I was honored and at times moved to tears to sit with so many activists and patriots as President Obama signed the repeal of DADT. The audience was comprised of those who fought to support the brave Americans who have served and been dismissed or who are now serving their country. We honor those that came before who fought and died while being forced to lie about who they were.
There was thunderous applause for Eric Alva, a gay Marine who bravely fought and was the first Marine injured in Iraq as he was introduced by the president and honored for his valor and his work to make this day happen. There were standing ovations for Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and for Rep. Patrick Murphy and Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins. The president thanked gay Rep. Barney Frank for his work and in essence for his long crusade in Congress to bring equality to our community.
There was great emotion in the eyes of many of those who greeted Dan Choi, sitting in the audience, as they thanked him for challenging the White House to reach this day. There was Clarke Cooper of Log Cabin Republicans who after the ceremony shook the hand of the president and was thanked for his work in bringing some Republicans along on this bill. I spoke to Joe Solmonese who has taken more than his share of slings and arrows during this fight but who could stand tall today as president of HRC. It was a victory for him and the organization. It proves once again that we need everyone and that those who fight on the inside like HRC are crucial to our success.
There were so many others there and some who because of flight arrangements couldn’t be there. Those like John Berry, head of OPM, who has worked so hard, often behind the scenes, to bring this day about.
I saw Darlene Nipper and Stacy Long from NGLTF, and staff from GetEqual who will continue to be part of our fight for equality. So many sought out and thanked Aubrey Sarvis who we all have to honor for his service to our nation and the long and hard fight through SLDN to make this day a reality. There were White House staffers like Brian Bond who has had to often take the brunt of criticism from our community as he fought on the inside to make this day a reality.
Today was the day to say thanks. Thanks to a president who kept his promise to our community. Thanks to members of Congress like Tammy Baldwin and Jerry Nadler and so many others who have stood with our community when things seemed bleak.
When you sit with so many amazing people and a president who supports you, the future looks bright. Let us move into the New Year with a feeling that there is hope and that more change can come.