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What Repeal Means to Me

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Dec 20, 2010

Beth F. Coye is a Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. from Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Ashland, Oregon


Thank you. Because of your efforts, the United States has taken an important step forward for LGBTQ equality, and I am able to close the chapter on 50 years of my life.

In 1960, I joined the Navy and — to my surprise — within six months was in a relationship with another woman, a naval officer. From that time until this past weekend, a little grey cloud has hovered over my head, symbolizing to me that I and other gay military members, including retirees, are not part of the military family because of our sexual orientation.

This Saturday, I awoke at 5:45 a.m. with great anticipation, knowing that the Senate would vote on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal. An hour later, I was listening to my senator, Ron Wyden (D-OR), speak with great passion from the Senate floor, telling his colleagues, “I don’t care who you love…if you love this country enough to risk your life, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

After speeches from both sides, a vote to end debate took place. We won, with 63 senators in favor of repeal! A few hours later, the final vote was 65-31, with 8 Republicans voting “yes.”

I call this a real bipartisan vote, and hopefully a step toward a new climate on Capitol Hill.

After the vote, I got a call from Sen. Wyden. The call was emotional. I cried. He told me how important this vote was for him and for all Americans.

It felt great just to say “thank you” to my senator. He and I both worked for many years to see this day come.

If one or both of your senators was among the 65 who voted for an end to discrimination, please join me in saying thank you.

Click here to find contact information for your senators. Send them an email to express your gratitude.

By 1980, after 20 years of service, I could no longer take having to be silent and lie, so I retired. After the passage of DADT in 1993, I stepped up my fight to enact a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for gay and lesbian service members like myself. I am proud to have been joined by so many other Unitarian Universalists in working to repeal this wrong-headed law. UUs played key roles in the repeal efforts and truly helped make this change happen. Thank you to CAPT Joan Darrah; RADM Jamie Barnett; Sharon Groves, Deputy Director, Religion, Human Rights Campaign; Reverend Vince Patton, former Master Chief of the Coast Guard; and many more.

And thank you for standing on the side of love for many years, with the knowledge that someday truth would prevail. You kept me, and others, going when the going got pretty discouraging. To get to the finish line takes teamwork. We demonstrated that with repeal of DADT!

That we have accomplished repeal means military members who happen to be gay or lesbian will soon no longer be required to serve in silence, and with an ongoing sense of non-acceptance by their military family, as well as their country. Our American military will be practicing the 1st Principle of Unitarian Universalism: To Honor the Worth and Dignity of Every Person, to include gays and lesbians.

I see yesterday’s action as a large step toward equality, justice and freedom for our larger LGBTQ community, beyond the military. Just as integrating African Americans and women into the U.S. military has dramatically changed attitudes and behaviors toward those minorities, so too yesterday’s decision will bring about more positive attitudes and behaviors toward the LGBTQ community in our country.

One Response to “What Repeal Means to Me”

  1. Sigrid Trombley says:

    Beth,
    How nice to see this comment from you. I know how pleased I am to see that DADT was finally repealed; I can barely imagine how elated you must be. I thank you for your service to our country but I will always be sad that the pressure of having to be silent and lie was so great that, for your own well-being, you needed to retire when you did. Had the times been different and LGBTQ equality existed in those days, I have no doubt that we would be hearing from Retired Admiral Beth Coye.

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