Monday, May 24, 2010

Tampa Bay veterans and citizens gather to support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 7:52 AM

While serving as a military police officer for three years, Kyle O’Donnell constantly lived in fear. He lied about where he was going, who he was with, and above all, about his sexuality.

At age 25, O’Donnell suffered from high blood pressure because of this fear and ultimately left the military. The reason? “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) had finally gotten to him.

In an attempt to inform others about the negative effects of former President Clinton’s DADT policy, the Human Rights Campaign has launched the Voices of Honor tour in support of President Obama’s pledge to work with Congress and the military to end the policy.

The event came to Tampa on Sunday, May 23, at the Metropolitan Community Church where veterans came forward to discuss their experiences in the military under DADT. O’Donnell was one of four former service members, telling his story of serving as a gay man.

Air Force veteran Kevin Klhar also served under DADT.

“We really do need to repeal the policy,” Klhar said. “This is for everyone having to be something other than themselves—let’s openly accept gays and lesbians into the military.”

Klhar was investigated for being gay three times before an officer tried to discharge him after being "outed" after 18 years of service.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the U.S. military has discharged over 13,000 service members under the DADT policy, costing taxpayers more than $290 million. On the other hand, at least 28 countries currently accept openly gay and lesbian service members and of these countries, not one has reported any morale or recruitment problems.

But the U.S. military has kept their policy intact for more than 15 years.

“They don’t care if you’re an alcoholic,” said Doug Tudor, a heterosexual retired Navy veteran who served alongside several gays and lesbians, and is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in District 12. “Their bigger concern is if you’re in a position to be blackmailed for something—and being gay can be that something. But it’s just not right to purposely have to lie.”

Tudor and the veterans encouraged the audience to repeal against DADT, urging everyone to call and write congressmen.

“Pick up the phone one more time,” Khlar said. “Let them know you haven’t forgotten!”

Tudor thinks adding personal stories makes changing people’s minds that much easier.

“Let them know that these are normal folks being affected by the policy,” he said.

The Human Right’s Campaign’s Repeal DADT Web site lists several ways for you to get involved to get movement on the proposal. Congress must vote on the issue to end the policy; the vote will come by the end of the year.

To get involved in repealing DADT, send a veteran’s story to Congress, contact Senator Bill Nelson or write a letter to a local newspaper, among other things.

For more information and ways to get involved visit www.hrc.org/RepealDADT.

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