On Sept. 21, the U.S. military marked the first anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and 2012 saw lesbian, gay and bisexual service members openly participating in proud military traditions, national events and LGBT pride celebrations.
It was on June 21 in San Diego, Calif., where a crowd estimated at over 200,000 spectators cheered for members of the United States Armed Forces, who for the first time in history, marched in full uniform in a gay pride parade.
The military contingent participating in San Diego’s “America’s Pride” event included active duty members and veterans representing the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.
“This is history,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer Erica Tello. “Being able to wear our uniforms says that we really are equal, at last.”
In a historic first for the venerable chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Army veteran Brenda “Sue” Fulton married her longtime partner, Penelope Gnesin, in front of family and friends in a ceremony officiated by and Army Chaplain earlier this month. The couple, who met in 1995, were the first same-sex couple to wed at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.
On Oct. 25, Allyson Robinson, a transgender Army veteran was been named to head the newly combined organization of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe, advocating for the interests of LGBT service members.
And in a Pentagon auditorium on June 26, a standing room only crowd celebrated as the U.S. Department of Defense marked “LGBT Pride Month” for the first time in its history.
But among the most memorable post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” reminders of the year was this Feb. 25, homecoming kiss between U.S. Marine Brandon Morgan and his state-side partner Dalan Wells — the image was posted to the Facebook page of Gay Marines and within hours went viral, and within days, had appeared on thousands of websites worldwide.
The iconic image has become the symbol for openly gay service members in the post-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era.
Marking the anniversary of the repeal, President Barack Obama said the end to the military’s gay ban “upheld the fundamental American values of fairness and equality.”
And yet, a year after the repeal of DADT, the federal government still fails to provide equal benefits to lesbian, gay, and bisexual military families, in part due to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And transgender men and women are still barred from serving openly.