Military Recruiters Lock The Doors on Gay Americans

******************************************
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 25, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacob Reitan, 952-212-8311, jake@soulforce.org
Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
******************************************

Last Tuesday, when Rebecca Solomon and Jesus Sanchez approached an Army recruitment station in Austin, Texas, they found the doors locked at mid-morning. That same day, Meg Sneed came to a recruiting center in Phoenix with the intention of enlisting in the Coast Guard, but found the office locked and dark. And on Wednesday, three more potential recruits traveled to the Armed Forces Recruitment Center in Times Square — reportedly the busiest recruitment center in the country — only to find the center empty and the doors locked for the duration of the day.

These would-be recruits are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a coordinated effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze national discussion about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The campaign comes at a pivotal moment, as military recruiters have eased standards in order to admit some recruits without high school diplomas and even some with criminal records. Since the beginning of the summer, twenty-five openly gay Americans have attempted to enlist as part of the Right to Serve Campaign. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Last week marked a turning point in the campaign, as recruiting offices across the country closed their doors rather than offer recruiting interviews to openly gay youth.

In New York, the Armed Forces Recruitment Center, which is normally open every day of the year, was closed without warning. When Right to Serve campaigners Curt Peterson, Kamal Davis, and Rhonda Davis found the center empty, they held an all-day vigil and sit-in outside the center. They were joined by more than eighty supporters from nearby schools and colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that their scheduled appointments had been cancelled without notice.

In Austin, Solomon and Sanchez had both attempted to enlist in recent weeks, but were turned away because of sexual orientation. They returned to the recruiting center with the intent of holding a sit-in with their supporters. Although the doors were locked, recruiters were plainly visible inside the office, and Sanchez and Solomon were able to slip inside when one of the recruiters exited. After a brief sit-in, Solomon and Sanchez were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.

Greensboro, North Carolina was the only city where openly gay youth were given the opportunity to sit down with recruiters last week. Four young men and women began the interview process, but the interviews were terminated when the enlistees revealed their sexual orientations. The enlistees were promptly joined by community supporters, and they commenced a sit-in inside the recruitment center. The four recruits and supporters were arrested and removed from the center in handcuffs.

In Phoenix, Meg Sneed — an out lesbian with a longstanding dream of joining the Coast Guard — will return to the recruiting center another day to try to enlist again.

Throughout this week, Right to Serve campaigners will keep "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" in the public eye with attempted enlistments in Washington, D.C., and Spokane, Washington, on Tuesday and Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday. In addition, enlistees who have already been denied the Right to Serve in Madison, Wisconsin, and Charlottesville, Virginia, will gather supporters for sit-ins at military recruitment centers.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>