HRC Blog

Marking One Year of Open Service

Post submitted by Dan Rafter, Former HRC Associate Director of Communications

One year ago today, the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy – which prohibited qualified gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in our nation’s military – came to an end. The past year has brought us a number of historic firsts for gay and lesbian service members:

  • We heard from those who were finally able to speak openly about their moving journeys and commitment to country
  • In June, gay and lesbian service members could, for the first time, openly participate in Pride – with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta releasing the first-ever Pride message from the Pentagon
  • Committed service members finally had the ability to marry the person they loved in their local community – HRC’s Fred Sainz attended a historic wedding ceremony on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey earlier this summer.

Perhaps one of the most important things to note is that, since the implementation of repeal, it has been business as usual in the military – with our nation’s professional and dedicated service members continuing to bravely carry out their duties. Many of those opposed to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” loudly predicted that allowing open service would effectively result in upheaval throughout the armed forces, and would have a detrimental impact on our nation’s military readiness.

We now know that those unfounded claims are simply untrue. Just last week, a new study from the Palm Center reported that allowing gay and lesbians to serve their country openly has led to no negative impacts whatsoever – on things ranging from unit cohesiveness to military readiness.

That study backs up endorsements from the nation’s military leadership. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen said the day after implementation of repeal: “…with implementation of the new law fully in place, we are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honor, more in keeping with our own values." Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said: "Thanks to this change, I believe we move closer to achieving the goal at the foundation of the values that America is all about:  equality, equal opportunity and dignity for all Americans.”

Despite the historic milestones we’ve seen in the past year, much work remains to ensure full equality in the military. At the top of that list: the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA prohibits gay and lesbian service members and their spouses from receiving many of the benefits their straight counterparts receive. And our opponents are still at work to roll back equality – just last week, Republicans on the Hill introduced legislation aimed at protecting military chaplains from a “liberal same-sex marriage agenda.” Even the GOP’s 2012 platform insinuates that open military service is transforming the military into a platform for “social experimentation.”

Despite these remaining challenges, momentum is on our side – more Americans than ever before support equality across a broad number of spectrums, from marriage equality to workplace protections; adoption rights to hate crime protections. As we embark on another year of progress in the fight to achieve equality in the military, learn more about the work it took to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

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