October 11, 2018 at 6:17 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
OutServe-SLDN leader Matthew Thorn steps down after 4 years

Andy Blevins (left) will replace Matthew Thorn at OutServe-SLDN (Photo of Blevins via Facebook; Washington Blade photo of Thorn by Michael Key)

The LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN is undergoing a transition in leadership as Matthew Thorn steps down as president after four years and his former deputy Andy Blevins replaces him.

Thorn said in a statement this week he “made the decision that now is the right time to step down” after a tenure marked by achievements in the Obama administration and challenges in the Trump administration.

“I could not be prouder of where the organization is today,” Thorn added. “We have dramatically increased our programmatic efforts while simultaneously suing the Trump administration over their bigoted and unwise decisions to ban transgender service members and their ‘Deploy or Get Out’ policies which adversely affect service members living with HIV. I believe I have completed what I was asked to do in first joining the organization nearly four years ago.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commended Thorn for his work in a statement and expressed continued support for LGBT people in the military.

“Matt Thorn has been an extraordinary leader and strong voice for OutServe-SLDN and the courageous LGBT service members they advocate for on a daily basis,” Pelosi said. “I thank him for his service and look forward to working with Andy Blevins as he assumes this leadership role during a pivotal time for our LGBT service members and their families.”

According to OutServe-SLDN, the organization under Thorn’s tenure strengthened ties with 40 other groups and expanded relationships with pro-bono legal partners, resulting in access to legal services for more than 2,000 people. The value of the legal services over the past four years is estimated to be more than $4 million. The organization also expanded the board of directors from seven to 15 members, claiming expanded diversity and experience for the board beyond the military

During the Obama administration, OutServe-SLDN under Thorn’s tenure claimed success in helping work to confirm Eric Fanning as the first openly gay Army secretary. In the Trump administration, OutServe-SLDN was among the LGBT groups that sued President Trump over his transgender military ban and obtained one of four preliminary injunctions barring the policy from going into effect. The case is currently pending before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Blevins commended Thorn in a statement for his achievements and said he’s “humbled and honored that the board has selected me as his successor.”

“Over the last several years, an increasing percentage of our all-volunteer military force has publicly identified as a member of the LGBTQ community,” Blevins said. “These individuals are selflessly devoted to this nation and should be afforded the right to carry out that service under open and authentic conditions, without fear of reprisal. As OutServe-SLDN’s executive director, I look forward to standing alongside my siblings-in-arms and demanding that our military forces be a conduit of change for society, precipitating the guarantee of equal treatment and just protections for all members of the LGBTQ community.”

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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