This week I talked with Bryan Bishop, Founder and Executive Director of OUTVETS, the first LGBTQ nonpartisan, nonpolitical veterans organization in the nation. OUTVETS mission is to recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices of LGBTQ veterans through social interaction and community service. Last December OUTVETS made LGBT history when the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council (AWVC) voted 5-4 in favor of allowing this LGBT veterans organization to march in South Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade next month. Since 1995 when the U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously to not allow LGBT groups to march via freedom of speech for the AWVC the parade has been boycotted by Massachusetts politicians. Whether other LGBT organization will be permitted to march is doubtful. AWVC's decision to allow OUTVETS to participate was because of OUTVETS nonpolitical agenda and after OUTVETS' historic appearance as the first LGBT group to march in Boston's Veterans Day Parade last November.
I talked to Bryan about the controversy surrounding the upcoming St. Patrick's Day Parade and his spin on our LGBT issues. When asked what his personal commitment is to LGBT civil rights Bishop stated:
Every person in this country deserves to be treated fairly and equally. Now to say that yeah yeah yeah, but does it ever happen? I do everything in my power to ensure that I treat everyone with dignity and respect and equally as the best I can. I mean I come from North Carolina. I come from a place where there is no equality, racially, socioeconomically, you know whether you're gay or straight it doesn't matter. I mean the bigots run wild down there. But living here (Boston) for the last 25 years I've moved beyond that and I think that my commitment to LGBT civil rights is the fact that we just keep going. We've won some major, major battles but we haven't won the war. I think that struggle is something that we continue to do everyday but as I said before I don't have a political pull in that. My commitment to LGBT civil rights is that LGBT veterans are honored for the service they gave to this country and nothing more, nothing less. I don't get into the activism side of it other than that one agenda and that is to honor the service and sacrifice of LGBT veterans and all veterans, but that's where I draw the line.
Bryan Bishop retired from the US Air Force after serving twenty years. He now serves as Chief of Staff of the Boston Department of Veteran Service. OUTVETS is currently working on establishing OUTVETS chapters in all 50 states by the end of 2016 and
making September 20th the day "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was repealed as LGBT Veteran Freedom Day.