenced to six months in military prison. The military had blatantly explained that they were seeking someone to make an example of to discourage military dissent.

Out Magazine named Stephen Funk one of 2003's "OUT 100" but he was unable to make the party because he spent the holiday season of his 21st year in the brig. Upon his release Stephen continued with his activism as an honorary founding member of Iraq Veterans Against the War - the leading voice of organized veteran dissent. Several of his core team of supporters went on to create Courage to Resist, a nonprofit dedicated to publicly supporting war resisters such as Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning.

In 2009, Stephen cofounded Dialogues Against Militarism which sent a delegation of war resisters and antimilitarist organizers to Israel/Palestine to speak and organize with their international counterparts, which resulted in the documentary "Occupation Has No Future". To raise funds for the delegation Stephen created "Make Drag, Not War!" which pairs military veterans and drag queens in high concept performance art pieces that highlight issues important to the community while acting as a form of art therapy. The wildly successful production ran for 4 years at Dance Mission Theater before getting a remix and retrospective at the de Young Museum, with recognition by RuPaul and a production in New York City in the works. As founder and artistic director of Veteran Artists, Stephen organizes artistic opportunities for veterans while continuing his outspoken activism through art and performance.

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