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Life After DADT

Military Academy Graduates First Openly Gay Cadets
Same Sex Wedding at West Point


Message for LGBTQ Troops from Secretary of Defense

 

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter delivered this LGBTQ Pride Month message on June 7, 2016:

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, an occasion that brings the LGBTQ community together with their family, friends, and allies to take pride in themselves and their many achievements. The US Department of Defense recognizes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer service members and civilians for their dedicated service to the department and the nation.

 

Throughout our history, brave LGBTQ soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines have served and fought for our nation. Their readiness and willingness to serve has made our military stronger and our nation safer. We continue to take great pride in all that these men and women contribute to the department and our mission. Their hard work, courage, and sacrifices make them respected members of our diverse DOD family.



Through their service these Americans help ensure that we as a force embody the values we’re sworn to uphold. And that our republic, born from the idea that all are created equal, endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, will remain strong and secure. These words are more than a pinnacle to strive for, they are principles we must promote every day.

 

As we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month together, let us take pride in all who step forward to serve our country. All who answer the call to service are doing the noblest thing they can do with their lives: to provide the security for others so they can dream their dreams, raise their children, and live full lives.

 

Pentagon Overturns Military's Ban on Trans Troops

Transgender Military Ban Lifted

Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Army Secretary

 

  US Navy Ship Named After Harvey Milk

 

In July 2016, the US Navy has sent congressional notification that it intends to name a new oiler ship after slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk. The Navy is declining to comment further until the official naming announcement.  Harvey Milk was a San Francisco politician and gay rights activist. He was murdered in 1978.

 

Once commissioned, the USNS Harvey Milk would be part of the John Lewis-class oilers, a class named after Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.  This particular class of vessels would be named after various leaders from the civil rights movement.

Milk, the first openly gay politician from California to be elected to office, served in the US Navy as a dive instructor in San Diego during the Korean War.

 

The oiler is a combat logistics ship that replenishes other ships at sea with fuel and other provisions such as food.

 

[Source: CNN]

 

LGBTQ Nation: Navy Ship to Be Named for Harvey Milk

Huffington Post: Navy is Naming Ship After Harvey Milk

CNN: US Navy to Name Ship After Harvey Milk

LGBTQ Nation: Navy Secretary Defends Decision to Name Ships After Civil Rights Icons

 

Repeal of DADT Policy

 

 “By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will patriotic Americans be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.”

-Barack Obama

 

“Thank you Senators for pushing us one step closer towards full equality,”

-Ellen DeGeneres

 

"This is a stepping stone to further advances for the gay and lesbian community."

-Joe Solmonese / HRC President

 

 

The US Senate voted in December 2010 to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy by a 65-31 margin. This repeal of DADT reverses the US military's 17 year ban on gay men and women openly serving among their ranks.  DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only US law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation's military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty.

 

Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation's armed forces.  Senator Joe Lieberman said, "This historic day has been seventeen years in the making and would not have happened without the leadership of Joe Solmonese and the Human Rights Campaign."

 

Lesbian Earns Major General Rank
Obama Appoints Gay Man as Undersecretary of Air Force

11 Major Milestones After the End of DADT

End of DADT Means Decision Time for Gay Troops

 

Reactions to Repeal of DADT

 

DADT has been repealed!  What does it mean to you?  "It's about time!" has been the general reaction to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.  President Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law on December 22, 2010.  It took effect in September 2011.

 

 “What does it mean to me?" said one respondent. "That finally the many, many gay people who serve our country don't have to hide who they are, as if being gay makes them somehow less noble, less brave, less strong. It is about time!”

 

 

Another person submitted this comment: “It means that I can feel good knowing the men and women who proudly serve the country I love can be free to be themselves without shame or forced secrecy. To know that the American freedom they fight for is something they too can enjoy in uniform makes me even prouder to be an American.”

Another comment: "Heterosexual, homosexual, black, white, brown, yellow, conservative, liberal, moderate - I don't care what you are. The minute any American chooses to defend our country and the freedoms we get to live every day - I thank you, I respect you, and I only ever wish the best for you. I am forever humbled by your nobility and sacrifice - and I appreciate all you do, always."

 

Gay Secretary of the Army

 

Eric Fanning made history on May 17, 2016 when confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Army.  The confirmation of the country’s first out gay man, Eric Fanning, as US Army Secretary is one sign of the progress that has been made since “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

 

The Clinton-era policy became law in 1994 and lasted all the way until 2011, finally letting service members be out as gay or lesbian. Now the civilian leading the Army is gay himself.

 

 

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin called the confirmation “a demonstration of the continued progress towards fairness and equality in our nation’s armed forces.”

 

“Secretary Fanning’s historic confirmation demonstrates that in America, we value hard work, talent and dedication,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus. “The capacity in which any individual can faithfully serve our country should not be limited.”

 

Progress has sometimes seemed swift. Less than a year after DADT’s repeal, the US Army got its first-ever out brigadier general in former colonel Tammy Smith, who received her stars from her wife during a ceremony in 2012.

 

Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Army Secretary

Advocate Magazine: Gay Man Now Runs the US Army

Huffington Post: Senate Confirms First Openly Gay Army Secretary

 

And Fanning’s confirmation itself was notable for completely lacking any discussion of his sexual orientation. He is now the first out man to oversee the US Army or any military branch. Still, not a single senator asked him about it during his confirmation hearing before the Armed Services Committee, led by former DADT proponent John McCain of Arizona.

 

Fanning has 25 years of national security experience, working as undersecretary and acting secretary of the US Air Force. No one seemed to question his qualifications.

 

[Source: Advocate Magazine]

 

First Lesbian General Officer

 

In August 2012, less than a year after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," former Army Colonel Tammy Smith was promoted to brigadier general making her the first general officer to come out while serving.  Tammy Smith received her stars from her wife Tracey Hepner in a private ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

According to the   Stars & Stripes military newspaper, Smith, 49, has been assigned as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve. Before "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, she told the military newspaper last year that she was not planning on coming out to her colleagues, but would be relieved when she and Hepner would be able to go out together without worrying about being outed.

 

 

“Finally my partner and I will be able to go out and have drinks together without worrying,” she said then.

 

A year later, Smith, 49, said she is still more focused on the work ahead than the significance of her personal life. But her wife, Tracey Hepner, said the last year has been a dramatic transformation for both of them.  “The support we’ve received has been amazing,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised that people were so accepting, but in some cases it has been even celebratory. It’s like nothing has really changed for us, and yet everything has changed.”

 

Advocate Mag: Tammy Smith Becomes First Lesbian Genl Officer
Stars & Stripes: Smith Becomes First Gay Genl Officer to Serve Openly

Lesbian Earns Major General Rank
Obama Appoints Gay Man as Undersecretary of Air Force


Smith’s wife is much more of an activist than she is. Hepner co-founded the Military Partners and Families Coalition, a key voice in the debate over benefits and military programs for same-sex partners. Friday’s private promotion ceremony for Smith wasn’t the first that Hepner has attended, but it was the first where the pair didn’t have to hide any details of their relationship. The pair have been together for more than a decade.

US Navy First Official Gay Homecoming Kiss

 

On December 21, 2011, when the USS Oak Hill pulled into its Virginia port after a three-month deployment, the sailor who stepped off and bestowed the customary first homecoming kiss on a waiting loved one made history. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta greeted her girlfriend, Citlalic Snell, on the pier with a kiss and embrace, making them the first same-sex couple to be chosen by the Navy for this very public moment. The crowd cheered.

 

The kiss seen 'round the world between two women sailors was more than a traditional kiss marking a Navy ship's return home.  It was a small but significant sign of progress in the US military.  The repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is less than a year old.  Gaeta and her girlfriend (who is also a sailor) could not have kissed so publicly at a homecoming a year ago. Gaeta won the “first kiss” spot in a raffle among the crew.

 

It's been three months since the dock landing ship left home for Central America, and all of the usual fanfare is waiting to greet its crew: crowds of cheering families, toddlers dressed in sailor suits, and the lucky, excited woman who's been chosen to take part in a time-honored Navy tradition - the first homecoming kiss. In this case, that woman is 22-year-old Citlalic Snell. She's a sailor herself, assigned to the destroyer Bainbridge, but today she's in civilian clothes - jeans, boots and a stylish leather jacket. Watching pierside as the Oak Hill pulls into port, she absentmindedly twists the small diamond ring on her left hand.

 

A uniformed liaison who is with her explains how it's going to work: Snell's sailor will be among the first off the ship, and when it's time, Snell will be escorted onto the pier for the kiss. "It's a big deal," Gaeta says. "It's been a long time coming."  They explain that they've been dating for a little over two years, about as long as they've been in the US Navy. They met right after boot camp. They were roommates at their first training school, where they both became fire controlmen.  Until September 2011, when the military's ban on openly gay service was lifted, they worked hard to keep their relationship secret. When Snell came home from her last deployment in August, kissing on the pier wasn't an option.  "This is the first time we can actually show who we are," she says.  Adds Gaeta, "It's nice to be able to be myself."

 

Life After DADT

 

USMC First Official Gay Homecoming Kiss

 

In February 2012, when he returned from Afghanistan and saw his partner waiting to welcome him home, "four years of pent-up emotion and secret love" just seemed to naturally lead to "what felt like an eternity kiss," said Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan.  "I looked to my left" and saw Dalan Wells, his partner, Morgan said. "My legs started going numb ... and I didn't care who was around. ... I wanted to show him how much I cared for him."  They've known each other for four years.

 

 

And the post-kiss reaction sparked by the posting of their photo on the internet has made him "very hopeful," Morgan said, "because even though there's been a lot of negative responses, the positive responses have been overwhelming."   The "don't ask, don't tell" policy that had barred openly gay men and women from serving in the US military ended in September 2011. 

 

 

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