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New York City Council holds hearing
on second DADT repeal resolution

Center: Council Members Seabrook and Monserratte

On Friday Jan. 25th, the New York City Council's Committees on Veterans and Civil Rights held a joint hearing on a proposed resolution asking the President and Congress to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.  The measure was introduced by Speaker Chris Quinn, with Larry Seabrook -Chair of the Committee on Civil Rights, Hiram Monserratte - Chair of the Committee on Veterans, and Council Members Avella, Brewer, Foster, Gerson, Gonzalez, Jackson, James, Koppell, Liu, Mealy, Mendez, Nelson, Palma, and Weprin.

The Council's first resolution on DADT, in 2005 at the request of American Veterans For Equal Rights New York, was the first in the nation and led to similar resolutions in San Francisco, Los
Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Portland, and Tucson, among other cities, and the State of California.

L-R Denny Meyer, Brian Fricke, Cholene
Espanoza, Rhonda Davis, Nathaniel Frank

Testifying at the hearing, in favor of the resolution, were Rhonda Davis, Brian Fricke, Cholene Espanoza, and Heather Sarver, all representing SLDN; Nathanial Frank representing the Michael Palm Center, Colin Casey speaking for State Senator Tom Duane, Denny Meyer representing AVER-NY, Matt Faiella representing the NYCLU, and Hayley Gorenberg, of Lambda Legal ,among others.  NY Congressional Representatives Ackerman and Maloney sent statements for the record. Although opponents of allowing gays in the military were invited, none were represented at the hearing.

The most poignant testimony came from two plain-spoken straight Vietnam Era veterans.  Speaking from the heart in gruff Archie Bunker-like terms, without notes, each said that he had come to change his mind about gays in the military from his previous attitude.  They said that considering that today's military is all volunteer, no one is forced to serve alongside gay servicemembers.   Times have changed, they said, and they now believe that any patriotic American should have the right to choose to volunteer to serve our nation regardless of sexual orientation.  The courage of these two heterosexual men in their fifties to speak out in favor of our rights drew applause and handshakes from the mostly LGBT-activist participants present at the hearing.

Chief James Donovan, President of American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER), noted, "I am proud that AVER New York has spearheaded this movement, which has caught on in several cities throughout the country through the efforts of other AVER Chapters. Once again it has been proven what grass-roots work can accomplish.  I am deeply grateful to all the organizations that have supported the effort to repeal the DADT law. "

Council Civil Rights Committee Chair Larry Seabrook spoke eloquently about how the racial discrimination he had experienced and witnessed has resulted in his realizing that the disenfranchisement of LGBT Americans, especially those who have volunteered to serve in the military, is intolerable.

The resolution is expected to pass, after a second hearing, later this year.

  2008  Gay Military Signal