Bronx Democratic City Councilman Joel Rivera’s Committee on State and Federal Legislation held hearings on March 22 on Resolution 438, which would put the Council on record in opposition to the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that bars open service by gay and lesbian soldiers.
The resolution is sponsored by Manhattan Democrat Alan Gerson, and co-sponsored by 12 of his colleagues, including three candidates for Manhattan borough president—Margarita Lopez, Bill Perkins and Eva Moskowitz.
The committee heard testimony from U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, the Manhattan Democrat who is sponsoring HR 1059 in Congress to overturn the policy at a time when there is increased discussion in Washington about the costs of enforcing the ban and the impact is has on combat readiness.
Testimony was also taken from Denny Meyer, the president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, New York (AVERNY); Frank Kameny, a Washington activist whose involvement in gay rights predates Stonewall; Christopher Neff, the senior policy advocate for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a Washington advocacy group for gay and lesbian soldiers; Jeff McGowen and Leslie Deutch, both retired majors; Jason Cianciotto, from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; and Jim Reilly of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York.
In introducing the resolution at the hearing, Gerson dedicated his effort to Bernard Granville, his late cousin who was a gay veteran. "It is long overdue for the Council to speak out about this unfair and discriminatory policy,” Gerson said. “For the military to be discharging Arabic translators and people who have served their country with distinction solely on the basis of their sexual orientation is both foolish and unfair.”
Supporters of the resolution rallied on the steps of City Hall prior to the hearing. Pictured from left to right are AVERNY’s Denny Meyer, Maj. Jeff McGowan (ret.); Councilwoman Margarita Lopez; Councilman Alan Gerson; Pauline Park, co-chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy; SLDN’s Chris Neff; Frank Kameny; and Maj. Leslie Deutsch (ret.).