February 4, 2016 at 4:21 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
OutServe-SLDN names new executive director
Matt Thorn, gay news, Washington Blade

Matt Thorn (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

An LGBT military group that played a key role in repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has named a new executive director to take the helm of the organization.

OutServe-SLDN announced on Thursday in a statement Matthew Thorn, who has been leading group on an interim basis since February 2015, would take over as executive director.

John Gillespie, board co-chair of OutServe-SLDN, said the organization has seen “substantive forward progress” on key initiatives during the time Thorn served as interim executive director.

“His demonstrated track record in advocacy, social activism, and nonprofit management has and will continue to serve OutServe-SLDN well,” Gillespie said. “The board is confident that Matt will continue to achieve great things in the role of executive director.”

In his tenure as executive director, Thorn has spoken out in favor of confirmation of openly gay Army secretary nominee Eric Fanning, openly transgender military service and passage in Congress of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which would ease the process at the Pentagon for upgrading dishonorable discharges for troops expelled for being gay under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

OutServe-SLDN was largely defunct due to financial woes following the departure of former executive director Allyson Robinson, but has steadily regained activity leading up to the naming of Thorn as head of the organization.

A number of LGBT advocates heaped praise on Thorn upon news he would become executive director of OutServe-SLDN. Among them was gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who commended Thorn for his work on the Restore Honor to Service Members Act.

“Outserve-SLDN has been an invaluable partner in working to promote the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, and Matt’s leadership in the organization gives me confidence that we will continue making progress to ensure all veterans receive the recognition and benefits they deserve,” Pocan said. “I look forward to working with Matt in his new role as we fight to improve the lives of LGBT military personnel and veterans.”

Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said she’s “thrilled” OutServe-SLDN has selected Thorn to assist in the remaining work that remains on LGBT rights.

“I know that Matt will be a champion for the issues our community and particularly the LGBT military community still face,” Kendell said. “OutServe-SLDN has selected a young, passionate, charismatic and dedicated individual in Matt and I look forward to working with him to continue to move our movement forward.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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