The United States Armed Forces on Tuesday officially — and for the first time in its history — welcomes openly gay and lesbian service members into its ranks.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on openly gay service members, has been repealed.
“For nearly two decades, “don’t ask, don’t tell” forced gay and lesbian troops to lie about who they were in order to serve in the military,” said Josh Seefried, a gay first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, and for the past two years known as “JD Smith,” a pseudonym under which he co-founded the organization of LGBT troops known as OutServe.
Seefried came out publicly on Tuesday, letting known his true identity — as co-founder of OutServe, he has helped connect more than 4,000 LGBT troops currently serving around the world, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Gay troops like me had to worry every single day about losing the careers we loved. That misbegotten era of our military’s history is now over. President Obama signed the legislation to repeal DADT last December, and two months ago he and the Pentagon certified that the military was ready for the repeal to take effect. Today, DADT officially died.
“Now I and thousands of other gay and lesbian troops can walk into our units free from fear of losing our jobs, our integrity restored.”Josh Seefried, Co-founder of OutServe, via The Daily Beast
In the coming days, hundreds of gay services members are expected to come out, including 101 OutServe members who will publicly acknowledge their orientation in a special edition of the group’s monthly magazine.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” closes the chapter on a policy “that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” said President Barack Obama, who, on July 22, formally signed the certification that repeals the 17-year-old ban.
“This is a tremendously historic day for both gay and lesbian service members and gay and lesbian Americans,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
“The end of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is a giant step forward on our path to full equality. Finally, patriotic gay and lesbian Americans will be able to serve their country without hiding who they really are from those around them,” said Solmonesse.
Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, an Army Veteran and Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), said Tuesday “is a monumental day for our service members and our nation.”
“We 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 who wish to serve,” said Sarvis.
In the 17 years since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enacted, more than 14,000 service members have been discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation.
But even before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was enacted, gays and lesbians have been officially prohibited from serving in the U.S. military throughout history. Gays were first differentiated from “normal” people in military literature in Army mobilization regulations in 1942, and policy revisions in 1944 and 1947 further codified the ban.
Over the next several decades, gays were routinely discharged, regardless of whether they had engaged in sexual conduct while serving. In 1982, the Department of Defense issued a directive that stated homosexuality was clearly “incompatible with military service.”
Under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, gays were prohibited from serving in the military and their discharge was required. However, investigation into a service member’s sexuality without suspicion was also prohibited. The policy was indented as a compromise between conflicting political efforts.
With Tuesday’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the United States joins the list of more than 40 countries that allow gays to serve openly, which includes France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.