Vietnam War Vet Fought for Gay Rights

by J-Touchette

Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicted recently that certification won't be done until late July or early August, so LGBT troops should continue to exercise the utmost caution.

Leonard Matlovich was a member of the Air Force since 1960, and in 1975 he openly announced his sexuality. He was discharged shortly afterwards.

The decorated Vietnam war veteran then sued the US air force for reinstatement. He was the first openly gay man in the military who fought a discharge based on his sexuality. After five long years in court, Matlovich won his case in 1980. The decision made would allow gay people in the army, as long as they stayed in the closet. Instead of choosing his reinstatement, which came with a promotion, he decided he would take the cash settlement of $160,000. He made this decision because he feared the army would try to discharge him for any reason they could find if he returned.

In later years, he became heavily involved in promoting gay rights, attending several protests and events.

In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. On June 22, 1988 he died of complications from HIV/AIDS. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

President Barack Obama finally signed the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in 2010, however, the policy has yet to be put into effect. The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must all certify the repeal will not harm military readiness, followed by a 60-day waiting period.

Read more:

Leonard P. Matlovich | Find A Grave Memorial

Leonard Matlovich | Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stouthearted Men & Women | Leonard

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell | Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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