White House Tasks Pentagon for its LGBT Pride Reception

by David Small

The White House is scheduled to host its first LGBT Pride month reception tonight, June 15, that includes openly gay service members who were invited through official Pentagon channels and organizations such as OutServe.

The White House reception comes concurrently with Associated Press reports that the Pentagon will organize its first-ever event to celebrate LGBT Pride month after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed interest in recognizing gay and lesbian troops.

Air Force Master Sgt. Philip Skopp was selected to attend the event via a nomination from the Air Force after the White House tasked the services to provide names for the event.

“I have been serving or affiliated with the Air Force for 19 years, 18 of which I served under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” so this is a big deal for me,” said Skopp who works on the Joint Staff.

White House organizers did not specify that those put forward for the opportunity be gay, however OutServe Magazine learned that at least the Air Force and Navy submissions from the Pentagon included LGBT service members.

Skopp’s boss, curious how one is selected for such an honor asked about his invitation. “When I told my boss that I was going to this event, she asked me how one gets selected to go, and I replied with a straight face, ‘Well, ma’am, membership has it’s privileges.’ she laughed.”

Attendance at any event let alone the White House by out, gay service members in their official military capacity was not possible prior to Sept. 20, 2011 when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” officially was repealed.

“It is kind of funny that the White House tasked the services to ask for a representative for the LGBT reception,” said Skopp. “I mean, unless you are gay or know gay people, where do you start?”

OutServe was also invited to attend the event. To represent the group are Army Maj. Casey Moes, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan, Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps and 2nd Lt. Ed Luna, and Air Force Capt. Ryan Quinn and 1st Lt. Josh Seefried. Seefried is one of OutServe’s co-directors.

Moes will bring as her plus-1, her partner Laurie.

“The repeal has changed our lives and these are the people that made it happen,” she said.

Phelps relayed his feelings bridging the period between pre and post repeal.

“A year ago I could have been discharged from the Marine Corps for being gay, and today I am able to celebrate with the Commander in Chief: not only as a gay American, but as a truly proud Marine.”

Morgan, whom OutServe Magazine highlighted in its recent families issue, recognized the rare opportunity and honor for any service member to meet his or her commander in chief.

“I am extremely honored the White House invited me to its LGBT reception. Considering that this event follows the president’s historic statement about same-sex marriage, I feel this is extra special,” she said.

Morgan is currently undergoing treatment for stage IV cancer. She and her wife Karen, among other plaintiffs, are part of a lawsuit, McLaughlin v. United States, against the Defense of Marriage Act to bring about marriage equality.

She recently took her fight to Capitol Hill attempting to ensure her family is cared for through survivors’ benefits in the event she loses her battle with cancer. Currently because of the Defense of Marriage Act, survivors’ benefits are not afforded to legal marriages not recognized federally.

Editor’s Note: The Pentagon spokesman could not provide details of the LGBT Pride celebration to the Associated Press likely because plans are still in their infancy. For those in the Pentagon who are tasked to execute the event, OutServe stands by ready to assist. Our members can throw a great party. We promise to help clean up the glitter. Just saying.

About David Small

David Small, editor of OutServe Magazine’s blog, is a Major in the Air Force Reserve, stationed in New York, N.Y. Small’s perspective speaks to the everyday service member, gay or straight.

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