Holding signs and chanting, “let us serve,” a group gathered in Raleigh on Thursday night to protest discrimination in the armed forces.
The rally was part of a national campaign calling for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a statewide campaign to encourage support for the DREAM Act, which gives undocumented immigrants less than 16 years old who have lived in the country for more than five years a path to American citizenship.
The protestors used Veterans Day to recognize lesbians, bisexuals, gays, transgenders and queers who already serve in the armed forces and undocumented immigrants who cannot serve.
“In the same way our veterans fought for what they believe, we’re going to take a stand and we’re going to fight,” said Viridiana Martinez, an undocumented immigrant living in Raleigh.
Protestors shared stories of undocumented immigrants being refused by the military.
“They all feel part of this country and are willing to put their lives on the line, but they can’t because they are undocumented,” said Jose Rico, the regional representative of the N.C. DREAM Team in Raleigh.
He said they were fighting with the LGBTQ community because they shared a common struggle. But no protestors identified themselves as part of the LGBTQ community.
“Both our populations have been oppressed,” said Alicia Torres, an undocumented immigrant.
“It is time to fight shoulder-to-shoulder.”
The nationwide campaign to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was organized by GetEQUAL, an LGBTQ civil rights organization, and Justin Elzie, a former Marine sergeant discharged because of his sexuality.
“It’s about time they stop having to look over their shoulders and worry about getting fired,” said Elzie, who led a rally in New York City on Thursday.
He said this week was important to show the public that LGBTQ veterans are among those honored on Veterans Day.
“They are the only veterans today who can get fired just for who they are,” he said. “The Marines say they want to reflect the fabric of this nation — we are part of the fabric of this nation.”
William McEvan, the only protestor in Raleigh who had served in the military, said he had served beside many gay people in the army.
“That’s like booting someone out because they’re Baptist,” McEvan said.
Elzie said they are trying to get the policy repealed in the lame duck session of Congress before Republicans take over.
“We’ve got our one chance legislatively to get rid of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’,” Elzie said. “We’re concerned if it gets into January.”
GetEQUAL has stated its solidarity with United We Dream and other immigrant activist organizations in supporting the DREAM ACT and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
“This is where we’re united because we’re being discriminated against and kept in the shadows,” Martinez said.
“And we’re saying no to that.”
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