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Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, OutServe vote to merge into one organization

News release Monday from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe:

(New York, NY) The boards of directors of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe today announced the intent to combine the two organizations into a single organization by October 2012 with a new name and a newly configured board of directors led by a representative from each existing organization. In the intervening period, the boards and staff of both organizations will focus on unifying the two administratively, financially, and organizationally.

"SLDN has enjoyed a close working relationship with OutServe and its leaders from the beginning. Indeed, their voices, though anonymous at the time, were an integral part of the fight to repeal the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law. Since repeal, we've worked even more closely together and in doing so, it has become more and more clear that our shared mission - representing actively serving military and veterans, as well as fighting to achieve full LGBT equality in the military - is better accomplished by uniting the two organizations and working together as one on behalf of the brave men and women of our armed forces," said SLDN Board of Directors Co-Chair Mike Magee.

OutServe rose to prominence after it began as an underground network of LGBT service members connected via Facebook that now boasts more than 5,500 members worldwide. During the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), the group facilitated telling the stories of active duty service members in the media and at the Pentagon, becoming a key link for the Comprehensive Review Working Group that allowed the voices of those who were serving in silence to be heard. Just a few weeks after DADT repeal, OutServe hosted the first-ever conference of active duty LGBT service members.

"This comes down to mission first, just as it always is in the military.  Both of these organizations recognize that they are stronger and more effective together. It is a great day for both organizations and for the LGBT service members and veterans around the world, who need a strong, unified voice speaking for them at the White House, on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon, and among the American people. What began as a simple effort to tell our stories has grown into something we could never have imagined, and today's announcement that OutServe and SLDN will combine represents the next step in that evolution. Each organization brings its own strengths to the fight for full LGBT military equality, and we are stronger together," said Josh Seefried, co-founder and co-director of OutServe.

Under the terms of the agreement reached on Saturday by the two boards of directors, the transaction will close when specific contingencies are removed, which include outstanding legal, financial, and structural elements. The close is expected at the next board meetings of the two groups, scheduled to take place October 26-28 in Orlando, FL.

“We are enthusiastic about the combination of these two vibrant and effective organizations and looking forward to working together to provide the best representation and services for the LGBT service members and veterans, who have made so many sacrifices to serve our great nation,” said SLDN Board of Directors Co-Chair April Heinze.

"The leadership of OutServe and SLDN have come together in an unprecedented way to move the ball forward on the mission of full LGBT military equality, and we couldn't be more proud of this combined effort to serve the brave LGBT men and women in our armed forces," said OutServe co-founder and co-director Ty Walrod.

ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.

ABOUT OUTSERVE: OutServe is the association of actively-serving LGBT military personnel. With more than 5,500 members and 50+ chapters worldwide, it is one of the largest LGBT employee resource groups in the world. OutServe 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.

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