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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

LGBT Sailors Urged to Come Out for Fleet Week

Active LGBT Servicemembers march in the San Diego Pride Parade in July. The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has thrilled gay military members for Fleet Week. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

HELL'S KITCHEN — For the first Fleet Week since Don't Ask, Don't Tell was repealed, New York's gay nightlife scene is encouraging men and women in uniform to come out.
Bars and hotels have set up Fleet Week-themed specials and planned a host of parties to attract gay servicemembers for their first open Fleet Week in the celebration's 25-year history.
Zeke Stokes, a spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which represents LGBT troops, said that at previous Fleet Weeks, military attendees at such events would often risk getting discharged.
"If they chose to go, they were always looking over their shoulders, just like they were all the time," he said. "This is a new day for servicemembers because they're now free to serve openly without fear of being fired."
The city's gay venues have taken notice of the sudden influx of soldiers.
The OUT NYC, the city's first gay hotel has kicked off their Served With Pride Package for Fleet Week, but will keep the discount program going indefinitely. Military personnel staying at the hotel at at 512 W. 42nd St. will get 30 percent off their rooms, a complimentary "Served With Pride" T-shirt or tank top, along with free wifi and complimentary continental breakfast.
Inside the hotel, the XL Nightclub will transform into the "USS Rockit" Friday, during a porn-star-hosted Fleet Week party featuring a free-flowing vodka open bar from 10 to 11 p.m., along with "hot sailors and surprise acts."
The party, hosted by porn star Pierre Fitch, has a $10 cover.
The Maritime Hotel at 363 West 16th Street is offering its own discounts to sailors, with rooms for $99 a night for any active-duty seaman or woman in their Navy whites.
The hotel's restaurant, La Bottega, has put together its own line of nautical-themed specialty cocktails, including the Anchor, the Albatross, and the Do Ask, Please Tell.
Sue Fulton, a spokeswoman for Outserve, said that many of her organization's more than 5,500 actively-serving LGBT military members were excited to participate in the events.
"People are getting leave so they can get together with friends," said Fulton, a former Army Captain.
"There's a level of celebration in Fleet Week — there's always been — and now LGBT servicemembers can really be a part of that, part of the military family."
The newly-open Fleet Week also has the city's non-military LGBT community abuzz.
"I mean, we always tried to bag a sailor, but this time they're allowed to want it back," said Jonathan Francis O'Donnell, a 32-year-old Chelsea resident who said he plans to attend as many LGBT Fleet Week events as possible.
"I just want to reward our troops, if you know what I mean."

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