home about media center archive history links subscribe

The Promise of Equality

by Denny Meyer

President Obama has kept his promise.  Twice in two years he has made civil rights triumphant history, first by his own election and now by leading the way to proud open service by gay and lesbian American patriotic volunteers.  Notwithstanding the seething contempt of malcontents on the far right fringe and far left fringe, it was his courageous promise that united our march to historic victory.  As a former community organizer, he challenged us to make it happen by active participation in the process.  He wasn't about to wave a presidential magic wand; he expected everyone who cared to be a part of the push for equality.  Ultimately, I believe, he wanted all of us to own the victory.  Frankly, it was hard to see that through all the drama, setbacks, and seeming ultimate failure just weeks ago.  But, I now believe that he knew what he was doing, just as he did when no one believed he could become president; but the American people rose to his challenge, twice.  We elected him not just by voting, but by relentlessly urging others to be on the right side of history.   And now we own this victory too, each in our own way,  by having written and phoned and emailed members of congress by the hundreds of thousands over and over, and some by taking him literally at his word by coming out publicly and chaining themselves to the White House fence and demanding his leadership.

Here's the proof, to see the entire Presidential signing ceremony click here; it brought tears to my eyes.

So, who owns this victory?  It belongs to the more than one million veterans who served in silence since World War II, to the seventy nine thousand lesbian and gay patriotic volunteers who served and are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the fourteen thousand plus who were discriminatorily discharged over the past  17 years, to those thousands dishonorably discharged before DADT, to transgender service members past and present still silent without relief or rights, to all of our unknown soldiers who's lives were lost in battle, and to everyone, individuals and organizations large and small, who spoke up in whatever way, quietly or loudly.  Who will record all those names?

The Honor roll: This is simply my personal list of people; there are hundreds or even a thousand other names that all equally deserve direct credit for their actions and courage:

MAJOR Alan Rogers, who gave his life in combat in Iraq, our only 'known' casualty; a member and officer of the DC Chapter of American Veterans For Equal Rights.

Leonard Matlovich, a friend, Vietnam Hero, dishonorably discharged for who he was, who had the courage to speak up; "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men, and a discharge for loving one," -inscribed on his gravestone in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

PFC Barry Winchell and his parents the Kutelles, murdered by his fellow troops for who he was, inspired to speak up to honor their son and advocate for equality for us all.

LT Harvey Milk, Korean Era veteran, assassinated, who literally gave his life for gay rights.

Dr. Franklin Kameny, PFC, WWII combat veteran, the father of the modern gay rights movement, who rightfully has lived to sit in the front of the audience to see the President sign the bill ending DADT.

LT Dan Choi, a friend, Iraq combat veteran, discharged for who he is, who had the courage to speak up, act up, and hold the President accountable.

LTC Alexander Hamilton, LTC John Laurens, LTGEN Frederich Von Steuben, heroic loving men who trained the Continental Army at Valley Forge during the American Revolution.

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and William Jefferson Clinton, who all had the courage and conviction to lead the way to American Civil Rights in the face of bigotry.

Leading members of Congress, who took on President Barack Obama's promise of equality and had the courage to persist in the face of obstructionists to finally lead the way to ending DADT.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who spoke from the heart about the integrity of our service members, our military, and our nation.

Rear Admiral Alan Steinman (ret.) and Brigadier General Keith Kerr (ret.), leaders who served in silence for a combined total of 75 years.  Since retirement they courageously came out, guided and motivated our movement to successfully repeal DADT.

SGT Danny Ingram, President of American Veterans For Equal Rights, among the first discharged under DADT in 1994 when he had the integrity to come out; and his then commanding officer COL(R) Kelly R. Jiménez who had reluctantly discharged him and had the personal integrity to congratulate SGT Ingram on the day President Obama signed the repeal legislation (Dec. 22, 2010).

On Rainbow Saturday (Dec. 18th, 2010), minutes after Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, openly gay NYC Councilman Danny Dromm phoned to invite me to speak at an early evening press conference which drew five local TV stations in time for the evening news broadcasts.  A few days later in my supermarket, a grizzled Vietnam vet recognized me from the TV news.  He said, "Hey, aren't you 'the gay vet?'"  "yeeees," I said warily. "Well," he said, "Uh, congratulations!" and shook my hand.  That simple affirmation meant a lot.

©  2010 - 2011 Gay Military Signal