- Health, Wellness & Sports
- Equality Directory
SAN DIEGO -- "We are celebrating the beginning of the end" of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Dr. Delores Jacobs, CEO of The Center, said at the "Countdown to Justice!" celebration on Monday night.
A crowd of about 75 people -- including active duty servicemembers, veterans, community leaders, elected officials and others -- gathered in the auditorium of The Center to celebrate Friday's certification of the repeal of the military's DADT policy.
Gay and lesbian servicemembers will be allowed to openly serve in the U.S. armed forces beginning Sept. 20.
The atmosphere at The Center was celebratory. Balloons and flags decorated the auditorium, and wine and other refreshments were served by volunteers. A screen next to the stage projected a live "Countdown to Repeal" clock, which noted at the time that there was 56 days and 18 hours left until the repeal is in effect.
"Victory is in sight," declared Jacobs, who moderated the event and introduced the various speakers who were brought on stage. Jacobs gave much credit to the numerous "heroes" who have for so many years fought for the repeal of DADT locally and on the national scene.
Congresswoman Susan Davis, who was unable to attend due to budget deliberations in Washington, was represented by staffer Daniel Hazard, who read a statement on her behalf.
"For me, it was at this year's San Diego LGBT Pride Parade, where 200 active duty servicemembers openly marched, that showed me that things had truly changed," Davis said in the statement.
State Sen. Christine Kehoe told the crowd that it was a joy for her to celebrate the countdown to the repeal.
"The sooner we get there the better," said Kehoe, who noted that even though the State of California has no jurisdiction over the military's policies, the state legislature has gone on record three times urging Congress to repeal DADT.
"I want to commend The Center for bringing us together and thank you to those who fought for so many years," Kehoe said.
Jacobs said that Assemblymember Toni Atkins was ill and unable to attend but sent her best wishes, and said that no matter what, she would attend the celebration on Sept. 20, even if she is ill and has to drag herself out of bed.
San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria, who worked on DADT repeal issues for many years as an aide for Davis, said that the repeal is good for more than just the LGBT community.
"This is a great day for all Americans," said Gloria, noting that the military will be a safer, stronger entity now that people will be able to serve openly and freely. Gloria said the repeal would not have happened without his former boss Davis' leadership, and encouraged the community to thank the allies of the LGBT community, like Davis, who fought alongside LGBT activists.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) board member Capt. April F. Heinz reminded the crowd that DADT is still in effect until Sept. 20.
"Do not come out yet," warned Heinz, who then encouraged those who are currently serving or wish to serve to utilize the free legal hotline her organization provides.
"Please don't do anything between now and Sept. 20."
Veteran Ben Gomez (top left photo) closed the program, discussing the 10 years he spent in the service. He reflected on the freedoms that come with U.S. citizenship and said that so many people's freedoms have been compromised by not being able to serve openly.
"Imagine that mental burden now disappearing forever," he said.
Gomez said that the repeal of DADT is in line with other civil rights advances in the United States such as the abolition of slavery, women's right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He said that the LGBT community's next battle is to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and encouraged the crowd to get involved.
"How will you educate politicians and fellow citizens on this issue?" Gomez asked the crowd.