First gay pride celebration at the Pentagon, but uniformed brass AWOL
Now that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is in the rearview mirror, the Pentagon held it’s first ever Gay Pride event yesterday. Keynote speaker and top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson told a standing room only crowd that the transition to open service had gone “better than anticipated”. Johnson told the crowd “from those service members who are gay and lesbian, we lifted a real and personal burden from their shoulders. They no longer have to live a lie in the military.”
Also speaking at the event was Marine Captain Matthew Phelps, who told the crowd of about 400 people how difficult it was to be gay and deployed in Iraq. ”I sat there, not talking to anybody,” Phelps remembered. “When everybody was getting together and growing closer as a unit, by virtue of the fact that I wasn’t allowed to say anything, I was actually growing more distant from my unit.” Phelps said things had improved since gay and lesbian soldiers are finally allowed to be open about who they are, saying he “would argue that it got better, because now you have a whole portion of the military who is able to be honest with the people that they work with.”
In a video message, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also praised the soldiers for the way they implemented repeal. Panetta promised to “remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America’s military a model of equal opportunity.” Sec. Panetta has said earlier in the week that he wants to use gay pride month to honor the sacrifices of gay and lesbian military members.
Less supportive of the first Gay Pride Pentagon gathering was senior uniformed staff. In fact not a single one attended. Said an officer who did not want to be identified, “The service leaders seem to be conducting a sort of silent protest. No one from the senior staff? No one?” The officer said he was “disappointed that the uniformed leadership didn’t lead on this.”
Seems the more things change the more things stay the same. Maybe next year?
Image of the Jeh Johnson courtesy of Department of Defense
Jean Ann Esselink is straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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