History was both celebrated and made this Veterans Day in the nation’s capital as an all gay Honor Guard of active duty service members stood at attention near the graveside of former Technical Sergeant and Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient Leonard Matlovich in Historic Congressional Cemetery. At 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, 2015, members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC, some themselves in uniform, sang the National Anthem to begin this year’s observance honoring the service of LGBTs throughout the history of our country. Cosponsored by the DC Center for the LGBT Community, Military Partners and Family Coalition (MPFC), and OutServe/SLDN, it saluted the 40th anniversary of Leonard purposely outing himself to the Air Force to launch the first formal fight against the US military’s ban on gays, and dedicated a memorial to the WWII service of his mentor, pioneering gay activist Frank Kameny.
The keynote address was delivered by Gordon O. Tanner, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of the Air Force and its Chief Legal Officer and Chief Ethics Official, and a former Air Force colonel.
“This is a remarkable occasion to honor two remarkable men who transformed the gay movement, Frank Kameny and Leonard Matlovich. . . . It’s wonderful to be here to remember, to reflect on history, to think about where we’ve come. But that’s not enough. That is simply not enough. That was not enough for these two leaders, it’s not enough for us today. We have to be visible. We cannot pretend that we have already gotten where we need to be, that we have every right, every benefit, every recognition we deserve. Folks, that is simply untrue,” (and used the recent overwhelming defeat of an anti LGBT discrimination ordinance in Houston as an example).
“My husband and I never dreamed that we would be married at the National Cathedral. We never dreamed that our marriage would be legally recognized in America. These things we take for granted now, we should not. We have to be vigilant, we have to be strong, we have to be alert, and we have to be out there leading the way to ensure that these rights are not only protected but are enhanced. You can be visible in your own way. Each person has their own path, but you must be visible. We must never fail to lead our brothers and sisters in that arc of moral justice [that Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about].”