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Air Force major talks Don't Ask, Don't Tell for LGBT Month

United States Air Force Reserve Major Trevor Sthultz visited Ohio University on Thursday as the featured speaker for Ohio University LGBT month's "Living History" event sponsored by the student organization Open Doors.

Sthultz spoke first hand on the effects of the recent repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). Originally passed in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, the policy barred gay men and women from serving openly in the military. 

Sthultz highlighted the new freedoms of the Sept. 20 repeal by introducing himself publically for the first time as a gay man in the service. "We're in a new day and a new era," said Sthultz as he spoke of the relief from the constant worry and threat that has dominated his life since he first enlisted in 1995.

Working up to the positives, Sthultz took the audience through a verbal timeline detailing personal experiences as well as those of other Ohioans affected by the 17 years of the repressive legislation. He put his speech into visual context by presenting a slideshow and asking audience members to recall their feelings during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Conveying the constraining effects of DADT, Sthultz was unable to contact his loved one during the tragedy while serving in New Jersey.

"There is the same power of emotion, the same need for a support system, but you have to hide yourself," Sthultz 

Sthultz also shared some of the stories from 14,000 fellow officers dismissed under the DADT policy. Many of these men and women were released based solely on hearsay and regardless of training or years of service.

"No one asked and no one told," said Sthultz. 

Referencing today as a current period of transition and change, Sthultz spoke to the battle that still exists for gays in the military. Although the DADT has been rescinded, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still stands.

This act specifies marriage in heterosexual terms as a legal union between a man and woman and prohibits the Defense Department from allowing gay couples to receive benefits, even if they are legally married in certain states. One important effect of this legislation is the denial of death benefits to homosexual partners with loved ones in the military. 

Ending with the news of his upcoming deployment, Sthultz says, "That is why it's important to continue to fight for equal rights because although we are allowed to be in the military and be fabulous, we're still not getting the full equal treatment as a heterosexual couple."

For more information on LGBT History Month visit the LGBT Center website.