The Pentagon officially ended its “don’t ask don’t tell” (DADT) policy at midnight on Tuesday, sparking celebrations from supporters and a few dramatic declarations from service members. As Federal Eye’s Ed O’Keefe reported:
Service members compelled to publicly reveal that they are gay or lesbian took advantage of the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in several ways Tuesday, as military officials reported no noticeable increase in activity at military recruitment stations.
In one of the most dramatic declarations, a U.S. service member, purportedly serving in Germany, posted a video of himself on YouTube calling his father in Alabama to tell him for the first time that he is gay.
“Dad, I’m gay,” the service member says, his voice dropping. “I always have been, I’ve known since forever, and uh, I know I haven’t seen you in like a year, and I don’t know when’s the next time I’m going to be able to see you, I didn’t to tell you over the phone, I wanted to tell you in person.”
The father assures the man that he still loves his son, who then smiled and said he still needed to tell his mother. The service member is heard saying in the video that he waited for more than four hours before deciding to call his father with the news.
Shortly after the military lifted its gay ban at midnight Tuesday, a Navy lieutenant and his partner exchanged marriage vows in Vermont, taking advantage of the state’s legal recognition of same-sex couples and the Pentagon’s decision to repeal the ban, according to the Associated Press.
“I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me...but it’s finally official,” Navy Lt. Gary Ross told the AP after his wedding.
In Washington, President Obama marked the day in a written statement, noting that “patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.”
“Our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members,” Obama added. “And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.”
Ed O’Keefe compiled the reactions from several top lawmakers and activists on the repeal of the policy:
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.”
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.”
Service members chose a variety of ways to mark the end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. As Elizabeth Flock reported:
On Tuesday, the Army released a business-as-usual statement about the 1993 law’s repeal, saying only: “The law is repealed.”
Elsewhere, the celebration was a little less subdued.
As rights groups woke up Tuesday, they tweeted comments like, “It’s a great day! [Why] do you ask is it a great day? Because, DADT is finally repealed!!!”
Some shared photos of rainbow-colored PT reflective belts for soldiers. Joshua Foust, a think tank fellow who has written on defense and intelligence for PBS and the Atlantic, sarcastically suggested a uniform of “feather boa and sparkle shoes,” though he followed it up by writing, “Oh? It's business as usual? Oh.”
Others celebrated the launch of a magazine called “OutServe” that tells the story of gay troops, or shared locations of where to celebrate in their city. The Post’s Checkpoint Washington blog shared a bit about the history of DADT, a policy that was the brainchild of sociology professor Charles Moskos.
More from the Washington Post on DADT:
Gallery: Marking the end of DADT
Checkpoint Washington: The history of DADT
Federal Eye blog: ‘Outserve’ Magazine tells stories of gay troops
Politics: U.S military prepares for end of DADT
The Plum Line: It’s official, don’t ask don’t tell is history
Gallery: Closing a chapter in history