“Yes,” his father said.
His voice dropping, Phillips told him: “Dad, I’m gay.”
“Yikes,” his father replied.
“I still love you, and I will always love you, and I will always be proud of you,” his father said later.
This is what the end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy brought — hundreds, if not thousands, of quiet, personal exchanges with family, friends, and supportive colleagues who had long suspected they knew. Some gay service members took to podiums on Capitol Hill or attended parties and “coming out” ceremonies.
But several issues remain unresolved, including the granting of equal benefits to same-sex partners and how gay soldiers will be accepted in their units. The Pentagon, which appeared eager to declare victory and move on, said it would work within current federal law to address lingering concerns.
Tuesday, though, was about relief and recognition.
In a Facebook posting, Army Lt. Col. Michael D. Jason summed it up for many in the military.
“ ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ repealed today,” he wrote. “The American citizen has asked some of us to fight for them. We volunteered. Now, as proclaimed by law, stay out of my Soldiers’ bedrooms. About time.”
For Air Force Staff Sgt. John Tegeler, the end of the ban on gays in uniform meant he could walk into his office at Ramstein beaming on Tuesday morning.
“One of my co-workers asked why I had such a big smile on my face,” he said. “Then she said, ‘Oh, yes, I know why.’ ”
But the day was not without worrying reminders that homophobic attitudes in the military are unlikely to vanish.
Tegeler said straight troops still cracked jokes he found somewhat offensive, apparently not realizing that a gay airman was present.
“There are a lot of people who cannot adapt and overcome change,” said Tegeler, 27. “But I laughed it off. I have a thick skin.”
In Washington, Marine Capt. Sarah Pezzat’s voice cracked as she spoke to a room full of reporters and supportive senators on Capitol Hill.
“I’m 31 years old, I’m a United States Marine, and I’m a lesbian,” she said, fighting back tears.
Although she had disagreed with the military on its ban on gays, “I couldn’t completely leave it.” And now as she prepares to deploy overseas, she said, “I don’t have to shove my family back into the closet.”
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a key Republican backer of repeal efforts, joined Pezzat to read from a postcard she had received in June from a soldier serving in Afghanistan.
“Thank you for your courage to vote in favor of repeal as a Republican,” the postcard said. “I will repay your courage with continued professionalism.”
Collins lamented that she may never known who sent her the postcard, signed simply, “An Army Soldier.”