Gay and lesbian Americans will be able to openly serve in the military starting Tuesday after the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy ends.
Roughly nine months after President Barack Obama signed into law the repeal of the 1993 law that prohibited gays from serving openly, Pentagon press secretary George Little said on Monday that the military was prepared for the end of the policy.
“No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared,” Little said. “We are prepared for repeal.”
As part of that preparation, and as a condition inserted into the legislation to get some Republican votes for its passage, military personnel had to undergo training on how to handle serving with gay and lesbian service members. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and President Obama also all had to certify that allowing gay service members to serve openly would not affect the effectiveness of the military or its recruiting.
Tuesday marks the end of a long battle to repeal the law that has lasted years. It also is a day in which Democrats and gay rights supporters have been waiting to celebrate.
“Our nation will finally close the door on a fundamental unfairness for gays and lesbians, and indeed equality for all Americans,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network also said supporters would have “Repeal Day” celebrations throughout the country.
“Through these events taking place in every state across the country, we will pay tribute to their service and sacrifice as we look forward to this new era of military service – an era that honors the contributions of all qualified Americans who have served and wish to serve,” Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of the advocacy group, said.
Other gay rights groups, though, said while they were happy “don’t ask, don’t tell” was coming to an end, there was still more work to do to ensure equality spreads in all factions of society to every American. GetEQUAL, a gay advocacy group, for example, will have “Day of Discontent” rallies throughout the country on Tuesday to keep the focus on the need for full federal quality for LGBT Americans.
“It has taken 17 years of hard work to remove this discriminatory policy and still our community faces discrimination and intolerance on a daily basis that this one important victory won’t fix,” Get EQUAL’s director Robin McGehee said of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” “Tomorrow’s collaborative effort by LGBT organizers across this nation will show lawmakers that we will not be content until we have full federal equality in all matters governed by civil law. It’s not ‘celebrate period.’ It’s ‘celebrate, dot dot dot.’ We’ll celebrate for 10 minutes and then we’ll get back to work.”
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