"WHEN AMERICANS remember and honor those who gave their lives fighting it never occurs to them that some of the strongest, bravest, and most heroic were also gay. It is time for us, as a community, to remedy that.” – Leonard Matlovich The Advocate, 1987
Legendary gay martyr HARVEY MILK joined the Navy right after college in 1951, serving on the submarine rescue vessel the USS Kittiwake, and rising to Lieutenant (junior grade). Like Leonard, he evolved a great deal from his extremely conservative youth, but remained proud of his Navy service. He was still wearing this Navy belt with its Master Diver buckle when he was shot as seen in the recent exhibit of San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society.
HENRY GERBER. US Army, WWI & WWII. Founded the first gay civil rights group in the United States in Chicago in 1924. The Society for Human Rights was quickly shut down by authorities and Gerber fired from his job as a postal worker.
DALE JENNINGS. US Army, WWII. Cofounder of the Mattachine Society, the second sustained gay group in the US [after Veterans Benevolent Association]; first to publicly fight & win in a phony police entrapment case.
DON SLATER. US Army, WWII. Cofounded "ONE," the first long-lasting US gay magazine in 1952. Fought Postal officials to landmark US Supreme Court ruling protecting freedom of speech in the mail. Led 1966 motorcade protest of gay ban in Los Angeles.
FRANK KAMENY. US Army, WWII. If there had been no Frank Kameny, there might never have been a Leonard Matlovich, gay rights activist. Father of the modern gay movement, his achievements are legion. He was once gay soldiers' only source of help. After years of struggle, he forced the Civil Service Commission, whose investigation led to his own firing as a government astronomer, to stop discriminating against gays. He was one of the leaders of the first gay rights demonstrations at the White House, State Department, and Philadelphia's Independence Hall—four years before Stonewall. He founded or cofounded the DC chapters of the Mattachine Society and Gay Activists Alliance, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. In 1971, he was the first out gay man to run for Congress. After shocking contemporaries by declaring "Gay is good," he helped force the American Psychiatric Association to declare that gays are not "sick"—perhaps the greatest achievement in our history. Today, his gay rights buttons and picket signs are at the Smithsonian and his 50,000+ pages of literature and correspondence rest in the hallowed collection of the Library of Congress, along with the artifacts and papers of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. His home was recently designated an Historical Landmark.
"I, personally, placed my life in jeopardy, in frontline combat, under enemy fire, for this country. [My client] served honorably in the Armed Services of this country. We did not do so in order that our government—or any agent or officer of it—might disparage our people, by which we mean our fellow American homosexuals, or our way of life—to our faces, or behind our backs. We are fully as entitled to our dignity, and to the respect of our government as the homosexual citizens that we are, as are all other American citizens. . . . In the past, we have remained silent when [antigay] remarks were made. We do not intend to continue so. If any such remarks are made, the proceedings will be halted on the spot and will not continue until the remarks have been retracted and apologized for. You and your colleagues elsewhere in this Department have been placed on notice." - Defense Department civilian security clearance hearing, 1969.
"I will define myself to my government. I will not allow my government to define me to me."
JACQUELINE BEYER. WAC, WWII. Helped break Japanese codes.
ROBERT FLEISCHER, US Army, WWII. Helped liberate Dachau not knowing gays were among its inmates.
BILL HORNE, US Navy, WWII
ELMER LOKKINS, US Army, WWII
JOSE SARRIA. US Army, WWII. San Francisco's legendary "Empress" & "Widow Norton." Organized the first California gay non-profit. The first out gay to run for public office—8 years before Stonewall.
HELEN HARDER. Women's Army Air Corps, WWII. Flight instructor.
VINCENT MILES. US Army, WWII.
SARAH DAVIS. WAVES, WWII. Escaped witch hunt but experience haunted her for years. Gay Games swimming gold medalist.
BURT GERRITS. US Navy, WWII. Corpsman on psychiatric ward where gays were sent before discharge [and head nurse was a lesbian]. Became very active in gay movement.
PAT BOND. WAC, WWII. Escaped witch hunt by marrying gay man. Became beloved actress; star of "Word Is Out."
Roy Fitzgerald aka ROCK HUDSON. US Navy, WWII
GORE VIDAL. US Army, WWII.
MAURINE McFERRIN DeLEO. US Air Force, Korean War.
Jack Reavley and Bob Claunch, US Army, met while stationed in Munich during the Korean War. Trailer of documentary about their relationship, which now has lasted 58 years, below.
TO STOP BACKGROUND MUSIC SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF PAGE & CLICK ON PAUSE BUTTON:
JIM DARBY, US Navy, Korean Era. Cofounder/President AVER Chicago
CLAUDE ASHBY, Jr., US Army, Vietnam Era
JIM DONOVAN, US Navy, Vietnam Era. Former AVER President
JAMES "Robbie" ROBINSON. US Air Force. Escaping exposure himself, when assigned to Personnel his kind advice often helped gays being discharged deal with their fate. Moving to '50s San Francisco, he witnessed & contributed to its evolution from gay demimonde to Gay Power, becoming beloved by all who know him.
TOM WADDELL. US Army, for whom he was a physician and Olympic decathlete. Founded “Gay Olympics” but legally forced to change its name to Gay Games.
ROBERT MARTIN. US Navy. Founded world's first gay student group at Columbia. Activist against prison rape. First to fight for honorable discharge status.
TROY PERRY. US Army. Gay Movement pioneer. Multiple achievements include founding Metropolitan Community Churches.
ROBERT LeBLANC. US Marine Corps. Vietnam. After Corps' three attempts to discharge him, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered he be given nothing less than an Honorable discharge.
OLIVER "BILLY" SIPPLE. US Marine Corps. Vietnam. A month before the Secretary of the Air Force upheld Leonard's discharge, Sipple did what few have ever done—he prevented the assassination of the President of the United States.
MIKE RANKIN. Capt., MD, US Navy (Ret), Vietnam. Former Chief of Psychiatry, Oakland VA Medical Center & member of the President's Advisory Council on HIV & AIDS. Member SLDN's Military Advisory Council; organizer of annual Veteran’s Day observance at Leonard’s gravesite. Experienced support from some superior officers who learned he was gay and subtle but unmistakable discrimination from others.
COPY BERG. US Navy. Discharged under old policy. Court challenge, ultimately merged with Leonard's, resulted in revelation of Navy's 1957 secret Crittenden Report which said gays could serve well. Also received a financial settlement. Mentor to Joe Steffan.
MIRIAM BEN-SHALOM. US Army Reserves. A court ordered her reinstated after her discharge. 1988 photo shows her being sworn in again. Pentagon’s appeal supported, Supreme Court denied certiorari, & she was discharged again. Spoke with Leonard at 1977 Chicago Gay Pride events. Cofounded Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual Veterans Association, now known as American Veterans for Equal Rights [AVER].
PERRY WATKINS. US Army. Inducted and allowed to reenlist more than once despite knowing he was gay, they suddenly decided to kick him out after more than a decade of service. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered his reinstatement on the basis of fairness in 1989; Supreme Court denied Army certiorari. Close to retirement, he chose settlement & full benefits. Speaker & pallbearer at Leonard's funeral.
JOE STEFFAN. US Navy. Discharged pre-DADT simply for admitting he was gay just weeks before Annapolis graduation. Though in Top 10 of his class, having twice represented the Navy singing The National Anthem before televised Army-Navy Games, & being a Battalion Commander over one-sixth of the Academy’s 4500 midshipmen, one superior needlessly attempted to humiliate him by ordering him to literally rip his Commander stripes from his uniform minutes before one of his hearings. “After dwelling on my discharge for about a year, I decided to fight back. I was inspired by examples like Perry Watkins & Leonard Matlovich & Miriam Ben-Shalom.”
Both pre & post-DADT courts ignored the injustice and rationalized his discharge, including one judge who nakedly mocked him as a "homo." Nevertheless, history was made during the course of his challenge when the important PERSEREC studies were publicly revealed for the first time despite the Pentagon's deceitful efforts to hide them because of their support for gay military service. As a law student at the University of Connecticut, Joe led a fight to ban military recruiters from campus on the basis of their antigay discrimination. Click on photo to purchase his autobiography Honor Bound.
KEITH MEINHOLD had served 12 years in the Navy when he outed himself on ABC's World News Tonight on May 19, 1992, to fight the ban. Discharged, then reinstated by a court, he was the first openly gay man returned to active duty. The government chose not to appeal after losing at the Circuit Court level, and Meinhold served for four years as an out sailor before retiring with full military honors.
JUSTIN ELZIE had served 11 years when he outed himself on ABC's World News Tonight on January 29, 1993, to fight the ban. A judge ordered he be retained until his legal challenge was resolved. It was settled out of court with Elzie receiving an early retirement bonus after having served as an out gay Marine for four years during which he was recommended for promotion three times.
TRACY THORNE. US Navy "Top Gun" bombardier-navigator. One of only a few who volunteered to publicly out themselves as Leonard did, whom he often credits for inspiration. Discharged TWICE—under old ban & DADT. Upheld by courts. Courageous, eloquent leader who challenged Sam Nunn's shameless dog & pony show. ==>>>
TANYA DOMI. US Army. Paratrooper, drill instructor, and MP company commander. Survived being investigated as a lesbian twice. The first involved an 18-month lesbian witch hunt in which she was repeatedly interrogated, followed by Army CID agents, and her mail opened. They tried to entrap her with drugs and, as they always do, offered to go easy on her if she’d just name others. The second was the result of her reporting a male fellow officer for improperly sexually propositioning her. He retaliated by calling her a lesbian; she was investigated; he was promoted. She finally chose not to reenlist, leaving as a Captain. As legislative director for the NGLTF and head of their Military Freedom Project, she testified before the House Armed Services Committee in support of President Clinton’s effort to lift the ban, and participated in cross-country educational Tour of Duty.
JOSE ZUNIGA. US Army. Desert Storm. Sixth Army Soldier of the Year. At 23, he volunteered to out himself in a surprise appearance at a huge celebration the night before the 1993 gay March on Washington to help the lift the ban effort. “I urge you, Mr. President, lead the way, show us the courage and conviction to guide our country, and specifically the military, into a new era of understanding.” He was discharged in near record time—less than a month and brutally demoted after being falsely accused of wearing a decoration he had not earned, his battalion commander melodramatically throwing newspapers in which his story had appeared into a trash can during the hearing. He is now on the Board of Directors of SLDN. His autobiography is available here. Video interview here.
The three retired officers below are the highest ranking to date to have come out publicly. All serve on SLDN's Military Advisory Council and have worked hard to overturn DADT.
BRIG GEN KEITH KERR, US Army Reserve, California State Military Reserve. Created Right Wing firestorm when he challenged 2008 Republican Presidential candidates to oppose DADT during CNN debate.
REAR ADM. ALAN M. STEINMAN, MD, US Coast Guard. Helped organize 2006 anti DADT Call to Duty Tour.
BRIG. GEN. VIRGIL A. RICHARD, US Army. Vietnam. Pentagon. Fought racism in military civilian hiring.
STEVE CLARK HALL. US Navy. Nuclear submarine commander. Producer of documentary at left on LGBT Annapolis graduates.
In the 60 Minutes segment below, several gay veterans discuss their experiences. DARREN MANZELLA, US Army, was eventually discharged after the broadcast. CHOLENE ESPINOZA, US Air Force, chose not to reenlist because of DADT, as did STEVE LORANDOS, US Navy, BRIAN FRICKE, US Marine Corps, and JARROD CHLAPOWSKI, US Army. DAVID SANTOS, US Navy, was discharged under DADT. Manzella and Fricke work with SLDN, and Chlapowski cofounded Servicemembers United. Though recorded in 2007, the variety of their experiences and their example of the types of dedicated servicemembers DADT chews up and spits out in one way or another remain true to the minute.
JOAN DARRAH. US Navy. Former intelligence officer; member of SLDN Military Advisory group. Here she's testifying about DADT at a Congressional subcommittee hearing organized by Congresswoman Susan Davis.
ERIC ALVA. US Marine Corps. First American servicemember wounded in 2003 invasion of Iraq, here testifying before same 2008 Congressional subcommittee. A spokesperson for Servicemembers United.
ALEX NICHOLSON. US Army. Fluent in five languages. Discharged under DADT. Cofounder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United [SU]. One of the leaders of cross country DADT repeal educational tour featured in documentary Ask Not, and the recent Voices of Honor tour, cosponsored by SU and Human Rights Campaign [HRC].
JARROD CHLAPOWSKI. US Army. Korean linguist and cryptologist. Chose not to reenlist because of DADT. Cofounder with partner Alex Nicholson of Servicemembers United. Also appeared in Ask Not, and was one of the leaders of the expanded Voices of Honor tour as HRC's military consultant.
Former Air Force Major Margaret Witt has won a major victory in the 35-year legal struggle to end the ban. A federal judge has ordered her reinstated because the government failed to demonstrate how she hurt morale, unit cohesion, etc. A highly decorated flight nurse whose image was used in Air Force recruiting brochures, she was discharged in 2006 just short of her 20-year retirement after she was outed by a third party. This video is of an interview she did after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a retrial in 2008. The government is expected to appeal the order to reinstate her.
SANDY TSAO, US Army, Iraq. President Obama refused to stop her DADT discharge after she wrote him for help.
ANTHONY WOODS. US Army, Iraq. Discharged under DADT and ordered to repay $35,000 scholarship to Harvard. Defeated in run for Congressional seat by CA Lt. Governor.
Dan Choi, US Army, Iraq Victor Fehrenbach, USAF, Iraq, Afghanistan
Jonathan Hopkins, US Army, Iraq, Afghanistan
Katherine Miller, West Point
MANY more to be added including Zoe Dunning, David Hall, Michelle Benecke, Bleu Copas, Alan Rogers, Jason Knight, Tyrone Power, Robert Indiana, Army Maupin, et al.