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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pentagon officially ends ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy

WASHINGTON — When Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Mills woke up Tuesday, he posted a pointed message on his Facebook page about the secret he has kept since he joined the military seven years ago.

“I. Am. Gay. That is all … as you were,” he wrote.

Thus did Mills, 27, mark an historic milestone — the day America’s ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military ended.

“When I woke up this morning I felt extremely relieved and very free,” said Mills, who is stationed at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. “Free to be able to live openly without worrying what I say or do will affect my career.”

After years of bitter debate, and generations of military tradition, repeal of the 18-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law went into effect at 12:01 a.m. For the first time, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were free to declare their sexual orientation without risking being thrown out of the military. And many rushed to do so.

The result, for supporters at least, was an outpouring of euphoria and relief that some compared to the end of racial segregation in the military in the 1950s, or the admittance of women to the service academies in the 1970s. Supporters planned celebrations in all 50 states.

“It’s a huge burden lifted off from my shoulders and the 65,000 other gay and lesbian bisexual troops out there serving in the military right now,” Air Force Lt. Josh Seefried told a news conference at the U.S. Capitol with senators who sponsored repeal of the law. “Today and every day I can go back into work … and not have to worry anymore.”

It was the first time that Seefried, who has used the pseudonym J.D. Smith to secretly run a support group for gays in the military, had identified himself as gay in public. He was joined by a Marine captain and an Air Force staff sergeant who also came out for the first time.

President Barack Obama pushed the repeal through Congress last December, but the end of the ban was delayed so the Pentagon could train more than 2 million service members in standards of conduct. The delay also allowed the Pentagon to certify that the new policy would not harm military readiness, unit cohesion or recruiting and retention of service members.

“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,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

Legal and cultural challenges are likely to continue since U.S. law bars the Pentagon from offering same-sex couples the same health, housing and education benefits as heterosexual couples.

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