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Courage and Integrity in Contrast to Cowardice and Corruption

Posted by libhom Friday, June 27, 2008

The majority of Senate Democrats voted against a filibuster of a FISA bill primarily designed to green light wiretapping domestic political opponents of the executive branch. This presents us with a terrible example of political cowardice and the ability of the telecoms to buy politicians with campaign contributions. Seeing this reprehensible behavior was starkly in contrast to a recent press release by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) urging us to remember Leonard Matlovitch. Matlovitch came out in the military all the way back in 1975. Matlovitch's life reminds us of who people really should be and how far from it the scumbag politicians in Washington, DC really are. Here's the text of the press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2008
1:07 PM

Remembering Leonard Matlovitch

WASHINGTON, DC - June 20 - Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) marks the 20th anniversary of the death of retired Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich by renewing its call for the elimination of the ban on military service by gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans. Matlovich was the first servicemember to take the U.S. military to court over the ban, and one of the most famous gay people of his era.

SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said, “Leonard Matlovich’s extraordinary courage in a time when gays and lesbians faced extreme prejudice is an example for us all. He was a brave pioneer and set off a struggle that we can finally envision winning. The debt that gay veterans—and the entire gay community—owe to Sergeant Matlovich cannot be overstated.”

Matlovich (1943-1988) was the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during three tours of duty in Vietnam. Angered by the ban, he purposely declared his homosexuality in a 1975 letter to Air Force Secretary John McLucas and fought to remain in the military. Sergeant Matlovich’s case won widespread media attention. On September 8, 1975, Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time magazine

After losing his bid to remain in the Air Force through their administrative proceedings, a US District Court judge ordered Matlovich reinstated with back pay. After more litigation, Matlovich eventually accepted a financial settlement and an upgrade to honorable discharge. He continued his tireless efforts for gay equality in the civilian sector. Matlovich announced he had AIDS during an interview with Charlie Gibson on “Good Morning America” in 1987. He died on June 22, 1988, just two weeks before his 45th birthday.

Even in death, Matlovich remains an important figure in the gay community. His tombstone in Washington, DC’s Congressional Cemetery, where additional gay veterans have since chosen to be buried, reads "When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one." Matlovich’s military career and lawsuit are documented in the Out Ranks exhibit currently on display at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. Installation of a memorial plaque on the site of Matlovich’s former San Francisco residence in the Castro neighborhood is planned for later this year.

“In Leonard’s memory, and in the honor of all gay veterans and servicemembers, we must redouble our efforts to overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Sarvis.

Statistician Gary Gates of the Williams Institute at UCLA estimates that there are currently 65,000 gays serving in the armed forces.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and related forms of intolerance. For more information, visit www.sldn.org.

 

2 comments

  1. Pagan Sphinx Says:
  2. I didn't know about Sergeant Matlovich. Thanks for adding to our knowledge and awareness.

     
  3. Christopher Says:
  4. Has it really been 20 years since Matlovich passed away?

    Time has a way of getting away from each of us.

    In some ways, little has changed in how gay and lesbian soldiers are treated by this homophobic nation.

    I wonder what Matlovich would've thought about DADT?

     

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