Lesbian and Gay Troops Hold First Convention

October 14, 2011; Source: Associated PressThe OutServe Armed Forces Leadership Summit, hosted by Outserve, a formerly covert association of lesbian and gay service members, was held in Las Vegas over the past weekend. The conference was sponsored by leading LGBT rights organization and the CIA and was attended by active military personnel, veterans, civilian allies and leaders from OutServe’s 48 global chapters. The gathering sought to “provide an international forum on creating an environment of respect in the military with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The event provided the space for participants to build professional networks, discuss challenges faced by gay service members, and formulate strategies to help build a stronger and more inclusive military community. Workshops tackled issues such as partner and family benefits, post-military career opportunities, transgender service, and even scriptures and homosexuality.

Sue Folton, founding board member of OutServe and the first openly gay West Point graduate appointed to the academy’s board, said that “there are issues of leadership and faith and family that are specific to our community and that by addressing, our folks can be better soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and better leaders.”

Ty Walrod, a civilian co-founder of OutServe, explained that “part of the goal of the conference is to recognize the past, and also as an organization plan for the future.”

Although Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is now history, OutServe and other groups that support gay troops are still needed.

“I was so elated, so happy, when the repeal happened, but we still have a long ways to go,” Charlie Morgan, a personnel officer who has served in the military for 16 years, told the Los Angeles Times. She was referring to the fact that partners and spouses of gay service members are treated like second class citizens, denied the family support services, healthcare coverage and housing benefits afforded straight spouses. Morgan’s said that her partner can’t even shop at the base commissary.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, October, 17, 2011.

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