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Op-ed: Father of Fallen Gay Soldier Inspires With Run

Op-ed: Father of Fallen Gay Soldier Inspires With Run


For the last year, the Wilfahrt family has taken charge of their son's memory, refusing to assume spectatorship in a society that regards his memory as that of second-class citizen.

While others in the military celebrated the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in joy, Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt celebrated in grief. That's when documentarian Kristina Lapinski and I first met the parents of Corporal Andrew C. Wilfahrt, who died while stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

After filming their interview for GAY U.S.A. the Movie at the historic first OutServe Conference in Las Vegas last year, we were both impressed by Jeff Wilfahrt, this unassuming man who has more than served his citizenry. He testified before the Minnesota state legislature against passing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as "between a man and a woman only," campaigned for the repeal of DADT and lost his son in an American war. Yet his lifelong sense of parity compels him further, and Jeff Wilfahrt is now running for the Minnesota State House of Representatives in a candidacy that has national implications for equality.

Over the months, our relationship developed until now when our filmmaker plans to move in with the family for two weeks and document their unintended political campaign.

Wilfahrt is running in District 57B, a seat currently held by Republican Kurt Bills who is a staunch pro-lifer, a self acclaimed "non-environmentalist," and voted for the anti-gay marriage amendment. He's leaving the seat to run for U.S. Senate. Jeff Wilfahrt will campaign in a district with a reputation for being moderate, yet recent redistricting may have turned it red with Bills a clear Tea Party panderer.

Running on a three "E" ticket -- "Economy, Equality and Education" -- Jeff Wilfahrt notes, "I've always had a strong sense of fairness and tried to help 'right the wrongs.' This sense was never stronger and clearer to me as when the Minnesota State government moved to allow the marriage amendment to be placed on the November 2012 ballot."

For the last year, the Wilfahrt family has taken charge of their son's memory, refusing to assume spectatorship in a society that regards his memory as that of second-class citizen. Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt was serving as an MP in the U.S. Army when he was killed by an IED near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Jeff Wilfahrt notes with great pride in speeches across the country that his son's platoon named their combat outpost after him, COP WILFAHRT. "Andrew was a great warrior and beloved by his fellow soldiers," Wilfahrt says. "He was also an openly gay soldier."

A self-confessed introvert, the loving father of a daughter who graduated from Cornell and a younger son in graduate school in North Carolina, Wilfahrt has his campaign cut out for him as he musters his own troops. He'll do it with a familial courage, casting aside privacy, and determined to effectuate equality for all in Minnesota. Jeff Wilfahrt has entered the race not only to address the "discrimination and inhumanity" of the marriage amendment, "but also to address the many inequities we seem to be building into our communities."

Jeff Wilfahrt is tackling the equality debate with a unique fervor and schooled notions. He has taken time to intellectualize the social complexity of speaking as an equality advocate to those in Red America. He has found the language he believes could penetrate the socially conservative Republican arena. Jeff Wilfahrt has what many in his position do not have, the ability to hone traditionalist ethics as a way to communicate the imperative of equality. He may well be the voice in the Minnesota House that shifts the paradigm.

Jeff Wilfahrt's campaign on the Issue of equality, notes with clarity of conviction, "Our state constitution cannot become an avenue for infringing on the rights of those we disagree with by legislating through amendments. It's a document that protects our rights and is not a vehicle for taking them away. A legislator's job is to write and pass laws based on an informed sense of the whole community they serve."

Ascribing to the view that candidates who run on equality tickets, no matter where, whether in small local races or on the national stage, run for each and every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person in this entire country, Jeff Wilfahrt's campaign is of national importance.

This imperative cumulative effect of equality awareness must permeate from each and every corner of this country, to impact the ultimate last frontier in the civil rights fight for freedom in America. Hence as Jeff Wilfahrt's license to this beckoning seat implores LGBT America to supporthis campaign, GAY U.S.A. the Movie plans to follow and film Jeff Wilfahrt on an equality tour of Minnesota this month as he meets activists, politicians, and parents involved in the Anoka-Hennepin School District antibullying issue.

MELANIE NATHAN is a lawyer and conflict resolution specialist who advocates for LGBT equality and human rights in San Francisco and internationally. She is a speaker, blogger ( and co-produces GAY USA the Movie (

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