Right to Serve Campaign: Washington, D.C.
In 30 cities across the country this fall, openly gay young adults have been challenging the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy by attempting to enlist in the armed forces. The policy prohibits openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the U. S. military. It is government-sanctioned discrimination, and begets the treatment of gay Americans as second-class citizens. But, led by Soulforce Young Adults, the Right to Serve Campaign is a national effort to promote an inclusive military that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
On Tuesday, September 26th, Mandy Craig and Alex Douglas-Barrera, 2 openly LGBT individuals, and about 25 supporters from the Washington, D.C. area held a press conference at the United States Armed Forces Recruitment Center in downtown Washington to express and explain their opposition to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of discrimination in the United States Armed Forces. Mandy and Alex also announced their intention to enter the Center and intentionally present themselves as two healthy, able, smart, talented and willing individuals who wanted to serve their country and enlist in the Armed Forces.
After holding the press conference and taking questions, Mandy and Alex entered the Center only to find that the doors to the Navy branch, where they had intended to enlist, were locked and shut at 10 AM on a regular business day. While other branches of the military were open and ready to accept young, healthy and brave individuals to enlist, the doors of the U.S. Navy were shut in the face of Mandy and Alex because they were LGBT.
Following this stark display of government-sanctioned discrimination against our nation’s best and brightest, Mandy, Alex and their supporters announced their intention to sit-in at the Center until Mandy and Alex were treated equally and with respect as their straight peers. Simultaneously, the Right to Serve campaign passed out approximately 800 flyers throughout the day to passersby in the downtown area, alerting them to the unjust policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, why it needs to be repealed, and directing them to take further action. News coverage on TV, the radio and in print- from local campus newspapers to CNN "Paula Zahn Now" to area LGBT-focused newspapers- would later alert the public at large to the policy and how it and its supporters rejected Mandy and Alex from their right to serve that day.
The Daily Colonial
CNN – Paula Zahn, NOW
Will Cobb, Blog on Right to Serve
(Will Cobb served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He stood in solidarity with the enlistees in D.C. He also spoke out against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, using his own military experience to relate the absurdity of the policy.)
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Adam Bink and Curt Peterson