An Air Force sergeant discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will serve as one of the eight citizen co-chairs of President Barack Obama's inauguration, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced today.
David Hall will join seven other Americans selected to highlight the accomplishments of Obama's first term throughout the Inauguration weekend, including attendance at Monday's swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade.
"This is certainly the honor of a lifetime, and I am grateful to President Obama for his leadership in repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' so that no qualified American who wants to serve this country in uniform will ever again be denied that right simply because they are gay or lesbian," Hall, who serves as director of development for OutServe-SLDN, said in a statement.
As his father and stepfather did before him, Hall joined the Air Force in March 1996. After being promoted to staff sergeant and graduating from Airman Leadership School, Hall was accepted into Air Force ROTC in May 2001. Distinguishing himself as a leader, Hall was one of just 500 cadets to receive a pilot slot that year. It was only after a fellow cadet told his commanders that he was gay that Hall was dis-enrolled for "homosexual conduct" in August 2002. Hall soon joined the SLDN's constitutional challenge to DADT as a plaintiff, later joining the staff of the LGBT-rights organization in 2006.
"Every day, I'm inspired by the determination, grit, and resilience of the American people," Obama said in a statement announcing the citizen co-chairs. "The stories of these extraordinary men and women highlight both the progress we’ve made and how much we have left to do. They remind us that when we live up to the example set by the American people, there is no limit to how bright our future can be."
Obama has cited the repeal of DADT and the role he has played in shifting views of LGBT Americans as one of his proudest accomplishments of his first term.
According to OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, Hall could not have been a better choice.
"There is a great deal more to do on the road to full LGBT equality in our military, but it's important for us to take a moment this weekend to honor the leadership of this President and recognize just how far we have come," Robinson said in a statement. "There could be no better personification of that than former Air Force Sergeant David Hall."
The news of Hall's participation in the inaugural ceremony comes after reports that the Rev. Luis Leon, an Episcopal priest in Washington, will deliver the benediction. A source close to the inaugural committee confirms to Metro Weekly that Leon will replace Rev. Louie Giglio, who withdrew from the inaugural ceremony after an anti-gay sermon he delivered in the mid-1990s was unearthed by ThinkProgress.
In contrast to Giglio, who is an evangelical, Leon presides over a parish that welcomes gay members. Known as the "church of presidents," St. John's Church near the White House is regularly attended by the Obama family. Leon also delivered the invocation at President George W. Bush's second inauguration in 2005.
The Episcopal Church has a history of accepting LGBT members. With out gay priests, the Episcopal Church was the first major Christian denomination to have an out bishop after Gene Robinson was consecrated as the bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. This summer the church announced it would sanction same-sex blessings and ordain transgender priests. Earlier this month, Washington National Cathedral, which is an Episcopal church, also announced it would allow same-sex marriage ceremonies.
[Photo: David Hall meets with Michelle Obama at the White House earlier today (Courtesy of Twitter).]