Pentagon Honors LGBT Pride Month For First Time

On Tuesday, the Pentagon held its first-ever LGBT Pride Month event, as President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta shared special videotaped messages, followed by comments from Department of Defense personnel and a panel discussion with out service members.

In his message, Obama spoke of what fuels change: “Change happens because ordinary people, countless unsung heroes of our American story, stand up and demand it,” he said. “The story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans is no different.”

Secretary Panetta acknowledged the sacrifices made by gay and lesbian enlisted men and women, saying,”Before the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself. Now after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country and be proud of who you are when in uniform.”

After remarks by Counsel Jeh Johnson and Director of Press Operations Capt. Jane Campbell, the floor was given to Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps (above), Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Air Force Gordon Tanner and Army veteran Sue Fulton, currently a director at the LGBT military groups OutServe and Knights Out.

As part of the panel “The Value of Open Service and Diversity,” Fulton told the group assembled that during the ban, “The Army redacted our lives,” and stressed that it wasn’t their sexuality closeted soldiers were desperate to discuss:

Being gay isn’t about sex; it’s about life.  It’s about buying a house and bickering over chores.  Sorry.  That’s my partner over there. It’s about deciding whether to have kids.  It’s about moving to a new place and figuring everything out.  It’s about life.

And I do want to say that, thanks to the leadership of this administration and the Pentagon and so many unit leaders at every level, we can have those lives now and still serve the country we love.

“I happen to be gay, but more importantly, I’m a Marine,” said Phelps, who enlisted after the 9/11 attacks.  “If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the reason that I am here is that it still, kind of, is news, that there are still relatively few of us wearing the uniform who are willing to go on record and say, “This is my life.”He said he was proud to serve as a leader and role model “with openness and integrity.”

Click through for the full transcript of the Pentagon’s LGBT Pride Month event

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  • jason

    It was interesting that the President did not appear in person. Was he afraid of us?

    Oh, and I’m still waiting for an executive order enacting ENDA. He’s given legal status to illegal immigrants under the age of 30. Where’s your regard for actual American gays, Mr President?

  • Daez

    @jason: Seriously, Jason, if Obama came and gave you a blow job in front of a camera you would still give him flack about being anti-gay. You really need to examine why you dislike the man so much. My guess is it has a lot less to do with any of his viewpoints and a lot more to do with his racial background.

  • Spike

    @jason: Wow, when President Romney sends us to the camps, and the conservative SCOTUS upholds this decision in order to keep the christian majority safe and secure, you are so going to be pushed to the front when it comes time for the showers.

  • Andy

    Wow, gays can have pride about stirring up trouble in the Middle East just like their straight brethren. Killing brown children, it’s America’s pasttime!

  • Daez

    @Andy: Did you overlook the fact that those in the middle east not only want Americans dead but they want to execute every single male that even looks at another male incorrectly? Seriously!?!

    We did not start the war, they did when they decided to attack American soil and now we are to be blamed for it? I don’t think they, as of yet, have killed enough of them.

  • Jentech

    Wow-incredible. The book “Not Your Average American Girl” (author Christine Beatty -formerly man in the Air Force) really spotlights the challenges transgenders face and was so uplifting and enlightening, that I believe should be on everyone’s shelf that believes in true equality. Amazing insights and poetic. You can get it at Amazon or


    Being black, left-handed or being gay is just as natural. Bibles and the torah which includes leviticus 18:22 should be immediately banned for promoting hatred against minorities; namely the gay community and the crosses removed from all schools and churches.

    The evil writings in Leviticus 18:22 against gays depict; rules for temple rituals or “P” … Priestly Rules & expanded by the pope; homophobes and religious frauds to attack the gay community and never meant to apply to the public but to priests. Leviticus exists in the old testament & torah.

    “It is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked fantasy.” To see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is shameful.

    It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return … it is something that should be celebrated! If it is between two guys or girls all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

  • Skip

    Jason- the President wasn’t there because he spent yesterday doing events and speeches in Boston, Atlanta, and Miami.

  • ChristopherM

    Jason, perhaps he was too busy leading the free world to satisfy you. I swear if you were any dumber, your last name would be Palin.

  • goldfish

    ditto Jason.
    The President is having a Mitt flip flop moment…again

  • And Tenna

    @jason: really? he got rid of don’t ask don’t tell, so this pentagon event never would have happened wiyhout him. Also, presidents don’t show up to every event. You really sound like a brat.

  • Michael Bedwell

    Phelps and Tanner were fantastic! But chief Pentagon lawyer Johnson was, by turns, disrespectful and dishonest. By devoting so much of his time to regurgitating details about “the study” already known to everyone in the room, he effectively converted the historic event into something more like of a “Pentagon Pride,” praising what THEY had done for gays, than the intended LGBT Pride celebration, not only not ever saying HE approved of repeal but also not once coming close to what his boss, Secretary of Defense Panetta did—“personally thank[ing] all of our gay and lesbian service members, LGBT civilians, and their families for their dedicated service to our country”? It could be said he even contradicted Panetta—and, again, the supposed reason all were there—in fact, as you noted, virtually declaring that the Pentagon SHOULDN’T do the same kind of events that other federal government agencies have done for years [and the DoD could have done for LGBT civilian employees long before DADT repeal]. “[I]n the military, individual personal characteristics are subordinate to the good of the unit and the mission, service above self.” Then, how does Johnson explain the millions of taxpayer dollars spent over the last 41 years by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute on programs to “maximize combat readiness” by “fostering positive human relations throughout diverse armed services” CELEBRATING differences in race, gender, ethnicity, and religious and political affiliation. How about the events in May for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for the military, February was African American/Black History Month, March was Women’s History Month, April observed Holocaust Remembrance Day, or that in September the DoD will recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, and National American Indian Heritage in November? How about the posters distributed each year to U.S. bases and ships around the globe celebrating these events as well as Ramadan, Bodhi Day, and even Wicca Yule?

    It was also telling that Johnson did not say “I WAS not an activist on the matter of gay men and women in America”? And that he didn’t actually say he felt badly that his gay “good friend” was afraid to come out to him 27 years ago—or describe what he’s done since to assure him he isn’t homophobic TODAY. Perhaps he isn’t, given that he said, “We ARE all a product of our circumstances, and part of my circumstances INCLUDE my formative years in the 1970s at Morehouse College, an all male, all black, Southern Baptist school.” How much more obvious could his real feelings be than in the fact that he didn’t say that HE is one of “many of our leaders” “troubl[ed] that there are “certain inequalities between similarly situated couples in the military community”? Note, too, he didn’t say that ALL “military family benefits [will be] extended to the partners and other family members of gay and lesbian service members” in time, but that they’re simply studying “WHICH” ones. And, how ridiculous was his closing declaration, contradicting what HE had acknowledge just minutes before, that nongays had “welcome[d] their [gay] brothers and sisters to an UNCONDITIONAL place at the table”? There are MANY “conditions,” and indisputable documentation that Johnson was at least one of the chief architects.

    That’s where the debatable attempts to read his mind end, and the FACTS of his transparent stall tactics and duplicity, both in the past and yesterday, begin. For the fact is that the study he co-authored and published OVER TWO AND HALF YEARS AGO, in November 2010—the “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—ALREADY identified benefits that are NOT banned by DOMA…AND spelled out how they could be implemented IMMEDIATELY. From page 142:

    “[O]ur Terms of Reference required that we consider the issue of benefits for same-sex partners and the families of gay and lesbian Service members, in the event of repeal. …We studied the issue carefully, and no other policy recommendation came close to consuming as much time and

    And their lengthy investigation included one of the most crucial benefits—which the marvelous gay panel member, Air Force Deputy General Counsel Gordon Tanner specifically—and courageously—called out yesterday—access to base housing. From page 144 et al., of the study:

    “In this category are benefits that are *NOT statutorily prohibited, because Congress has not explicitly limited the benefit in a manner that precludes same-sex partners, but that current regulations do not extend to same-sex partners. For these, the Department of Defense and the Services have the regulatory flexibility to define the eligible beneficiaries in way that includes same-sex partners. … Military family housing is another prominent benefit in this category…. For benefits such as these, the Department of Defense **COULD legally direct the Services to revise their regulations to extend coverage to Service members’ same-sex partners. This could be accomplished in two ways: leave to the Service member the freedom to designate his or her ‘dependents’, ‘family members’, or similar term; or, revise these definitions to specifically mention a committed, same-sex relationship, and require some type of proof of that committed relationship. The latter is similar to the approach now being taken in Federal agencies for civilian employees. … We do **NOT, however, recommend that military family housing be included in the benefits eligible for this member-designated approach. Permitting a Service member to qualify for military family housing, simply by designating whomever he chooses as a “dependent,” is problematic. Military family housing is a limited resource and complicated to administer, and such a system would create occasions for abuse and unfairness.” [*emphasis mine; **emphasis theirs]

    How did Mr. Johnson and his subordinates define “unfairness”? By suggesting that it would be unfair to deny unmarried straight couples such access but allow unmarried gay couples—dodging the fact that, even in 2010, legal marriage was available to gay service members through some states. WHY then; why NOW when that number has increased?
    Another issue that Tanner emphasized was the ongoing failure to support gay military spouses and their families. AGAIN, Johnson’s team identified those IN 2010, yet vetoed them. From page 145 et al:

    “Other benefits and support services that may be suitable are, for example, programs and services provided by the Department of Defense family centers, which include mobility and deployment assistance, relocation assistance, and crisis assistance. Expanding the eligibility for these benefits and programs COULD BE ACHIEVED by modifying the definition of ‘family member’ in DoD policy and regulations to permit Service member designation. … we do NOT, at this time, recommend that the Department of Defense and the Services revise their regulations to specifically add same-sex committed relationships to the definition of ‘dependent’, ‘family member’, or other similar term, for purposes of extending benefits eligibility.” [emphasis mine]

    Again, they dodged answering why they could not at least be changed for those gay service members who ARE just as legally married as straight couples from, e.g., Massachusetts, New York, or DC, tellingly, instead, commenting about how “controversial” marriage of gays still is, and bleating “unfairness” again re unmarried straight couples even as they admitted: “We realize this is different from the direction the Federal government is taking for civilian employees to address the disparity in benefits available to married opposite-sex relationships and committed same-sex relationships.”

    They also absurdly parroted the old canard of the Antigay Industry about gays not deserving so-called “special rights.” Maybe this is because Johnson shockingly agreed to meetings with SEVEN different CIVILIAN antigay groups including Focus on the Family and the so-called Center for Military Readiness AKA Elaine Donnelly. I don’t recall the military meeting with members of the Ku Klux Klan when planning racial integration.

    In sum, despite recent insufferable praise of Johnson by co-opted Gay, Inc., mouthpieces, his remarks yesterday, coupled with his history of fighting any court ruling that the ban was unconstitutional—even questioning the military’s OBLIGATION to obey such court rulings—and the fact that such benefits COULD have been extended nine months ago—as well as also lifting the ban HE engineered on including gay service members under the protections against harassment and discrimination of the Military Equal Opportunity Program—only reinforced that, at best, his support of repeal was extremely reluctant—and that he remains a part of the problem of achieving full equality in the military not a part of the solution. When are our paid leaders going to seriously challenge him?

  • Some Random Guy

    Yahoo News, 6/27/12: “65 percent of Americans say Obama better suited to handle alien invasion than Romney

    “… Nearly 65 percent of respondents said Obama would be better suited to handle a theoretical alien invasion than Romney.

    “In fact, Obama trumped Romney across the board, winning a majority of support from women (68 percent), men (61 percent) and those aged 18 to 64 (68 percent).

    “Romney’s strongest bracket was with senior citizens, where he split the vote with Obama at 50 percent each.”

    @ChristopherM: Hey, maybe Jason’s last name IS Palin! Or maybe he’s over 65, and hence the Grumpy Old People’s (GOP) party viewpoints.

  • jwrappaport

    @Andy: Your comment really isn’t relevant to the article. It’s fine to be against our interventionist military policy or war in general, but speaking glibly about our men and women in uniform does your argument no credit.

    @Jason: I completely agree. Obama is a busy man, but something like this would, IMHO, warrant at least a brief appearance. (I suspect that Obama’s more concerned with political expedience, as he almost always is.) Also not sure why he still hasn’t ended LGBT discrimination in the federal government by executive order. He’ll never be to us what Truman was and is to African Americans (not to say I don’t appreciate his tepid support, especially when it’s set in relief by the prejudice of the GOP, rather that it’s so abundantly self-serving and lacks even the appearance of conviction).

  • Ronbo

    @Daez: You are a foolish beliver in Obama. He tried to stall DADT-repeal as long as he could – even tried to stop Pelosi from pursing it. Then he jumped in front of the parade at the last minute. Obama is not a “fierce” supporter of LGBT Americans. Look how he won’t lift a finger for ENDA or enen an Executive Order!

  • Oh well

    @Andy, I for one agree with you. Are we the only ones who don’t see it as a sign of progress that there are gay people who actually want to participate in wars of aggression and dropping bombs on civilians, not to mention the abandonment of personhood and individual responsibility involved in being a soldier?

  • LadyL

    @Michael Bedwell: I have no answer to your final question Michael, but I do hope in time Mr. Johnson will speak to LGBT equality, in the military and elsewhere, from his heart not just from his mouth. I suspect he still clings to his generational upbringing– the minority discomfort with LGBT issues typically fueled by the church, family, and cultural influences.
    That was true of Barack Obama not so long ago, and Colin Powell, as well. More and more people–like you–stand up, speak out, and the culture shifts. And that nudges the hidebound and reluctant among us to rethink. (And come out.) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • jwrappaport

    @Oh well: We get it – there are perfectly sounds reasons to object to our foreign policy or war in general, but you ignore the frequent and large-scale humanitarian missions that our armed forces undertake routinely, not to mention their peacekeeping efforts all over the world that get little publicity.

    I completely sympathize with your criticism of the War on Terror and the way it’s being fought, but our armed forces do a lot of good in the world, and it’s unfair for you to portray them as though they’re agents of evil and nothing more. Likewise, to suggest that a soldier abandons his/her personhood upon enlistment I can accept as hyperbole (glib thought it still is), but individual responsibility is not something they abandon by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not a vet, but talk to anyone who’s served: individual responsibility is the foundation for any team activity, let alone something as grueling as armed combat.

    You’ll forgive the emotional appeal (and my admittedly thin skin), but I can’t help but bristle at your comments. You’re leveling pretty serious indictments against some who likely deserve it and are expressing a general (and reasonable) sentiment against war and acts of violence – but you are also leveling them against people I have come to love and care for deeply and who are among the most kind, honest, and just human beings I have ever known. I would also venture to say that your comments are directed toward people whose lives and work you know nothing about. It would do you great credit to avoid ad hominems and what I think are unfair, glib generalizations that illuminate little.

  • Summerspeaker

    Andy and Oh well mirror my thoughts. As Ali Abbas writes, the “right to serve” so lauded by LGBT liberals “currently leads to the murder of millions of people of color and the illegal detainment of many more.” Pride in imperialism literally kills. Regardless of how nice individual soldiers may be, the cis-tem remains irredeemable.

    Assimilation means going straight, folks. I recommend queer insurrection as an alternative.

  • Nina

    @MACDONALDBANK: MacdonaldBank, the problem isn’t the Bible itself–the problem is incorrect translations and complete IDIOTS who take advantage of them long after the mistranslations have been discovered, sometimes even perpetuating those mistranslations. Perfect example–the verses in Romans that supposedly deal with gay people–actually deal with gay prostitutes. There are also injunctions in the Bible against female prostitutes, so the implication is clear: Paul is covering all his bases.

    This is borne out in the Gospels: that slave Jesus healed at the request of the Roman centurion? In the original Greek, the centurion refers to the slave as his ‘pais’–a word that means “lover.” A pais was a man who was bought for the purpose of being your lover, just like women were bought to be your wife. Jesus’ comment when the centurion says that he believes that if Jesus simply says the word, his lover will be healed: “In all of Israel I have not found a man with such great faith.” He heals the slave and blesses them both. Christians who are anti-gay? As defined in Revelation, said “Christians” are, in fact, the anti-Christ.

  • arcade fireman

    Bullshit PR stunt. I’m a gay service member who works at the Pentagon. Heard about the observance on the news, but never saw a single flyer or announcement.

  • Perry Brass

    I completely sympathize with Arcade Fireman’s comment: “Bullshit PR stunt. I’m a gay service member who works at the Pentagon. Heard about the observance on the news, but never saw a single flyer or announcement.”

    But, as a former Air Force wife (1977-1980) who lived in Germany with my ex while he was stationed there, in an atmosphere loaded with problems, in an atmosphere of constant fear and threats of violence, with “witch hunts” from the Office of Strategic Security, etc. I can only say: this is real progress from a bureaucracy that makes little progress, and then makes it slowly. The usual business-as-usual from the Pentagon as far as gays and lesbians have been concerned is total secrecy, white-wash all truths, cover up all incidents of murder, harrassment, gay bashing, and other violence and stupdity against us. This simple gesture from the Pentagon won’t solve a lot of problems, but I hope it gives Allen Schindler’s mother some comfort. I don’t think this is going to stop harassment against our people, but at least Obama and his administration have made a real wrinkle on the Pentagon’s thick hides. Perry Brass, author of King of Angels.

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