Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-07-22
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Lee Reinhart reflects on impact of Don't Ask, Don't Tell
by Chuck Colbert
2011-09-14

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Lee Reinhart, a veteran of both the Navy and Coast Guard, is well aware of the insidious and arbitrary nature of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The Navy handed him an honorable discharge, while the Coast Guard fired him for being gay under the soon-to-be-repealed federal law and military policy.

During the mid-1990s, Reinhart served in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Cowpens ( CG-63 ) , a guided missile cruiser. There, he was an openly gay operations specialist. His two years on the Cowpens were "the greatest time of my life," said Reinhart recently during a telephone interview. "Everyone knew I was gay. The commanding officer and I never had a discussion about it, but he obviously knew."

"Our ship was the lead ship in the 1998 missile strike against Afghanistan," Reinhart said. Consequently, "Our captain made admiral coming out of that mission. And I was asked to be on the admiral's staff, as well as cook, who was also gay."

However, after four years of service, Reinhart returned to Chicago and civilian life. The events of 911, however, prompted the sailor to re-enlist in 2002. "I looked at my options," he said. "I was almost 30, and the only branches that would take me back [ at my former rate, second class petty officer, E-5 ] were the Navy and Coast Guard."

Reinhart opted for the latter, hoping to get orders to Key West, Fla. Instead he was sent back again to San Diego, this time for service on a Coast Guard ship but was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell" for being gay.

How did Reinhart's firing come about? "We took some female crew members out to a gay bar in Portland, Ore.," he explained, referring to a shipmate who was gay. "And they went back and talked about the great night they had with Josh and Lee at the gay bar. That started an investigation."

Reinhart's executive officer "couldn't believe that I had such a positive experience in the Navy," he said.

The Coast Guard pulled his top-secret clearance.

During a seven-day transit to Hawaii "was the first time I ever feared for my life," Reinhart said. "I didn't know what was happening. They locked me up in medical because they thought I would commit suicide, which I never was going to do."

In Hawaii, however, military lawyers "were furious over how the case was handled," Reinhart said, telling him: "It was botched from day one."

"They have no proof on you," he recalled lawyers saying: "You have prior service. There's never been an incident about you or this issue. You can stay on. We will take you off this command immediately. All we need you to do is tell us you are not gay. No more questions."

"But I couldn't do it," said Reinhart.

Shipboard on the Cowpens, however, tells an entirely different story of gay life in the Navy. Initially, Reinhart told only a few close friends that he was gay. For his first six-month deployment, they kept his secret.

"But before we left on a second six-month tour, I knew that I didn't want to deploy and not be comfortable," Reinhart said. "The friends who knew—it was wearing on them, keeping the secret for me."

He continued, "So I packed my sea bag, put it on my rack, went up the see the operations officer, and turned myself in for being gay, knowing once I did that, he would put me off the ship."

"To my wonderful surprise," said Reinhart, "the operations officer said, 'Nice try. You are not going anywhere. If anyone bothers you, let me know.'"

Looking back on Navy days, "I was blessed," Reinhart said. "At quarters, I freely talked about what I did the night before. There were three or four openly gay people on my ship."

Recently, Reinhart met up with a former shipmate who is straight. One thing his friend says that he misses is the weekly brunches when the straight men went to gay bars in San Diego for brunch," Reinhart said. "That was their way of showing support. They always went to gay bars for Sunday brunch."

When asked how he felt about the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Reinhart said, "It feels pretty damn good."

Also, the Navy man turned gay-rights/repeal activist has a sense of accomplishment in lobbying U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, to change his vote in favor of lifting the ban. "I feel I was part of making that happen," said Reinhart.

With the day of celebration fast approaching, Reinhart offered an observation. "It is important for history to remember our straight brothers and sisters who stood beside us when it wasn't safe," he said. "They knew it was important for us to serve."

Meanwhile, Reinhart continues to work with a local recruiter. "I want to re-enlist. I want to have the opportunity to put the uniform back on in the reserves," he said. "I fought a long time for this and did not get paid for those trips to D.C. meeting with congressional leaders, telling my story."

�2011 Chuck Colbert. All rights reserved.


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

House members demand LGBTQ Pride flags be allowed on military installations 2020-07-31
U.S. House of Representatives votes to end Trump-Pence transgender military ban 2020-07-30
Former state National Guard enlistee alleges anti-trans discrimination 2020-07-18
Pentagon confirms LGBTQ Pride flag banned 2020-07-17
Navy grants first waiver for trans service member 2020-05-15
NATIONAL Lesbian bishop, iconic activist dies, military lawsuit, drag legend passes 2020-03-31
Judge releases Chelsea Manning from jail 2020-03-12
Majority of active duty servicemembers oppose trans military ban 2020-02-27
LGBTQ military non-profit names veteran Jennifer Dane Interim ED 2020-01-22
Federal court upholds injunction preventing discharge of HIV+ airmen 2020-01-10
Panel faces legal challenges for trans and HIV-positive service members 2019-12-03
Trans/HIV+ military ban panel Dec. 2 with U.S. Rep. Quigley 2019-11-26
LGBTQ veterans observe Veterans Day with 27th annual dinner 2019-11-13
LGBTQ veterans denied honorable discharges regain NY state benefits 2019-11-12
Sheridan speaks on trans military members 2019-11-08
New York State veterans' services trained in LGBTQ cultural competency 2019-10-02
4th Circuit urged to to uphold crder preventing discharge of HIV-positive airmen 2019-09-18
Gay Korean war era veteran honored by Chicago Cubs 2019-08-27
Military Experts, Medical Groups, HIV Advocates Oppose Discharge Policy for HIV-Positive Airmen 2019-07-26
WORLD Alan Turing, Theresa May, UN expert, South Korea military 2019-07-16
House passes Military Non-Discrimination Amendment 2019-07-11
High court workplace cases affect LGBTQ veterans, military families, national security 2019-07-03
City salutes LGBT veterans, Army veteran speaks for trans military service 2019-06-26
NATIONAL Kamala Harris, military poll, gay-bar attack, Cracker Barrel 2019-06-25
Court lets Trump anti-trans ban stand, and orders new review 2019-06-15
NATIONAL Military items, trans murders, Southern trans report 2019-05-22
LGBTQ veterans' group holding Memorial Day events 2019-05-22
Chelsea Manning back in jail 2019-05-16
GLN hosts Chelsea Manning fundraiser 2019-05-14
AMPA, OutServe-SLDN combine to form Modern Military Association of America 2019-05-11
LGBTQ military and veteran to hold D.C. gala 2019-05-07
GLN to Host Fundraiser For Chelsea Manning 2019-04-19
Trans military ban now in effect 2019-04-12
Military policy researchers call trans ban the return of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" 2019-04-10
APA Concerned About Transgender Military Ban 2019-04-09
U.S. House votes to condemn military transgender ban 2019-03-28
75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to Speak at LGBTQ Military Event 2019-03-21
NATIONAL Trans military ban, Fla. candidate, inmate meets end 2019-03-12
Pentagon proceeding with anti-trans military ban 2019-03-12
Chelsea Manning jailed again 2019-03-08
 



Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.