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July 07, 2011 3:37 PM President Appoints Lesbian Veteran to West Point Board

By Daniel Luzer

Fulton

On Tuesday President Obama named Brenda Fulton to the Board of Visitors of the United States Military Academy. Fulton (right) is the first openly gay person to sit on the board that gives advice the president about West Point.

According to an article by Laura Meckler in the Wall Street Journal:

Ms. Fulton, 52 years old, is the executive director and co-founder of Knights Out, an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered West Point graduates and allies. Her appointment to the West Point board, announced Tuesday, does not require Senate confirmation. She graduated from West Point in 1980, part of the first class to include women.
Ms. Fulton says she became politically active for the first time in years after Mr. Obama took office, as she campaigned for an end to the military policy that has banned openly gay and lesbian people from serving in the military. She said in an interview Tuesday that she hopes her appointment will send a message to young people who are considering military service.

The visitors board is responsible for “inquiring into the morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the academy that the board decides to consider.” While the board is composed of several relatively obscure people (Frederic Malek, former president of Northwest Airlines; Elizabeth Young McNally, management consultant at McKinsey), this is essentially the board that oversees the military school. Since West Point is a federal military academy, however, the role of the board is a little different from that of a member of the board of trustees at a conventional university.

While Fulton is the first openly gay board member at West Point, Congress and the Obama administration have already taken significant steps to address the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell through the administration of the country’s military schools.

Last month Obama board appointed Patrick Murphy to the West Point board. Murphy, a former congressman from Pennsylvania, ran the House’s efforts to repeal the policy on gays in the military. In 2009 Nancy Pelosi selected Jared Polis, an openly gay congressman from Colorado, for the Air Force Academy’s board of visitors.

Photo by JoAnn Santangelo

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer