By Colleen Mewing, Local Organizer, Utah Regional Operating Committee, Marriage Equality USA.
I work at a military installation where traditions run high. Being proud of who we are and what we do to support our warfighters is part of everyday life. I have been a contractor for 27 years at Hill Air Force Base, UT, and never expected our base, located in conservative Utah, to take the lead in standing up for LGBT Pride.
I’ve never been more proud of where I work than when I received an email stating the following: “The Department of Defense (DoD) joins the Nation in celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month during the month of June. We recognize gay, lesbian and bisexual service members and LGBT civilians for their dedicated service to our country. The LGBT community has written a proud chapter in this fundamentally American story by reminding us that integrity and respect remain cornerstones of our military and civilian culture. Let’s encourage our DoD personnel to recognize the accomplishments of all members of our workforce, and in doing so, celebrate the significance of diversity in building a brighter future for all citizens.”
The email was soliciting volunteers to head up a Hill Pride Committee. I sat alone in my office, raising my hand to volunteer to no one, as I desperately wanted to be part of this committee. When I approached my boss about getting involved, he said I was cleared to take part as long as the meetings didn’t interfere with my work. I’d also have to participate on my own time and use vacation to attend meetings and events planned. That was minor, as I was already eager to get started.
As it turns out, Hill AFB is the first military installation in the United States to stand up and support LGBT activities during the month of Pride. This couldn’t come at a more important time in our state of Utah either, as the Kitchen v. Herbert case is currently awaiting a decision from the 10th Circuit Court out of Denver.
The word is just starting to get out that Hill AFB is supporting Pride by holding activities on the Base. The Hill Pride Committee has been working on three major activities: 1) an LGBT Information Fair; 2) Pride Night event; and 3) Keynote Luncheon. All three activities will take place after the Utah Pride Festival events unfold the first full weekend in June in Salt Lake City.
The Base is holding an LGBT Information Fair where my wife and I will sponsor a booth representing Marriage Equality USA. Other organizations attending the Info Fair include Restore Our Humanity, Utah Pride Center, Human Rights Campaign, Equality Utah, PFLAG Utah, Volunteers of America, Department of Veterans Affairs LGBT Veterans Program, Family Acceptance Project, Rainbow Law, among several other noteworthy organizations within our community. The LGBT Information Fair is being held on Wednesday, 11 June.
In addition, a Pride Night is also being held on Saturday, 21 June. The evening will feature a variety of performances from people in our LGBT community to include a slam poet and several talented musicians.
The first-ever Hill Pride activities will culminate with a Keynote Luncheon on Tuesday, 24 June, where Kristin Beck, a former decorated Navy Seal and transgender woman will be the keynote speaker. She recently finished a movie called Lady Valor which chronicles her life.
The Hill Pride Committee is working hard to set the bar high and lead the way for other military installations to follow us in the years ahead. Hill AFB intends to celebrate Pride month every June so we want to ensure this first-ever occurrence is successful!