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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 51
NEW ARTICLE REVEALS 'TURNING POINTS' LEADING TO END OF 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' LAW
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NEW ARTICLE REVEALS 'TURNING POINTS' LEADING TO END OF 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' LAW

December 27, 2011 - A new article in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 'Turning Points: Challenges and Successes In Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' offers an insightful new perspective on how the policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces was finally overturned earlier this year. 'Turning Points' is written by Michelle Benecke, a leader, advocate, and social entrepreneur who, a year out of law school, co-founded and led the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the pioneering legal aid and policy organization that mobilized the successful effort to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). Benecke is a current Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School, a position awarded to exemplary lawyers who have served distinguished careers in the public interest

In 'Turning Points,' Benecke offers an insider's perspective on pivotal moments in the eighteen year fight against DADT and how early victories achieved  and sacrifices made - by SLDN's team and clients turned public opinion against the law over the course of nearly two decades, paving the way for DADT's eventual repeal this year:

- How, with no seed money, Benecke and colleague Dixon Osburn launched the DADT repeal movement by starting SLDN the day after President Clinton announced DADT - July 19, 1993 - when existing organizations had no plans to pursue legislative repeal or provide legal aid to military members harmed by the law.

- How SLDN stopped the 'witch hunts' of service members suspected of being gay by acting as a watchdog to hold the military accountable on the issue for the first time in history and by mobilizing lawyers, civilian clergy, activists and other allies.

- How SLDN exposed the use of 'lesbian baiting' - threatening to out women as lesbians, regardless of their actual sexual orientation - as a tool to block reports of sexual harassment or assault

- How the murder of PFC Barry Winchell in 1999 revealed a climate of harassment and violence on military bases aimed at service members suspected of being gay, and how the Pentagon failed to take action against it, doing significant harm to its own credibility

- How SLDN's guerilla legal work made it increasingly difficult for the military to enforce DADT, enabled military members to fight back, and generated political momentum inside and outside the military Benecke's powerful piece offers a model to today's advocates seeking high-stakes, high-profile change. SLDN's success underscores the need to more fully pursue all three branches of the federal government, including the executive branch and its administrative processes that are currently underutilized as well as media and grassroots activism.

About Michelle Benecke

Today, Michelle continues her work advising advocates and military officials on the transition to a post-DADT military.

Michelle has interacted regularly with Administration officials, military leaders and Congress; testified before Department of Defense advisory committees and Congressional panels; and, appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, network news programs and other media.

A recognized expert in her field, Michelle has authored or co-authored numerous publications, op-eds and guest blog spots, including first-ever works on how the military's gay bans have disproportionately harmed women.

Michelle began her career as a commissioned Army officer and was among the first women to lead combat arms soldiers, including as the founding commander of a new surface-to-air missile battery.

Michelle is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School, where she was recently selected as a Wasserstein Fellow in recognition of her public service accomplishments.

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NEW ARTICLE REVEALS 'TURNING POINTS' LEADING TO END OF 'DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL' LAW
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