Freedom to Marry participates in historic OutServe Summit

This past weekend in Las Vegas, NV, over 200 LGBT active duty service members, veterans, allies, and family members participated in the first-ever OutServe Summit. This is the first time after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly, LGBT service members could come together and discuss common issues and concerns, and support each other in the new post-DADT environment.

In addition to being Freedom to Marry’s Development Director, I am also a six-year veteran of the US Air Force. At the OutServe, I participated in a panel discussion titled “Servicemembers and the Freedom to Marry.” Other panelists included Arisha Hatch of the Courage Campaign, Fred Sainz of HRC and Aubrey Sarvis of SLDN. The panel was moderated by West Point graduate and former Army Captain, Jonathan Hopkins. The panel engaged participants in a lively discussion that included a history of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), current repeal efforts in the states, courts, and at the Federal level, and ways in which servicemembers can help advocate for the repeal of DOMA.

Repealing DOMA is vitally important to servicemembers as without federal recognition, their families do not have access the vital benefits and supportive services that families of heterosexual servicemembers enjoy. These benefits include health insurance, housing survivor benefits, relocation, and a host of other important resources intended to support military families, especially while a servicemember is deployed. 

Other panels at the summit included sessions on military partner and family benefits, being “out” as a military leader, integration of open service by foreign allies, and transgender service. The OutServe national dinner, held on Saturday, featured Jeff and Lori Wolfhart who’s son Andrew was gay and killed in action in Afghanistan, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Doug Wilson, the highest ranking openly gay civilian leader at the Pentagon. 

To learn more about Freedom to Marry’s efforts to overturn DOMA, click here.