NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- One of the founding ideologies of our nation speaks on equality.
The second line of the Declaration of Independence reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
To support that, the Navy is committed to ensuring that all those who are willing and able to serve have an equal opportunity to do so, and will not be prohibited from advancing in the force because of their race, sex, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month was initially established as "Gay and Lesbian Month" by President Bill Clinton in 2000. LGBT Pride Month recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to the military and civilian sectors; the Department of Defense (DoD) began observing LGBT Pride Month in 2012.
"I think it's important for the Navy to observe LGBT Pride Month because it lets others know that they are accepted, and no matter what, it's ok to be who you are," said Fire Controlman Seaman Ashley Miranda, a Sailor assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). "There are so many people who might be hiding the fact that they're part of the LGBT community for the fear of being ridiculed, but the recognition that the community gets throughout the Navy might just give them the courage they need to tell just one person who might open new doors for them."
As part of the One Navy Team, the LGBT community contributes its diverse talents, skills, and perspectives to increase the strength of the force.
"It is important that our workforce treats people equally because we are each other's lifeline," said Yeoman 2nd Class Jacob Tate, a Sailor assigned to George Washington. "In order to be an efficient team, we have to give each other the equal amount of respect and opportunity. If people are not treated equally, they do not feel like a valued member of the team. There are circumstances where we have to rely on each other. When everyone is treated equally it fosters a climate where everyone is able to work as a team and accomplish the task at hand."
By fostering a culture of inclusivity, the Navy strives to provide a workplace free of discrimination, enabling all Sailors and civilians to focus on contributing the full extent of their talents and abilities to the Navy team.
"I feel like there is still room for improvement," said Tate. "Some people can still be pretty close-minded, but overall I feel that the acceptance of those with different sexual orientations has gotten better. I can be myself. It's been about seven years since the repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell), and I think things are moving at a pace of what can be expected in that amount of time. I realize that change takes time and not everyone agrees with the repeal of DADT or the idea of having LGBT Sailors in their ranks, but as long as their opinions don't enable them to treat me or others differently or disrespect my existence, their acceptance of me isn't my problem."
'Don't Ask Don't Tell' was the official policy on military service by the LGBT community from 1994 to 2011. DADT prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing individuals who hadn't openly come out as being gay, lesbian or transgender, while barring those who were openly a part of the LGBT community from military service. The repeal of this policy garnered mixed reactions throughout the military.
"I think it's amazing that it was repealed," said Miranda. "It opened doors for so many people to do something that they've wanted to do. The policy scared so many people away from joining the military because they weren't necessarily accepted. They would have shut themselves back into a closet that they had worked so hard to get out of."
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.