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March 13, 2009

Retired colonel goes to D.C. to oppose ‘don’t ask’

Washington, D.C.--While the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy continues to get gays and lesbians kicked out of the military, a major gathering to call for its end is being held on Friday, March 13.

A measure to repeal the federal law behind “don’t ask” was introduced this week by Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California.

Among the advocates for repeal gathered on the lawn of the Capitol will be retired United States Air Force Col. Dan Tepfer, a board member of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and a leader of PFLAG’s Dayton chapter.

Since the policy was enacted in 1993, over 12,000 gay and lesbian service members have been expelled, including linguists with skills needed in the “war on terror.”

Tepfer’s call for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was published in the Dayton Daily News last April.

In it, he said, “It’s time to repeal . . . an immoral policy that prohibits patriotic and qualified gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from serving openly in the military.”

“My 23 years of active-duty service were before ‘don't ask, don't tell’ and before I knew I had a gay child. I confess I gave little thought to whether gay people were serving in the military with me or whether they should be allowed to serve,” Tepfer continued. “Having a gay child opened my mind and heart to issues I hadn't considered, and military service was one.”

He went on to cite three scenarios that would be unique to gay and lesbian service members, each more heartrending that the last--a soldier going off to war, the only one without a significant other to see him off; a woman taking her child to daycare on base, and having to warn him not to let out her secret. Worst of all was the parallel to the war widow seeing officers coming up her sidewalk to deliver the news of her husband’s passing--nobody coming to deliver the news, because the military cannot know about the relationship.

Tepfer knows the military well. He was in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps in college, entering the service as a second lieutenant. During his career, he served as an administrative officer and a courier, later working in contracts and procurement of weapons and defense systems.

His chest full of medals should shine brightly in the noon sunlight at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network-organized rally on the lawn of the Capitol.




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