The last two weeks of turmoil for LGBT military member group OutServe-SLDN seems to be drawing to a close. The group has been battling scads of bad press and a revolt by the general membership after the board voted to ask popular Executive Director Allyson Robinson for her resignation after less than a year on the job.
After the controversial vote, board members and other advisors quit the organization, funders pulled their support, and several chapter leaders issued a statement demanding concessions from the board and threatening to form their own group. While leaked documents showed that the group was in dire financial states and that the leadership was planning to abandon their physical office in DC and lay off all paid staff, most members and chapter leaders blamed board co-chair Josh Seefried for organizing a coup against Robinson without cause.
While Seefried originally repeatedly refused to step down, the group announced late on July 3 that Seefried and the entire board will step down in favor of a temporary committee charged with recruiting an all new board and mission for the organization.
Tania Dunbar, one member of the transition team, wrote to Bilerico to say, "The chapter of an organization on the verge of collapse is finally coming to a close, and a new chapter of an organization in transition with a new mission and new vision is being written right now, and it starts with the announcement today of OutServe-SLDN's co-founder resigning."
Seefried spoke exlusively to Buzzfeed reporter Chris Geidner, and mostly took responsibility for the fiasco, he also hints that big changes are in store for the group.
"I own the last week, the fact that this PR disaster happened, is on my leadership, and I own that," Seefried told BuzzFeed. "It's not easy being one of the youngest people in the movement in a leadership position. I think that's part of the reason this week went so south is, I'm the youngest person on a board in a co-chair position of, probably, any major organization, and that's not easy, being in that role."
Seefried's will resign on Monday. Robinson will also resign soon. The complete press release is after the break.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JULY 3, 2013
OutServe-SLDN Announces Plans Moving Forward
The Board of Directors and Chapter Leaders have joined forces in a "transition" committee, which will seek new leadership and direction for the organization and has called for the space to rebuild.
The OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors is pleased to announce the formation of a transition committee, a group of four Board Members and four Chapter Leaders who will be working side-by-side to appoint new leadership to the Board of Directors and begin to see the organization in a new direction.
The members who have been selected by their peers to represent the OutServe-SLDN membership are Tania Dunbar, Todd Burton, Brynn Tannehill, and Regis Sullivan. They hail from OutServe Ladies, the Military Advisory Council, OutServe Trans, and OutServe Georgia, respectively. Katie Miller, Mike Magee, Matthew Phelps, and Regina Grattan volunteered on behalf of the Board of Directors.
This has undoubtedly been a challenging time for OS-SLDN. The most important thing we've all learned from this situation is how critical the support network we've built is to the LGBT service members around the world. They truly care about this organization and want it to succeed. It's time to put aside our differences and get to work.
We hope the broader community will give us the space to work without distraction, and we urge our chapter leaders and individual members to use this transition period to bring us their ideas because we're one team from here on out. 'Stronger, Together' isn't just a motto -- it's the truth.
OutServe-SLDN was the merger of two vastly different organizations; OutServe brought the enthusiasm of a grassroots organization and SLDN was an established and respected legal services organization. April Heinze, Co-Chair of the Board of Directors, stated, "Over the past several months, we've learned a lot, particularly the importance of engaging our members. The transition committee will be working to ensure the organization better reflects the needs of our LGBT service members, veterans, and their families."
The organization's transition is likely to mean significant changes to board makeup, such as current members stepping down while more service members from OutServe-SLDN's chapters are added.
As part of this evolution, Josh Seefried, who has been Co-Chair of the entity since the merger in 2012, has announced his intent to resign from the Board. "When I founded OutServe in 2010, before the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the number one priority was to give a voice to the LGBT military members who were serving in silence, "Seefried said.
"Three years later, my commitment to empowering the LGBT military community is just as strong. At this point in history, I believe stepping down and vesting greater trust and authority in our members is the right thing to do."
Seefried will delegate his co-chair responsibilities and his resignation will be effective Monday. Todd Burton noted, "Josh is a valued member of the community who has contributed greatly to ending DADT and forming this network. We thank him for his many contributions and wish him the best in future endeavors. Although he will be leaving his position as Co-Chair, we will be seeking his counsel over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition."
The committee intends to submit recommendations to the Board of Directors in the coming weeks. In addition, the group is specifically exploring the best avenues to advocate for transgender service members and veterans and to secure equal opportunity employment protections for LGBT service members.
OutServe-SLDN is the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel with more than fifty chapters and 6500 members around the world. It works to support a professional network of LGBT military personnel and create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. For more information, visit http://www.outserve-sldn.org.