In this exclusive audio interview Emmy Winner Charlotte Robinson host of OUTTAKE VOICES™ talks with Retired Navy Captain Joan Darrah about a letter she wrote to Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA), Chairman of the National Republican Party Platform Committee asking to address the Committee in support of marriage equality when it meets in Tampa, Florida August 27th through August 30th. Captain Darrah served for thirty years as a Naval Intelligence officer. She retired in June 2002. After retirement she was a leading advocate in the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and testified before House Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel. Darrah and her wife Lynne Kennedy are plaintiffs in McLaughlin v. Panetta, a case in which Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) represents eight married gay and lesbian service member and veteran couples seeking the same recognition, rights and benefits as their straight, married colleagues. Her request to speak at the Republican Convention was denied. We talked to Joan about this and other issues facing our LGBT community.
When asked what her personal commitment is to LGBT civil rights, Darrah stated, “Well I served for thirty years in the Navy. After I was in for several years I realized that I was gay and I continued to serve under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. When I retired I knew it was a terrible law and I knew I basically had to live two lives under it. I got some encouragement from other people to try and join the group primarily led by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to start work to try and get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Initially I was a little reluctant because it was so difficult to live under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and I needed a little distance. But then I added my voice and testified before Congress, did a significant amount of lobbying and grassroots initiatives to ultimately get “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed. So now gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military without the fear of being fired. My whole career I would go to work each day hoping that wouldn’t be the day I might get outed and fired. So fortunately “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is gone and from all reports gay service men and women are serving and it’s working out just great. So the next logical step is to have all service members be treated equally and because of the Defense of Marriage Act gay couples are not afforded so many benefits that their straight shipmates are afforded.”
During her career Darrah had various operational and administrative assignments including Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander at the Office of Naval Intelligence. Captain Darrah’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), the Navy Commendation Medal (three awards) and the Navy Achievement Medal. Joan lives with her partner and spouse of 22 years, Lynne Kennedy, in Alexandria, Virginia.
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