The repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gay denial policy ended Tuesday, after 18 years.
Pentagon press secretary George Little stated on Monday that the military is prepared for the end of the practice adopted in 1993 that gay and lesbian service members could serve so long as their sexual orientation remained unknown.
The policy against gays in the U.S. Armed Forces goes back much further, with World War Two soldiers being kicked out for admitting to be gay.
Now, the Defense Department must adhere to a zero-tolerance policy for anti-gay behavior. State Representative James Smith, who stills serves in the Army National Guard, explains, “It’s always been a meritocracy. If you can do the job and you do it well, regardless if your black, white, gay, or straight, Christian or Muslim; it was all about performance, and nowhere is that more true than in combat.”
Smith says, “A bullet does not care whether you are gay or straight.”
The repeal restores honor, says Nicole, who has served six years in the Navy and Army and is working toward a career as a pilot.
“I no longer have the fear of reprisal because of who I am, and being honest about who I am,” Nicole says.
Nicole and members of the gay and military community celebrated the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Columbia. She comes from a family that has served for generations.
“I’ve made the sacrifices that I’ve made to be in the military because I love my country. I am, without a doubt, a patriot. Along with anybody else that’s in the military or, you know, just anybody who supports the military. That’s patriotism.”
She says she believes the morale of the military will be better because fear will not be a factor within the armed forces.
Events in Columbia and Charleston recognized the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In Columbia, the celebration was subdued, with a tribute to those who had served silently or were kicked out after years of service.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson fought the repeal up until the day it was enacted, asking for a delay in the action. He is chairman of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.