U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Friday released a video recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month, and thanked the families of gay and lesbian service members and LGBT civilians.
The video comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s announcement Thursday that the Department of Defense would soon hold its first ever “pride” event to recognize gay and lesbian service members.
“During Pride Month, and every month, let us celebrate our rich diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality for all,” Panetta said in the video.
“The successful repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ proved to the nation that, just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values and different beliefs,” he said. “But together we form the greatest military force in the world.”
Addressing the service members who now can serve openly regardless of their sexual orientation, Panetta lauded their service before the repeal.
“Before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he said, “you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself.”
“Going forward,” Panetta said, “I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America’s military a model of equal opportunity, to ensure all who are qualified can serve in America’s military, and to give every man and woman in uniform the opportunity to rise to their highest potential.”
“Secretary Panetta’s Pride video is a tremendous indicator of the progress we’ve made for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members,” said HRC President Chad Griffin, in a statement Friday, called Panetta’s video message “a tremendous indicator of the progress we’ve made for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members.”
“It sends a powerful message to the brave men and women of the military that they are valued for their dedication to our country and their expertise, and that they are deserving of the exact same respect and equal treatment that their straight counterparts receive,” Griffin said.
In a report to Congress released in May, Panetta noted that since the repeal, there had been no impact on morale, unit cohesion or readiness. Critics of the repeal had claimed that there would have been significant detrimental affect on the armed services especially during wartime.
Since its inception in 1993, more that 13,500 members of the U.S. armed forces were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Also on Friday, the Pentagon announced that its gay pride event — the first of its kind — will be held June 26 in the Pentagon. It will feature remarks by Jeh Johnson, the top Pentagon lawyer, as well as a panel discussion of the value of gay service and diversity, with gay and lesbian service members participating.