WASHINGTON – Gay and lesbian veterans and a discharged servicemember along with GetEQUAL – a direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, H.E.R.O. – an Arizona-based grassroots group of community organizers, and the Sanctuary Project – a ministry advocating for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – visited Senator Jim Webb’s (D-VA) office where they implored that the Senator not introduce any amendments that would procedurally block the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The group of advocates supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” entered the Senator’s office in their combat boots, leaving them behind as reminders of the thousands of active-duty, gay and lesbian servicemembers currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
During his 2006 campaign for the United States Senate, Senator Jim Webb wore his son Jimmy’s old pair of combat boots on the campaign trail every day. Senator Webb said he wore the boots in tribue to his son, Jimmy, and in tribute of “all the people sent into harm’s way”.
“Senator Webb wore combat boots on the campaign trail every day in 2006 for, as the Senator said, ALL servicemembers serving their country. We are here today to remind Senator Webb that all servicemembers includes the thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers sacrificing their safety and security by serving honorably in our country’s armed forces,” said Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL. “We honor Senator Webb's direct action in 2006, to show his deep committment and passion for his son and others defending our country. We have organized this action in solidarity with that vision, because we want the Senator to truly honor the service of gay and lesbian servicemembers by fully supporting the passage of the Defenese Authorization Act next week, which contains language to further the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.”
“As a Semper Fi, former Marine, I’m here today to tell Senator Webb that these combat boots I’ve worn in service to our country look just like his sons and everyone else’s combat boots serving in the United States Armed Forces,” said Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. “In the line of duty, there are not differences because we are all Americans and we are all putting our lives on the line in service to our country. Senator Webb, your service to this country is appreciated and honored. Next week, you have an opportunity to show me and my brothers and sisters that our service is equally appreciated and honored by you.”
“Jim Webb is Senator Jim Webb because of the gay and lesbian support he received during his 2006 campaign,” said Jimmy Gruender, co-chair of H.E.R.O. “Because of our community’s work to put him into office and the calls and stories we here every day about how this law has affected gay and lesbian servicmembers, many from Senator Webb’s own home state of Virginia, prompted us to do this action today. Senator Webb, the LGBT community stood by you when you needed us. Now, we expect you to stand by us when we need you!”
A November 17th, 2006 article in the Advocate stated, “The effort to defeat Virginia's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage apparently pulled thousands of progressive voters out to the polls, sending Democrat James Webb to the U.S. Senate by the thinnest of margins and handing the upper chamber to the Democrats for the next two years.”
Those servicemembers and advocates taking part in today’s action are:
Veteran Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, United States Marine Corps
veteran Capt. James Pietrangelo II, United States Army
veteran Sn. Jose A. Rodriguez, United States Navy
veteran Lt. Dan Choi, United States Army
Linda Sanders, Executive Director, Sanctuary Project
Michael Dixon, GetEQUAL
Heather Cronk, GetEQUAL
Melissa Halverson, H.E.R.O.
Paul Roark, H.E.R.O.
Erica Keppler, H.E.R.O.
Marilee Cornelius, H.E.R.O.
Jonathan Harris, H.E.R.O.
Mandee Rowley, H.E.R.O.
Meg Sneed, H.E.R.O.
James Gruender, H.E.R.O. Yesterday, GetEQUAL and H.E.R.O. interrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing targeting Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for his threats to filibuster the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal legislation. Members of the LGBT civil rights organizations stood up in the middle of the hearing in room SD-106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where they invoked images of those who have stood in the way of civil rights progress in the past and demanded Senator John McCain (R-AZ) immediately end his threat to filibuster language next week that would continue the process of repealing the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.
McGehee concluded, “We urge all members of the LGBT community and our allies to continue to pressure the United States Senate and make your voices heard that we will continue to hold our representatives accountable and we expect their approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, containing language that would continue the process of repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Any Senator hell-bent on stopping the repeal should take notice. They may be focused mostly on their own job protection in November, but our focus is on protecting those servicemembers around the world who are continuing to serve under the outdated, discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.”
GetEQUAL is a national, direct action lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. Emphasizing direct action and people power, the mission of GetEQUAL is to empower the LGBT community and its allies to take action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way.