New York, NY, September 20, 2011 – The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, joins Americans in celebrating the end of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Today, service men and women no longer face removal for being open about their sexual orientation.
“America took a momentous step forward in the pursuit of full equality by fully repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and opening its military to every brave man and woman willing to serve, whether straight or gay,” said Acting GLAAD President Mike Thompson. “At long last, gay and lesbian service members can serve their country openly and honestly. The courage, perseverance and patriotism displayed by the American military shines even more brightly today as our nation strengthens its national security and takes a firm stand against discrimination in our Armed Forces.”
The law prevented the U.S. military from keeping all of its best and brightest in the ranks and was opposed by more than 80% of Americans.
GLAAD noted the strides that the military still needs to take before becoming fully equal. Transgender Americans are still unable to serve their country. Also, due to the Defense of Marriage Act, gay and lesbian Americans who legally marry their spouses, still may not have their marriages recognized by their employer, the state where they reside, or the federal government. This leaves gay and lesbian service members less able to care for their families, and less protected against potential tragedy.
On this historic day, and in this time of celebration, GLAAD calls on the media to highlight the stories of men and women who have proudly served their country (or were unable to) and whose lives were impacted by this discriminatory law.
GLAAD has several available current, former, and future service members who are available to speak with the media including:
Sgt. Anthony Bustos was an eight-year service member, served two tours in Iraq, and became one of the last people to be discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He came out publicly as gay on ABC World News in May 2010 after participating in Jeff Sheng’s anonymous portrait series, in order to give a face to LGBT soldiers. He was a client of the SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network).
Sara Isaacson was a ROTC student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who was requested to pay the Army almost $80,000 after she came out to her commander as a lesbian. Sara identified as straight when was awarded her scholarship, and received the money over seven semesters. She struggled with what to do when she realized she was a lesbian, and came out because she believed that misleading others would go against the Army’s values of honor and integrity.
Jeff Sheng is a photographer and the author of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Volumes I and II, a portrait series of military personnel who have been affected by the discriminatory policy. In each image, the subject’s identity is obscured and his or her face is hidden. Sheng’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, and other outlets. His hope was to show not just the differences between closeted service members and their straight counterparts, but also their similarities. Sheng came out as gay as a college undergraduate.
Candace Hardnett is a local pastor living in Savannah, Georgia, as senior pastor for Agape Empowerment Ministries (AEM). She and her partner, Erika, founded AEM in 2009. Directly following the aftermath of 9/11, Candace served her country as a United States Marine. Candace is a sought after orator and has helped to plan and organize several rallies and marches in Savannah, Georgia. She also co-owns her own online business, Me and HCG. Candace is an avid runner and health enthusiast. She holds a BS in Religion from Liberty University and is currently pursuing her MDiv from her alma mater. She currently serves as Co-chair of First City Network, Georgia's oldest LGBT organization.