LGBTQ military orgs merge

Beyond the Carolinas

Newly appointed Modern Military Association of America Executive Director Andy Blevins. (Photo Credit: OUTServeSLDN)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two LGBTQ military non-profits — the American Military Partner Association (AMPA) and OutServeSLDN — have announced that they are combining forces by merging to form the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to education, advocacy and support for LGBTQ service members, military spouses, veterans, family members and allies — the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA).

OutServeSLDN Executive Director and Navy veteran Andy Blevins will lead MMMA as executive director.

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“I’m both humbled and honored to lead the Modern Military Association of America at this challenging moment in the fight for LGBTQ military equality,” said Blevins. “While we’ve made tremendous progress over the years as a community, much of that progress is now being threatened and rolled back — especially for our transgender service members who now face an unconscionable transgender military ban. We’re committed to doing everything within our power to stand up for all of our modern military and veteran families and ensure they have a powerful voice in Washington and beyond.”

“For nearly a decade, the American Military Partner Association has been on the front lines fighting for our nation’s modern military spouses and their families,” said AMPA Founder and President Emeritus Stephen Peters. “Now, we’re doubling down in our fight for fairness and equality by joining forces with OutServeSLDN. The Modern Military Association of America will be a powerhouse of community advocates and a united voice for the LGBTQ military and veteran community.”

“For nearly 26 years, OutServeSLDN has been fighting for the right of LGBTQ military members to serve our nation openly and authentically,” said Josh Fontanez, a U.S. Army officer and co-chair of the OutServeSLDN board. “We’re proud to continue that fight by merging with the American Military Partner Association and working together to defend and support the LGBTQ military and veteran community.”

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“We’re truly excited that both of these incredible organizations are merging to create a formidable force in the battles ahead,” added AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “By combining forces with OutServeSLDN, we’re embarking on a new journey fighting for open and authentic service and education, advocacy and support for modern military families.”

The MMAA has launched at a challenging moment for the LGBTQ military community as the Trump-Pence administration rolls back progress by implementing a transgender military ban. Just last month, the discriminatory ban went into effect — impacting thousands of actively serving transgender military members and many more qualified transgender recruits who want to serve. Both AMPA and OutServeSLDN have been leading voices in the fight to overturn the transgender military ban. Joined by Lambda Legal and the state of Washington, OutServeSLDN filed the lawsuit Karnoski v. Trump in 2017 on behalf of AMPA, the Human Rights Campaign, Seattle-based Gender Justice League and nine individual plaintiffs. The lawsuit will continue with the new organization.

The MMAA, through its legal help desk, it will continue assisting members with discharge upgrades, legal name changes and discrimination. And the Rainbow Shield program was launched recently to help equip military and veteran service providers with the skills they need to be culturally competent to provide effective and efficient services to the LGBTQ military and veteran community. The organization will also continue AMPA’s military spouse scholarship, presented by Hilton, that enables military spouses to pursue their higher education goals. With 81 chapters located throughout the world, the organization will facilitate opportunities for fellowship and camaraderie for individuals and families located at both stateside and overseas military bases.

Blevins previously served as a law clerk for Military Disability Lawyer, LLC and the child advocacy section of Oregon’s Justice Department. He also had the opportunity to work for the First Lady Michelle Obama in White House. Blevins spent most of his naval service working as a cryptologic technician in Guam, where he would ultimately end up reaching out to OutServeSLDN for assistance while being investigated under the now-defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. He studied law and business administration at Willamette University’s College of Law and Atkinson Graduate School of Management, as well as writing, with an emphasis in community-based pedagogy, at the University of Colorado. While in graduate school, Blevins helped to found, and eventually serve as the editor-in-chief, for the Pacific Northwest’s first law journal focused exclusively on social justice and equity issues. He also had the honor of being named the first runner-up for the National LGBT Bar Association’s 2017 Student Leadership Award, a Shepherd Scholar through OGALLA: The LGBT Bar Association of Oregon, and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management’s first ReachingOut MBA Scholar.

info: modernmilitary.org. militarypartners.org. outserve.org.

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Posted by Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at specialassignments@goqnotes.com and 704-531-9988, x205.