JUNE 17, 2015, NORFOLK (NNS) – Sailors from Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COTF) held a commandwide observance ceremony in honor and support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, June 16.
Established in 2009 for the month of June, LGBT Pride Month promotes and encourages a celebration of honesty and openness within the LGBT community.
The LGBT movement was later strengthened by the repeal of the 2011 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act creating a landmark for our country’s service members and allowing gay, lesbian and bisexuals to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces.
“There have been tremendous strides in the Armed Forces and throughout the country in regards to LGBT equality,” said Yeoman 2nd Class David Olvera. “The goal of our presentation is to help educate and raise awareness on major issues, both past and present that members of the LGBT community have faced.”
More than 30 participants, to include service members and civilians from COTF, gathered together to learn, discuss and commemorate the sacrifice and struggle that the LGBT community has faced.
“All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” quoted from President Barack Obama’s presidential proclamation May 29. “During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy (that) LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation.”
Earlier this year revisions to the Department of Defense (DoD) military equal opportunity policy was completed, updating the polity to include sexual orientation, and compelling the DoD to hold the standard of treating sexual-orientation-based discrimination equal to the discrimination of race, religion, color, sex, age and national origin.
“I can’t thank the military enough, because I know that the presence of our Armed Forces has significantly impacted our human rights,” said Mary Aab, guest speaker for the COTF LGBT observance. Aab is a licensed professional counselor and the director of the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads. “I hope that the LGBT movement helps to further change the mindset of many and the rights for LGBT.”
The ceremony honored the courageous history of unknown veterans whom, during their service in the Armed Forces, were allowed to serve only by keeping their sexual orientation secret. In 2012, Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith became the first high-ranking officer to publicly acknowledge her sexuality and come out while still serving and acting as a role model for other service members in the Armed Forces.
“I think events such as Pride Month observance give individuals a chance to see a different side of the military that supports them no matter what,” said Olvera. “It’s a chance for all Sailors, no matter what rank, to come together and support basic human rights and educate others on what the LGBT community really entails.”
Through these monthly observances, every effort is made to increase awareness, mutual respect and understanding of that month’s designated observance, as well as promote cross-cultural and cross-gender awareness, said Olvera. The benefits of these trainings contribute to the harmony among all military members, their families and the civilian workforce.
The LGBT observance was organized by the COTF’s Multi-Cultural Heritage Committee (MCHC) and concluded with a ceremonial cake-cutting by Aab, the guest speaker, and Olvera, master of ceremonies.
“I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people,” quoted from President Obama’s presidential proclamation.
COTF is responsible for the essential task of testing and evaluating the warfighting capabilities of platforms, aircraft and system operations utilized by U.S. Armed Forces under realistic operational conditions. This mission-essential task determines the effectiveness, suitability and impact on mission accomplishment providing an important operational assessment on the procedures and tactics necessary for the development of new warfighting capabilities.