New York City Council looks to reaffirm its opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Veterans and Civil Rights Committees of the New York City Council held a joint hearing on January 25 on a proposed resolution asking the president and Congress. To repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, that bars service by openly gay and lesbian soldiers.

The measure was introduced by Speaker Christine Quinn, Civil Rights chair Larry Seabrook, and Veterans chair Hiram Monserrate, along with 14 of their colleagues.

In 2005, the Council passed a similar measure at the request of American Veterans For Equal Rights New York (AVERNY), and in its wake, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Portland, and Tucson, among other cities, and the State of California followed suit.

Representatives of AVERNY, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal were among those who testified. Although opponents of allowing gays in the military were invited, none appeared.

Two Viet Nam-era veterans who are heterosexual offered what observers described as the most poignant testimony. Both talked about having overcome homophobic attitudes they held earlier in life to understand that gay service members should be welcomed in an all-volunteer military.

Seabrook compared the racial discrimination he had experienced as an African-American to the disenfranchisement of LGBT Americans, especially those willing to serve their country.

Left to right in Council Chambers were AVERNY vice president David Krause, the group's president Denny Meyer, Brian Fricke, a former marine now with SLDN, Cholene Espanoza, also with SLDN and a former U2 pilot, Rhonda Davis, an SLDN official formerly with the Navy, and Nathaniel Frank from the Michael Palm Center, a research institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara focused on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. All testified at the hearing, except for Krause.