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It’s had a long, zombie-like death, but Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military’s policy of barring homosexuals from serving openly, is finally over for real.
If you’re confused and thought that this happened already, you’ve got good reason to be. The judicial, legislative and executive branches of the government have all had their moments of declaring it dead in the past year.
Last September, U.S. district judge Virginia Philips ruled that the law was discriminatory and unconstitutional, before the Ninth Circuit said it could go on pending appeal in November, (before it eventually agreed with her and ordered a halt in July). Meanwhile, congress approved and President Obama signed into a formal repeal of the law last December. But that repeal was contingent upon a review process by the military and a certification by Obama, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Even until that happened this past July, discharges continued to move through the legal system, and gays could not enlist or out themselves without fearing formal reprimand.
No more. As of midnight this morning, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is officially no longer the law of the land. Gay and lesbian soldiers can serve openly, and those discharged under the law are able to re-enlist.
But it’s not like every battle for civil rights for gays in the military is over.
LGBT members of the military can get married in a handful of states and in the District of Columbia. But their access to things like chapel use for wedding ceremonies, on-base housing for their spouses, and spousal financial benefits are murky. Over 18,000 LGBT soldiers and officers were discharged under DADT, and while they are welcome to re-enlist, many are too old, are in other careers, and have already suffered financial, emotional, vocational and professional wounds that cannot be healed. Activists like Lt. Dan Choi (the subject of an October 2010 Voice cover profile) are still on trial for civil disobedience against the law which was eventually deemed wrong by the very government still prosecuting them.
But for today, there will be a lot of celebrating. In a similar way to the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the falling of yet another barrier, allowing gay and lesbian Americans to partake in the same institutions and rites of passage as heterosexual Americans. And in the same way that, just a month after their legalization, gay marriages are already seeming to just come across as plain old marriages, LGBT service members will soon just be seen for their bravery in signing up to be soldiers, sailors, pilots and officers.
Maybe I Do and Maybe I Don’t
Barack Obama Kicks Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to the Curb
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Will Go On Indefinitely, Court Rules
Court Orders Immediate Halt to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell