Friday was a very busy news day for Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, both locally and in Washington. Developments have been unfolding almost by the hour.
Friday, the members of Roanoke Equality along with Rev. Joe Cobb of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge and Terry McGuire of Human Rights Campaign met with Martin Mash, Field Representative for Senator Jim Webb, in an effort to urge Senator Webb to commit to moving forward on full implementation of repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Among those in our group were three gay veterans who shared their very moving stories living in fear of exposure while trying to serve their country, a fear that all of them agreed, kept them being able to fully focus on their jobs and giving their best to their country.
Also among our vets was a straight ally in the fight for equality who helped drive home the point that for most straight service members, the sexual orientation of the soldier beside them is less important than that soldier's ability to do his/her job.
Rev. Joe Cobb spoke compared being called to serve your country with being called to serve God and how crushing it is to be faced with rejection and discrimination in both.
Our group spoke with Senator Webb's field representative, Martin Mash for about 40 minutes. Mash promised to relay our message to the senator. We all left the meeting feeling very good about our first lobbying effort and cautiously optimistic about the outcome.
By the end of the day Friday, however news broke about a letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff urging congress to wait until after the Pentagon study to be completed and analyzed before taking action on DADT, which would in push back repeal until 2013:
As we discussed with Martin Mash on Friday, with the mid-term elections coming this Fall, the political landscape could be very different from what we see today, resulting in a more conservative environment for many years to come. The window of opportunity is closing fast. If repeal of this discriminatory policy is to happen, it must happen this year.