PORTLAND, Maine — On Monday, thousands packed into Deering Oaks Park to witness Lady Gaga's rather spur-of-the-moment speech in support of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Many of them were students at the nearby University of Southern Maine, active in the school's Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity, and they were understandably amazed that one of the biggest pop stars on the planet had come to their town to speak on their behalf.
But, as MTV News learned in speaking with some of them, the event had a much deeper meaning too. As it turns out, many of them also had a personal stake in the ongoing debate over "don't ask" — which failed to get enough Senate votes on Tuesday (September 21) to spur a formal debate — and to have Gaga in their corner meant more than they could express.
"Her speech really resonated with me because, actually, this summer, I thought about joining the military, but because I'm gay, I can't," USM student Kelly Golek said. "If it's repealed, there's a very good chance I will [enlist]. So I thought this whole event was amazing, because you really don't see something like this. Like, what other pop star would come out and do this? She's very brave, and I was totally moved by that speech."
"It really resonated with me, because I've actually been considering the military, because I took my ASVAB [military aptitude exam], and I got an incredibly high score, so I could basically do anything I wanted to in the Navy," Ellen McDonald said. "But because I'm a lesbian, I'm not able to do that at the moment. So, [her speech] really touched me, because those are my hopes and dreams."
And even those who weren't prohibited from serving openly still felt a personal connection to Gaga's speech, because, the way they see it, she's lending her voice to the voiceless.
"She wasn't paid to come here and speak; she did it because she felt like she needed to. [She said] 'I'm coming to Maine ... be there,' " Chris Johnson said. "It makes you feel like you have a voice, because she takes the issue and says, 'I will be your voice, because I know you're not being heard right now.' She's the voice of this generation that's not old enough to vote, but we have different points of view from the generation that raised us."
"There are celebrities that do things to help humanity, but Lady Gaga really does things," USM student Marepheen Berry said. "She has a way of putting forth her messages. She shocks people, and that's what I like about her: She shocks people, and it really opens up their eyes and turns heads."
Of course, there were also those in the crowd who, while active in the fight to repeal "don't ask," were mainly there to see Lady Gaga. And, really, can you blame them?
"I think it's unbelievable. I was in shock when we first heard. I don't even know how to describe it," USM freshman Joseph Sibley laughed. "When we found out, I was like, 'There's no way, nobody ever comes to Maine, and nobody ever talks to us.' ... And I'm glad I came. It was awesome."
What do you think about Gaga's rally against "don't ask, don't tell"? Share your thoughts in the comments!