The first openly homosexual general in the U.S. military said Thursday at a pride event that granting more rights to the LGBT community has boosted the military’s ability to fight.
Army Maj. Gen. Tammy Smith delivered a speech at the Dragon Hill Lodge on the Army’s main base in Seoul, South Korea, in which she stated that military readiness depends on having access to the best talent America has to offer, Stars and Stripes reports.
“To be ready to fight tonight, you know, we’ve got to be able to access the potential of our entire force,” Smith said. “We are competing with corporate America for talent and we must demonstrate that we value talent regardless of the demographic that it comes from.”
Smith came out in 2012, a year after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, allowing homosexuals to serve openly.
The speech taking place in South Korea carries added significance, as homosexuality is banned in the South Korean military and not looked too kindly upon by the public at large, but some like Navy Lt. Simon Kwak hope the pride event communicates to the South Koreans the importance the Pentagon places on homosexual “rights.”
“I believe USFK is setting an example,” he told Stars and Stripes. “We definitely need to make sure the (South Korean) public knows that it’s very important to us and the alliance.”
This is the second time the event has been held.
The Pentagon held an annual reception Monday as part of LGBT month. This celebration has taken place annually since 2010 after it was instituted by former President Barack Obama. At the event, acting under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness Anthony Kurta stated: “Diversity is more than race, gender and ethnicity. It includes, among other things, diversity of thought, diversity of ability, diversity of background, diversity of language, culture and skill. It is very broad.”
Smith also received an award at Monday’s event.
Notably, a group of 100 members of the Conservative Action Project were disappointed the Trump administration did not step in to stop funding for LGBT events and redirect focus to combat readiness.
“The Trump administration should discontinue funding and directing personnel resources for special-interest events, including LGBT-Pride Month events in June, which do not strengthen military readiness,” members of the Conservative Action Project said in a statement.
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