Joan Darrah, a retired Navy Captain and Unitarian Universalist testified in August at the House Armed Services Committee Hearing about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Below she recounts why she works as an activist to repeal “Don’t’ Ask, Don’t Tell.” Also, check out the story about Joan on the UUA website. In honor of National Coming Out Day, click here to write to Senators McCain and Obama asking them to support bi-sexual, gay, lesbian and transgender rights as President.

The events of Sept 11 caused many of us to stop and reassess our lives, our priorities and our purpose for being. On September 11th I had attended a meeting at the Pentagon which was adjourned at 9:30. At 9:37 when American flight #77 slammed into the Pentagon, I was standing at the Pentagon Bus Stop. The space I had left only 7 minutes earlier was completely destroyed and 7 of my co-workers were killed. If I had been killed, my partner, then of almost 11 years, would have been the last to know as I had not dared to list her in any of my emergency contact information. My close call, made me realize how much of a sacrifice living under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was for me and my partner and ultimately caused me to chose to retire from the Navy one year earlier than I had planned.

I loved the Navy and am very proud of my service and our country but I know we can do better than DADT. DADT is quite simply job discrimination and the only justification for this law is blatant homophobia. There have been numerous studies conducted and there is not one piece of empirical data that supports the statement that gays serving openly would be disruptive to good order and discipline. In fact, 24 countries (including Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel) now allow gays to serve openly with no negative impact. My years of living under DADT and speaking with hundreds of other service members who shared my experience, have convinced me that for the good of our military and our country, this law must be repealed and replaced with a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. I am very pleased that I have been in a position to advocate for repeal and to be a spokesperson for literally thousands of men and women who are forced to serve in silence.

I can’t begin to express how incredibly important it has been to me to have the support of my fellow Mount Vernon Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and also the near unanimous support of the thousands of UUs who attended the 2007 GA. As many of you know, when you are a minority trying to convince the majority that we should all enjoy the same rights and privileges and all be judged on our performance and ability, every now and then there is a tendency to waiver in your determination and question the worthiness of your cause. On July 23rd when I walked into the Congressional hearing room, the knowledge that I had the strong backing of so many UU’s was essential to my being able to maintain my strength and determination.

The good news is that public opinion is changing and a recent ABC poll revealed that 75% of the public supports open service by gays – up from 44% in 1993 when DADT was enacted. However, there is still more work to be done and more Representatives and Senators to be convinced. As UUs who believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, I know you already “get” that DADT is wrong but all of our voices need to be heard in Washington. Please take a few minutes to send your Representative and Senators a quick e-mail or letter expressing your support for repeal of DADT. Thank you so much for your support.

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