Organizers offer partnership with the nation’s oldest military academy as the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” quickly approaches.
WEST POINT, NY – A courageous group of America’s best and brightest are once again answering their call to duty, honor, and country: by coming out of the closet.
Knights Out, an association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) West Point Alumni and their supporters emerged from anonymity today to support thousands of LGBT Soldiers currently serving in the armed forces, and to educate the current military leadership on the importance of accepting and honoring the sacrifices and selfless service of their LGBT soldiers and officers.
As congress approaches the decision to allow LGBT military personnel to serve openly, the group is prepared to serve as a critical support and advocacy group for the full acceptance of gay service members, particularly at West Point.
By publicly outing themselves, the 37 members of Knights Out ended once and for all the anonymity that has obscured from full view their service to the nation as West Point graduates. Knights Out seeks to reduce the stigma associated with sexual diversity by providing an open forum for discussion between out LGBT West Point graduates and their fellow alumni. Knights Out is well-positioned to help West Point maintain its status as the world’s premier leadership institution by swiftly and effectively adapting to the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which Knights Out believes is both imminent and inevitable.
Colonel Stewart Bornhoft (Ret.), West Point class of 1969 and Vietnam combat veteran, welcomed the formation of Knights Out: “All West Pointers, regardless of their own sexual orientation, will soon be charged with leading soldiers who freely acknowledge their diverse orientations. Just as we set the example for the successful integration of the races and genders, we will have that same responsibility when our nation joins the family of 26 other militaries that have implemented the freedom to serve openly. When open service is enacted, the words of the Cadet Prayer – ‘…never to be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won’ – will once again be our guidepost.”
On the 207th anniversary of the founding of West Point, it is fitting that Knights Out brings over 275 combined years of Active Duty service of their LGBT members to assist West Point and the AOG. The organization takes its name after West Point’s mascot, the Black Knight, a selfless warrior whose identity must be hidden but emerges to save the day nonetheless.
Knights Out is led by a board of LGBT West Point graduates and their supporters. The group includes combat veterans and leaders in their local communities. All are also members of the Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni (SAGALA) network, with over 340 members, a number which includes some Active Duty combat commanders currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. SAGALA protects member identities because of the current discriminatory policy.
Under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, gay and lesbian service members are allowed to serve in the United States armed forces, but are not permitted to tell coworkers their sexual orientation, living a secret life in exchange for the opportunity to serve. Because West Point cadets live by the Honor Code, that they “will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do,” LGBT cadets and graduates are frequently forced to compromise their integrity. This policy undermines the Army Values of Honor, Integrity, and Respect, resulting in the premature resignation of many talented service members and West Point graduates.
Dan Choi, (West Point Class of ’03)
Communications Director and Spokesperson
Phone number: (714) 654-0828
ABOUT KNIGHTS OUT
The group’s activities and goals will include:
- Financially supporting and providing speakers for AOG and West Point efforts to educate cadets and graduates in sexual diversity
- Providing a web-based forum (www.KnightsOut.org) for furthering discourse on this topic among Army leaders
- Participating in West Point AOG’s upcoming (annual) Diversity Leadership Conference
- Providing LGBT graduates who have been disenfranchised in the past with a way to reconnect to the AOG
- Establishing a Knights Out affinity group through the Association of Graduates
- Serving as positive role models to cadets and graduates
The academy has been ranked in the top tier of National Colleges in the US News and World Report, and the Princeton Review. Knights Out believes that its very existence will help the Academy continue to recruit America’s best and brightest.
FOR THE ARMY: One of the group’s critical aims is to support the estimated 65,000 gay servicemembers currently in the armed forces. Being a closeted-gay service member in the military is extremely difficult and psychologically damaging. The group demonstrates that graduates of the world’s finest military academies also include gays and lesbians and that their service is not only compatible with the demands of the armed forces, their leadership is essential to mission accomplishment. The group encourages closeted soldiers and leaders to not only continue their selfless service but continue to excel in their leadership roles despite the current policies.
HELP FROM SISTER ACADEMIES: Steve Clark Hall, USNA ’75 has helped tremendously with the founding of Knights Out. He was recently recognized as the group’s first “honorary knight” for his inspiration and assistance. Hall is a member of USNA Out and is finalizing his documentary film for early summer release, “Out of Annapolis.” Organizing members of ‘USNA Out’and ‘USAFA Blue-Alliance,’ were instrumental in assisting the Knights Out board. ‘USNA Out’ was formed in 2003 and Blue-Alliance in 1997. All are members of the overarching Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni (SAGALA) network, with over 340 members, formed in 1994.
Dan Choi , an Iraq combat veteran who graduated West Point in 2003 with a degree in Arabic Language and currently serves as an infantry officer in the army national guard: “although getting into West Point wasn’t easy, and completing the four year program wasn’t any easier, coming out as part of this group was the easiest decision of my service because it validates the foundational lessons of integrity and honor that West Point preached from day one.”
Stewart Bornhoft , class of 1969, a Vietnam combat veteran, retired army colonel who served as an instructor on the West Point academic faculty and as the Superintendent’s Aide during the integration of women in the academy: “Just as we set the example for the successful integration of the races and genders, we will have that same responsibility when our nation joins the family of 26 other militaries that have implemented the freedom to serve openly. Knights Out will be able to assist in the understanding of the many perspectives involved.”
“In 1977, when women were in their second year as cadets, my daughter was born at West Point. At the time, I was an instructor in the Academic Department and later became the Aide-de-Camp to LTG Goodpaster, the Superintendent. I witnessed firsthand the role that West Point and various female-oriented organizations played in shaping the military for the integration of women. It is so encouraging now to see that, with the establishment of Knights Out, there will be an organization that can play a similar role in helping all members of the military make open, honest, and fully integrated service a way of life.”
“As a combat leader from the Vietnam era, having served at West Point for nine of my 30+ years in uniform, I am proud to join Knights Out. I believe that it can contribute to implementing open service in the US military. We will soon see the repeal of the discriminatory ban known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which forces half truths and deceptive practices.”
Becky Kanis , class of 1991: “The current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy requires gay and lesbian soldiers to sacrifice their integrity in exchange for the right to serve their country. Allowing this policy to persist insults and underestimates the competence of Army leaders from sergeants all the way to general officers. Knights Out, by pointing out the hypocrisy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and proactively planning for a day when gays and lesbians can openly serve, is filling a leadership void that is no longer tolerable.”
OVERTURN OF DADT: “The Army has received its Warning Order that the overturn of DADT is imminent, based on reports that President Obama has begun consulting his top defense advisers, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, on how to lift a ban on gays serving openly in the military” stated Paul Morris , Knight’s Out co-founder.
“Warning Orders are issued to help generals and staff plan for actions for before they are ordered. President Obama has made it clear he intends to review and overturn DADT and end the wasteful policy which the country has been burdened with for last 16 years. Now is the time for the Army and its oldest military academy to plan for this mission, and Knights Out stands ready to assist.”