DADT Repeal Advocate CAPT Joan E. Darrah Celebrates Her Marriage Against the Backdrop of Historic Victory
I have the honor of being the Board Chair at the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church, in Alexandria, Va. On Friday December 17th, after 20 years together, my partner, Lynne Kennedy, and I — with about 20 family members and close friends, and our Minister, Kate Walker — went into Washington DC to the Albert Einstein Memorial to get married. It was a small, but, wonderful opportunity for us to publicly and officially declare our love and lifelong support for each other.
The next day, Saturday the 18th, we had invited over 200 people (they all showed up!) to our home to help celebrate our first day of marriage, our 20th anniversary and my upcoming 60th Birthday. At 3 o’clock, we were given the biggest reason ever to celebrate – the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
After years and years of hard work and dogged determination by thousands of people who knew the injustice of this law, DADT is finally on its way out. UU’s around the Country should be proud of their role in this victory. The Action of Immediate Witness adopted at the 2007 General Assembly calling for the Repeal of DADT was drafted and submitted by the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church.
It is an honor to be affiliated with an organization that not only has strong values but has the courage and commitment to live these values.
This is a truly historic event for our Country and our military! This is the beginning of the end of DADT, a blatantly un-American law that for years has forced honorable gay men and women to live a lie. As a Naval officer who served for 29 1/2 years, much of it under DADT, I know firsthand how incredibly difficult this has been for the tens of thousands of American service members who have been living under this dreadful law.
I am totally confident that our military men and women will adapt easily to this change and that, in the long run, our military and our Country will be stronger.
In my experience, the skin color or religion or ethnic background or gender or sexual orientation of my shipmates was never an issue; what mattered was their ability and commitment to accomplish the mission at hand. Soon, honorable Americans who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their Country will no longer be forced to serve in silence. The impact of this change will be felt throughout the Country. Finally, we will stop sending a message to our young people that because they are gay, our country’s military does not want their service, regardless of their ability or skills.
This is a momentous day in the history of our great Country. Thank you all for your part in this historic victory!!
-CAPT Joan E. Darrah, USN (Ret) Board Chair, Mount Vernon Unitarian Church, Alexandria, VA
Editor’s note: CAPT Joan E. Darrah deserves major credit for her tremendous work over the years to end DADT. Click below to see more of her story, featured on NBC Nightly News.
Beth F. Coye is a Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. from Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Ashland, Oregon
Thank you. Because of your efforts, the United States has taken an important step forward for LGBTQ equality, and I am able to close the chapter on 50 years of my life.
In 1960, I joined the Navy and — to my surprise — within six months was in a relationship with another woman, a naval officer. From that time until this past weekend, a little grey cloud has hovered over my head, symbolizing to me that I and other gay military members, including retirees, are not part of the military family because of our sexual orientation.
This Saturday, I awoke at 5:45 a.m. with great anticipation, knowing that the Senate would vote on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal. An hour later, I was listening to my senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR), speak with great passion from the Senate floor, telling his colleagues, “I don’t care who you love…if you love this country enough to risk your life, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
After speeches from both sides, a vote to end debate took place. We won, with 63 senators in favor of repeal! A few hours later, the final vote was 65-31, with 8 Republicans voting “yes.”
I call this a real bipartisan vote, and hopefully a step toward a new climate on Capitol Hill.
After the vote, I got a call from Sen. Wyden. The call was emotional. I cried. He told me how important this vote was for him and for all Americans.
It felt great just to say “thank you” to my senator. He and I both worked for many years to see this day come.
If one or both of your senators was among the 65 who voted for an end to discrimination, please join me in saying thank you.
Click here to find contact information for your senators. Send them an email to express your gratitude.
By 1980, after 20 years of service, I could no longer take having to be silent and lie, so I retired. After the passage of DADT in 1993, I stepped up my fight to enact a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for gay and lesbian service members like myself. I am proud to have been joined by so many other Unitarian Universalists in working to repeal this wrong-headed law. UUs played key roles in the repeal efforts and truly helped make this change happen. Thank you to CAPT Joan Darrah; RADM Jamie Barnett; Sharon Groves, Deputy Director, Religion, Human Rights Campaign; Reverend Vince Patton, former Master Chief of the Coast Guard; and many more.
And thank you for standing on the side of love for many years, with the knowledge that someday truth would prevail. You kept me, and others, going when the going got pretty discouraging. To get to the finish line takes teamwork. We demonstrated that with repeal of DADT!
That we have accomplished repeal means military members who happen to be gay or lesbian will soon no longer be required to serve in silence, and with an ongoing sense of non-acceptance by their military family, as well as their country. Our American military will be practicing the 1st Principle of Unitarian Universalism: To Honor the Worth and Dignity of Every Person, to include gays and lesbians.
I see yesterday’s action as a large step toward equality, justice and freedom for our larger LGBTQ community, beyond the military. Just as integrating African Americans and women into the U.S. military has dramatically changed attitudes and behaviors toward those minorities, so too yesterday’s decision will bring about more positive attitudes and behaviors toward the LGBTQ community in our country.More >
The U.S. Senate voted 63-33 to advance legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The final vote requiring a simple majority will occur later today and is anticipated to succeed. This discriminatory, shameful law will soon be a memory.
Unfortunately, despite having majority support, the DREAM Act has died in the Senate.
55 Senators, including Republican Sens. Lugar, Murkowski, and Bennett voted to advance the legislation, but 41 legislators, including several Democrats, voted not to. 60 votes were needed.
In the final minutes before the vote, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin pleaded with his colleagues from the floor to vote for the DREAM Act — or as he described it, an act of “political courage.”
“Many of you have told me that you’re lying awake at night, tossing and turning over this vote, because you know how hard it’s going to be politically, that some people will use it against you,” Durbin said. “But I might say, if you can summon the courage to vote for the DREAM Act today, you will join ranks with senators before you, who came to the floor of these United States and made history with their courage. Who stood up and said the cause of justice is worth the political risk.”
Sadly, there are elected officials who feel the cause of justice is not worth the political risk.
Still, a majority of U.S. Senators voted to advance this legislation. They deserve our thanks for listening to their hearts.
If not for the problematic U.S. Senate rules that allow for a minority of senators to block the will of the majority, we would be celebrating DREAM.
As Politico reported:
For the lawmakers who voted against the bill, “it will be a defining vote in their career,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group which has been fighting for the DREAM Act.
“They’re standing at the schoolhouse door, saying no to the best and the brightest of the Latino immigrant community,” he said, “and they will have a lot of explaining to do if they run for reelection or aspire to higher office.”
The majority of U.S. Senators who voted for this legislation tell us that a majority of Americans are receptive to humane immigration reform measures.
Standing on the Side of Love will continue to work with our interfaith and immigrant rights partners to demand justice for immigrants to this country. We will continue to put our bodies on the line to speak out against racist laws like SB 1070, which are born from fear and do nothing to fix our broken immigration system.
We will ask for an end to programs like Secure Communities that instill terror. And we still stand on the side of love when love is called for.
Meanwhile, we can celebrate the positive news at hand: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, another law born out of fear, is on its last legs. A measure that required silence, acquiescence, lies, untold personal sacrifice, and a suffocating closet will be replaced by a policy of non-discrimination.
The New York Times reported:
The vote was a historic moment that some equated with the decision to end racial segregation in the military.
“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying on Friday that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery on Monday for prostate cancer.
DADT repeal is by no means the be-all, end-all for LGBT civil rights legislation. Transgender soldiers are not considered part of the equation in DADT repeal. Same-sex spouses won’t receive the benefits that opposite-sex spouses do.
But passage of DADT repeal is, undoubtedly, progress.
As one discriminatory law is swept away, it is a sign that others will soon, too, join the history books, replaced by policies of non-discrimination, laws mandating that sexual orientation and gender identity can have no bearing on an employer’s hiring practices or a landlord’s rental applications.
It is a sign that our culture is shifting, however slowly. For those of us who remember the days of police raids, Anita Bryant, inaction by the Reagan Administration as AIDS swept the community, and scores of anti-gay sodomy and DOMA laws, it is a sign that things do, indeed, get better.
Thank you to everyone who worked to make this advancement possible. While the legislative results are bittersweet, there is no bitter in the heart of advocacy in our community — only the sweetness that comes when we stand on the side of love, and commit for the long haul.More >
Report by Kat Liu, UUA Witness Ministries Program Associate
On Tuesday, faith leaders came to Washington, D.C. from all over the country and from different theological persuasions in support of the DREAM Act. They joined dozens of DREAM Activists who have been holding vigil in our nation’s capital for the past week. The intent was to support the DREAMers and to lobby key senators in anticipation of what will be a very close vote, which is scheduled for tomorrow – Saturday, December 18.
The Interfaith Immigration coalition, of which the UUA is a member, called specifically for clergy from the states of our target senators. Rev. Fred Small came from First Parish Cambridge UU in Massachusetts to speak to Senator Scott Brown. He was joined at the press conference and prayer vigil by several local UU ministers — Revs. Lyn Cox, Cynthia Snaveley, and Rob Hardies. Given only a couple of days’ notice, more than 100 clergy came to urge the Senate to do what is moral and just – pass the DREAM Act.
The day started with a press conference in the United Methodist Bldg. Nationally known faith leaders such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Peg Chemberlin of the National Council of Churches, and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center all spoke powerfully.
But some of the most stirring testimony came from local clergy from the target states. Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, a UMC minister had just come from being arrested outside of Sen. Kay Hutchison’s office.
She shared with us that DREAM Activists in San Antonio have been on a hunger strike for over 30 days and some are in danger of organ failure.
Troy Jackson, an evangelical pastor from Ohio, started by saying that Evangelicals believe that conversion is possible. He then told us the story of Bernard Pastor and how, upon hearing the injustice of Bernard’s situation, person after person had a “conversion” and now favor the DREAM Act.
The press conference ended with Rev. Small leading us in song as we processed out of the chapel and onto the street. Walking hand-in-hand, we circled the senate office buildings. Then, in a park near the senate, the DREAMers huddled together in the bitter cold air while clergy circled around, laying hands on them in blessing, and taking turns leading the group in prayer. Moving one last time, we convened in the atrium of the Hart Senate Building where again clergy formed a circle and took turns in prayer and song.
After lunch, the “Massachusetts delegation” met in front of Sen. Scott Brown’s office where we had a meeting with the staffer in charge of immigration.
We consisted of Rev. Small, myself and two DREAMers – Juana Garcia and Efrain Trujillo. Juana has been in the U.S. since she was one year old. She sounded like any other American young woman as she told us about her hopes and plans to give back to the country that she loves.
Efrain told us about how his family was forced off the land in his native Mexico by NAFTA and with no means of support had no choice but to come to the U.S. He was seven when he crossed the border.
I wish that I could report more positively about the actual meeting with Sen. Brown’s office. The senator’s staffer made it pretty clear that Brown would be voting No. But that doesn’t mean that our efforts were wasted. Advocacy for the DREAM Act has been going on for a decade now. A week ago, the House of Representatives historically voted in favor. The votes in the Senate are close, closer than it has ever been.
One of the speakers said on Tuesday that the only reason why the DREAM is still alive is because of the DREAMers and faith communities.
The Senate wanted DREAM to go away but we would not let it die.
DREAMers have been camped out on Capitol Hill all week – vulnerable to both the cold and to deportation. So please, let’s do our part by calling our senators and inviting them to be on the correct side of history. If they are already a committed yes, call the senators on the target list.
BREAKING: The Senate will likely vote on DREAM Saturday morning.
Call TODAY and make DREAM a reality.
Take one minute to call your Senator.
Dial 866-996-5161 and ask to be connected.More >
Despite partisan wrangling, I believe there are times when legislators will do the right thing and stand on the side of love.
Sometimes, they just need enough of us to lead them there.
The DREAM Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will go for votes in the next day. The fates of millions of immigrant students and gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers hang in the balance.
Please watch this video to find out what you can do right now to stand up for millions of people who need our love.
After watching, dial (202)224-3121 and ask to be connected to your senator’s office.More >