As CNN reports that American casualties in the war in Iraq have reached 2000, statistician Gary Gates estimated yesterday that more than 25 of those killed were gay or lesbian. More than 65,000 lesbian and gay Americans are on active duty and serving in the National Guard and reserves, according to an earlier estimate by Gates.
“Lesbian and gay soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq, too,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “Because of the muzzle placed on the 65,000 gay service members now reporting for duty, the stories of those wounded and killed often go untold. There is no doubt, however, that the LGBT community has served and sacrificed in Iraq, just as they have in every American conflict since the American Revolution.”
“We’ve lost some of our nation’s finest men and women in the war on terror,” President Bush said yesterday. “Each of these men and women left grieving families and left loved ones back home. Each of these patriots left a legacy that allowed generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty.”
“Those finest men and women of our nation,” said Osburn, “include gay and lesbian troops. Their families and loved ones, however, are left to grieve alone, without recognition from our government or our military. Every patriot, gay and straight, leaves a mark on the history through their service to our country. The blessings of liberty must include the right to serve openly without fear of retribution from the United States government.”
Since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003, more than 15,000 American service members have been wounded in the conflict, according to the Defense Department. More than 150 of those wounded, according estimates released yesterday, have been gay or lesbian. Earlier this year, Robert Stout, a Purple Heart recipient wounded in Iraq, came out in an Associated Press interview.
According to a CNN tally, 2,194 coalition troops have died in the war.
In the USA, it is still illegal to be a gay member of the armed forces.