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“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Eleven Years Later | Webinar being hosted on 20 September 2022.

On September 20, 2011, the government of the United States officially repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” legislation that had previously enabled LGBTQIA+ people to serve in the U.S. military only if they kept their sexual orientation a secret. On the day of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DNDT) repeal, President Barack Obama stated:

As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.

U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time, Leon Panetta, said:

I am committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent Americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their capabilities and talents allow.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Background

With his 1992 presidential victory, President Bill Clinton declared his intention to lift the United States military’s decades-long ban on openly LGBTQIA+ service members. Top military officials and influential members of Congress voiced their opposition to the plan.

Clinton was able to secure support for legislation allowing openly LGBTQIA+ service personnel to remain in the military by striking a middle ground with opponents. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the name given to the policy.

It was widely condemned by civil rights organizations, but its repeal was celebrated as a victory in the ongoing struggle to end discrimination against LGBTQIA+ military personnel.

Veterans discharged due to DNDT were allowed to re-enlist after the repeal on September 20, 2011.

But, eleven years later, what has changed?

Richard Brethor-Bell, V.P. Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion at InterPride, will host a discussion with three veterans who served while “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still enacted.

The webinar is part of InterPride’s Racism & Oppression Awareness Program (ROAP).

Richard Brethor-Bell (he/him)

Webinar Host

V.P. Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion

Richard Brethor-Bell was raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. At age 12, he became one of the few inner-city students chosen to attend school in the affluent West San Fernando Valley of L.A. County. After graduating high school, Richard could not afford to attend college. However, the dream of becoming a college graduate never left him. After struggling with his sexuality for decades, Richard began to live his authentic life in his 30s. He met his partner James Brethour in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2008, and the two married in James’ native Toronto, Canada, in 2010. They now live in Los Alamos, NM. The moment Richard accepted his truth, he began to fight for equality. He spoke before the New Mexico State Senate, demanding the right to marry after witnessing friends lose their homes and financial security when a partner died. He joined the Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance (HRA), the organization that produces Santa Fe Pride, and became president. The organization created an LGBT+ Presidential Scholarship for the local community college.

In addition to leading the HRA, Richard has served as Region 3 director, CAPI VP, and WorldPride Co-Chair. Richard and James started a small business, and Richard completed college, earned a Master’s in Healthcare Administration, received a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Disabilities (LEND) fellowship, and is now in the process of completing a Special Education Teaching certification. He currently works for the New Mexico Corrections Department Health Services Bureau. There, Richard provides workshops for inmates and their families on Substance Use Disorders, Opioid Overdose Prevention, Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Cultural Humility, and a variety of other topics in a combined effort with the Department of Health to reduce overdose deaths, and recidivism. Richard’s public speaking extends outside of his secular position. He has given workshops on Implicit Bias Awareness, Rainbow Racism, Misandry and Misogyny, and Autism and the LGBT+ Community to multiple pride organizations, businesses, and schools, domestic and international.

As V.P. of Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion, I will continue to promote equality and equity to continue the evolution of InterPride. We’ve made strides, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels and continue striving for growth, inclusion, and accessibility. When InterPride is strong, we’re in a better position to support membership.

SMSGT. Linda Mortensen (she/her)

United States Air Force Veteran Panelist

Retired C-17 Loadmaster Superintendent, Owner, FeildShake Design Co.

Linda Mortensen hails from the Biggest Littlest City, Reno, NV, and considers desert lifestyle, ski runs, and mountain bike trails home. She is the owner of FeildShake Design Co, described by clients as “experimental industrial design.” She was previously employed as a project manager for D. Maahs Construction Santa Fe, NM, and a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, a BFA in Interior Architecture.

Linda served in the Air Force from 1983–2011 and retired as a C-17 Loadmaster Superintendent with the rank of Senior Master Sergeant. She participated in several operations worldwide, including Desert Storm, Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, Presidential Airlift Missions, and Humanitarian Missions.
She served under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and understands the suffocating results when policy restricts basic human rights; with that, she’s a past member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). SLDN is an organization that once provided a legal defense council to those discharged under DADT. Linda has been an advocate for SLDN and a volunteer contributing to the repeal of DADT; she is now a member of the Modern Military Association of America.

Linda served as a Planning Commissioner for the Town Council of Winthrop, WA, an active volunteer for Safe Place Women’s Shelter Olympia, WA, Big Brother Big Sister of Thurston County, and past board chairperson of Method Resource Recovery. She is currently sitting as Vice President of HRA/Pride Santa Fe.

Lindsay Church (they/them)

United States Navy Veteran Panelist

Executive Director and Co-Founder of Minority Veterans of America

Lindsay Church is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Minority Veterans of America, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to creating an equitable and just world for the minority veteran community — veterans of color, women, LGBTQ, and (non)religious minorities. Lindsay has nearly a decade of experience rooted in veteran advocacy and grassroots organizing. They have facilitated agency-wide cultural competency training and assessments to ensure organizations and governmental entities can serve their minority and veteran constituencies effectively and efficiently.

Lindsay received their graduate degree, with a focus on international conflict and countering extremism, and their undergraduate degree, in near-Eastern language and civilization and comparative Islamic studies from the University of Washington. They also hold an associate degree in Persian-Farsi from Defense Language Institute. Lindsay is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where they served as a Cryptologic Technician Interpretative.

Before founding and leading the Minority Veterans of America, Lindsay served as the Assistant Director and co-founder of Student Veteran Life at the University of Washington. Their previous appointments include LGBTQ Commissioner for the City of Seattle, Co-Chair of Congresswoman Suzan Delbene’s (WA-1) Veterans Advisory Council, and they have participated in Armed Forces Academy selection for Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s (WA-7).

Michael C. Davis (he/him)

United States Navy Veteran Panelist

Merek’s CEO and Founder

Michael C. Davis leads as its CEO and Founder. Other than providing top-notch professional security services, his research and technical focus have produced a cybersecurity firm that considers human behavior as a relative factor related to cyber-mindfulness and security awareness. He is a member of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), the New Mexico Technology Council, and the Santa Fe Community Foundation’s Envision Fund board. In addition, he sits as a board member for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain region and Santa Fe Community College’s Foundation board. His 22-year career within the United States Navy, married with his Information Security work with Boeing, IBM, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been widely recognized for his cross-sector competence and technical expertise related to technology markets and businesses mindfulness business practices within cybersecurity. Michael also enjoys being creative within technology and finds that the dialogue that unfolds from the connection between cybersecurity and human behavior addresses many security best practices.

Michael earned his bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Language and holds a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership. Before opening the doors to his cybersecurity firm, he pursued a doctoral degree in Information Technology focusing on Technical Innovation Management. His book, Cyber Happiness: A Technology Journey in Mindfulness, is expected to be published next year. Michael currently publishes much of his work as a cybersecurity and technology Editorial Contributor for Newsweek and Forbes magazine. Michael presented much of this firm’s work in mindfulness and tech at TEDxABQ’s 2022 talk series.

Ryan A. Starzyk (he/him)

United States Air Force Veteran Panelist

Global Project Manager, InterPride

Ryan A. Starzyk is a US military combat veteran, past candidate for public office, business services consultant to large organizations and social impact entrepreneur. He is the owner and founder of BlueFire Group, a social purpose business promoting a radical transformation from strict profit motives to community-focused local economic development to create a more sustainable and equitable future. He currently serves as the Global Project Manager for InterPride, an Executive Advisor at The World’s Best Connectors, and the Founder of Pride Nation, providing LGBTQIA+ News Worldwide.

Ryan is a proud lifetime member of the LGBTQIA+ community advocating for increased access to mental health services, banning conversion therapy, and racial equity. He has served on the board of directors for his local Phoenix Pride, awarding over $1 million in community grants and scholarships. He also is a Pride 365 Champion joining the fight to end pink-washing and ensuring that only those authentic and consistent businesses supporting the LGBTQIA+ community stand out from those that don’t. Ryan believes his moral duty is to fight for global LGBTQIA+ rights and racial equity.

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Advancing The Global Pride Movement. Licensor of WorldPride. Producer of InterPod by InterPride podcast.