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Pride President Jesse Lopez on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Jesse Lopez
Jesse Lopez

This morning, President Obama signed the repeal measure into law. Watch White House video of the signing ceremony here.

I caught up with Jesse Lopez, who took over as president of Albuquerque Pride this year, via e-mail.

What were you doing when you heard the news? Were you surprised?

I was on the treadmill at Sports and Wellness when a reporter called and asked if we could do an interview. Reluctant, I said "why?" She said, "Turn it to CNN and call me back." I did, and wow, in that moment, I, and so many other Americans, witnessed history.

In all reality the U.S. Congress is ending a lame duck session. President Obama had just compromised some of his beliefs with the Republican Party when it came to the Bush tax cuts, so yes I was surprised. So this so-called lame duck session gave the GLBT community a step forward and an amazing Christmas gift. It was a proud moment for us all!

What's the first thing you did?

Cried. After working so hard, with so many, for so many years, standing up to bigotry and hate, after enduring years of being called a sinner, immoral or a faggot, finally a VICTORY. I immediately called up members of the Pride Board to share the news, I then called up the local Veterans for Equal Rights Chapter to salute and send a huge congratulations. Then the work began.

It was important to get the message out that Don't Ask Don't Tell has affected many New Mexicans. So we assembled the team, and by 3 p.m. scheduled a press conference and a victory party.

How did Pride interact with this issue in 2010?

Albuquerque Pride has U.S. veterans on the board of directors, and has worked with the American Veterans for Equal Rights chapter on making sure they have a strong presence at Pride events. It is always a goal to educate, and create an atmosphere where everyone is welcomed and accepted. Because of that, AVER led the 2010 Pride Parade to bring more attention and awareness to the DADT policy. Many of the board members personally lobbied the congressional delegation, made phone calls and wrote letters to both parties.

What does the repeal mean culturally?

There are moments that define a generation. Stonewall defined the start of the GLBT movement in America, it sparked the first Pride events and parades across the country. In the late '70s early '80s the HIV/Aids epidemic hit, and hit the gay community the hardest. At the time the government would not come out and call it a sexually transmitted disease. Hundreds if not thousands of our community were dying and at an alarming rate. The community rallied together, cried together, and fought together. In 1993, President Bill Clinton passed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which at the time was looked at as being progressive.

Now here we are a new generation. Saturday, Dec. 18this day will be remembered in history as the day the GLBT community has the right to serve and defend the United States of America with honor and, most off all, dignity. This generation now has something they can say they lived through and fought for, and lived to tell the story.

What does it mean to you personally?

I grew up in a very patriotic, conservative family, with a love for my country being ingrained in me since childhood. There was a point in my life where I too wanted to enlist and have the opportunity to fight and defend my rights as an American. At the time I had to ask myself, Do we really have equality? Are we truly one nation under God if I as an American would deny who I am, and live in fear that I could be discharged?

To ask someone to deny who and what they are is flat out wrong. Some would argue "well then everything goes, and what’s next on the moral level?" Giving the GLBT community the right to defend and serve our country is not immoral, nor is it an attack on religion. This is an issue of equality, and I see this as move forward in the right direction. I love my country, and in the near future I will have the opportunity to enlist and serve proudly. God has blessed this great country, and I look at this for me personally as a huge blessing!

What are your concerns about the repeal?

I fear for those that are currently serving in the military that have yet to come out and what repercussions directly and or indirectly may come of it. Will there be an influx of gay bashing at first? And will it be tolerated, simply hiding it "under the rug"?

Do you think LGBT issues will be harder to push for with a more Republican Congress next year?

In a utopian society we would not see people as straight or gay, rather, simply as people. This should be a nonpartisan issue; however, we do not live in a utopia. We live in a world where some chose to classify others as immoral, using their own religious beliefs to make a statement or to vote on policies that completely demoralize, reject and discriminate against a group of people. Will things change? Of course, but will the GLBT community rise to the occasion to make their voices heard? Well there is no better time than now. We must keep the momentum moving. And together, united, we WILL!

news

The Daily Word 12.22.10: DADT signed, WTF, Lakers

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news

Lt. Col. Steve Loomis on DADT’s repeal

Lt. Col. Steve Loomis (second from right) stands with his platoon in Vietnam in 1970.
Courtesey of Lt. Col. Steve Loomis
Lt. Col. Steve Loomis (second from right) stands with his platoon in Vietnam in 1970.

Saturday morning, retired Lt. Col. Steve Loomis woke up, put on his sweatsuit and sat down in front of the TV. He tuned into C-SPAN, though he's not a regular viewer of the channel. "It's got to be one of the most boring things I've ever seen," Loomis says. He was waiting for the U.S. Senate to vote on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

"The vote happened, and I damn near cried,” he says.

His phone started ringing. Friends, and fellow vets from across the country began calling to celebrate.

Loomis was discharged from the military five days before he was eligible for retirement after after 30 years in the service and the Reserve. A 1997 arson investigation at his home dug up evidence that Loomis is gay. (More of that story here).

But on Saturday, Dec. 18, a law that caused the end of 14,000 service members’ careers was finally repealed. That afternoon, the state's chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights held it's annual Christmas party. It's usually a small affair, 10 or 15 local gay vets. This year, Loomis' home was populated with scores of thrilled activistsand media outlets looking for a quote or two.

There was a time when the LGBT community was not that visible, he says. Loomis has watched an awareness make its way into mainstream society. "People began to understand that this wasn't a bunch of flighty ogres out of some San Francisco pride parade that conservatives imagine. This was real people. This was your brother, your mother, your father, your sister, your nephew, your friends, your coworker." More than a decade ago, people began telling their stories, and LGBT veterans began making themselves known. It's been a long fight, says Loomis. But in 2010, "people see they can serve, they do serve and finally, that they will serve."

It’s a major step toward full equality, he says. "When you as an individual or the group that you belong to serves and defends your country, then you should and will eventually have all the rights of citizenship. That will apply to gays in the military also."

He'd like to warnas he has every time a DADT repeal advancedthat it's not yet time for military members to come out. "Until the policy is announced and some sort of schedule for the implementation of the policy is announced, no one should consider coming out publicly." Once it has been made part of regulations, Loomis says it'll become a matter of enforcing those standards. "It's the responsibility of the chain of command. We may have to keep a close eye on leadership who don't fully implement the policy."

The Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books, Loomis points out, and this will likely prevent the military from offering benefits and rights to same-sex spouses. "It will be interesting to see how those issues focus each other."

Though the repeal finally happened, Loomis still hasn't figured out what it means to him. "OK, it's not as important to me as it might be to someone currently serving. But once you've served, you become brothers and sisters in arms. And you can't forget them. Those young men and women that are in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve every right to serveas well as gays that served clear back in Valley Forge.”

news

The Daily Word 12.09.10: Gov. Richardson, Slim Thug, Oprah

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news

70 percent of the military is cool with ending DADT

This afternoon, the Pentagon released a study showing that most servicemembers are fine with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. About 70 percent of the military said repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would have a positive effect, a mixed effect or no effect at all.

A poll earlier this month revealed that 58 percent of Americans support an end to the rule, too. President Obama says, “With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all.”

Sen. John McCain and other top Republicans say the report is flawed.

The Alibi spoke with Lt. Col. Steve Loomis about this issue earlier in November. He offered suggestions for how the change should be implemented. Earlier this year, we spoke with New Mexico’s congressmen about their positions on the matter.

News

N.M.’s Congressmen on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Jeff Drew

For 17 years, openly gay, lesbian or bisexual men and women have been barred from serving in the military. On Thursday, May 27, the House of Representatives passed a defense bill that included a repeal of that policy. The Senate Armed Services Committee followed suit the same day.

The Alibi contacted New Mexico’s five congressmen to get their views on the issue.

V.19 No.23 | 6/10/2010
Jeff Drew

Talking Points

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

It's been in effect for 17 years. Openly gay, lesbian or bisexual men and women can't serve in the armed forces. Specifically, they’re barred from showing a tendency toward homosexual acts. The policy also prevents the military from rooting out those hiding their sexual preferences. Still, estimates suggest as many as 13,000 people have been discharged, and thousands more decided not to re-enlist because of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

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