Arrests Kick Off Gay Youth Activists’ Campaign to End "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: August 17, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org

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(Philadelphia and Minneapolis) — Eleven youth activists were arrested yesterday as they sat in peaceful protest at National Guard recruitment centers in Philadelphia and Minneapolis.

Earlier in the summer, Jarrett Lucas, Marissa Cotroneo, and Shane Bagwell in Philadelphia and Haven Herrin, Jacob Reitan, Ezekiel Montgomery, and Briget Schwarting in Minneapolis were deemed "morally and administratively unfit for military service" — in spite of the fact that their initial interviews with recruitment officers had placed them as potential officers. Each of the young adults was rejected because he or she is openly gay.

These youth activists genuinely want to serve the country but will not lie about their sexual orientation as a condition of service. "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," a 13-year-old federal policy, bans openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons from serving in the armed forces.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, they returned to the recruitment centers where they had attempted to enlist. In keeping with a philosophy of nonviolent resistance, the youth staged a sit-in to call public attention to the ways in which this discriminatory policy affects real lives. The potential enlistees were joined by supporters, including straight allies and clergy. At each site, several participants had determined not to leave without police intervention.

The sit-ins this week inaugurate a coordinated "Right to Serve" campaign in which openly gay young adults across the United States will attempt to enlist in the military. Sponsored by the social justice organization Soulforce, the campaign will spread to additional cities next week, including New York, Austin, Chicago, and Oklahoma City.

According to Right to Serve co-director Jake Reitan, "Each city will be a little different. This is an experiment in figuring out what happens when openly gay people test the system."

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

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