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November 2, 2012

TG veteran to direct pair of newly-joined military groups

Washington, D.C.--The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and OutServe, a group for active service LGBT personnel, announced on October 25 that they had selected their first joint executive director, transgender Army veteran Allyson Robinson.

Two days later, the boards of both organizations voted to finalize their merger, selecting SLDN’s April Heinze, a retired Navy captain, and OutServe co-founder Josh Seefried, as the co-chairs of the newly unified board of directors.

“We are enthusiastic about the combination of these two vibrant and effective organizations,” said Heinze. “Our mission will be to provide the best representation, advocacy and services for LGBT service members, veterans, and their families and continue the momentum we began toward reaching full LGBT equality in the military with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ last year.”

Seefried added, “This comes down to mission first, just as it always is in the military. What began as a simple effort to tell our stories has grown into something we could never have imagined, and this combination represents the next step in that evolution.”

The groups announced their merger in July, and the October 27 vote finalizes it. Robinson will be the first executive director of the newly-joined group.

“I am honored to lead the new OutServe-SLDN in this next phase of advocacy and action on behalf of our brave LGBT service members, veterans and their families. Until they are granted equal opportunity, recognition, support and benefits, our mission is incomplete,” she said. “We cannot and will not leave them behind.”

The 1994 West Point graduate was most recently working at the Human Rights Campaign as the deputy director for employee programs at HRC’s Workplace Project.

“The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ taught us that to be victorious, we must fight inequality on multiple fronts--in the courts, on Capitol Hill, and in the public square. It’s time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, revise laws that prevent the military from honoring the service of all of our nation’s men and women in uniform, and end marriage discrimination for our service members and their families once and for all,” she said.

SLDN was founded in 1993, shortly after the “don’t ask” law barring openly gay and lesbian service members replaced a total ban on gays that preceded it. OutServe, meanwhile, began as a Facebook network of LGBT service members, then came to the fore while arranging for the stories of gay military personnel to be told to the media, the military and Congress. It also worked with the Comprehensive Review Working Group that studied DADT repeal.

In addition to striving for equal benefits and recognition of same-sex partners, the joined group will try to get the service records of those discharged under DADT amended to reflect “honorable service.”

At her former place of employment, Robinson’s praises were sung.

“The LGBT rights movement is made stronger by the inspired appointment of Allyson Robinson as head of a critically important organization,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “As a West Point graduate, experienced officer and movement leader, she brings her extensive knowledge of the issues to this new assignment.”

“What I admire most about Allyson,” he continued, “is that she leads with her heart and that quality will serve our troops and veterans extraordinarily well as we continue the fight for full equality.”

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