LGBT Pride Month

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Joshua Gifford and Senior Airman Austin Beaty
  • 341st Missile Wing
One of the greatest aspects of the United States military is that people of all different beliefs, races, religions, et cetera, can come together to support and defend the constitution.  Our military is not made up of just one type of people, but of all the people who live in our great nation.  For too long, many people of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community were forced to hide who they were.  It may be hard to imagine, but women weren't allowed to serve in the military until 1948.  The Korean War is the first war in our nation's history that was fought without segregation based on race.  Today, the ideas of segregation and gender discrimination seem ridiculous.  Yet, even into the 21st century, our nation continued to deny and prosecute LGBT service members. recently ran a story about being gay in the military before 2011.  During the early half of the 1900s, gay military members' careers could end in a dishonorable discharge.  Many states recognized a dishonorable discharge as equivalent to a felony, meaning that a service member's sexuality took away their right to vote, loss of education and veteran's benefits, and no burial rights at military cemeteries.  In 1953, Executive Order 10450 was signed by President Dwight Eisenhower. This executive order barred homosexuals from serving in any federal employment.  In Congress, Senator Joe McCarthy claimed that homosexuals were a national security threat, due to a LGBT member possibly being extorted to hide their sexuality.  This belief continued up until 2011, with thousands of LGBT members being forced out of military service.   

Between World War II and 2011, it is estimated that 114,000 LGBT service members were dismissed from the military, even as our nation needed troops to fight in Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.  Finally, in 2011, the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell" was overturned and the Uniform Code of Military Justice was updated to allow lesbian, gay and bisexuals military members to serve.
The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is important because LGBT service members have long been providing leadership in our armed forces.  The Air Force is the first branch to promote an openly serving lesbian, Patricia 'Trish' Rose, to major general.  But that isn't the only rank with a LGBT leader. Today, LGBT service members are proudly serving and leading in all ranks.  

LGBT veterans are leading as well.  Many political and legal changes that have occurred in the past ten years are due to the tireless efforts of LGBT veterans. Today, the Veterans Health Administration now has a special branch devoted to same-sex and transgender health issues.  These leaders are also pushing for benefits to be treated the same regardless if it is a same-sex family or other military family.  Finally, there is a push to ensure that people who were previously kicked out for being LGBT have their records changed.  Dishonorable discharges continue to damage the lives of many of these veterans. 

As America changes, so does the armed forces.  Everyone in uniform deserves respect.  We all agreed to defend our nation with our life, if necessary. Regardless of our skin color, gender, religion, and now sexual orientation, we all proudly serve and work hard every day. The month of June is a time to recognize the sacrifice and hardship the LGBT community has faced and the continued leadership and service they provide.