Tuesday marked an official end to the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, opening a new era in which gays are allowed to openly serve in the military.
“Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed. As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love,” said President Barack Obama in a speech. “As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.”
The President said he was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because he believes that it will enhance national security and increase military readiness.
“Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them,” said Obama.
Former service members separated from the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” based solely on their sexual orientation will be eligible to reapply to return to military service. Gen. Gary S. Patton, chief of staff for the Pentagon’s repeal implementation team, said their applications will be evaluated using the same standards as all other candidates, and decisions will be based on needs of the service.
The Department of Defense (DOD) maintains that nothing will change now that the policy has been officially repealed except that homosexuals may now freely admit sexual preference without fear of discharge.