Gay Veterans to be Honored at Chicago's Daley Plaza

Wed. May 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Vietnam and Iraq War Veterans, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy Featured at Nation's Only Municipal Salute to LGBT Veterans

Chicago, IL - Veterans from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities will be honored at "With Liberty and Justice For All" - - the nation's only municipal, military salute to LGBT veterans - - on Friday, June 2, announced Clarence N. Wood, Chairman of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR). The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 12 noon at Richard J. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. For more information, contact Bill Greaves at 312-744-7911.

Vietnam veteran Robert Bell will be featured. Bell served from January 1966 to August 1969 and was honorably discharged as a Specialist E5 in the U.S. Army. Bell served in Phu Bai, and he is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans. Bell is also a former member and chairman of the board for Horizons Community Services, now Center on Halsted.

Keynote speaker Kathi S. Westcott is Deputy Director for Law at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). Westcott is SLDN's primary attorney for military members affected by the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. She studies the application of the policy by the armed services and directs challenges to the constitutionality of the U.S. military's sodomy statute in light of the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas. In 1999, Westcott led SLDN's investigation of the murder of a soldier at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and assisted in bringing the responsible soldiers to justice.

Former Army Specialist Jeff Howe will also speak. Howe was an Army artilleryman who served two terms of duty in Iraq before being discharged because of an online profile. He received five commendations for his service, including the Army Service Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Fort Riley "Blue Chip Soldier" Award.

Roy L. Dolgos, Director, Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, will greet the veterans and mark their contributions to our nation.

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus will perform the national anthem, and the program will include a presentation of colors, a Mayoral proclamation, Congressional greetings, and a wreath laying.

"With Liberty and Justice for All" comes as Congress considers a bill to repeal the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ban. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059) currently has 114 co-sponsors, including five Republicans. Six members of the Illinois Congressional delegation - - Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL-7), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL-5), Rep Lane Evans (D-IL-17), Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL-4), Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-2) and Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL-9) - - are co-sponsors of the bill.

This unparalleled event is meant to pay tribute to America's LGBT veterans and inspire dialogue and activism during Chicago's Pride Month celebrations.

"With Liberty and Justice For All" is a presentation of the CCHR Advisory Council on Veterans' Affairs and the CCHR Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in partnership with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the American Veterans for Equal Rights.