Right to Serve Activists Arrested as Campaign to End 蔘�on蔘サt Ask, Don蔘サt Tell蔘 Spreads Across the Nation

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 15, 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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(Chicago, IL; Norman, OK; Shreveport, LA) — Young, gay Americans were arrested or detained across the nation this week as they continued their efforts to end "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The youth are part of the Right to Serve campaign, which aims to educate the public about the costs of federally sanctioned discrimination. To achieve this end, openly gay young people in 30 cities are attempting to enlist without hiding their sexual orientation.

In Shreveport, Louisiana, Rachel Powell and Eddie Lopez attempted to enlist in the Marines on September 6, but were turned away for being open about their sexual orientations. This Tuesday, the two returned to the recruiting station to hold a sit-in, but found the doors locked. Eventually, Powell, Lopez, and a supporter were able to enter the station through an unguarded door. All three were arrested for trespassing.

In Chicago, Illinois, Kelsey Pacha and Rob Fotjik also found the doors to a recruiting station closed to gay Americans. Pacha and Fotjik, both students at Northwestern University, attempted to enlist in the Army Reserves on August 22. After being denied the opportunity to enlist because they are openly gay, they returned with supporters to hold a sit-in on Tuesday morning, but the doors were blocked by Chicago police officers.

On Wednesday, Fotjik and Pacha returned to the recruiting office and were able to enter without difficulty. The youth sat on the floor in peaceful protest for about thirty minutes before police handcuffed them, put them in a squad car, and transported them to a police station. They were released without charges.

Also on Wednesday in Norman, Oklahoma, Nicole Rawls attempted to enlist in the Army as an open lesbian. When she was rejected, Rawls and supporters commenced a sit-in, indicating that they would not leave without police intervention. When police arrived, they removed the young activists from the building but did not arrest them.

Each of these young adults genuinely wants to serve in the nation’s military. Until they can serve with openness and dignity, the Right to Serve campaign is an opportunity to educate the public about a federal policy that has cost American taxpayers an estimated $364 million and resulted in the discharge of at least 11,000 servicemembers, including 800 in highly critical jobs.

In an effort to promote national dialogue and reflection on "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," next week the Right to Serve sit-ins will spread to four more cities, including Austin on Tuesday, New York and Phoenix on Wednesday, and Greensboro, North Carolina on Thursday. In New York City, potential enlistees will be joined by supporters for a high-visibility action in Times Square.

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

For more information: www.righttoserve.org.

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