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social sciences

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell  
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Another unlikely activist on this issue was Marine Corporal Evelyn Thomas. She served at Camp Pendleton for four years until another Marine found a letter in her locker about her relationship with a woman. She was then honorably discharged in 1991.

In 2009, Thomas founded a ministry for gays in the military who feared they might be discharged for speaking openly to base chaplains about their sexuality. The Sanctuary Project Veterans was a ministry of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California, which provided a safe haven, support, legal advice, and services for soldiers harassed due to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

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Also active in opposing DADT was Captain Tanya Domi, who served 15 years in various capacities, including as a paratrooper, drill instructor, and company commander of 140 MPs.

Because of his frequent appearances on television in opposition to the DADT policy, Michael Almy became emblematic of the injustices of the regulation. An Air Force Major, Almy was named one of the top officers in his career field and led 200 airmen in Iraq. He became the subject of an investigation after his e-mails were illegally read. He was relieved of his duties after he refused to make a statement about his sexuality without the presence of his lawyers. He was discharged in 2006.

An active duty Air Force Lieutenant Robin Chaurasiya faced disharge under DADT because she entered into a civil union with her partner. In speaking out against the policy, she received widespread support from her unit.

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach was one of the highest ranking servicemembers to fight against the DADT policy. After 18 years of service as a decorated pilot--the recipient of nine Air Medals, including one for heroism--Fehrenbach was investigated on suspicion of homosexuality in 2008.

At first he decided to go along with the discharge, despite being close to a full pension, just because he wanted the ordeal behind him. But then he had a change of heart. "The military was taking everything away from me, but the one thing I realized they couldn't take from me is my sense of right and wrong," he concluded. So he decided not only to fight the discharge but to go public with his case on The Rachel Maddow Show. He subsequently became a visible opponent of the policy and filed suit in federal court seeking an injunction to prevent his discharge.

In 1993, Marine Sergeant Justin Elzie, a former "Marine of the Year" for his battalion in Japan, came out on ABC Evening News in order to challenge the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military. He went on to serve four years as an openly gay Marine. During this period he was recommended for promotion, received unit awards, and served on a ship and in the field as a platoon sergeant without any negative effect on unit cohesion.

Although he was not discharged for being gay, Army Specialist Jarrod Chlapowski, a Korean linguist and cryptologic voice interceptor, chose not to re-enlist because of DADT. Chlapowski was one of the co-founders of Servicemembers United, which was formed in 2005 to lobby against DADT.

Another activist who was not discharged under DADT is Autumn Sandeen, a transgender activist who served for twenty years in the U.S. Navy as a male and who retired in 2000 as a First Class Petty Officer. Sandeen, who frequently blogs on, suffered harassment as a result of her presentation as an effeminate male, but knew the regulations well enough to fight back when targeted for a DADT investigation. She participated in many protests, including one in which she was arrested with Dan Choi and others for handcuffing themselves to the fence in front of the White House.

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson was also one of the leaders in the fight to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. A former U.S. Army human intelligence collector who speaks multiple foreign languages including Arabic, Nicholson was discharged from the military because of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy just six months after the terror attack on the United States on September 11, 2001. In 2005, Nicholson went public about his own experience with DADT and began encouraging other veterans to become active in opposing DADT.

Two other activists who are not themselves current or former servicemembers also deserve mention. One is a self-styled "PTA mom" from Fresno, California who was jolted into glbtq activism as a result of the Proposition 8 campaign in California, the other is a pop music phenomenon.

The "PTA mom" is Robin McGehee, who is a co-founder, with Kip Williams, of the direct action group GetEqual. She was co-director of the 2009 National Equality March on Washington, D. C. She has participated in a number of direct action demonstrations against DADT, including being arrested with Dan Choi for handcuffing herself to the fence in front of the White House. Her November 2010 arrest led to a White House meeting with the Obama administration's liaison to the lgbt community, Brian Bond, in which she expressed the frustration and disappointment felt by the grassroots over the President's apparent lack of engagement on glbtq issues.

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