Thanks to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for inviting ThinkProgress to report live from its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Day Celebration.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has been a trailblazer for LGBT advocacy as the first out lesbian to serve in the House of Representatives. She is now running for the Senate, and if elected, she’d be the first openly gay or lesbian senator in U.S. history. As one of the founding chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, she is at the forefront of legislative efforts to fight oppression of the LGBT community, and she was delighted to join in Tuesday’s celebration of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Baldwin thinks that one of the driving forces behind the repeal process was gay soldiers’ testimony:
BALDWIN: I think if people watch the struggle, they will see that one of the turning points was servicemembers beginning to tell their stories. And especially since our country has been in a time of war for so long, it is something that changed the hearts of Americans. When they see people willing to put their lives on the line and be in harm’s way, and then they see them discriminated against, that’s what turned public opinion, and of course that’s what turned the political scenario in Congress so that we could pass the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
She went on to say that the effect will compound, and the repeal itself will continue to change America:
BALDWIN: I think young people get it. There is such a generational divide on issues of full equality for the LGBT community. And I think the event that we’re celebrating today — the implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — is one that’s really going to change America. Once we see openly gay servicemen and women serving proudly in uniform, risking their lives for their country that they love and believe in, I think that just changes the dynamic forever.
Watch the clips: