Army Brigadier General Keith H. Kerr, Army Colonel Stewart Bornhoft, Navy Captain Joan E. Darrah (all retired) and five other former military officers will speak out against the US military’s anti-gay ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy at a programme benefiting the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN) in Chicago next month.

General Kerr was one of three senior military officers – two generals and an admiral – to “come out” in the New York Times in December 2003.

They wanted to help boost awareness of the negative impact of the military’s anti-gay policies.

Their story has helped increase pressure upon the military and Congress to abandon the decade-old policy.

The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy makes the United States Military the only employer in America which must, by law, fire someone because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

More than 11,000 service members have been discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ including dozens of Arabic linguists and hundreds of people with skills for which the military is experiencing critical shortages.

The policy has cost over $360 million (£180m) in tax payer funds between 1994 and 2003.

“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ prohibits and discourages loyal Americans who want to serve their country from doing so,” General Kerr said.

“Americans who are interested in serving their country should be given the opportunity to do so.”

General Kerr (retired) entered the military as a Private in 1953 and retired as a Brigadier General in June of 1996 after 43 years of service to his country.

“In theory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ allows lesbians and gay men to serve if they keep quiet about their sex lives,” said Jean Albright, a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and member of the SLDN Advisory Board.

“In practice it forces them to lie, undermines trust, and is an insult to those who are willing and able to serve.

“The policy ruins lives and careers and undermines military readiness at a time when even the most conservative know that we need all hands on deck.”

Colonel Bornhoft is a former commander in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Captain Darrah served in the office of the Director of Naval Intelligence.

All are members of the SLDN Advisory Board.

Joining Kerr, Bornhoft and Darrah at the programme will be:

Capt. Robert Dockendorff, U.S. Navy (retired) is a Vietnam veteran who was stationed on the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War.

Capt. Sandy Geiselman, U.S. Navy (retired) served as White House liaison to the Secretary of the Navy.

Col. E.A. Leonard, U.S. Army (retired) was an intelligence officer with the infantry, special forces, parachute, and foreign language training. He is a Vietnam veteran.

Chief Master Sgt. David Lee Gainer, U.S. Air Force (retired) was a combat crew member at NORAD Cheyenne Mountain and served at the Air Force Military Personnel Center.

Chief Petty Officer Vince Patton, U.S. Coast Guard (retired) served as the Eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard.

“These officers represent the best of our nation’s military,” said Sgt. Albright. “They are courageous men and women whose love of freedom prompt them to speak out for fairness and equality.”

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