The miltiary ends its ban on gays in the military today, almost 18 years after it began.

As we report in Tuesday’s Post, the Pentagon will now permit troops for the first time to publicly reveal that they’re gay without fear of official retribution. Enlistees who tell military recruiters, or troops discharged under the ban who are eager to reenlist, will be eligible to join up if they are qualified. And the Defense Department says it will have zero tolerance for anti-gay behavior, as it does for religious, racial and gender discrimination.

We’ll be tracking reaction to the repeal throughout the day — from rank and file troops, their commanders, top Pentagon brass, Capitol Hill and the White House. But we want you to participate as well: Share your thoughts on Twitter by using #DADT, or in the comments section below.

The following are statements from lawmakers and community groups in response to the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.):

“Thousands of qualified men and women who want to serve our country will now be able to do so without fearing their careers could end due to their sexual orientation. Our Armed Forces will be stronger because now our military commanders and our nation can be sure we will have the best and brightest service members on the job, regardless of ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation.”

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.):

“The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a victory for the cause of equality and our national defense. For too long, this wrongheaded policy prevented brave Americans from serving in our military and defending our country just because of who they love. It undermined our national security by forcing gays and lesbians out of military service at a time when America needs the most talented and the bravest protecting us, regardless of their sexual orientation. It’s about time.”

Center for Military Readiness:

“This is not a legitimate victory for anyone; it is being imposed on the armed forces to deliver on President Barack Obama’s political promises to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activist groups. The high-powered campaign for gays in the military was fueled by sophistry, administration-coordinated deception, faux “research” from LGBT activists, and misuse of the military’s own culture of obedience.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director and army veteran Aubrey Sarvis:

“Today marks the official end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America’s military. Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.”

Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

“After nearly two decades, lesbian, gay and bisexual service members will finally be able to serve their country openly and honestly. Those who fight for freedom will now themselves be able to live more freely. We celebrate this historic moment, which could not come fast enough. Thousands of exemplary and courageous service members have lost their careers and livelihoods to this unjust policy, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination.”

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.):

“For the thousands of service men and women discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and the countless others who have sacrificed their integrity all these long years, today is a day long awaited. The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was a rebuke not only to those gay and lesbian Americans who wished to serve under our flag and risk their lives for it but also to the principles of inclusion and equality that we as a nation hold dear. I was proud to help lead the effort last year to repeal this discriminatory policy once and for all. With this step, our military is surely strengthened at a time when we face great threats to our security and continued demands on our troops. Every American has a share in marking this civil rights milestone, because we all benefit from a strong and capable military that reflects our values.”

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Read some of Ed O’Keefe’s reporting on “don't ask, don’t tell”:

Celebration and concern mark the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Sources: Pentagon group finds there is minimal risk to lifting gay ban during war

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed by Senate; bill awaits Obama’s signing

Troops gets training on end of ‘don’t ask’

How should gay troops behave after ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ends?