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'When asked, I told'

That’s what Rhonda Davis, a former petty officer 1st class with the United States Navy, said in her op-ed in the New York Daily News. She was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and she does a splendid job of explaining why the policy makes no sense, and how personally devastating and nonsensical it is to have to live in the closet for the comfort of homophobes.

I stopped counting at 52. That’s how many times just this week I’ve heard someone at work mention their spouse in casual conversation: “I have to leave early today to take my wife to the doctor” or “My husband hates shopping.”

Now imagine if you were told by your employer that you couldn’t talk about the person in your life. Imagine you couldn’t even acknowledge their existence. If you slip and casually say, “My girlfriend and I are in love and we want to get married,” you don’t get congratulated … you get fired.

That’s what happened to me because I violated the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

…So, as thousands marched down Fifth Ave. yesterday to celebrate gay pride, I was left with the sadness that my country is not proud of how I have honorably served the Navy for more than 10 years. I have always been respected for my hard work and dedication. I’ve seen the world. I love my job. But now it’s over.

Three weeks ago, I attended a march on the Brooklyn Bridge for marriage equality and, like most functions I attend, I proudly came in uniform. I explained to a news reporter there that I have a girlfriend, but she’s not from the States, so she had to return to her home country. We have endured months without each other that we wouldn’t have had to suffer through if we were a heterosexual couple. That hurts me. And it makes me angry. I’m an American. I’m a taxpayer. I vote. I’m serving my country, but I don’t have the freedom or the right to marry the person I love.

Yes. Tell that to John McCain, who thinks DADT is the right policy for the military.

Steve Ralls, of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, gets the hat tip for the above, and for passing on the news that USA Today is planning a special Independence Day issue, ‘What It Means to be an American in 2006’.

Steve relays that he was contacted by the editors, who are extremely interested in having LGBT voices as part of this series. From SLDN’s blog, The Frontlines, which describes what USA Today is looking for, and encourages LGBT veterans to send in submissions to the newspaper:

“From American flags, baseball and apple pie to immigration, gay marriage and a war on terror, how we define ‘American’ might be as diverse as the people who live here. As the country prepares to celebrate Independence Day, USA Today would like to hear your comments on what it means to be an American today. Send submissions of 250 words or fewer to editor@usatoday.com. Please include your contact number, city and state for verification. Comments will be considered for an upcoming issue.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding