Beth F. Coye is a Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. from Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Ashland, Oregon
I served my country for the majority of my 21 years of active duty as a closeted lesbian. Reflecting upon the meaning of this day of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s repeal, I am filled with joy and happiness: As of 20 September, our country now stands proudly for freedom and justice for her military members who happen to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Discriminatory behaviors and wrong-headed policies and laws toward military gays began two hundred and thirty-three (233) years ago when George Washington discharged the first soldier for being gay. Years and years of work by Americans — straight and gay — brought about this momentous civil rights change.
While this day is bittersweet for military gays who chose to wrestle with an unfair professional environment while on active duty (or were forced to leave under the old policy), I know each one of them feels proud to have served the United States of America and is thrilled for those servicemembers who can now, if they choose to be out, stand tall as gay military members as well as serve with more solid feelings of honor, dignity and integrity. I am proud and honored to have served our UU community as we worked continuously to arrive at this special moment in American history. To those UUs who were on the front lines of “battle” towards changing the hearts and minds of our politico-military leaders about what it means to be gay or lesbian, I send you a huge thank you!
Silence, chosen, deepens prayer, opens the window of the soul.
Silence, imposed, denies the truth of life.
Dear One, God of Love,
On this 20th Day of September, 2011, we give thanks for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a life-denying prison of silence.
We celebrate with the GLBT men and women who serve our nation who may now speak about home and hearth, love and sorrow without fear of reprisal.
We celebrate every step towards justice, and today is a leap!
Imagine this: two soldiers stand together, hearts turned towards home in the dawning hours of the morning. She carries the burden of waiting for lab results which will reveal whether her spouse Joy has breast cancer. He imagines his partner Mark dressing their small son for his first day of school, aching to be present for this life passage. Yesterday they could not speak of such things and keep their jobs, but today they shyly open up to one another, testing the waters of a new freedom. Something twisted and gnarled inside each of them relaxes, smooths out, and a life friendship is born in their shared tears and hopes.
We pray that the fate of DADT will lead to the overwhelming of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to perpetuate unequal access to marriage recognition and benefits.
Though the road has been paved with pain, we give thanks for those who refused to be silenced, and left a life in the military that they cherished. May no one be forced again to choose between love and truth, and fulfilling a call to service.
You who are Truth and Beauty, shine upon us all, make us wise and open-hearted. In the name of Love we pray.
The Rev. Sarah Lammert
Director of Ministries and Faith Development
President Obama officially signed into law legislation to allow for repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. DADT ended the careers of 14,000 men and women in uniform, and deterred countless others from ever following the path of military service.
Below is video of Pres. Obama’s remarks. Said the President, just before signing:
Some of you remember i visited Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. While I was walking along the rope line…it was a big crowd of about 3,000. A young woman in uniform was shaking my hand…she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear…”get DADT done.” And I said to her, “I promise you I will.”
For we are not a nation that says don’t ask don’t tell. We are a nation that says out of many we are one. We are a nation that welcomes the service of every people. We are a nation believes all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today. And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.
I too served in silence and fear for over 24 years. I pray that the young folks coming up realize what a battle was fought AND WON so they won’t have to go through what so many of us did.
I was volunteering at Affirmations, our GLBT community center in Ferndale, MI when the vote went down. Three of my colleagues came barreling out of their office to embrace me as I sat there in tears. That they cared that much means so very much.
I would write more but the tears are here again – tears of joy to be sure.
Thank you and your team for all you did to get this passed.
CAPT Joan E. Darrah, USN (Ret)J (pictured right) with her life partner, Lynne, is Board Chair at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, Va
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.