|Updated: 9/21/2011 8:55 am
||Published: 9/20/2011 9:30 pm
Tulsa’s Dennis R. Neill Equality Center got an idea last week to invite military recruiters into the center to mark the official end of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
That 18 year-old policy prevented gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military. President Obama signed a bill repealing the policy earlier this year. On Tuesday, recruiters from the Marine Corps set up an information booth at the center to both hand out information, and be present on the historic day.
“We just didn't want to have a cocktail party and have everybody drink champagne and celebrate that way,” Toby Jenkins, Executive Director of Oklahomans for Equality, said.
When Jenkins extended the invitation to the recruiters, they said yes.
“This was the one and only (invitation we got). We thought it was actually a pretty good idea to do something we hadn't thought of,” Marine Corps Captain Abe Sipe said.
Soon there was an agreement. The marines, for the first time ever, would recruit inside the Equality Center. That is first time that has has ever happened at a gay community center anywhere in America.
“We'll be your test case, we'll be your guinea pig case,” Jenkins said about the recruiters' visit.
Captain Sipe says the marines have been learning how the repeal would affect them.
“There were meetings, there were training sessions that we gave to all our recruiters and all our marines that belong to our district to make sure everybody properly understood the policy,”
He believes there's now nothing stopping any American from joining him in service.
“If you can make it through boot camp and you can wear that title marine, that's what matters. We treat everybody equally in the Marines Corps,” Captain Sipe said.
For Toby, that's what this is all about.
“It's a big day; it's probably our biggest day in the last decade.”