As President Bush Leans on Reservists, Openly Gay Youth Are Denied the Right to Enlist

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 5, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org

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(Madison, WI) — On August 30, three young Americans attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army. When military recruiters abruptly terminated their enlistment process, it brought to eighteen the number of openly gay men and women who have been denied the right to enlist since May of this year.

Earlier in the week, President Bush authorized an involuntary recall of Marine Corps Individual Ready Reservists to cover a shortage of volunteers.

The would-be volunteers in Madison are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a national effort in which gay youth attempt to enlist in order to educate the public about the human, financial, and security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Two of the men who attempted to enlist on August 30 are students at the University of Wisconsin. The third, John Alaniz, is a recent graduate with a degree in genetics and immunopathology. Alaniz has experience working with hazardous materials and an interest in counter-terrorism. All three men took aptitude tests and scored high enough to be eligible for any job in the military.

Madison was the eighth city to join the Right to Serve campaign. Oklahoma City joined on August 23, when two brothers — Michael and Robert Cich — attempted to enlist together. Robert, who is heterosexual, halted his own enlistment process when Michael, who is gay, was denied on the basis of his sexual orientation.

On September 6, the Cich brothers will rally supporters — gay and straight alike — and return for a sit-in at the recruiting station where Michael was rejected.

Several cities in the campaign have already staged sit-ins, and eleven youth leaders have been arrested at sit-ins thus far. The sit-ins are a peaceful means to bring attention to government sanctioned discrimination and to begin a national conversation about ending the unjust compromise of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Also on September 6, Shreveport, Louisiana will join the campaign when Eddie Lopez, a former soldier who served in the army for almost four years, attempts to re-enlist as an openly gay man. If Lopez is denied the right to re-enlist, he and his local supporters will return for a sit-in on September 12.

The Right to Serve campaign is sponsored by Soulforce, a national nonviolent organization dedicated to ending political and religious oppression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

For more information on the Right to Serve campaign, please go to www.righttoserve.org.

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