Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and OutServe announced today that the two organizations will merge. Audrey Sarvis, SLDN's Executive Director, had previously announced in January that he would be leaving the organization by late spring or early summer.
The boards of directors of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe today announced the intent to combine the two organizations into a single organization by October 2012 with a new name and a newly configured board of directors led by a representative from each existing organization. In the intervening period, the boards and staff of both organizations will focus on unifying the two administratively, financially, and organizationally.
"SLDN has enjoyed a close working relationship with OutServe and its leaders from the beginning. Indeed, their voices, though anonymous at the time, were an integral part of the fight to repeal the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law. Since repeal, we've worked even more closely together and in doing so, it has become more and more clear that our shared mission - representing actively serving military and veterans, as well as fighting to achieve full LGBT equality in the military - is better accomplished by uniting the two organizations and working together as one on behalf of the brave men and women of our armed forces," said SLDN Board of Directors Co-Chair Mike Magee.
"This comes down to mission first, just as it always is in the military. Both of these organizations recognize that they are stronger and more effective together. It is a great day for both organizations and for the LGBT service members and veterans around the world, who need a strong, unified voice speaking for them at the White House, on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon, and among the American people. What began as a simple effort to tell our stories has grown into something we could never have imagined, and today's announcement that OutServe and SLDN will combine represents the next step in that evolution. Each organization brings its own strengths to the fight for full LGBT military equality, and we are stronger together," said Josh Seefried, co-founder and co-director of OutServe.
Under the terms of the agreement reached on Saturday by the two boards of directors, the transaction will close when specific contingencies are removed, which include outstanding legal, financial, and structural elements. The close is expected at the next board meetings of the two groups, scheduled to take place October 26-28 in Orlando, FL.
Headhunters have been searching for a new SLDN executive director for months. I know a couple of people who were contacted by the search firm, but declined to even interview for the position. With DADT in the dustbin of anti-gay animus, I think everyone realized there would be some needed consolidation. With all of the bad blood between Servicemembers United and SLDN, there was no way they would consider a merger, so this seemed like an obvious resolution. Here's hoping they find a good leader to help support LGBT active military members.
Video of Seefried and Sarvis announcing the change is after the break.