Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Miriam Ben Shalom

Miriam Ben Shalom was a pioneer in the fight against the U.S. military’s policy of excluding lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, she married, had a daughter, and later converted to Judaism. After serving in the Israeli Army, she enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1974, but was dismissed in 1976 when she came out as a lesbian. Ben Shalom fought her dismissal through the courts, winning favorable decisions at the U.S. District Court (1980) and Appeals Court (1987) level. In 1988, she became the first open lesbian reinstated in the U.S. military. However, a new federal Appeals court ruling in 1989 supported the Army’s dismissal of her, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 1990. To keep fighting the ban, Ben Shalom founded Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Veterans of America (now known as American Veterans for Equal Rights). In recognition of her decades of activism, President Obama invited her to the White House in December 2010 when he signed the law repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.