I was among a group of six North Carolina activists and constituents who traveled to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to deliver a strong, vital constituent message on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Since March, CRANE and activists across the state have worked to build awareness on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) through Charlotte’s March on Myrick, Raleigh’s Stand with Honor and Wilmington’s March on McIntyre campaigns. The goal: Collect 13,500 plastic toy soldiers — each representing a gay or lesbian patriot discharged under DADT — and deliver them as a stark, visual reminder of the cost of DADT to our elected officials.
At a bright, and early start of 8 a.m., we made our way from their hotel to downtown Washington, D.C. and the Capitol Building. There, we set up our display of just one set of 13,500 soldiers we’ve collected for Burr, Hagan, Kissell, McIntyre and Myrick. We spoke with passers-by about DADT, many who already supported repeal and others who did not. In one exchange, Matt Comer spoke with a group of Christian high school students whose adult chaperone believed “homosexuals shouldn’t serve at all.” Asking how it is right, just or fair to force a person to live in fear and lies, the Christian chaperone responded: “There is no fear in the Lord.” Convincing the adult chaperone of the value of a DADT repeal was fruitless but standing on Capitol Hill grounds speaking to these Christian young folks was well worth it: If they haven’t engaged LGBT issues with LGBT people, they have now. And, if there were one or two closeted LGBT youth there, our group was there to say: “You are not alone.”
As we met with the offices of our elected officials, we were able to deliver a portion — one-tenth of the 13,500 to be exact — to our two senators and two representatives. (Half of Myrick’s 13,500 were delivered on April 1.) Each of the offices we visited responded with either surprise or interest to our 1,350 soldiers. It made an impact — a constituent message unlike the many postcards, emails and letters they receive on a daily basis and one they won’t forget anytime soon… especially when the rest of their soldiers can be delivered at a later date.