"When Americans remember and honor those who gave their lives fighting it never occurs to them that some of the strongest, bravest, and most heroic were also gay. It is time for us, as a community, to remedy that.” – Leonard Matlovich The Advocate, 1987.
Legendary gay martyr HARVEY MILK joined the Navy right after college in 1951, serving on the submarine rescue vessel the USS Kittiwake, and rising to Lieutenant (junior grade). Like Leonard, he evolved a great deal from his extremely conservative youth, but remained proud of his Navy service. He was still wearing this Navy belt with its Master Diver buckle when he was shot as seen in an exhibit of San Francisco's GLBT Historical Society.
HENRY GERBER. US Army, WWI & WWII. Founded the first gay civil rights group in the United States in Chicago in 1924. The Society for Human Rights was quickly shut down by authorities and Gerber fired from his job as a postal worker.
DALE JENNINGS. US Army, WWII. Cofounder of the Mattachine Society, the second sustained gay group in the US [after Veterans Benevolent Association]; first to publicly fight & win in a phony police entrapment case.
DON SLATER. US Army, WWII. Cofounded "ONE," the first long-lasting US gay magazine in 1952. Fought Postal officials to landmark US Supreme Court ruling protecting freedom of speech in the mail. Led 1966 motorcade protest of gay ban in Los Angeles.
FRANK KAMENY. US Army, WWII. Father of the modern gay movement, his achievements were legion. If there had been no Frank Kameny, there might never have been a Leonard Matlovich, gay rights activist, because it was Frank who conceived of creating a test case challenging the military ban. He was once gay soldiers' only source of help. His own activism began after he was fired from his job as a civilian astronomer for the US Army Map Service when he became the first person to appeal such antigay job descrimination all the way to the Supreme Court. After years of struggle, he forced the Civil Service Commission to end their ban on gay civilian federal government employees. Four years before Stonewall, he was one of the leaders of the first gay rights demonstrations at the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and Philadelphia's Independence Hall. He cofounded the independent Mattachine Society of Washington, DC's Gay Activists Alliance and Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and the National Gay Task Force. After shocking contemporaries by declaring "Gay Is Good" in 1968, in 1971, he became the first out gay to run for Congress. he helped force the American Psychiatric association to declare that gays are not "sick" in 1974—THE first major non-judicial achievement in gay movement history. In 1980, he led the first gay group to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His unique collection of gay rights buttons and picket signs have joined the lap desk upon which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the inkwell used by Abraham Lincoln to write the Emancipation Proclamation among the possessions of the Smithsonian, and his 50,000+ pages of literature and correspondence rest in the equally hallowed collection of the Library of Congress along with the artifacts and papers of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. His home was designated a DC Historic Landmark and listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, and a Washington street named for him. He was invited to stand next to President Obama in 2009 at the signing of a memorandum ordering additional benefits for the partners of gay federal civilian employees, and his courage was personally saluted by the President during that year’s White House Pride celebration. He received a formal apology from the Obama Administration for his having been fired during the Eisenhower Administration, was given the Theodore Roosevelt Award, and was a guest of honor at the 2010 signing of the bill repealing DADT thirty-five years after he had begun the battle against the ban. He passed on National Coming Out Day in 2011, three weeks after repeal implementation.
"I, personally, placed my life in jeopardy, in frontline combat, under enemy fire, for this country. [My client] served honorably in the Armed Services of this country. We did not do so in order that our government—or any agent or officer of it—might disparage our people, by which we mean our fellow American homosexuals, or our way of life—to our faces, or behind our backs. We are fully as entitled to our dignity, and to the respect of our government as the homosexual citizens that we are, as are all other American citizens. . . . In the past, we have remained silent when [antigay] remarks were made. We do not intend to continue so. If any such remarks are made, the proceedings will be halted on the spot and will not continue until the remarks have been retracted and apologized for. You and your colleagues elsewhere in this Department have been placed on notice." - Defense Department civilian security clearance hearing, 1969.
"I will define myself to my government. I will not allow my government to define me to me."
JACQUELINE BEYER. WAC, WWII. Helped break Japanese codes.
ROBERT RICKS. US Air Force. WWII. Prisoner of War at Dachau.
ROBERT FLEISCHER, US Army, WWII. Helped liberate Dachau not knowing some of its inmates were sent there for being gay.
ARCH WILSON. US Army. WWII. Founding member first LGBT American Legion post, Alexander Hamilton Post 448.
ELMER LOKKINS, US Army, WWII.
BILL HORNE, US Navy, WWII.
PAUL HARDMAN. US Navy. WWII. Founder first LGBT American Legion post, Alexander Hamilton Post 448, San Francisco.
ROBERT INDIANA. US Air Force. Post WII. Creator of iconic LOVE image.
JOSE SARRIA. US Army, WWII. San Francisco's legendary "Empress" & "Widow Norton." Organized the first California gay non-profit. The first out gay to run for public office—8 years before Stonewall.
HELEN HARDER. Women's Army Air Corps, WWII. Flight instructor.
VINCENT MILES. US Army, WWII.
SARAH DAVIS. WAVES, WWII. Escaped witch hunt but experience haunted her for years. Gay Games swimming gold medalist.
BURT GERRITS. US Navy, WWII. Corpsman on psychiatric ward where gays were sent before discharge [and head nurse was a lesbian]. Became very active in gay movement.
PAT BOND. WAC, WWII. Escaped witch hunt by marrying gay man. Became beloved actress; star of "Word Is Out."
Roy Fitzgerald aka ROCK HUDSON. US Navy, WWII
GORE VIDAL. US Army, WWII.
MAURINE McFERRIN DeLEO. US Air Force, Korean War.
Jack Reavley and Bob Claunch, US Army, met while stationed in Munich during the Korean War. Trailer of documentary about their relationship, which now has lasted 58 years, below.
JIM DARBY, US Navy, Korean Era. Cofounder/President AVER Chicago
CLAUDE ASHBY, Jr., US Army, Vietnam Era
JIM DONOVAN, US Navy, Vietnam Era. Former AVER President
JAMES "Robbie" ROBINSON. US Air Force. Escaping exposure himself, when assigned to Personnel his kind advice often helped gays being discharged deal with their fate. Moving to '50s San Francisco, he witnessed & contributed to its evolution from gay demimonde to Gay Power, becoming beloved by all who know him.
TOM WADDELL. US Army, for whom he was a physician and Olympic decathlete. Founded “Gay Olympics” but legally forced to change its name to Gay Games.
ROBERT MARTIN. US Navy. Founded world's first gay student group at Columbia. Activist against prison rape. First known to fight for Honorable Discharge status.
TROY PERRY. US Army. Gay Movement pioneer. Multiple achievements include founding Metropolitan Community Churches.
ROBERT LeBLANC. US Marine Corps. Vietnam. After Corps' three attempts to discharge him, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered he be given nothing less than an Honorable discharge.
OLIVER "BILLY" SIPPLE. US Marine Corps. Vietnam. A month before the Secretary of the Air Force upheld Leonard's discharge, Sipple did what few have ever done—he prevented the assassination of the President of the United States.
MIKE RANKIN. Capt., MD, US Navy (Ret), Vietnam. Former Chief of Psychiatry, Oakland VA Medical Center & member of the President's Advisory Council on HIV & AIDS. Member SLDN's Military Advisory Council; organizer of annual Veteran’s Day observance at Leonard’s gravesite. Experienced support from some superior officers who learned he was gay and subtle but unmistakable discrimination from others.
COPY BERG. US Navy. Discharged under old policy. Court challenge, ultimately merged with Leonard's, resulted in revelation of Navy's 1957 secret Crittenden Report which said gays could serve well. Also received a financial settlement. Mentor to Joe Steffan.
MIRIAM BEN-SHALOM. US Army Reserves. A court ordered her reinstated after her discharge. 1988 photo shows her being sworn in again. Pentagon’s appeal supported, Supreme Court denied certiorari, & she was discharged again. Spoke with Leonard at 1977 Chicago Gay Pride events. Cofounded Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual Veterans Association, now known as American Veterans for Equal Rights [AVER].
PERRY WATKINS. US Army. Inducted and allowed to reenlist more than once despite knowing he was gay, they suddenly decided to kick him out after more than a decade of service. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered his reinstatement on the basis of fairness in 1989; Supreme Court denied Army certiorari. Close to retirement, he chose settlement & full benefits. Speaker & pallbearer at Leonard's funeral.
Left: TOM SWANN. US Marine Corps. Won lawsuit against Navy for discrimination against him as a civilian employee after they learned he was gay. Led creation of memorial for LGBT veterans in Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs. Plaque at base of memorial obelisk above.
JOE STEFFAN. US Navy. Discharged pre-DADT simply for admitting he was gay just weeks before Annapolis graduation. Though in Top 10 of his class, having twice represented the Navy singing The National Anthem before televised Army-Navy Games, & being a Battalion Commander over one-sixth of the Academy’s 4500 midshipmen, one superior needlessly attempted to humiliate him by ordering him to literally rip his Commander stripes from his uniform minutes before one of his hearings. “After dwelling on my discharge for about a year, I decided to fight back. I was inspired by examples like Perry Watkins & Leonard Matlovich & Miriam Ben-Shalom.”
Both pre & post-DADT courts ignored the injustice and rationalized his discharge, including one judge who nakedly mocked him as a "homo." Nevertheless, history was made during the course of his challenge when the important PERSEREC studies were publicly revealed for the first time despite the Pentagon's deceitful efforts to hide them because of their support for gay military service. As a law student at the University of Connecticut, Joe led a fight to ban military recruiters from campus on the basis of their antigay discrimination. Click on photo to purchase his autobiography Honor Bound.
KEITH MEINHOLD had served 12 years in the Navy when he outed himself on ABC's World News Tonight on May 19, 1992, to fight the ban. Discharged, then reinstated by a court, he was the first openly gay man returned to active duty. The government chose not to appeal after losing at the Circuit Court level, and Meinhold served for four years as an out sailor before retiring with full military honors.
JUSTIN ELZIE had served 11 years when he outed himself on ABC's World News Tonight on January 29, 1993, to fight the ban. A judge ordered he be retained until his legal challenge was resolved. It was settled out of court with Elzie receiving an early retirement bonus after having served as an out gay Marine for four years during which he was recommended for promotion three times.
ZOE DUNNING. US Navy. At a January 1993 rally in support of Keith Meinhold who had outed himself to the Navy to fight the pre-DADT ban in May 1992, Dunning, a graduate of the US Naval Academy and Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves, announced: “I am both a naval officer and a lesbian, and I refuse to live a lie anymore.” She successfully fought her discharge for over two years, the only one known to have done it administratively, convincing a review board that “status” did not equal “conduct”—a finding immediately forbidden in future cases by the Pentagon. She continued to advocate against the ban, and became co-chair of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network [SLDN] Board of Directors. By the time of her retirement in 2007, she had been awarded the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and risen to the rank of Commander, and despite the ban had served openly for over 13 years of her 22 years of service—longer than anyone else in our history. In December 2010, she was invited to stand next to the President as he signed the DADT repeal bill.
TRACY THORNE. US Navy "Top Gun" bombardier-navigator. One of only a few who volunteered to publicly out themselves as Leonard did, whom he often credits for inspiration. Discharged TWICE—under old ban & DADT. Upheld by courts. Courageous, eloquent leader who challenged Sam Nunn's shameless dog & pony show. ==>>>
GRETHE CAMMERMEYER. US ARMY. Vietnam. Years later as Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard, she told the truth when asked if she was gay in an interview for a top-secret clearance. She was involuntarily discharged, fought it in court, and after winning served three more years as an out service member before retiring with a total of 31 years of service. In 1993, she was one of the few gay service members allowed to testify to Congress in favor of lifting the ban, and became one of the most high profile of those who worked for years to overturn DADT. An Emmy-winning TV movie about her life was broadcast on NBC in 1995. Click on the photo to purchase her autobiography.
DANNY INGRAM. US ARMY. Outed himself in 1993; discharge was delayed pending resolution of the debate. His Latino commander said: "My grandfather had to get his ass kicked so that I could be in the US Army.” Referring to an African-American 1st Sgt., he added, “His grandfather got his ass kicked so that he could serve. Now, Ingram, you will get your ass kicked so your people can serve." After participating in both lobbying and protests, he was discharged after the law took effect. His activism increased, culminating in becoming President of American Veterans for Equal Rights. Invited to the White House’s 2012 Pride Reception, he brought a gift for the President: AVER’s “Leonard P. Matlovich Medal for Distinguished Service in Defense of American Liberty.”
Featuring both active duty and veteran gay and lesbian service members, including some in this gallery, this was produced in 1993 as a response to the rabidly homophobic "Gay Agenda" video then being distributed by the Antigay Industry throughout the Pentagon and Congress to enflame opposition to President Clinton's goal of lifting the ban. 1500 copies of "To Support & Defend" were delivered by hand to every member of Congress, throughout the Pentagon, and in the White House. It was shown on giant video screens on the Capital Mall during the massive gay march on Washington that spring, at other rallies and fundraisers, and aired on several PBS stations. Producers: Julian Siminski, Rob Wilson, & Mike Parente. Copyright Parade Pictures.
TANYA DOMI. US Army. Paratrooper, drill instructor, and MP company commander. Survived being investigated as a lesbian twice. The first involved an 18-month lesbian witch hunt in which she was repeatedly interrogated, followed by Army CID agents, and her mail opened. They tried to entrap her with drugs and, as they always do, offered to go easy on her if she’d just name others. The second was the result of her reporting a male fellow officer for improperly sexually propositioning her. He retaliated by calling her a lesbian; she was investigated; he was promoted. She finally chose not to reenlist, leaving as a Captain. As legislative director for the NGLTF and head of their Military Freedom Project, she testified before the House Armed Services Committee in support of President Clinton’s effort to lift the ban, and participated in cross-country educational Tour of Duty.
JOSE ZUNIGA. US Army. Desert Storm. Sixth Army Soldier of the Year. At 23, he volunteered to out himself in a surprise appearance at a huge celebration the night before the 1993 gay March on Washington to help the lift the ban effort. “I urge you, Mr. President, lead the way, show us the courage and conviction to guide our country, and specifically the military, into a new era of understanding.” He was discharged in near record time—less than a month and brutally demoted after being falsely accused of wearing a decoration he had not earned, his battalion commander melodramatically throwing newspapers in which his story had appeared into a trash can during the hearing. He is now on the Board of Directors of SLDN. His autobiography is available here. Video interview here.
The three retired officers below are the highest ranking to date to have come out publicly, and worked hard to end the ban.
BRIG GEN KEITH KERR, US Army Reserve, California State Military Reserve. Created Right Wing firestorm when he challenged 2008 Republican Presidential candidates to oppose DADT during CNN debate.
REAR ADM. ALAN M. STEINMAN, MD, US Coast Guard. Helped organize 2006 anti DADT Call to Duty Tour.
BRIG. GEN. VIRGIL A. RICHARD, US Army. Vietnam. Pentagon. Fought racism in military civilian hiring.
STEVE CLARK HALL. US Navy. Nuclear submarine commander. Producer of documentary at left on LGBT Annapolis graduates.
In the 2007 60 Minutes segment below, several gay veterans discuss their experiences. DARREN MANZELLA, US Army, was eventually discharged after the broadcast. CHOLENE ESPINOZA, US Air Force, chose not to reenlist because of DADT, as did STEVE LORANDOS, US Navy, BRIAN FRICKE, US Marine Corps, and JARROD CHLAPOWSKI, US Army. DAVID SANTOS, US Navy, was discharged under DADT. Manzella and Fricke work with SLDN, and Chlapowski cofounded Servicemembers United.
JOAN DARRAH. US Navy. Former intelligence officer; member of SLDN Military Advisory group. Here she's testifying about DADT at a Congressional subcommittee hearing organized by Congresswoman Susan Davis.
ERIC ALVA. US Marine Corps. First American service member wounded in 2003 invasion of Iraq, here testifying before same 2008 Congressional subcommittee.
ALEX NICHOLSON. US Army. Fluent in five languages. Discharged under DADT, he was the named plaintiff in the history making lawsuit filed my Log Cabin Republicans. Cofounder and Executive Director of Servicemembers United [SU]. One of the leaders of cross country DADT repeal educational tour featured in documentary Ask Not, and the Voices of Honor tour.
JARROD CHLAPOWSKI. US Army. Korean linguist and cryptologist. Chose not to reenlist because of DADT. Cofounder with partner Alex Nicholson of Servicemembers United. Also appeared in Ask Not, and was one of the leaders of the Voices of Honor tour.
After playing dirty in court, the Air Force & Justice Department finally dropped their ignominous appeal of the order by a federal judge to reinstate former Air Force Major Margaret Witt and let her retire with the full military benefits she was on the brink of earning when kicked to the curb in 2006 after being outed by a third party. That ruling—that the government failed to demonstrate how a highly decorated flight nurse whose image had been used by the Air Force in recruiting brochures hurt morale, unit cohesion, etc., simply because she was gay—was one of those that helped convince Congress to authorize an end to the ban. This video is of an interview she did after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a retrial in 2008.
ALAN ROGERS. US Army. First KNOWN gay combat fatality in Iraq. After his 2008 death, "Washington Post" agreed to Army's request his orientation be left out of obituary. Pentagon official tried to delete fact Rogers was gay from Wikipedia article.
JULIANNE SOHN. US Marines. Iraq. Discharged under DADT.
JAY BODA. US Air Force. Iraq. Recently retired with 20 years service.
SANDY TSAO, US Army, Iraq. President Obama refused to stop her DADT discharge after she wrote him for help.
ANTHONY WOODS. US Army, Iraq. Discharged under DADT and ordered to repay $35,000 scholarship to Harvard. Defeated in run for Congressional seat by CA Lt. Governor.
DAN CHOI, US Army, Iraq. Discharged under DADT after outing himself to fight the ban.
Victor Fehrenbach, USAF, Iraq, Afghanistan. Allowed to serve through retirement after being outed.
Jonathan Hopkins, US Army, Iraq, Afghanistan
Katherine Miller, West Point
ANDREW WILFAHRT. US Army. Afghanistan. One of those killed still having to fight for their country while officially having to stay in the military closet despite DADT repeal having been authorized two months before but not yet "certified."
STEVE SNYDER-HILL. US Army. Operation Desert Storm+. Unintentionally became internationally famous two days after DADT officially came to an end when his YouTube video question from Iraq about whether any of the Republican presidential candidates would try to restore the ban if elected was broadcast during a televised September 2011 debate, and some audience members in the hall loudly booed. The previous May, while home for two-weeks R&R, he and his partner Josh were legally married next to Leonard’s grave. His latest deployment having ended, the Snyder-Hills are active gay rights advocates in Ohio while Steve remains in the Army Reserve, and co-plaintiffs along with seven other couples in the SLDN-sponsored DOMA challenge, McLaughlin et al. v. Panetta et al. Click on photo for video interview.
BRIGADIER GENERAL TAMMY SMITH, US Army Reserve. In 2012, she became the highest ranking officer serving openly. Her distinguished career began with an ROTC scholarship in 1982, and has included being the first female assigned observer/controller at a joint readiness training center, being a jump master and senior parachutist, and deployment during the war in Afghanistan. Her many awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star. She is now Director, Human Capital Core Enterprise, for the US Army Reserve at the Pentagon. During the promotion ceremony, her Navy veteran father and her wife, Tracey Hepner, a cofounder of the Military Partners & Families Coalition, removed the shoulder insignia from her uniform coat, and Hepner pinned on the star signifying Smith's new rank. Then, Hepner's Mother replaced the colonel's insignia on Smith's shirt
with another general's star.
"I am thankful to the brave men and women who paved the way for me, who suffered both material sacrifice and hidden emotional anguish as they took a personal stand for open service. Because of these heroes, I can be honest about my life and my relationship with Tracey as I perform the duties required of an Army Brigadier General. I reflect upon the sacrifices and the personal courage of individuals whom I have personally met or whom I have been inspired by, some I never had the chance to know before they left the world. When people thank me for what I have done or express what my being an 'out' General Officer means to them, I know that living my authentic life while in uniform is meager repayment of the debt owed to those brave souls who sacrificed on my behalf without knowing me. They sacrificed for the ideal of me. These heroes put everything they had on the line for people they had never met, and they made a better world for people they may never know. Their actions exemplify core military values. To have stayed in the closet or to have excluded Tracey from pinning that star on my shoulder would have been a disservice to their sacrifice. We are in the debt of those who came before us. Pay it forward." - BG. Tammy Smith
DONNA JOHNSON, Army National Guard. Iraq & Afghanistan. KIA October 1, 2012.
REID NISHIZUKA, US Air Force. Afghanistan. KIA April 27, 2013.
More gay veterans to be added including Michelle Benecke, David Hall, Bleu Copas, Tyrone Power, Army Maupin, et al.
GAY VETERAN & ACTIVE DUTY AFFILIATE AND ADVOCACY GROUPS