Friday, July 2, 2010

D.A.D.T. BEFORE D.A.D.T.


Robert L. Danforth is a freelance writer and blogger for BONIFACE NOW.BONIFACE NOW is a multi-media weblog launched during the summer of 2009. The blog spotlights news and people surrounding popular culture in the U.S.A.
Danforth is a published political commentator at Advocate.com.
He lives in New York City.


"I was summoned by my commanding officer and he directed me to report OSI, Office of Special Investigation. I sat in a small room, where I waited for more than an hour. Finally, a man dressed in civilian clothes came in and introduced himself as a special agent of the OSI. He said allegations had been made against me. What allegations?” I asked. “For being a faggot,” he said in those exact words." Robert LeBlanc, a gay combat Marine who fought in the Vietnam War as quoted online from Staff Sergeant LeBlanc.


Marine Robert LeBlanc

Long before Lieutenant Dan Choi, there was Staff Sergeant Robert LeBlanc. Unlike Choi, until recently I had never heard of LeBlanc, but last weekend, I received a message from him on my Facebook page. I was immediately inspired by his story and want to share it with you.

In the late 1960's, Robert LeBlanc was a combat Marine who fought in the Vietnam War. He became a decorated solider bravely fighting for this country, but after the war he came home to America to face discrimination and bigotry at the hands of the Marine Corps. who suspected he was gay. 

LeBlanc endured interrogations by military officials who pressured him to divulge his sexuality. He was forced to take numerous lie detector tests and faced administrative reviews attempting to discharge him because he was gay. He challenged the system by refusing to answer their questions; a story which is the root of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that we have today. "During interrogations [Robert's] inquisitors repeatedly asked if he was homosexual and [Robert] continually replied "you have no right to ask me the question," says Pam Daniels - author of 'Silent Drums'. 

In the 1970's, LGBT people had no humanitarian groups, supportive council or protective laws to back them, but LeBlanc still fought against military discrimination. His story highlights the challenges that  gay men and lesbians in the armed forces face even today. And whether he was gay or straight, the military had no right to ask him a question of his sexuality at all.
Here's an excerpt from Staff Sergeant Leblanc which chronicles his story:
"Bob’s life story is a poignant example of the discrimination and bigotry all lesbian and gay military personnel still suffer. Adding insult to injury Bob’s long time partner is unconstitutionally denied the spousal benefits that Bob risked his life for!
Same sex marriage is a basic constitutional right perniciously denied to all LGBT people but denying our military servicemen and women who often risk their lives for all of us is particularly contemptible!
Bob’s story will inspire all of us in the LGBT community plus a majority of gender congruent hetero citizens to stand up for nothing less than full equality!"
Former Marine Staff Sergeant LeBlanc - an American unsung hero and pioneer of the LGBT Revolution. 

-Robert L.Danforth

 Photo sourced from Robert LeBlanc; visit www.staffsergeantleblanc for more information.