On December 10, 2003 Brigadier General Keith Kerr (retired) of the California State Military Reserve, Army Brigadier General Virgil A. Richard (retired), and Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman of the United States Coast Guard (retired) gave an interview with the New York Times, criticizing the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy”, and coming out as gay; becoming, at the time, the highest ranking members of the military to acknowledge being gay.
Brigadier General Kerr joined the United States Army on 21 September 1953, and upon release from active duty, he continued to serve in the U. S. Army Reserve and was commissioned a First Lieutenant in June 1960. He retired from the U. S. Army Reserve in 1986 with the rank of Colonel and was commissioned in the California State Military Reserve of the California National Guard on 15 March 1986. General Kerr retired on 1 June 1996 after 43 years of service to the United States and the State of California. In the interview he said, “I'm so proud of my Army service and what the Army has done for me. And that opportunity ought to be available to all Americans.”
Brigadier General Virgil Richard served 32 years of active military service of which 30 were devoted to Financial Management. In the interview, he stated, “The Department of Defense and Congress must realize that there are one million gay and lesbian vets alive in America today, and over sixty-five thousand currently serve in the Armed Forces. Each year we loose an entire brigade (3500) of gay and lesbian service members who decide not to reenlist because they no longer want to put up with having to hide who they are." General Richard passed away on September 11, 2013.
Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, served his country proudly for 25 years. During that entire period, Admiral Steinman was in the closet, having not revealed his sexual orientation to anyone in the Coast Guard. Not even his family knew. "Because gays and lesbians are required to serve in silence and in celibacy," Admiral Steinman said, "the policy is almost impossible to follow. It has been effectively a ban."
LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have contributed significantly in several ways to the advancement of our community. Limited by the number of days on the calendar, showcasing every individual who has made a major impact would be difficult. Yet, across decades and eras, revolutions and wars, and discovery and enlightenment, SPART*A honors past and present LGBT figures in our history this month.