Gay Rights Supporters Rally As "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is Repealed
The law, also known as “DADT,” was enacted under the Clinton administration, making the U.S. the only industrialized nation to forbid gays and lesbians from joining the military while being open about their sexuality.
DADT also banned superior officers from questioning service-members about their sexual orientation, and was later expanded to bar harassment by superiors as well. Under this policy, if a military member was found to be homosexual, he or she would be discharged from service.
Over 14,000 soldiers were discharged as a result. DADT was repealed December of last year, and Tuesday marked the first official day the policy was taken out of practice.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Jeffrey Prang, gay rights lawyers and various U.S. military veterans gave impassioned speeches detailing what they declared as a victory and a first step in full equality for the LGBT community. Picket signs and flags filled the park, as advocates cheered in agreement.
“Today is a victory for everyone who believes in fairness and equality, and the notion that who you are and who you love should never prevent you from achieving your dreams,” said Peter Renn, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, the largest firm lobbying for LGBT civil rights.
While this is a victory for gays and lesbians who currently serve the country -- as well as for those who may in the future -- there is still work to do. The repeal of DADT is only the first step in total equality, supporters said.
“If a gay or lesbian service member dies for their country, their spouse can’t inherit anything, because their marriage won’t be recognized. And, transgender people still can’t serve,” said Robin Tyler, a former USO member who spent six weeks in Vietnam.
Tyler and her wife were the first lesbian couple to file for equal marriage rights in California; their case went to the state Supreme Court.
Tyler’s sentiments echoed that of her fellow gay and lesbian rights supporters. Aside from a common desire to see the Defense of Marriage Act repealed next, many LGBT rights advocates expressed a desire for broader equality.
They still fight for marriage equality, for equal representation in instruction, and for equality in the workplace. As inequality persists for those in the LGBT community, a one-law-at-a-time approach to rights becomes increasingly futile.
“Rather than do rights a-la-carte…we want a comprehensive civil rights bill coming out of Washington, saying that we will be total equal citizens," Tyler said, "We’re a civil rights movement, and we want our civil rights—every last one of them."
Reach staff reporter Sarah Parvini here.
Follow Sarah Parvini on Twitter.
Best way to find more great content from Neon Tommy?
Or join our email list below to enjoy Neon Tommy News Alerts.