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LGBT Pride Month: Celebrating Inclusion

  • Published
  • By Tizana Smith
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Equal Opportunity
Diversity is one of our nation’s greatest attributes. June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month; this is a time to celebrate our diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality.

The dedication and contributions of our LGBT members have had immeasurable impact on National Security and the Department of Defense.

June 2013 was the first year the DOD recognized LGBT Pride Month; it is important to know some of the milestones that led up to LGBT Pride Month being a recognized special observance.

The struggle for civil rights in the LGBT community actually began with courageous individuals like Dr. Frank E. Kameny. He fought for gay rights more than a decade before the Stonewall riots in 1969. Kameny served in World War II, and later as a civil service astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service.

According to the Library of Congress, Kameny was fired and banned from federal employment in 1957 because he was gay. He was one of 10,000 gay and lesbian employees who were forced out of their jobs during the 1950s and 1960s.

Fifty years after he was fired, the U.S. Civil Service Commission issued Kameny a formal apology for being fired solely based on his sexual orientation. Even though he faced a lot of adversity, he stated that all he could say was from the long view, 50 years, we have moved ahead in a way that would have once been absolutely unimaginable.

Some years later Tech. Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich, a Vietnam War veteran, volunteered to serve three combat tours, and later, as a military race relations instructor, purposely outed himself.

This Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient challenged the ban on homosexuals in the military. When his photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, some called him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian service members and the LGBT community.

In 1978 Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag. Baker served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972. After his honorable discharge from the military, he taught himself to sew. The rainbow flag consists of six stripes, with the colors red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (serenity), and violet (spirit). The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as it would be in a natural rainbow. The rainbow flag is a symbol of LGBT pride and social movements, while the colors reflect the diversity of the community.

On June 2, 2000, President Clinton issued Proclamation No. 7316 for the first Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

“This June, recognizing the joys and sorrows that the gay and lesbian movement has witnessed and the work that remains to be done, we observe Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and celebrate the progress we have made in creating a society more inclusive and accepting of gays and lesbians,” the proclamation stated.

June was selected as Pride month to commemorate the events of that month in 1969, known as the Stonewall riot; an event that lasted three days.

On June 1, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Proclamation No. 8387 for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. The President reminded all of the contributions made by LGBT Americans both in promoting equal rights to all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. He ended the proclamation by calling upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

On April 28, 2014, the Pentagon released an update to the DOD Human Goals Charter, which for the first time included language related to sexual orientation in the section dealing with the military. Effective March 27, 2015, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, extended coverage to all legally married same-sex couples to take FMLA leave to provide care for their spouse.

Diversity and inclusion enables America to come together to celebrate our uniqueness and show the rest of the world a picture of unity. Diversity is more than race, gender, and ethnicity; it means diversity of thought, ability, background, language, culture, and skill. Take that time to learn more about other milestones that contributed to the establishment of LGBT Pride Month.