UW students protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” downtown

Rally-goers at a gathering partially organized by the University of Washington’s Students Organizing for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transsexual (LGBT) Equality (SOLE) called for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy Saturday.

The rally at Westlake Plaza brought together about 50 advocates from the area, including a few UW students and community groups such as the International Socialist Organization and Radical Women. The rally was peaceful, and a group of three Seattle police officers left only a couple of minutes into the festivities.

Speakers included Dave Freiboth, the executive secretary of the King County Labor Council, slam poet Ela Barton, and a woman who was dismissed from AmeriCorps after her peers revealed she was a lesbian. The event was hosted in part by UW sophomore and ASUW Committee Organizing Rape Education member Emily Juhre.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a particularly touchy issue for LGBT advocates right now, after President Barack Obama vowed at his State of the Union Address in January to “work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”

Julz Carey, a retired chief boatswain from the U.S. Coast Guard and the current National Vice President of the American Veterans for Equal Rights organization, spoke at the event about the importance of pressuring politicians to end the military’s discriminatory practice.

Carey said it’s important for people to urge their representatives to pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would replace “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with a policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation.

She also advocated voting for Democrats in the upcoming elections.

“If we lose the number of Democrats we have right now in Congress, then it is likely that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ won’t be repealed for another 10 to 12 years,” Carey said. “In the last 13 years, there have been more than 14,000 discharges. Are we ready for 14,000 more discharges?”

Freiboth added to the discontent by saying that of the 26 North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, 22 of them have non-discrimination policies in the military. and the United States and China are the only countries with discriminatory practices on the United Nations Security Council.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Speakers also touched on non-military employment discrimination, advocating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would prohibit discrimination against employees because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The event was held on Harvey Milk Day, a celebration of the first openly gay elected official in California’s history, in solidarity with other protests around the country.

“The Employment Non-Discrimination Act and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ aren’t just pieces of legislation in Washington, D.C.,” Juhre said. “They are real, they are here, and they affect us here in Seattle.”

Reach columnist William Dow at news@dailyuw.com.

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