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Campaign to
repeal military's gay ban goes to Virginia

Campaign to
repeal military's gay ban goes to Virginia

A new organization that opposes the military's antigay "don't ask, don't tell" policy is taking its campaign to Hampton Roads, Va., and the region's large military presence. Four gay military veterans from Virginia will discuss their experiences on Saturday at a forum sponsored by San Francisco's Military Equality Alliance. The group, which formed this month, has one paid employee and an annual budget of $80,000, executive director Jim Maloney said.

The Norfolk meeting is important because U.S. representatives Thelma Drake and Jo Ann Davis are members of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on military personnel, which is considering a bill to repeal the ban on openly gay service members. "It's requiring gays and lesbians in the military to lie about where they go on the weekends, about who they're talking to," said Lara Ballard, cochairwoman of the group's board and its coordinator for Virginia. "In an age of heightened security, why do you want a policy that requires service members to lie to their superiors about what they're doing?"

U.S. representative Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced legislation in 2005 requiring the military to adopt a nondiscrimination policy on sexual orientation. The alliance hopes to encourage residents to lobby Drake and Davis for the bill in an area that is home to nearly 10,000 gay and lesbian veterans, according to 2004 U.S. Census data analyzed by the Urban Institute, a Washington nonprofit that researches economic and social policy.

Drake spokesman Tyler Brown said the congresswoman does not support Meehan's bill and hasn't heard much from her constituents on the issue. Davis's office did not respond to a request for comment from The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. (AP)

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