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Former sailor
tells Congress about her "don't ask" experience

Former sailor
tells Congress about her "don't ask" experience

Former U.S. Navy petty officer Lee Quillian's 20-year career in the military was stifled by the fact that she couldn't be out to colleagues, she told more than 100 Congress members at a briefing Tuesday. The policy, she said, forces gay service members to be quiet.

"I didn't want to lie about my life, but I didn't broadcast," Quillian told TheAdvocate Wednesday in a phone interview. "I had to be quiet about the people I was spending my time with back home."

Invited by Massachusetts Representative Marty Meehan and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, Quillian, with three other service members, discussed with members of both houses of Congress the implications of being a gay service member under the military's ban on openly gay service personnel.

While in the Navy, Quillian earned two commendation medals and four achievement medals and performed missile interception operations at the beginning of the Iraq war.

Her longtime partner, whom she met in the Navy, was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." Quillian has spent a lot of time educating her colleagues, and now members of Congress, about the policy and its enforcement.

"There is a misunderstanding about the policy, about how it is interpreted," she said.

Representative Meehan's bill to repeal "don't ask" currently has 125 Democratic and Republican cosponsors in the House. At least 218 House votes are needed to pass the bill. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director of communications Steve Ralls said that the Senate could have a matching bill by the end of the year. A House hearing focusing on dismissed lesbian and gay Arabic-speaking linguists has been requested. Committee chair Ike Skelton has not yet granted that hearing.

"Educating key decision makers in Congress is essential to continuing to build momentum for repeal, and this week's briefing went a long way in doing just that," Ralls said. "The voices of those who have served are the most effective way to garner support, and the four veterans present on Tuesday helped immeasurably in moving our cause forward."

Asked if she thought "don't ask, don't tell" will be repealed, Quillian said, "I feel that it could be. Maybe not within this current administration, but repealing it has to start within the ranks." (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)

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