All the paperwork has been signed and it’s all official. OutServe and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, two prominent LGBT military policy organizations, have become one.
‘We are enthusiastic about the combination of these two vibrant and effective organizations,’ said retired Navy Captain April Heinze in a statement. ‘Our mission will be to provide the best representation, advocacy, and services for LGBT service members, veterans, and their families and continue the momentum we began toward reaching full LGBT equality in the military with the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" last year.’
Heinze is the co-chair of the board of OutServe-SLDN. The board’s second leader is Josh Seefried, co-founder/director of OutServe.
‘This comes down to mission first, just as it always is in the military,’ said Seefried. ‘This is a great day for both organizations and for the LGBT service members and veterans around the world, who need a strong, unified voice speaking for them at the White House, on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon, and among the American people. What began as a simple effort to tell our stories has grown into something we could never have imagined, and this combination represents the next step in that evolution.’
SLDN was founded in 1993, when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ became the official military policy of the US. The policy barred discrimination of gay troops, but kept military personnel from being out. Since its implementation approximately 14,500 troops have been discharged under DADT.
OutServe started as underground movement for LGBT troops to connect via Facebook. When the Defense Department started to study the possibility of repeal, OutServe was diligent in making sure the stories of those soldiers who couldn’t speak publicly, for fear of being discharged, were heard.
Although DADT repeal was signed by President Barack Obama, OutServe-SLDN still has work to do on equal recognition, support, and benefits for all military families. The organization will also assist those with a ‘homosexual’ discharge record to reflect the honorable service of all dismissed for their sexual orientation during the DADT era and before.
On 25 Oct. Allyson Robinson, a West Point graduate, was named as OutServe-SLDN’s new executive director.