In Colorado House Race, Out Servicemember is a First in a Post-DADT America

Posted by Chris Geidner
October 13, 2011 10:15 AM |

Today, in the 28th House District in Colorado, a little bit of history is being made as Brian Carroll announces his candidacy for the 2012 election for the seat. An Army veteran still serving in the Colorado National Guard, Carroll appears to be the first out gay servicemember to run for office after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Screen shot 2011-10-13 at 10.12.39 AM.pngAccording to a news release announcing his candidacy, Carroll served two tours in Afghanistan and one Iraq with Army Special Forces Information Management Division, Special Operations Command. After six years of active duty, Carroll returned to Colorado and joined the Colorado Army National Guard, 19th Special Forces Group.

In the release, Carroll noted, "As far as I know I am the first out Veteran and active National Guardsman in the country to officially run for office since the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" 

Under the process engaged after the enactment of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act, DADT officially ended -- the law that mandated the policy was repealed -- on Sept. 20.

After returning to Colorado, Carroll worked in the office of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) as a veterans affairs specialist, where he assisted military and veteran constituents with cases pertaining to healthcare, housing and the Department of Veterans Affairs and became active in the repeal process of DADT.

CarrollIraq.jpg"I am proud of the work that I did fighting alongside Mark Udall and the thousands of Service Members nationwide to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' I will continue to fight for equality, serving my country and our great state of Colorado in the Army National Guard while exercising my right to run for public office," he said in the statement. "I look forward to a robust and energetic campaign where I will have the opportunity to engage the voters and constituents of House District 28 to hear their concerns and hopes for a better future.

Due to redistricting, two current state representatives will be running allowing with Carroll and any other challengers for the seat: state Reps. Ken Summers (R) and Andy Kerr (D). Under the state's term-limit law, however, both Summers and Kerr could only serve one more term.

Although Carroll appears to be the first candidate who can be both out and a servicemember and not risk discharge from the military, he is not alone among gay people who have served in the military and run for office.

Anthony Woods, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, was a West Point graduate who served with distinction in the Army but was discharged under DADT in 2008. He ran for Congress in a California special election in September 2009 to fill the vacancy created when Ellen Tauscher resigned from the House to join the State Department. Although the Democrat lost to the then-lieutenant governor, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), his race garnered significant positive media attention.

A decade earlier, in 1999, a Republican in the Arizona state house, then-Rep. Steve May (R), came out in a speech on the floor of the state house. Still serving in the U.S. Army Reserve at the time, the Army began discharge proceedings against him. After he challenged the discharge recommendation of an Army panel, the Army dropped the case and reached a settlement allowing May to serve out his term as a reservist until May 2001.

[UPDATE @ 4:30P: Log Cabin Republicans deputy executive director Christian Berle pointed to two others who fit the bill as out gay servicemembers running for office.

Steve Keblish, who is a county legislator in Herkimer County, New York, running for re-election. According to his Victory Fund-endorsement biography, he has served in the military since 2005, including deployment to Afghanistan, and his current role is Captain of the Military Police Battalion in Auburn, N.Y. Keblish, however, lost the Republican and Conservative primaries on Sept. 13 -- before the end of DADT -- and told the Herkimer Telegram the next day that, even though he would still be appearing on the Independence party line ballot, he had not decided about what would be happening with his campaign.

Patrick Forrest is running for state Senate in Virginia. His campaign biography states that he is an attorney, Coast Guard Officer and former senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. His biography states that he served until March 2011 as a senior official at DHS, working as lead counsel for the E-Verify program and as associate chief at the Office of Legislative Affairs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.]

[Photo: Carroll (Photos courtesy of Colorado for Carroll; use of his military rank, job titles and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement from the Department of Defense or the U.S. Army.)]


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