About 20 people gathered at the Western North Carolina Veterans Memorial in downtown Asheville this afternoon, Nov. 11, to honor LGBT vets who have served in silence or been discharged under the military’s don’t ask don’t tell policy. The event was organized by Angel Chandler of GetEQUAL and featured speeches by her as well as 17-year army veteran Alyce Knaflich and Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell.
“If people are willing to die for their country, why should we care who they sleep with,” said Chandler, before going on to urge elected leaders to repeal the military policy that bars openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from service. “We need to make homophobia unacceptable.”
Knaflich explained that throughout her entire career, from 1975-1992, “we were always worried about getting caught. … The military would plant undercover agents to try to get you to talk. … We were hunted like moles by wild dogs. …
“When transport comes from Ramstein Air Base in Germany carrying our latest war dead, the U.S. flag is draped over each casket,” she continued. “And can you tell me which coffin contains a black service member, a woman service member, a Jewish service member, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer? I don’t think so.”
Bothwell added that he hopes congress will follow the lead of polls that show the majority of the public favors changing the law and repeal it before the Republicans take over the House in January.
“Because of the marriage laws in this country, the benefits that are due to the families of [LGBT] veterans don’t pass on to their loved ones in the same way that they do to straight couples. So it’s like insult to injury,” he explained. “I would say that the laws are changing, attitudes are changing – certainly the electorate is far ahead of the elected officials in this country in polls – they want to get rid of don’t ask don’t tell.”
The event ended with a moment of silence that Chandler said was “for all the service members serving overseas, whether they be straight, gay, bisexual, whatever.”