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Gays Protest Military Policy at Recruiters

July 22, 1993|RICHARD CORE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Taking the microphone in front of an Armed Forces Recruiting office at a strip mall Wednesday night, Rebecca Chadwick commended her fellow gay and lesbian protesters for performing in what she considered true Orange County style.

"We're the most orderly demonstrators," she said wryly. "We even walk within the lines. It just shows that you can be mad and orderly at the same time."

Chadwick, co-chairwoman of a gay and lesbian political action group, was one of about 100 protesters who gathered in the shopping center parking lot at Euclid Street and Katella Avenue to voice opposition to President Clinton's new, compromise policy on homosexuals in the military.

The new policy bars military recruiters from asking about an applicant's sexual orientation and discourages the military from conducting investigations on the mere suspicion of an individual's homosexuality. But it prohibits homosexual conduct by military personnel on or off duty.

Unlike large marches in West Hollywood and other cities in previous nights, which blocked streets and disrupted traffic, Wednesday's demonstration hardly raised a ruckus.

For a few minutes, demonstrators drew the attention of motorists as they marched through the crosswalks at Euclid and Katella--obeying pedestrian traffic signals and staying within the crosswalk lines.

Then they broke up into smaller groups on each corner, blowing whistles, holding signs and flags, and discussing the issue among themselves.

"It's more than I thought," Ron Smebye, founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America's Orange County chapter, said of the turnout as he stood in fatigues, holding an American flag. "In Orange County, what can you expect? We're just emerging."

The demonstrators drew honks of apparent support from some passing motorists, while a few others yelled obscenities.

The relatively peaceful gathering was disrupted by 21-year-old Salvatore Cirifalco of Anaheim, who confronted the group on the sidewalk, yelling that he found them "disgusting." Cirifalco, who said he is entering the Army in two weeks, told the demonstrators: "I do not want you in my military!"

To Diane Glose of Fullerton, a lesbian veteran who served in the Navy from 1977 to 1982, he said: "You're a lesbian. You're not a human being."

As police from Anaheim and nearby Garden Grove looked on, the demonstrators moved their street demonstration to the front doors of the armed services recruiting offices, where speakers voiced their anger and frustration with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

While the speakers agreed that they found the new standard unacceptable, they disagreed on where to direct their anger. Some said they felt betrayed by Clinton, who had promised during his campaign to lift the ban on homosexuals in the military.

Others, like David Hoover, president of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club of Orange County, said Clinton did all he could do, given the opposition in society and Congress.

"Clinton is not the enemy," Hoover said to applause from some in the crowd. "Bill Clinton opened the door for a discussion we have not had for the 12 years before him.

"The enemies are still homophobia and hatred against gays and lesbians."

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