Attorney, veteran works to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Attorney, veteran works to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Sharon Alexander, a veteran of the Army and National Guard who has experienced first-hand the harm of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gay individuals serving in the military, will speak at HWS later this month.

Her talk, “Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: A Report from the Front Lines,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29 in the library’s Geneva Room. Her visit is co-sponsored by the Public Policy Program, the Provost’s Office, the President’s Office, and The Fisher Center.

Alexander has pointed out that the federal policy forces enlisted soldiers who are gay to lie as a condition of serving our country. She serves as deputy director for policy of the Service Members Legal Defense Network, and has handled their legal services and litigation programs.

For the last two years, she has helped lead the group’s efforts with a coalition of national, state and local organizations on legislative and grassroots advocacy to repeal the U.S. military’s current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. She says every study commissioned by the Pentagon has concluded that openly gay people in the ranks do not contribute negatively to unit cohesion.

Alexander holds a bachelor’s in political science and anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh and her master’s in anthropology and her law degree from the University of Colorado.

She was commissioned an Army second lieutenant in 1993, and served as a medical platoon leader in the Third Infantry Division in Vilseck, Germany; and the Southern European Task Force Infantry Brigade (Airborne) in Vicenza, Italy; among other assignments.

After five years of active-duty service, she served in the Colorado Army National Guard for three years, last as a captain in 2003. She is a former staff counsel with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, whose president, Joe Solmonese, was a President’s Forum speaker in April 2006.

“As a young platoon leader,” Alexander said in a recent interview, “I did lose a soldier to this policy, and I found it very disruptive, very difficult, much more disruptive than it would have been if there had just been a gay person in the platoon like anybody else.

“The thing about the military experience is that people come from diverse backgrounds, diverse philosophical perspectives, diverse religions.

“But unit cohesion is not based on shared philosophy or shared religion. Unit cohesion is based on a commitment to a mission that lies ahead of you, that transcends, if you will, our individual differences. That’s one of the great beauties of serving in the United States military.”