OutServe-SLDN Chapter leaders issued a statement demanding the resignation of Josh Seefried, a co-chair of its board of directors after a week of organizational upheaval
OutServe-SLDN leaders, representing 19 chapters and 4,000 members, including the transgender and women’s affinity groups, have issued a statement demanding the resignation of Josh Seefried, a co-chair of OS-SLDN’s board of directors, who apparently led an unsuccessful effort to fire Allyson Robinson, the organization’s executive director and the first transgender leader of a non-centric transgender organization, during a tumultuous board meeting held on June 23rd in Washington, D.C.
The statement follows:
STATEMENT FROM THE COALITION OF CHAPTER LEADERS:
This week, OutServe-SLDN’s mission of full equality in the military was set back by the abrupt attempt to dismiss Executive Director Allyson Robinson. The cause was attributed to the current financial state of the organization, but that crisis was never disclosed to the general membership, nor was a call to action asking for help. Two statements were released three days after initial leaks reported these events.
This entire episode has damaged OS-SLDN’s reputation as a leader in the LGBT community and as an advocate for the transgender military community. Donors and sponsors have indicated that Allyson’s loss makes them think twice about contributing to our organization. The loss of key board members and staff who resigned in protest due to the Board’s method of approaching Allyson has damaged OS-SLDN’s operational capability.
In sum, this episode was the result of a reckless attempt to save money without considering the consequences and it has had a clear detrimental impact on the organization, including our future ability to advocate effectively for the LGB and transgender military communities.
It is our view, after reviewing the situation and options available, that the best way forward is to address the problems within the leadership. We will be asking for the resignation of Josh Seefried, Co-Chair of the OS-SLDN Board of Directors and coordinator of the process that led to requesting Allyson’s resignation.
If OS-SLDN is to survive, we need change immediately. We need transparency and honesty. We need clear communication that comes from the top of the organization and directly addresses the membership.
We need to react and repair the damage that has been done by the Board of Directors.
OS-SLDN is a membership-based organization. Without the members, it cannot exist. We are committed to improving this by ensuring that membership has an ever-present voice and the opportunity to participate in the governance of OS-SLDN.
Most importantly, we are unequivocally dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America’s military, veterans, and our families, to include ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Board members Brenda Sue Fulton and Beth Schissell (and a third board member’s resignation was not accepted) resigned in protest following the meeting and communications between board members about these events were subsequently leaked to the news media.
Compounding trouble for the organization was the wholesale resignations of senior staff, including Zeke Stokes, Director of External Engagement, Gary Espinas, Director of Chapter and David McKean, Legal and Public Policy Director.
Robinson issued a statement via the organization’s magazine blog on June 24 indicating she would be remaining on as executive director, but had decided she would step down at an undesignated date in the future.
The board of directors issued a statement on June 24th as well, indicating that they were in the process of transforming the organization to a membership based one and reaffirmed the strong leadership of Robinson.
Apparently, a number of chapter leaders remain unconvinced that the organization is on the right path to reconstituting itself and has included a demand to be included in governance processes and financial development of the organization.
Significant challenges remain for LGBT people serving in the military–there is currently no protections from discrimination while serving and transgender persons remain barred to service due to medical disqualification.
Image of OutServe-SLDN’s logo is via Wikipedia.
Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s.
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