Gay Tulsa Veteran: Time To End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Wednesday, March 10th 2010, 4:55 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Oklahomans for Equality says there are at least 28 active members of the military from the Tulsa area who are gay - seven of them deployed in Iraq.

The group believes it's time to get rid of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Tulsa accountant Kelly Kirby says he has the military to thank for his career. He served in the Air Force for three years at the end of the Vietnam War.

But, he says, it was a difficult time because he is gay and had several friends who were discharged from service.

"It wasn't because they didn't do their job, it wasn't because they didn't serve honorably, it was only because they were gay - only that," said Kelly Kirby, a gay veteran.

Kirby has now been in a relationship with the same man for 11 years and the two are legally married in California. He's also keeping a close eye on Washington as lawmakers decide whether to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

The policy requires gays to keep their sexuality secret or face a discharge. Both of Oklahoma's Senators are against repealing the current law.

Jim Inhofe says national security is at risk, adding, "Some estimates have indicated that repealing this approach will result in problems with both military recruitment and retention, something we cannot afford as our forces engage in the War on Terrorism."

While a spokesman for Tom Coburn told us, "He has the highest respect for anyone who chooses to wear the uniform but agrees with many in the military who are concerned that changing this policy would impact readiness."

Kirby disagrees and says gay servicemen and women are like every other person who wants to serve their country.

"They're just people. They have relationship; they're their neighbors; they pay their taxes; they mow their lawn," said Kelly Kirby, a gay man who served the United States in Vietnam.

"They're just all around, generally good people that contribute to the community, and why should they be discriminated against?" he said.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently told Congress he wants to see "don't ask, don't tell" repealed.

But the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps says the law should stay as is, and all three armed forces chiefs of staff have said they would like to see a comprehensive study before any changes are made.