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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to receive SLDN's Randy Shilts Visibility Award

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Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) will honor Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for her work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members at the organization’s annual dinner on May 13 in Washington, DC.

Ros-Lehtinen will be presented with the SLDN’s Randy Shilts Visibility Award, given each year to an individual who has worked to keep the plight of LGBT service personnel under the unfair policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the public eye. She is a one of 114 supporters in Congress of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), which would repeal DADT.

“Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has a distinguished record on issues important to the lesbian and gay community and our men and women in uniform,” said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. “In addition to supporting repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, she rejected an attempt to amend our constitution to prohibit same-sex unions, is a staunch supporter of employment non-discrimination and has been a tireless Congressional advocate on behalf of Americans living with HIV/AIDS. SLDN is proud to have Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen as an ally in Congress. We are pleased to honor her work on behalf our community.”

The keynote speaker at the fundraiser dinner will be Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, USA (Ret.), the highest ranking female officer in Army history. She has spoken out against DADT in the Detroit News. (SLDN):


“The Army damages itself when it doesn’t live up to its own values,” General Kennedy said in an exclusive interview with columnist Deb Price in this morning’s Detroit News. “Gay men and lesbians are serving with honor and distinction. We should focus on people’s performance, not on whom they’re sleeping with.” Kennedy went on to say the armed forces could lift the ban without incident, noting that, “If we set the standard that someone gay should be treated the same, you train to that standard and enforce it.”

Kennedy was also recently interviewed by EDGE Boston about the insanity of DADT and she said:

We should stop talking about whom people sleep with but about their performance in the military.”

The Army teaches its soldiers–officers, NCOs and other enlisted personnel–to live by seven values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and courage. …Tell me…which is only found in the heterosexual population?

Some people always want to drive home the fact that they believe you are simply evil if you are homosexual. To people who often use religion to badger people who are vulnerable I say, ’Remember they are all God’s children.’”

Kennedy’s so full of refreshing common sense about why this policy is expensive — and ineffective — at making the military stronger by “weeding out” gays.

But supervising talented gay officers — in particular, one skilled Chinese linguist — made her see that prejudices and stereotypes long used against women had just been repackaged.

“It used to be about the latrines. Now it’s about the showers,” she says with a laugh.

Now she believes anti-gay arguments are just part of the military’s growing pains in keeping up with a democratic society that instinctively rejects discrimination.

What about privacy in the showers? She responds that group showering is rare and enforcement of harassment rules should ease fears. Besides, she notes, “putting in private showers for basic training would be far cheaper than the bill sent to taxpayers for ‘Don’t Ask.'”

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Big news: Rebecca Sawyer of SLDN has kindly invited me to attend the dinner and to live-blog it (she said I’m the only blogger invited to do so). I worked out my schedule and will be able to make it!

FYI, going to events like this one (and Equality Forum), are all on my own dime for travel and lodging, so the piggy bank only allows for a really limited amount of this sort of thing.

That’s not a call to hit the tip jar, folks (if you want to hit one, hit Russ’s). It’s just that I’ve gotten emails from folks assuming that some expenses are picked up by the hosting org. Nope. I don’t know whether the well-known A-list, full-time bloggers get that kind of treatment, though I assume some do.

When you’re a non A-list blogger (with a FT day job) located outside the big media centers, you simply hit a wall in your ability to take up offers to be on panels, to contribute to other blog projects, interviews, and such, either because of time/scheduling or money or both. That’s just the reality, for better or worse, sigh.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding