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‘Widening freedom, not deepening discrimination’: U.S. military celebrates Pride Month

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This month is the 12th annual Pride Month in the United States and the nation is acknowledging members of the LGBTQ+ community who have served.

According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the ranks of the U.S. military must remain open to all qualified personnel for the nation to win wars.

“Their proud service adds to America’s strength. Their contributions to our national security are powerful. Members of this community have deployed to combat zones around the globe, held high-ranking positions in the Pentagon, and fought and died alongside their teammates,” Austin said.

Austin said that militaries devoid of the best possible talent “put themselves at a strategic disadvantage. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to our weighty task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills, the guts and the devotion to serve in uniform. I believe that the story of America should be one of widening freedom, not deepening discrimination.”

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on May 31 that June is Pride Month. HE said the U.S. is stronger and more when its leaders reflect the full diversity of the nation.

“Pride is a celebration of generations of LGBTQ+ people who have fought bravely to live openly and authentically. And it is a reminder that we still have generational work to do to ensure that everyone enjoys the full promise of equity, dignity, protection and freedom,” he said.

The Pentagon hosted a Pride Month event with speakers, including Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and DOD’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, today. He stressed the importance of unwavering support to the LGBTQ+ community.

“LGBTQ+ and other diverse communities are under attack just because they are different: Hate for hate’s sake. But we must stick together and we must be prepared to confront any such challenge directly,” Cisneros said.

After the Department of Defense’s enactment of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in 1993, servicemembers who were part of the LGBTQ+ community demonstrated resilience, but lived and served in limbo. Servicemembers who chose to be openly gay could be discharged. The policy ended in 2010.

“The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell opened the doors for the LGBTQ+ individuals to serve openly as their true, authentic selves. The challenges still remain: prejudice, discrimination and harassment based upon sexual orientation and gender,” Cisneros said.

The DOD is using feedback from LGBTQ+ service members and civilians to make evidence-based decisions on policies, programs and procedures.

“The diversity within the department undeniably capitalizes on one of our nation’s greatest assets: its people. It is critical that those who serve reflect the rich tapestry of our country and embody the very best qualities of our citizens,” he said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.