'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' No Longer in Effect

Troops will finally be able to reveal that they're gay without fear of official reprisal.

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A gay member of the U.S. Air Force who wishes not to be identified (Paul J. Richards/A

After almost 18 years, the Pentagon has formally repealed the ban on gays in uniform, known as "Don't ask, don't tell," or DADT. For the first time, troops will be able to publicly reveal that they're gay without fear of official retribution. Those who tell military recruiters about their sexual orientation and troops discharged under the ban who are eager to re-enlist will now be eligible to join up if they are qualified.

The Defense Department says the same zero tolerance that applies to religious, racial and gender discrimination will now apply to anti-gay behavior, the Washington Post reports.

Although resistance to the change still exists on Capitol Hill and beyond, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little says the military is ready for the change. "No one should be left with the impression that we are unprepared. We are prepared for repeal," he told NPR. "The force is well aware that this is coming. They've had the training. It's been in the press for months. The September 20 day is not a mystery."

President Obama signed the repeal into law last December, but its provisions allowed time for the Pentagon to prepare for the policy change, and for top military officials to "certify" the law's end.

Now that all is said and done, how do repeal advocates view the president's role in the process? "I criticized the president early in his administration for moving slowly on DADT," Aaron Belkin told NPR. "But with 3 1/2 years of hindsight, I give him credit. He was right to get the military's buy-in and to move to repeal in a deliberative way." 

Read more at the Washington Post and NPR.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM