By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brian Morales,
Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Serving in the military, service members stand tall and take pride in fighting for what they believe in. Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) reflected upon hearing two men’s tale of an unjust time during an observance at the Washington Navy Yard, June 18.
CNIC, Naval District Washington, Naval Support Activity Washington, Navy History and Heritage Command and Naval Branch Health Clinic Washington Navy Yard joined forces to host an observance event for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month with Master Sgt. Ijpe H. DeKoe as the guest speaker.
From the Kingdom of the Netherlands, DeKoe enlisted in the Army January 2000 and in 2011, he made a life-changing decision just before deploying to Afghanistan -- marriage.
At the time, cancellation of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act were whispers but by late July the same-sex marriage legislative passed in New York State, refueling the national gay-rights movement right where it began its momentum.
“We can each speak to the cost of those policies on the ability for our members to serve to their full potential or to live their lives as their true selves,” said DeKoe during his remarks. “Even worse, the limitations and restrictions placed on our personal lives. The inability to forge honest and personal relationships with our peers and friends. The families not started. And the human connections that were never made.”
DeKoe and Thom Kostura, from Long Island, New York, married during a small ceremony in East Hampton, New York.
After Dekoe’s deployment, the newly married couple relocated to Memphis, Tennessee and joined three couples in challenging Tennessee’s lack of recognition of out of state same-sex marriages in the federal lawsuit “Tanco v Haslam.”
Tennessee and three other states consolidated the case as “Obergefell et al. v Hodges et al.” with a favorable outcome for DeKoe and the LGBT community in a 5-4 victory at the Supreme Court.
Kostura expressed relief about the case ruling when “realizing after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and after the defensive marriage act was struck down, how many resources are available to spouses that I did not have in that first year of marriage and during that first deployment.”
This would not be the first time New York was involved in the trend toward equal rights for the LGBT community.
During the 1960s, holding hands, kissing or dancing with someone of the same sex was illegal in public. This encouraged LGBT individuals to seek social freedom in gay bars and clubs without the worry of penalization for expressing themselves openly.
The Genovese crime syndicate saw profit in patronizing gay clientele, purchased Stonewall Inn, a “straight” bar, and restaurant in Manhattan, New York, 1966. The following year, the crime syndicate renovated and reopened the inn.
New York’s Sixth Police Precinct received bribes to ignore activities within the club, until the morning of June 28. Without warning and armed with a warrant, police officers arrested 13 people.
Neighborhood residents and angry patrons became agitated and fed up with the social discrimination, inciting a riot involving hundreds of people.
Protests continued in the area for five more days after a Village Voice writer published the account of the riots. The Stonewall Riots contributed to the formation of numerous gay rights organizations, such as the Gay Liberation Front, Human Rights Campaign, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
“It’s good for us as leaders to recognize that when people aren’t allowed to serve openly, to be who they are, it cuts off a part of them from the rest of the whole,” DeKoe added.
Initially celebrated as Gay Pride Day, LGBT Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots and honors the impact made, obstacles overcame by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in history.
The June 18 observance was held at the CNIC headquarters on the Washington Navy Yard and broadcast live on Facebook. The video of the event is available at https://www.facebook.com/NavyInstallations/videos/950907645272258/
CNIC is comprised of approximately 52,000 military and civilian personnel worldwide responsible for the operations, maintenance and quality of life programs to support the Navy's fleet, Sailors and their families. For more about the Navy's shore enterprise, visit: http://www.cnic.navy.mil.