HRC Blog

Two Years Ago Today: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Signed

Two years ago today, President Barack Obama signed into law historic legislation ending the ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers in the military. For 17 years, the law prohibited qualified gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the armed forces and sent a message that discrimination was acceptable.

In September of last year, repeal was seamlessly implemented and since then, we’ve heard touching stories from servicemembers finally free to do a job they love while being open about whom they love. Despite unfounded shrill warnings from equality opponents that open service would have negative implications on our military, the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has done nothing but strengthen the cohesiveness and readiness of our armed forces.

HRC members played a critical role in ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” - you sent over 625,000 e-mails to your members of Congress urging them to support repeal. You helped us gather nearly 50,000 handwritten pro-repeal messages for delivery to Capitol Hill. And you supported our efforts in states across the country, lobbying your elected officials and engaging with the 20,000 veterans HRC mobilized to speak out in favor of repeal.

Despite the smooth implementation of repeal, work remains to ensure full equality in the military. The discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act still presents numerous obstacles to same-sex military families; and dedicated and qualified transgender Americans are still barred from service. Learn more about what can be done moving forward to advance equality in the military. 

Revisit the entire battle to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – from the role HRC members played to videos of President Obama, then-HRC President Joe Solmonese and others discussing the fight to end the discriminatory ban. 

Photo by Judy Rolfe / HRC

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