Nearly 1,000 service members, veterans, and supporters gathered in Washington on Saturday night for the OutServe-SLDN 2013 National Dinner, and to hear the first State of LGBT Military Equality Address by Allyson Robinson, a U.S. Army Veteran and Executive Director of Outserve-SLDN.
In her address, Robinson set an ambitions goal of reaching 14,000 actively serving OutServe-SLDN members by the end of 2014.
The advocacy group, which supports LGBT service members and veterans and works to “create an environment of respect in the military” with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, currently boasts more than fifty chapters and 6000 members around the world.
“We need to be stronger because at its heart, our movement isn’t just a fight to pass laws or enact policies; it’s a campaign to change hearts, minds, and ultimately a nation. It’s not enough to check off the items on our policy agenda one by one and say one day, ‘we’re done.’ We’re working to create a military that truly embodies the values of fairness and equality it protects, one that leads the nation in inclusion rather than lagging behind it,” she said.
Additionally, Robinson previewed the creation of new categories of membership to expand the OutServe-SLDN influence.
“We begin tonight with categories for our veterans and our straight allies; in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll expand further to take advantage of the full strength of America’s diverse military family – and to ensure we’re not leaving anyone behind,” she said.
Robinson cautioned supporters against becoming complacent in the wake of the extension of some benefits to same-sex military families and as the nation awaits a decision from the Supreme Court related to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) later this year.
“The fight for full LGBT equality in our armed forces is far from over. In fact, it’s just getting started. LGBT troops still lack even the most basic nondiscrimination protections – protections that have been the standard with other American employers for years,” said Robinson.“The Defense of Marriage Act still denies LGBT military families the most important support services – things like health insurance and survivor benefits,” she said.
Robinson, the first transgender person to ever lead a national LGBT rights organization, added that qualified Americans who are transgender and who want to serve in uniform are still forbidden from doing so by medical regulations that have become “ridiculously obsolete.”
“And despite the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” thousands of our troops are still in the closet, afraid of what coming out might mean for their careers, their families,” she said.
Robinson’s complete prepared remarks are here (PDF).
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