"In Our Nation’s Best Interest?" – 43 Arrested Across the Country as Gay Youth Confront Discrimination in the Military

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 29, 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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(Minneapolis, MN) — Since the beginning of August, 32 openly gay young people have attempted to enlist in the military as part of the nationwide "Right to Serve" campaign.

All 32 have been denied the opportunity to enlist. Several have been denied the chance to speak with recruiters at all, as military recruitment centers in New York, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, and elsewhere locked their doors in order to avoid confronting the federally-sanctioned discrimination of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

The Right to Serve campaign seeks to ignite a national conversation about the 13-year-old federal policy. In order to draw public attention to the human and security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the rejected recruits are returning to the recruitment centers to hold sit-ins this fall.

According to campaign Co-director Haven Herrin, "Right to Serve is showing America young, physically fit, competent adults who genuinely want to serve their country, but bigotry is barring them from joining the armed forces. We hope people will ask themselves, ‘is this in our nation’s best interest?’"

Thus far, 43 enlistees and community supporters have been arrested at sit-ins in 17 cities.

Three students at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville were the latest Right to Serve campaigners to hold a sit-in. Rachel Miller, who hoped to enlist in the Air Force, made an appointment at a Charlottesville recruitment center on Wednesday. When Miller and other enlistees arrived at the center, she was informed that she did not have an appointment and barred from the recruiting officer’s office. The enlistees and their supporters began a sit-in, which continued on Thursday and resulted in two arrests on trespassing charges.

In coming weeks, the Right to Serve campaign will spread to Tampa, Providence, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Seattle. Eventually, this youth movement will instigate dialogue and reflection in 30 cities nationwide.

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

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