Don't Ask Don't Tell protestors finally see victory. Image: Lost Albatross/Flickr/CC BY-ND

At 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy officially came to an end. Gay American military personnel are now allowed to serve openly. The Defense Department says it will show no tolerance for anti-gay behavior. The nearly 14,000 gays who were discharged during the 18-year-long policy are being encouraged to re-enlist. Some civic leaders are now pointing to the Defense of Marriage Act as the next hurdle to be conquered.

The president reacts

The army released a statement stating simply “the law is repealed.”

President Obama said in a statement:

“As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.”

Activists cheer

Gay rights groups celebrated the event as a momentous achievement. Rea Carey, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said:

“Those who fight for freedom will now themselves be able to live more freely. … Thousands of exemplary and courageous service members have lost their careers and livelihoods to this unjust policy, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination.”

Civic leaders chime in

Civic leaders also reacted. Some took the moment to issue reminders of the cost of the movement and of the hurdles it has yet to cross.

Maryland Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D) said:

“The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was a rebuke not only to those gay and lesbian Americans who wished to serve under our flag and risk their lives for it but also to the principles of inclusion and equality that we as a nation hold dear.”

Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D) tweeted about the Defense of Marriage Act. “Now that DADT is behind us, it’s time to go get DOMA, don’t you think?”

Defense of Marriage Act

DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act, is a federal law signed into effect by President Bill Clinton in September of 1996. The law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, thereby denying marriage benefits to gay and lesbian couples. The Obama administration declared the law unconstitutional in February, but it still remains in effect.

Jeff Seefried, editor of the book “Our Time: Breaking the Silence of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” defined the problem as it relates to gay service people. “I’m in a military-to-military relationship. When I have to move in six months, does that relationship end because we can’t get a joint assignment? If we were married, we could get a joint assignment.”


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