A new campaign aimed at uniting LGBT military personnel and veterans launched Wednesday. The overdue effort, spearheaded by OutServe-SLDN, is aptly titled United We Are Strong, and aims to repeal “Religious Freedom” acts throughout the country. Currently there are 30 states that do not have protections for LGBT individuals.
Republican Governor Mike Pence of Indiana recently made headlines for signing the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on March 26. While the country was in an uproar and travel bans were enacted by the entire West Coast of the United States, Arkansas passed a similar bill almost under the radar.
Following Indiana’s passage of RFRA, companies and brands including Apple, Accenture, Levi Strauss, Twitter, Walmart, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and NASCAR threatened to boycott Indiana. Singers Miley Cyrus and John Mellencamp did the same.
Mellencamp wrote to his fans: “I have thought seriously about canceling my upcoming shows, not wanting the resulting tax revenues from ticket sales, concessions and the like to help fill the same government coffers that would enforce this terrible law,” he shared. “But then I realized that I would be letting our government divide us again, keeping me apart from my most important audience: My Indiana fans who have been there for me from the very beginning. Our evenings together will be about music, and hopefully this situation will be made right by the time I see you in May.”
Broadway star Audra McDonald proudly protested her disagreement with Pence on Twitter, saying: “Some in my band are gay & we have 2 gigs in your state next month. Should we call ahead to make sure the hotel accepts us all?” She later announced that any sales made from her visit to the state would be donated to LGBT charities.
The United We Are Strong campaign launched with a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton Carter, to encourage service branch base commanders to place public establishments that are knowingly and openly discriminating against LGBT individuals onto the list of “off-limit” establishments for service members.
The list of “off limits” establishments are those public entities and areas which do not help maintain good order and discipline, and the appropriate level of health, morale, safety, morals, and welfare for armed services personnel.
“With over 60,000 subscribers, nearly 40,000 social media followers, and 7,000 members, our organization is taking the initiative to bring both the LGBT service members and civilians together to enact real and significant change,” said Matt Thorn, Interim Executive Director for OutServe-SLDN. “The military and OutServe-SLDN are in a unique position to influence LGBT anti-discrimination legislation across the country through our presence. OutServe-SLDN operates in every state in the country and the military, as the department of defense, is the nation’s largest employer. This was a natural fit to continue the discussion after the recent actions in Indiana and Arkansas.”
Thorn added, “Further, as we move to a potential affirmative decision by the Supreme Court in June on marriage equality, we must, as a collective LGBT community, come together to ensure that all LGBT individuals are not discriminated in the states in which they travel or live.”
United We Are Strong asks individuals to join the campaign by signing this petition, creating videos on social share video channel YouTube, or engaging in social media using the hashtag #unitedwearestrong.