"Standing Up for My Right to Be All I Can Be": Young Gay Activists Bring Nationwide Campaign to Times Square

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org

What: Three openly gay young adults will attempt to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. If they are turned away, supporters will join them for a sit-in and vigil.
When: Wednesday, September 20, 2006. Press conference at 10 a.m.
Where: U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station, Times Square


(New York, NY) — This Wednesday, three young adults will enter the U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square with dreams of serving their country. Like most potential recruits, they are motivated by patriotism, family tradition, ambition, and duty. But, unlike most of the hopefuls who travel to the nation’s most iconic recruiting station, these young people are openly gay, and they are not willing to lie about their sexual orientation as a condition of service.

Curt Peterson, Kamal Rashad Davis, and Rhonda Davis will all attempt to enlist this week as part of the nationwide Right to Serve campaign, which aims to call attention to the injustice — as well as the administrative and security costs — of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Since August, twenty-three fit, competent young people affiliated with the campaign have attempted to enlist in eleven cities, and all twenty-three have been turned away because of sexual orientation.

On Wednesday in Times Square, the potential recruits will be joined by supporters from Columbia, NYU, Pace, and other nearby schools. If the enlistees are rejected, some supporters will join them in a sit-in at the recruiting station. More supporters will surround the station on all of the side streets to vigil and pass out information about the issue.

One of Wednesday’s enlistees, Kamal Rashad Davis, puts this action in the context of other historic struggles for civil rights: "In the 1960s my grandfather participated in protests that lead to desegregation of Girard College in Philadelphia. Both my father and my uncle served in the military fighting for democracy and freedom throughout the world. I am proud of their service and I want to continue that legacy. So I’m standing up for my right to be all that I can be without hiding who I already am."

Kamal Rashad Davis will be accompanied by Peterson, a student from Vassar, and Rhonda Davis, a former Naval officer who was discharged this summer for violating "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Prior to her discharge, Rhonda Davis served as an award-winning Navy journalist and later as a public affairs officer for New York Navy recruiting district. She will attempt to enlist in the Army on Monday at a recruiting station near her home in Long Island, but will join the other New York enlistees in Times Square on Wednesday. At that time, Peterson will attempt to enlist in the Army, and Kamal Rashad Davis will attempt to enlist in the Navy.

Leaders of the Right to Serve campaign expect arrests on Wednesday. Thus far in the campaign, sixteen people have been arrested at sit-ins in military recruiting stations. These young activists hope to use civil disobedience to promote national dialogue and reflection on federally sanctioned discrimination. The Right to Serve campaign is a project of Soulforce, a national civil rights organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

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

Additional contacts:

Alexey Bulokhov, City Organizer

Rhonda Davis

Curt Peterson

Kamal Rashad Davis