The Perry Center hosted a Hemispheric Forum that addressed the role of LGBT personnel in the armed forces. Advancing themes of inclusivity and openness, the Forum featured a diverse set of distinguished panelists from across the security and defense sectors. Panelists included: Major General Patricia Rose, USAF, Mobilization Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters USAF; Dr. Alan Okros, OMM, CD, Professor, Canadian Forces College; Brigadier General (Promotable) Randy S. Taylor, USA, Director of Architecture, Operations, Networks and Space, US Army Chief Information Officer/G-6; Senior Chief Petty Officer (ret.) Kristin Beck, USN; and Mr. Mauricio Orrego Saavedra, Chief of Staff, Office of the Under Secretary of the Armed Forces, Ministry of Defense of Chile.
Ms. Jennifer Dane, Diversity and Inclusion Policy Analyst, American Military Partner Association, provided opening remarks, inviting the audience to observe a moment of silence in honor of the victims of last week’s shooting in Orlando. Ms. Amanda R. Simpson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, moderated the panel discussion. The Forum was attended by civilian and military professionals from policy offices, academic institutions, and the security and defense sectors. Additionally, students from the Perry Center’s resident courses on Countering Transnational Organized Crime and Human Rights and Rule of Law were in the audience.
The Forum featured a variety of compelling individual testimonies in which speakers stressed the importance of respecting the rights of all armed forces personnel, whether or not they identify as LGBT. “We need leaders who champion an inclusive culture,” explained General Rose during her remarks. She agreed with several other panelists that strong, engaged leadership will promote a standards-based culture of readiness and character in the armed forces across the Western Hemisphere. “It’s not sufficient to just remove barriers,” added Dr. Okros, referencing Canada’s experience with LGBT personnel in the armed forces. Panelists also equated LGBT rights to human rights, paralleling many of the themes discussed in the Perry Center’s Human Rights and Rule of Law course over the past two weeks. “LGBT rights are not special rights or different rights. LGBT rights are human rights,” stated General Taylor. “We already agreed to those rights a long time ago,” He said, referring to the US Constitution. Speaking from a Chilean perspective, Mr. Orrego echoed General Taylor’s words: “My country has a very, very deep culture of human rights, one that we cultivate every day. It’s a duty to advance these rights.”
Though the US and several other countries in the hemisphere have made promising steps toward a more inclusive military, there is still work to be done. Members of the LGBT community continue to face discrimination and policies of exclusion, especially in the armed forces. “We have a long way to go,” Ms. Beck reflected as she concluded her remarks. “It’s going to be a good story. We’re going to work together and make this right.”