Saturday, January 20, 2018

For Love of Country, and Each Other

A piece in the New York Times looks at a happy ending wedding story, something much needed by the LGBT community in the age of Trump/Pence.  Frankly, it is difficult at times to be optimistic if one is an LGBT American.  Over the last year, the Trump/pence regime has waged an unrelenting war on LGBT rights and, now, any day regulations will be released that will permit health care providers to refuse to treat and serve LGBT patients under the smoke screen of "religious freedom."  Meanwhile, here in Virginia, Senate Republicans seemingly are ignoring the message from voters last November when 15 house of delegates  seats flipped to Democrat.  Just this week a second Senate committee killed a pro-LGBT bill on a straight party line vote.  The bill would have banned "therapists" from subjecting minors to "conversion therapy" - something condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America.  The Washington Blade provides details:
The Virginia Senate’s Health and Education Committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy to minors in the state.
Committee members struck down Senate Bill 245 — which state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced — by an 8-7 vote margin.
State Sens. Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Charles Carrico (R-Galax), Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico County), Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg), Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) and Dave Suetterlein (R-Roanoke County) voted against SB 245.  
State Sens. George Barker (D-Alexandria), Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County), Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack County), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) voted for the bill. 
Take note of the names of the Republicans and give serious thought to supporting whoever runs against them in the next election cycle.

But back to the happy story which features the wedding of  Captains Daniel Hall and Vincent Franchino, both Apache helicopter pilots, who were married at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.  The article is lengthy but worthy of a full read, especially by those not living in communities with large numbers of military personnel.  Here in Hampton Roads, the military surrounds us and many same sex couples are within the ranks and put their lives on the line daily for their country - even though their country has historically mistreated them.   Here are article highlights:
Apache helicopters — the kind of aerial weaponry immortalized in Hollywood tough-guy films such as “Rambo” and “Black Hawk Down” — are among the Army’s most revered killing machines, and those who fly them across enemy skies “have an attack mentality,” said Capt. Daniel Hall, a 30-year-old Apache helicopter pilot based at Fort Bliss, in Texas. As he spoke, Captain Hall was flanked by Capt. Vincent Franchino, a 26-year-old fellow Apache pilot who is also stationed at Fort Bliss, where they are both a part of another community: the group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers who serve there. “It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for us,” said Captain Franchino, who married Captain Hall on Jan. 13 in the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where they are believed to be the first active-duty, same-sex couple to exchange vows at the legendary Army post.
The couple, beaming in their own immaculately pressed blue mess uniforms, the most formal threads in the Army’s wardrobe, were celebrated by a saber-arch salute as they departed the chapel.
“We’ve experienced everything from people feeling awkward around us to being called faggots while holding hands and walking down the street, stuff like that,” said Captain Franchino, who was born and raised in Stony Point, N.Y., the youngest son of Holly Franchino, a retired pharmacist, and Robert Franchino, a retired sergeant with the Police Department in Clarkstown, N.Y.
“But despite what we’ve been through,” Captain Franchino added, “nothing was worse than having served during the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ years.”
The emotions and romantic feelings felt by Captains Hall and Franchino, as well as scores of others from the L.G.B.T. military community, were hamstrung by “don’t ask, don’t tell,” . . . . “It’s really frustrating when two people have feelings for each other but are not allowed to act on them,” Captain Hall added. “We were serving under a policy that was telling all of us — perfectly capable soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — to lie about ourselves.”
In January 2010, they selected each other as a partner in a mentorship program that allowed seniors to offer instruction to freshmen who were following similar career paths.  By April of that year, it was clear to their fellow cadets that a spark had been ignited, but under the rules, there could be no flame.
But in September 2011, it was that way no longer. Congress repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and Captains Hall and Franchino were soon celebrating their new sense of freedom.
“We’ve just grown accustomed to being apart at times,” said Captain Franchino, who spent all of 2017 deployed in Germany and several countries in Eastern Europe. “It’s a part of who we are, a part of what we do, so we simply accept it.”
Captain Hall, who said he plans on “leaving the Army after spring,” also said that his military stint, especially the time he spent in the cockpits of Apache helicopters, “has brought a lot of excitement to my life, and so has Vinny.”
But when pressed, Captain Hall refused to say which of the two has brought him more excitement. “Don’t ask,” he said with a wink and a smile. “I won’t tell.”
One does not choose to be LGBT.  It's something you are born with and that is unchangeable despite how hard one might try (I tried for 37 years without success).  We are no different than others and in most cases are productive citizens, pay our taxes - the husband and I pay plenty - and are responsible neighbors.  It is time that religious based ignorance and bigotry be thrown on the trash heap of history where they belong. 

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