Bil Browning

Sit in! Don't ask don't tell needs you!

Filed By Bil Browning | November 16, 2006 2:43 PM | comments

Filed in: Action Alerts
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Indiana, lesbian, LGBT community, military, National Guard

Julie Benson attempted to enlist this morning at the National Guard recruiting office. Her application was denied when it was discovered that she was a lesbian. When she exited the building to talk to the press, she was told she could not re-enter the building for the remainder of the day. She sat outside the office in protest however, she did not create enough of a nuisance to force an arrest even though people had to step around her. The recruitment office has been closed.

She is looking for young people (30 and younger) who would be willing to quietly sit-in with her tomorrow and create a large enough nuisance to force the recruitment officers to ask the police to clear the area. If these people would be willing to be arrested, that would even be better. However, they wouldn't have to.

Local media coverage has been great (ABC, CBS, NBC, WFYI, WIBC). She was interviewed at 7:30 AM on Abdul in the Morning (WXNT - 1430 AM) and is supposed to be on the Afternoons with Amos (WTLC - AM1310) show this afternoon.

On the noon news, the military personnel being interviewed stated they rejected her application because she didn't meet the height and weight requirement. However, Julie stated that she was never asked about this during her interview this morning. She said that this was discussed during her phone interview last week, but was told this wouldn't be a problem because many new recruits don't meet this requirement when they enlist. She was then encouraged to continue with the application process.

Persons interested in participating in this civil disobedience should contact Julie Benson or phone (317)722-0000 ext 104.

Cameras were not permitted inside the guard office as Benson tried to enlist. Benson said she was rejected because of her sexual orientation, but a guard representative said Benson was turned away because of her weight.

"I spoke with our recruiters, and she was rejected based on physical conditioning and not meeting the height-weight policy to enter into the Indiana National Guard," said Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson.

"I was specifically told by the recruiter that I was rejected according to the policy and having outed myself because of my sexual orientation," Benson said.

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Chris Douglas | November 17, 2006 6:19 AM

As a former member of the Armed Services, I support this effort. At the same time, I think anybody that really expects to challenge, make a statement, and earn public sympathy, should be within the military's requirements and not require that an exception be made. Otherwise, in my opinion, this effort will not generate public sympathy and, in fact, could create the reverse effect. The activist should be commended for courage and motivation, but I fear this particular attempt could be easily be counterproductive.

Chris is being polite.

I'm trying real hard to be supportive here, but I know recruiters and military personnel...the guidelines they must follow clearly eliminate people right off the bat if they're overweight.

As I understand it, this particular candidate is overweight. So are many of us. In and of itself, it's no big deal, but to attempt to make a political statement, the candidate should be eligible for service in all categories except orientation.

Or the whole effect is lost.

Good luck to Benson. I hope the news stories today are incorrect--they're all about the candidate's eligibility beyond the orientation guidelines.

I heard her yesterday on the radio--talk about articulate! Wow! She deftly handled some call-in clods who tried to go in a different direction.

Give me a break. Did you guys miss the woman from the guards that spoke on the news about the weight requirments. Pot, meet kettle.

Point made, and yes, I saw her. The ING erred in sending her anywhere but the fat farm. She's certainly not camera-worthy for the PR side of this issue.

But you're missing the point: she's ALREADY IN. This game is being played on the Pentagon's court. The updated physical requirements are a couple of years old...and there have been multiple news stories across the country on recruits being counseled to diet and return in a few months.

In 2004 the military issued new directives from SECDEF (Rummy) about physical fitness for recruits. He didn't do much in Iraq, but God love Rummy, he was battling the defense establishment from the inside on procurement & the bloated military command structure. Their attitude on physical fitness, which makes sense: you gotta start somewhere.

And "somewhere" should definitely include physical fitness for currently-enlisted personnel. But they have a right, and, some would argue, a responsibility to be as selective as possible on recruits. Lots of taxpayer dollars are invested in recruits, just as the private sector does.

The challenge was newsworthy, and raises good issues. But the question remains: why not challenge the policy with someone who, on the surface, at least, meets most or all of the requirements?

If nothing else, it eliminates today's discussion from the landscape.

I still think the lady had guts, much moreso than me.

I disagree. The news is full of stories lately about military recruiters needing more and more recruits for the war in Iraq. The news is also full of stories of recruiters telling potential recruits that they won't be sent to Iraq, the war is over, etc as well as doing everything they can to fill the bunks at boot camp. This has included signing up an autistic boy who didn't know what he was signing, recruiting borderline mentally retarded, as well as accepting cadets who are overweight or don't have the physical fitness requirements.

I believe Julie. The military recruiters have been lying their asses off of late to make quota. But this lesbian came with a news crew - they found another reason to say they denied her and took the out.