The day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage would be legal in the state of California our campaign office at The Center was overjoyed. We scream, we cried, we literally danced and sang in the streets. My phone was blowing up with calls from friends asking me when they could get married.
We all shared in our collective excitement until one call made my heart sink. “Does this mean I can marry Tim?! I mean, like, we can finally really be together?!”
Even now, as then, my eyes well up as I knew what I was going to have to explain to him.
“No honey, I’m sorry. You can’t. The Navy would kick him out. He’d lose his job. You’ll just to keep waiting, but we’ll get there. I promise.”
San Diego being a military town, I quickly realized this was not the only call of this kind I would get that day. Sure enough, I found myself telling person after person that no… they couldn’t get married and share in the victory. Some of our most valued friends and loved ones had been left behind.
The marriage issue has been a driving community focus for the last few years, while other issues are finding it difficult to shine through. Obama recently did a great job of putting the spotlight directly on repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and we’re starting to see momentum.
A recent Quinnipiac poll showed 57 percent registered voters support for ending the ban, so we know we are gaining ground in the court of public opinion. Who doesn’t want to support our troops?
As Lt. Dan Choi told me, “Supporting our troops means supporting love.”
Open expressions of love, communications, counseling, health, housing, benefits, bereavement, and family bonds are all there as a support network for non-LGBT service members, in a massive and necessary way that simply doesn’t exist for our community. The lack of an equal playing field for closeted service members can lead to depression, a drop in morale, lack of unit cohesion, and even suicide. In addition, the discharges under DADT have not only cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, but also threaten our national security.
Helping to put an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be high on any one’s list, especially marriage equality supporters. Our community knows LGBT service members, though most other people don’t, or at least don’t think they do. The repeal would open the flood gates of well respected vocal supporters that have been forced into silence in order to serve the country they love. Think of how many more couples would have added to California’s 18,000 legally married club if they weren’t restricted by their commitment to country.
Once anyone has served our country in uniform with honor and dignity in an honest and genuine way, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to deny them the freedoms they fight to protect for all others.
So I ask all you Love Warriors out there, to take the time to pick up the phone and call your senator and ask them to support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Afterall, soldiers need love too.
Capitol Hill Switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Senate Contact List: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=304676615784&ref=nf
Fernando Lopez had long been an equality advocate for schools and workplace. He began his work with the marriage equality issue in 2001 and since that time he has built teams of dedicated equality advocates and organizers. Fernando is the former San Diego Chapter Leader for MEUSA and former regional field organizer for Equality California, as well as the founder of the Marriage of the Minds coalition he currently sits on the National Board of Directors for Marriage Equality USA.