“When I was in the Military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”- Leonard Maltovich 1975
Today is a day of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Past, Present, and Future.
This morning a sunrise vigil was held at congressional cemetery in Washington, DC to honor the memory the first person to fight the ban against Gays and Lesbians serving in the Military. Community members, prominent organizers, and military veterans gathered at the gravesite of Leonard Maltovich, a recipient of both the purple heart and bronze star who made headlines in the 1970’s after coming out as openly gay and fighting to stay in the U.S. Air Force. His tombstone is meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans.
This event was a powerful reminder of the legacy of discrimination that LGBT soldiers have endured over time. The symbolism of the wreath laid by Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen (ret) culminated this touching memorial and started this week’s push for lame-duck repeal with a reverence for past sacrifices.
Often in our vigorous push for legislative wins such as DADT repeal we neglect our roots and fail to honor the legacy of past civil rights heroes. Not today.
“Today does not only mark the start of the lame duck session but also serves as the start of the next battle to restore our dignity and equality as LGBT Americans” said Robin McGehee, Co-Founder of GetEqual, who sponsored the Vigil this morning.
“Leonard outed himself 35 years, 13500 discharges, and seven Presidents ago, and still today people are being discharged under the same bigotry. The names have changed at the pentagon but the bigotry remains evergreen.” Said Michael Bedwell, of LeonardMatlovich.com.
“I stand today for all the nameless, faceless LGBT veterans of color disproportionately affected by DADT, and I call on the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, and other mainstream black leaders to speak up for their Black LGBT brothers and sisters who have been impacted by DADT, because their silence is deafening.” Said Gay Iraq war veteran, repeal advocate, and writer Rob Smith.
This is what a civil rights movement looks like when we focus on our narrative and spreading the truth.
After honoring the history of the fight for open service the vigil will head to Capitol Hill. Stay tuned for part two: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: As it stands today.