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Openly gay woman
tries to enlist in Army as protest of policy

Openly gay woman
tries to enlist in Army as protest of policy

The possibility of arrest served to curtail a protest against the U.S. military's policy on gay soldiers. Nichole Rawls, 27, tried to enlist at an Army recruiting office in northwest Norman, Okla., on Wednesday, but a police officer who arrived there told Rawls and others participating in the demonstration that they could be arrested if they stayed at the office after being asked to leave. "I am aware of the Army's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, but I don't agree with it. I want to serve my country, but I am not willing to hide who I am in order to do so," said Rawls, a Shawnee resident who is openly lesbian. Rawls said she and her supporters chose the Norman recruiting station because they thought University of Oklahoma students might join a planned protest. "We were treated with respect, but I was saddened that the recruitment officer didn't know about the Military Readiness Enhancement Bill, a bill now in Congress," said supporter Pamela Disel, also of Shawnee. If approved, the measure would replace the present "don't ask, don't tell" policy with one of nondiscrimination. Rawls's enlistment attempt was part of the Right to Serve campaign, organized by Soulforce, a national youth organization supporting gay rights. People in about 30 cities are participating in the campaign. Rawls said her attempt to enlist was more than a protest of the current military policy. Her grandfather, Clifford L. Roberts of Shawnee, was a Green Beret and a member of the Golden Knights elite parachute team. He served five tours of duty in Vietnam. "It's a family thing. I wanted to follow in his footsteps," Rawls said. Rawls's grandmother, Jacqueline Roberts of Shawnee, accompanied her granddaughter to the Norman office. Roberts said her husband was "very supportive" of Rawls's desire to join the military but died last April before he could help her in the current campaign. (AP)

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