The controversial policy in the military of gays and lesbians serving without revealing their sexuality will end Sept. 20, President Obama said in a statement issued today.
Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality. In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.
As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.
I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war. I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition. Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.
The Pride Center in Colorado Springs, which advocates for GLBT rights, welcomes the announcement.
"It's about time," says executive director Charles Irwin. "I think it's a great thing. The GLBT community have been serving in our armed services for as long as there's been a military, and the craziness of Don't Ask Don't Tell was long overdue to be overturned and removed. I'm very pleased at this."
Asked if he thinks the Springs, which is home to five military bases, might face a lot of community upheaval as military members come out, Irwin sounds optimistic.
"I think there's definitely going to be a time of transition [here]," he says. "I think it has a lot to do with trust. Can they truly be open and out and choose to love who they love? I think it's going to best served with education from groups like the Pride Center, helping the military and our brothers and sisters. It will be a step-by-step process."