YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- Members of the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade hosted a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month Awareness and Education Panel Friday at the Dragon Hill Lodge for members of the Yongsan Garrison community. Organizers said the goal was to educate, inform and have an open discussion with service members, civilians and family members on Department of Defense policies and challenges faced by LBGT service members.
The ten-member panel featured several of gay and lesbian military personnel from both the Air Force and Army as well as members of the Eighth Army Inspector General office, personnel services and military legal experts.
Gay and lesbian personnel discussed hurdles they've had to overcome as the military gets used to openly LGBT personnel in their ranks.
"Paperwork has been a big issue for me and my husband," said Airman 1st Class Philip Duque, whose husband is also a service member.
Duque said one example of a hurdle faced happened when he attempted to have his husband added to a computerized database used by military healthcare and administrative professionals commonly known as DEERS. The clerk inputting the information mistakenly assumed Duque's spouse was female. As a result,
Duque was forced to return at a later time to correct the error.
"(The clerk) was embarrassed by the mistake, not because I'm gay, but because he made the mistake," said Duque. "So it seems were getting there."
Rhonda Motley of the Eighth Army Inspector General's Office says her team is helping educate Eighth Army's Leaders and Soldiers understand that discrimination against LBGT personnel, by regulation, will not be accepted, much like discrimination for race, sex or age is not tolerated.
"It's here [LGBT personnel in the military] and leaders need to deal with it properly, regardless of their own personal beliefs," Motley said to the crowd that gather for the panel.
Tim Blake, a civilian spouse who says he's been with his service-member partner for 34 years, says that some did not realize the disparity of privileges offered to straight and homosexual couples until recently.
"I had to be signed in every time we came on post because I could not get an ID card because the government didn't recognize me as a spouse, even though we had been married since 2008," said Blake. "I felt like a nobody. Now I feel like a somebody. Are we there yet? No, but we are a lot better now than we were a few years ago."