The Promise of
by Denny Meyer
Obama has kept his promise. Twice in two years
he has made civil rights triumphant history, first
by his own election and now by leading the way to
proud open service by gay and lesbian American
patriotic volunteers. Notwithstanding the
seething contempt of malcontents on the far right
fringe and far left fringe, it was his courageous
promise that united our march to historic victory.
As a former community organizer, he challenged us to
make it happen by active participation in the
process. He wasn't about to wave a
presidential magic wand; he expected everyone who
cared to be a part of the push for equality.
Ultimately, I believe, he wanted all of us to own
the victory. Frankly, it was hard to see that
through all the drama, setbacks, and seeming
ultimate failure just weeks ago. But, I now believe
that he knew what he was doing, just as he did when
no one believed he could become president; but the
American people rose to his challenge, twice.
We elected him not just by voting, but by
relentlessly urging others to be on the right side
of history. And now we own this victory
too, each in our own way, by having written
and phoned and emailed members of congress by the
hundreds of thousands over and over, and some by
taking him literally at his word by coming out
publicly and chaining themselves to the White House
fence and demanding his
proof, to see the entire Presidential signing
here; it brought
tears to my eyes.
So, who owns
this victory? It belongs to the more than one
million veterans who served in silence since World
War II, to the seventy nine thousand lesbian and gay
patriotic volunteers who served and are serving in
Iraq and Afghanistan, to the fourteen thousand plus
who were discriminatorily discharged over the past
17 years, to those thousands dishonorably discharged
before DADT, to transgender service members past and
present still silent without relief or rights, to
all of our unknown soldiers who's lives were lost in
battle, and to everyone, individuals and
organizations large and small, who spoke up in whatever
way, quietly or loudly. Who will record all
roll: This is simply my personal list of people; there are hundreds or even a thousand other
names that all equally deserve direct credit for their actions
MAJOR Alan Rogers, who gave his life in combat
in Iraq, our only 'known' casualty; a member and
officer of the DC Chapter of
Veterans For Equal Rights.
a friend, Vietnam Hero, dishonorably discharged for
who he was, who had the courage to speak up; "When I
was in the military, they gave me a medal for
killing two men, and a discharge for loving one,"
-inscribed on his gravestone in the Congressional
Cemetery in Washington, DC.
Winchell and his parents the
Kutelles, murdered by
his fellow troops for who he was, inspired to speak
up to honor their son and advocate for equality for
LT Harvey Milk,
Korean Era veteran, assassinated, who literally gave his life for
Dr. Franklin Kameny, PFC, WWII combat veteran, the
father of the modern gay rights movement, who
rightfully has lived to sit in the front of the
audience to see the President sign the bill ending DADT.
LT Dan Choi, a friend, Iraq combat veteran,
discharged for who he is, who had the courage to
speak up, act up, and hold the President
LTC Alexander Hamilton, LTC John Laurens, LTGEN
Frederich Von Steuben, heroic loving men who
trained the Continental Army at Valley Forge during
the American Revolution.
Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman,
and William Jefferson Clinton, who all had
the courage and conviction to lead the way to
American Civil Rights in the face of bigotry.
members of Congress, who took on President Barack Obama's
promise of equality and had the courage to persist in
the face of obstructionists to finally lead the way
to ending DADT.
Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen,
who spoke from the heart about the integrity of our
service members, our military, and our nation.
Admiral Alan Steinman (ret.) and
Keith Kerr (ret.), leaders who served in
silence for a combined total of 75 years.
Since retirement they courageously came out, guided
and motivated our movement to successfully repeal
SGT Danny Ingram,
President of American Veterans For Equal Rights,
among the first discharged under DADT in 1994 when
he had the integrity to come out; and his then
commanding officer COL(R) Kelly R. Jiménez who had
reluctantly discharged him and had the personal
integrity to congratulate SGT Ingram on the day
President Obama signed the repeal legislation (Dec.
Saturday (Dec. 18th, 2010), minutes after Don't Ask
Don't Tell was repealed, openly gay NYC Councilman
Danny Dromm phoned to invite me to speak at an early
evening press conference which drew five local TV
stations in time for the evening news broadcasts.
A few days later in my supermarket, a grizzled
Vietnam vet recognized me from the TV news. He
said, "Hey, aren't you 'the gay vet?'" "yeeees,"
I said warily. "Well," he said, "Uh,
congratulations!" and shook my hand. That
simple affirmation meant a lot.