ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The Gay, Lesbian and Supporting Sailors (G.L.A.S.S) association aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) hosted a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month ceremony, June 7.
Pride Month commemorates the events of June 1969 in New York known as the Stonewall riots, which are largely regarded as the beginning of the LGBT rights movement, and works to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for LGBT Americans. The Department of Defense has chosen "Celebration" as the theme for this year's observance.
"Today we acknowledge the painstaking labor of Americans, whose personal sacrifices and determination were instrumental in the struggle for civil rights," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Blanca Arredondo, vice president of Ike's G.L.A.S.S. association. "Together, we celebrate the progress we have made in ensuring equality for all individuals."
The event was the second annual celebration of LGBT Pride month aboard the ship, and included remarks by Capt. Paul C. Spedero Jr., Ike's commanding officer, testimonials, a cake-cutting and a video presentation.
"Throughout our nation's history, even though we began with the best of intentions, we have quite often struggled as a society to fully appreciate what we were fighting to institute and defend," Spedero said. "Prejudice and persecution have been prevalent throughout our nation's history and have encompassed not only a bias based on demographic differences -- such as race, gender and sexual orientation -- but also discrimination based on background, culture, and even thought. Diversity is not just about removing discrimination and other unnecessary barriers. It serves to make our Navy and our military stronger and more representative of the nation we serve."
Members of G.L.A.S.S. spoke about their personal experiences as gay and lesbian Sailors, as well as the difficulties transgender service members still face today.
"Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a Pride event at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.," Seaman Cayla George said. "What I didn't know at the time was that I would witness history. My shipmates and I stood side-by-side and watched as the Secretary of Defense stated that sexual orientation would from that day forward be covered by the equal opportunity policy of all the branches of the military, and that discrimination based on a service member's sexual orientation would not be tolerated."
"Pride isn't about rainbows and glitter, parades or cake," continued George. "Pride is about furthering equality in our community and to be visible for those in the past who had to remain hidden and silent."
Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Amanda Haas told the story of her friend, a female to male transgender Sailor, and the difficult path they walk as a minority currently unable to serve openly according the Department of Defense.
"Transgender people, people who feel their sex assigned at birth does not align with who they really are inside, are banned from the Navy; those who are already in must serve in silence," Haas said. "They live double lives or try to deny themselves a happy, fulfilling life."
Military policy and legislation had previously prohibited gay individuals from serving, and subsequently from serving openly. In turn, a legislative policy was enacted in a 1993 bill that continued the ban under which LGBT individuals were prohibited from serving, but it also prohibited investigation into a member's sexual orientation without suspicion. The new policy was known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and was seen as a compromise between the two political efforts.
The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 created a future pathway to allow the LGBT community to serve in the military. This repeal would only take effect with sufficient certification it would not harm military readiness, followed by a 60-day waiting period. In early 2011, military leaders began issuing training plans for the expected repeal of the ban. A court order on July 6, 2011, required the Pentagon to immediately suspend the ban, which the government complied with. Prohibitions were entirely ended September 2011 after Congress voted to repeal the policy.
The event aboard Ike gave Sailors a chance to show their support for LGBT Pride Month, learn about G.L.A.S.S. and commemorate the progress made towards equality while highlighting the importance of diversity in U.S. military history.
"I'm appreciative of the team that put today's program together in recognition of the dedication and contributions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender members," said Spedero, in closing. "We recognize their continuing contributions even in light of seemingly insurmountable obstacles placed in their path through ignorance and prejudice. The United States Navy and the entire DoD is committed to removing those obstacles and recognizing all for their merit and their devotion to the defense of our nation. And while we recognized the injustice of the past and even the struggle that continues today, we will also celebrate the progress that has been made to ensure a more inclusive and stronger fighting force."
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