WASHINGTON Tonight, the nation's two leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ( LGBTQ ) military non-profits the American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) and OutServe-SLDN announced they are combining forces by merging to form the nation's largest non-profit organization dedicated to education, advocacy and support for LGBTQ service members, military spouses, veterans, family members and allies the Modern Military Association of America. Announced tonight at the 2019 AMPA National Gala presented by Comcast NBCUniversal and USAA, hundreds were gathered in the Capital Hilton ballroom where the organizations also shared that OutServe-SLDN Executive Director and Navy veteran Andy Blevins will lead the Modern Military Association of America as Executive Director.
"I'm both humbled and honored to lead the Modern Military Association of America at this challenging moment in the fight for LGBTQ military equality," said Modern Military Association of America Executive Director Andy Blevins. "While we've made tremendous progress over the years as a community, much of that progress is now being threatened and rolled back especially for our transgender service members who now face an unconscionable transgender military ban. We're committed to doing everything within our power to stand up for all of our modern military and veteran families and ensure they have a powerful voice in Washington and beyond."
"For nearly a decade, the American Military Partner Association has been on the front lines fighting for our nation's modern military spouses and their families," said AMPA Founder and President Emeritus Stephen Peters. "Now, we're doubling down in our fight for fairness and equality by joining forces with OutServe-SLDN. The Modern Military Association of America will be a powerhouse of community advocates and a united voice for the LGBTQ military and veteran community."
"For nearly 26 years, OutServe-SLDN has been fighting for the right of LGBTQ military members to serve our nation openly and authentically," said Josh Fontanez, a U.S. Army officer and co-chair of the OutServe-SLDN Board of Director. "We're proud to continue that fight by merging with the American Military Partner Association and working together to defend and support the LGBTQ military and veteran community."
"We're truly excited that both of these incredible organizations are merging to create a formidable force in the battles ahead," said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. "By combining forces with OutServe-SLDN, we're embarking on a new journey fighting for open and authentic service and education, advocacy and support for modern military families."
The Modern Military Association of America is launching at a challenging moment for the LGBTQ military community as the Trump-Pence administration rolls back progress by implementing a transgender military ban. Just last month, the discriminatory ban went into effect impacting thousands of actively serving transgender military members and many more qualified transgender recruits who want to serve. Both AMPA and OutServe-SLDN have been leading voices in the fight to overturn the transgender military ban. Joined by Lambda Legal and the state of Washington, OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit Karnoski v. Trump in 2017 on behalf of AMPA, the Human Rights Campaign, Seattle-based Gender Justice League, and nine individual plaintiffs. The lawsuit will continue with the new organization.
The Modern Military Association of America will carry on the mission of both organizations through education, advocacy and support that fosters an environment throughout the military community honoring the contributions of America's LGBTQ service members, military spouses, veterans, and family members. Through its legal help desk, it will continue assisting members with discharge upgrades, legal name changes and discrimination. Through the recently launched Rainbow Shield program, the organization will help equip military and veteran service providers with the skills they need to be culturally competent to provide effective and efficient services to the LGBTQ military and veteran community. The organization will also continue AMPA's military spouse scholarship, presented by Hilton, that enables military spouses to pursue their higher education goals. With 81 chapters located throughout the world, the organization will facilitate opportunities for fellowship and camaraderie for individuals and families located at both stateside and overseas military bases.
The organization's new executive director Andy Blevins previously served as a law clerk for Military Disability Lawyer, LLC and the child advocacy section of Oregon's Justice Department. He also had the opportunity to work for the First Lady in the Obama White House. Andy spent most of his Naval service working as a cryptologic technician in Guam, where he would ultimately end up reaching out to OutServe-SLDN for assistance while being investigated under the now-defunct "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. Andy studied law and business administration at Willamette University's College of Law and Atkinson Graduate School of Management, as well as writing, with an emphasis in community-based pedagogy, at the University of Colorado. While in graduate school, Andy helped to found, and eventually serve as the Editor-in-Chief, for the Pacific Northwest's first law journal focused exclusively on social justice and equity issues. He also had the honor of being named the first runner-up for the National LGBT Bar Association's 2017 Student Leadership Award, a Shepherd Scholar through OGALLA: The LGBT Bar Association of Oregon, and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management's first ReachingOut MBA Scholar. Andy lives in the Washington, DC, area with his partner, Kai a transgender Army veteran and their fur-child.
The Modern Military Association of America ( MMAA ) is the nation's largest non-profit organization for LGBTQ service members, military spouses, veterans and allies. Created through the merger of OutServe-SLDN and the American Military Partner Association, MMAA is the "voice of the LGBTQ military and veteran community." Find out more at www.ModernMilitary.org .
—From a press releaes