by Jason Y. Lee
The repeal of the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy went into effect one minute past midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 20. It was the minute Haley Warden had long waited for. “It’s a little personal,” she said later that evening as she hung flyers that read “Goodbye, DADT” at a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Celebration at Alivia’s in Durham. She had a partner in the Air Force, she explains, who “dealt with some issues.”
That partner is Lauren Rodgers, who arrived at Alivia’s and gave Warden a quick kiss.
Since 1993, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell prohibited discrimination against gay, lesbian or bisexual persons so long as they kept their sexual orientation secret, while banning openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from serving.
A male classmate who knew she was gay had sexually assaulted her, she said. Pressing charges would have required her to admit her orientation, which, under DADT, meant she could no longer serve.
Rodgers was in training to be an Air Force intelligence officer when she was discharged in June 2005. “I was ushered out under DADT,” she said.
“It was very bittersweet, especially since they let the guy off without charges,” she says. “I sacrificed my career for nothing because I was gay.” Rodgers is now a writer for the political blog ballotpedia.org. But, she says, “I could have been in the Air Force. I was good at it.”
More than 25 people, including members of the Duke Bar Association; the cofounders of Sacred Worth, the Duke Divinity School LGBT alliance; and the president of DukeOUT, the graduate program-wide LGBT alliance.
The event was one of many held nationwide by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national organization that provides free legal counsel to veterans and service members affected by DADT. SLDN also worked to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell through lobbying, litigation, and public rallies.
Michael Budahn, a first year law student at Duke, said his best friend is “high up in the Navy, and a lesbian,” who is serving in Afghanistan. “She’s my go-to person when I think about this.”