Gay Veterans Push For Honorable Discharges They Were Denied….

Donald Hallman

When the Army discharged Pvt. Donald Hallman in 1955 for being what it called a “Class II homosexual,” the 21-year-old was so scared of being an outcast that he burned all his military records, save for a single dog tag he hid away.

Mr. Hallman, a coal miner’s son who sang in a church choir in rural Alabama, says he never mentioned his military service again. He married a woman he had met at work, had children and wore a suit and tie to work each day.

“I hid it because it would have ruined my life,” Mr. Hallman said in an interview at his home here.

But this summer, Mr. Hallman, now 82, retrieved the dog tag from a keepsake box and began working through an application to the Department of Defense, asking that his decades-old discharge be upgraded from “undesirable” to “honorable.”

“I’ve gotten to a point in my life where no one can hurt me now,” he said. “I don’t care who knows, and I want to show I was an honorable person.”

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He is one of a steady march of older veterans who were kicked out of the military decades ago for being gay, and who are now asking that their less-then-honorable discharges be upgraded.By some estimates, as many as 100,000 service members were discharged for being gay between World War II and the 2011 repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Many were given less-than-honorable discharges that became official scarlet letters — barring them from veterans’ benefits, costing them government jobs and other employment, and leaving many grappling with shame for decades.

Now, emboldened by the gay soldiers serving openly in the military and the same-sex couples finding broad acceptance in civilian life, they are increasingly seeking amends.

“After all these years, I want to tie up loose ends,” said Jim Estep, 80, a retired professor in Buffalo, who was given a less-than-honorable discharge in 1964. “It’s a way of getting the government — that faceless entity — in some way to acknowledge the authenticity of my life and my contribution to the country.”

A 2011 Obama administration policy generally grants an honorable discharge to any veteran who was kicked out for homosexuality unless there were “aggravating” factors, such as misconduct. Records from the Department of Defense show 80 percent of the nearly 500 requests submitted since 2011 received an upgrade.

But for many it is far from an easy fix. Tracking down decades-old records and getting an upgrade can take years. Many veterans hire lawyers, and some veterans groups have asked for the process to be streamlined.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Becca von Behren, a staff attorney for the San Francisco organization Swords to Plowshares, which provides legal assistance to veterans. “If a veteran needs health care from the V.A. and it takes so long to get an upgrade, the veteran can really spiral down.”

A bill in Congress, known as the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, would grant blanket upgrades to nearly all veteran discharged for being gay, but it has been stalled in Congress since 2013, and backers say it has little chance of moving forward this year.


In the 1970s and 1980s, upgrading service records was the battleground of gay activists. Today the requests are coming from everyday citizens.

“These stories are buried deep; it can be traumatic to dredge it up again,” said Lori Gum, an organizer at Stonewall Columbus, a gay community center in Ohio. She has helped six veterans start the upgrade process in the past year, including Mr. Hallman, but said three were too troubled by the past to finish the application.

The United States military’s punishment of homosexuality dates back to the Revolutionary War. Historians say Gen. George Washington personally ordered that a young officer be “dismiss’d with Infamy” and literally drummed out of Valley Forge, pursued by a fife and drum troop.

Starting in World War II, the military treated homosexuality as a mental defect rather than a crime, but still purged gays with quick discharges.

Through the 1980s, military investigators, usually working in pairs, employed long interrogations and threats of public humiliation to coerce the service members to confess and name names.

“They put me in a hospital room for three or four days, no contact with anyone before questioning me,” Mr. Estep said in a phone interview.

He had graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a future senator, John McCain, and was flying fighters off a carrier in the Pacific in 1964 when the Navy discovered a letter he had written to a gay friend. He soon found himself seated in a small room facing a pair of agents who thumbed through folders of documents.

“They said they knew everything about me, which now I suspect was a lie,” Mr. Estep said. “They had rifled through my room and gotten my address book, and told me they would call everyone in there and their employers and tell them what was going on.”

Mr. Estep, who was slated to join the astronaut program, signed a confession that ended his career.

Mr. Estep applied for an honorable discharge twice in the 1960s and was denied.

Even as attitudes in the United States started to change in the 1980s, military practices lagged.

Joshua Hoffman enlisted in the Air Force in 1984 after two years as a Mormon missionary. After an anonymous tip, two agents interrogated him in 1986. He had some sense he was gay at the time, but was still a virgin, he said in an interview at his house in Columbus.

“They kept saying, ‘Tell us who you’ve done it with,’ ” he recalled. “I kept telling them, ‘I haven’t done anything with anyone.’ ” Nevertheless, he was discharged a few weeks later.

Mr. Hoffman, now 52 and living with his partner and four adopted children, began to cry as he described being thrown out of the military.

“I was kicked out of my job, my church, my housing: I had nothing,” he said. “It took a long time to realize I deserved respect.”

A year ago, at the urging of his partner, he applied for an upgrade. He got a letter back from the Air Force in June saying his discharge had been reclassified as honorable. He proudly posted it on Facebook.

Mr. Hallman put what happened in 1955 out of his mind for decades until this spring, when his daughter Deirdre asked why he was not eligible for veterans benefits.

“He just opened up and told me everything,” his daughter said.

After joining the Army, he became a clerk for Army intelligence in Frankfurt, West Germany. He had been rated excellent in reviews and recommended for a good-conduct medal, he said, but one day on the street he was propositioned by a young man and caught in a military sting. A few weeks later he was thrown out of the Army.

He never told a soul, living a straight life with a house full of children. He became president of a trucking company, then a human resources company.

Over the years, Mr. Hallman, who describes himself as bisexual, had a few casual encounters with men, but kept that part of his life hidden, he said. He later divorced, but said he had a good relationship with his ex-wife.

“I’m kind of proud of the life I’ve lived. I worked hard, was a success, owned two businesses and have a beautiful family, 12 grandchildren,” Mr. Hallman said. “But I feel like there is a stain on it, and I’d like to get it off there.”

Dave Philipps – The New York Times

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Despite Raising Nearly $500K, Anti-Gay Bakers Won’t Pay Damages….


Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have raised nearly $500,000 through online donations from the religious right to help them pay the $135,000 in damages owed to a lesbian couple they denied service to. And they want to keep every penny of it.

The couple was the darling of the persecuted Christian set until they were knocked out of the headlines by defiant Rowan County clerk Kim Davis. In July, they were ordered by the Oregon Business of Labor and Industries (BOLI) to pay $135,000 to lesbian couple Rachel and Lauren Bowman-Cryer for endangering them by posting their home address online after they reported the bakers for denying them service.

A GoFundMe fund raiser was initially set up to help pay the ordered damages, but was yanked by the crowdfunding giant because of the discriminatory nature of the campaign. The Kleins then turned to “Christian-based” online crowdfunding site Continue to Give where they raised nearly $500,000, or 271 percent of the campaign’s initial $150,000 goal.

Williamette Week has recently uncovered emails between the Kleins’ attorneys and the Business of Labor and Industries where they make it clear that they have no intention of paying the damages.

“Our clients do not have a bond or irrevocable letter of credit in place and have no further plans to obtain one,” wrote Herbert Grey, attorney for the Kleins on September 8.

“Please inform the agency of when your clients will tender payment,” Jenn Gaddis, the chief prosecutor in BOLI’s administrative prosecution unit wrote on Sept. 16. “Otherwise we have no other option but to docket the judgement against them. It is unfortunate that they will not seek the bond or irrevocable letter of credit, that you had initially stated they were interested in seeking, when they have clearly raised close to $500,000 with which to pay the damage award.”

The Kleins have become a staple as speakers at numerous rightwing events and most recently appeared last weekend at the anti-gay hate group sponsored Value Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. last weekend where Kim Davis presented an award for denying legal marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Edge Media Network

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Homophobic Pizzeria Accidentally Catered A Gay Wedding….


An Indiana pizzeria that swore to never cater a gay wedding… has accidentally catered for a gay wedding.

Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana made the news earlier this year when the owners pledged to use the state’s newly passed Religious laws to refuse to serve pizza at gay weddings.

Owner Crystal O’Connor said: “If a gay couple was to come in and they wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no.”

A subsequent right-wing fundraiser in support of the pizzeria raised a shocking $844,527.

However, if O’Connor really thought she could never serve a gay wedding, she had another thing coming.

Illinois couple Robin Trevino and Jason Delgatto were tying the knot last week – and Trevino decided to take the 80 mile drive down to Indiana to pick up pizza for the reception.

The comedian, part of gay comedy group GayCo, headed to Memories Pizza to get some gay wedding pizza.

He said: “For the reception, Memories Pizza will be catering our gay wedding.

“They have no idea this is going to happen, but it’s happening.”

He secretly filmed himself heading into the pizzeria, ordering two overpriced large pizzas.

The video-maker also noted that incredibly there is still a tip cup in the pizzeria “because the money they made from GoFundMe wasn’t enough”.

He then drove the pizzas back to Chicago, before holding a wedding reception the next day with his husband, children and close friends and family.

Trevino told everyone: “I don’t know if you guys remember hearing the news about the pizza place in Walkerton Indiana. Memories Pizza said that they would not ever cater a gay wedding.

“So yesterday I drove to Walkerton Indiana and brought these… Memories Pizza just catered a gay wedding!”

The wedding guests then all thank Memories Pizza, for helping make a gay wedding.

Nick Duffy – Pink News

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Banned Transgender Customers To Get $400K From Portland Bar….

The now-shuttered P Club

The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that a Portland bar owner must pay about $400,000 in damages to patrons he told to stay away.

The state investigated a bar formerly known as the P Club after the owner left a voice message for one of the Rose City T-Girls, a group of transgender customers that frequented the bar Friday nights.

The message said business was down Fridays, likely because people incorrectly assumed the P Club was a gay or transgender bar. He asked the group to stop visiting.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled in 2013 that the bar violated a law that prohibits discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Appeals Court upheld the ruling Wednesday.

Associated Press

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CBHS Student Not Allowed To Bring Same-Sex Date To Homecoming….

Lance Sanderson

A Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) senior was told by school administrators that he wouldn’t be able to bring his male date to the school’s homecoming dance this Saturday.

Now the private all-boys Catholic school has issued a policy on its website stating that “CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.”

Lance Sanderson said he discussed bringing a male date from another school to the dance with an administrator last year and was told he could. But that administrator left over the summer.

“I was sitting down talking to one of the current administrators over the summer, and at the end of our conversation, I mentioned it, expecting him to say the same thing. And he had a very different response,” Sanderson said. “He mentioned a [gay] couple in Texas and said I was a lot like this one person and said that the guy’s boyfriend murdered him. It was a little rough.”

CBHS declined comment on this story through its marketing and communications director John Morris.

Sanderson said CBHS convened a committee to look into the possibility of allowing same-sex dates, and the committee drafted the current policy that says boys from other schools are not allowed to come to the dance. Sanderson said the policy has been read over the school’s intercom daily this week.

“The way they worded it is ‘for logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.’ I asked about it in a meeting [Tuesday] morning, and they said they didn’t want guys from our school getting into disagreements with guys from other schools,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson said he would be able to go with a male date from CBHS if he chose to, according to the policy, but he believed the administration would “paint it as we’re just friends going together.”

Sanderson has launched a petition to convince CBHS to change their policy.

Bianca Phillips – Memphis Flyer

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If You Think “Straight-Acting” Is An Acceptable Term, You’re An A**hole….

“Straight-Acting” photo

In a recent interview, director Roland Emmerich attempted to explain his baffling decision to make the protagonist of his much-maligned new film, “Stonewall,” a fictional twinky corn-fed white cis gay man instead of one of the many non-white transgender people, genderqueer individuals, drag queens, butch dykes and sissy men present at the iconic riots credited with birthing the modern queer rights movement.

“As a director you have to put yourself in your movies, and I’m white and gay,” Emmerich told Buzzfeed in what qualifies as one of the most ahistorical, culturally tone-deaf and narcissistic soundbites printed in recent memory. But, sadly, that wasn’t even the most ridiculous or troubling part of the interview.

“You have to understand one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people,” he said. “I kind of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny, the lead character] is a very easy in. Danny’s very straight-acting. He gets mistreated because of that. [Straight audiences] can feel for him.”

:: Shudder ::

As if hearing about Emmerich’s inspiration for completely rewriting queer history and erasing the contributions of those who are already erased too often in order to be able to place and view himself in his own movie wasn’t bad enough, now we learn he was concerned with making “Stonewall” palatable for straight people. And to make that happen, he apparently thought he had to create a “straight-acting” lead character.

The fact that Emmerich can earnestly trot out the term “straight-acting” (he apparently used it in the production notes for the film, too) with a straight (no pun intended) face (and without spontaneously vomiting up his Fruit Loops) means he’s either luxuriously ignorant… or he’s just an asshole.

Being “straight-acting,” for a gay man at least, is directly related to how convincingly he is able to present traditionally masculine mannerisms. The term is so markedly offensive because its very existence insists that there is a particular, instantly identifiable manner of being gay (defined by effeminacy). And what’s more, those qualities are seen as patently unattractive, undesirable and wildly dangerous. Conversely, it then follows that there simultaneously exists a particular, instantly recognizable manner of being straight (defined by “masculinity”). And what’s more, those qualities are seen as incredibly attractive, desirable and wholly advantageous — enough so that gay people would try to “act” in that way.

And there is a long history of straights attempting to straight-ify queer people (and of us trying to do it to ourselves). The performance of straightness is something that gay men have struggled with and against for as long as modern gay identities have existed. Because being gay has been so intimately connected with being effeminate, which was — and still is — equated with being submissive, weak and ineffectual. Gay men have been shamed (and attacked and murdered) for any display that does not reverberate with and reflect what our culture has determined is sufficiently masculine. Therefore many gay men have longed for and looked for any means by which they can throw off (or at least hide) the curse of even the slightest hint of effeminacy and thereby be welcomed into straight society or at least fly far enough under the radar to remain relatively unharmed.

I should know — I was one of them.

I spent most of my young adult life trying to butch myself up. And it worked to some degree: I’m nowhere near the sissy I was when I was growing up. My deliberate metamorphosis was a survival mechanism. I survived. But I still mourn the little faggot inside of me who pretended to be Jem and secretly draped long-sleeved shirts over his head so he could live the dream of having mermaid hair for a few minutes at a time. I miss him. And I wonder what incredible things I’ve missed out on — and who I could have been today — because I euthanized him twenty years ago. But I also wonder if I would still be here — if I would still be alive — if I hadn’t.

The bottom line is that we shouldn’t have to choose between living as exactly who we are and death (figuratively or literally) because our society says in order for us to be worthy and valuable we have to “act straight.” Too many queers have bought into this lie for much too long.

And we certainly shouldn’t be sold out by our own kind, no matter how good their intentions may be. We haven’t fought as hard as we have to ensure that once queers like Emmerich were able to get into positions of power and influence they could turn around and bleach our history while pandering to the very people who oppressed us.

By claiming that in order for straight people to like us or understand us, we need to be like them in very specific, stereotypical ways (or that if we are like them we must be “acting”) Emmerich and anyone else who uses the term “straight-acting” — including the legions of men on hook-up apps whose profiles read “Masc 4 Masc” and “Str8 acting only” — is affirming all of the lies about who we are (and who we aren’t) that we’ve been raging against for as long as we have been a “we.” In fact, isn’t this what the heroes of Stonewall were ultimately battling? Didn’t they finally say “enough” to the constant tormenting they faced for being different from what society expected and demanded of them? And how stupendously offensive to take the story of these brave warriors and attempt to repackage it so that straight people can find a way to comfortably stomach our rebellion.

No. Enough.

It’s time we stop using “straight-acting” as some kind of dreamy, aspirational bridge-building tactic or lure. There are all kinds of different ways to be gay and straight (and everything in between or outside of that binary). And while we’re at it, how about we just stop trying to act like straight people all together and start acting like exactly who we are? And let’s get some sissies up on the big screen. And let’s get some more trans people in the spotlight. And let’s remember that our community is not comprised of only gay white cis men. Let’s tell our stories to each other and anyone else who will listen. And if they won’t listen, fuck ’em. If they’ll only take us seriously (or won’t jail or oppress or exterminate us) if we look and sound exactly like them, fuck them. Seriously! We’ll just keep telling our stories over and over again until we all know them by heart and they’re so loud and powerful and yes, of course, awful and painful and tragic in parts, but finally so beautiful and true that when we’re finally heard — and we will be heard — they’ll know exactly who we are, what we have been through and why it matters.

There are enough bad guys out there making it hard for us, Roland, without you joining their ranks. There are enough assholes telling us that we aren’t butch enough or white enough or safe enough or relatable enough, Roland, without you adding fuel to their already handsomely blazing fire. “Stonewall” is a mess — but this isn’t over: There’s still time to ensure this becomes an invaluable lesson for anyone watching now or one hundred years from now. The sooner you — and all of us — stop acting and start being honest about who we are and what we’ve achieved, the sooner we’ll no longer feel the need to make the hideous concessions and compromises we’re told we need to make to be like everybody else because we’ll no longer want to be like anybody else but ourselves.

Noah Michelson – The Huffington Post Voices

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The Daily Beast Launches Campaign to Find Kim Davis’ Alleged Gay Friends….

Kim Davis Mug shot

Embattled Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis having gay friends sounds like an oxymoron. But according to the woman herself, she has a few GBFFs.

Her claims came during a recent interview with “Good Morning America” — her first TV interview after she was released from jail for refusing to give same-sex couples marriage licenses. Reporter Paula Faris asked the Rowan County clerk if she would deny marriage licenses to gay friends. Davis said, “I did.”

“I have friends who are gay and lesbian, and they know where I stand,” she added. “We don’t agree on the issue.” In the same interview, she also said she is not a homophobe and said she is “washed clean” when responding to criticisms about her multiple marriages.

The folks over at the Daily Beast are determined to get to the bottom of Davis’ claims and find out if Davis, with her staunch anti-gay marriage views, actually has any gay friends. The website launched a campaign to find these alleged gay pals.

After trying to reach Davis with no avail, the Daily Beast contacted her lawyers at the Liberty Counsel. A spokesman told the website she couldn’t name any of Davis’ gay friends but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them.

“I don’t think she would lie,” spokeswoman Charla Bansley told the Daily Beast. “Someone who goes to jail for her conscience wouldn’t lie about that.”

The website got in contact with Davis’ first husband, Dwain Wallace, and asked if she was telling the truth about befriending members of the LGBT community. Unfortunately, he said he “wouldn’t have a clue, to be honest.”

The Daily Beast also reached out to Davis’ neighbors and Brian Mason, the deputy clerk who has been issuing marriage licenses for Davis, but no one could confirm her platonic relationships with gay people.

But the Daily Beast did track down one person — Carmen Wampler-Collins, a lesbian from Morehead, Ky., who said her niece, who is also lesbian, knows the Davis family.

“I grew up in Morehead and it’s fairly common to have people in your life say they love you and still hold deep opposition to you being in a same-sex relationship,” she told the website. “It’s a small town and many people just feel it’s best to get along and not make waves, even if they face discrimination.”

Finally, the Daily Beast contacted the LGBT advocacy group, Kentucky Equality. Members of the organization put out a message to its 6,000 supporters on Facebook asking gay friends of Davis to come forward.

“Does Kim Davis have gay friends whom she has denied marriage licenses as she claimed to ABC’s ‘Good Morning America?’ Are you one of her gay ‘best friends’ that she claims to have? If you are, the media would like to speak to you to verify this claim because Kentucky Equality Federation simply doesn’t believe anything that comes out of this woman’s mouth,” the post reads. “If you can verify her claim, please email us here on our Official Facebook Page and we will pass the reporters information to you.”

As of this writing, none of Davis’ gay “friends” have come forward.

Edge Media Network

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