One year ago today, lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the military were first able to openly identify their orientations and their partners without fearing that they would lose their job as a result. The implementation of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” marked an important threshold for the dignity of the gay community and the respect granted them by society.
In the past year, there have been a number of firsts for the military as a result of the repeal, including the first reinstatement of someone who had been discharged under the policy, the first same-sex homecoming kiss, and the Pentagon’s first recognition of Pride month.
Still, many questions linger for the LGBT community. As Chris Geidner noted this week, the Defense Department has yet to address same-sex partner benefits for servicemembers. Republicans continue to try to overextend the Defense of Marriage Act’s limitations on the religious liberty of soldiers and chaplains. And despite DADT repeal, people who are transgender are still prohibited from serving their country because the military still deems such identities to be mental disorders. Though a big hurdle was conquered, LGBT people still experience disenfranchisement in the military.
To mark today’s occasion, here’s a look back at ThinkProgress’ exclusive interviews conducted live at last year’s repeal day celebration hosted by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Among everybody present, hope for a better tomorrow was in the air:
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
BALDWIN: 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.
Col. Grethe Cammermeyer
CAMMERMEYER: It’s probably the best day that I can think of for the American military as well as for American in general. What I said some months ago when it was first overturned… Until the repeal, we in the service represented the flag. Now, the flag represents us.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
COONS: I frankly think [conservatives] profoundly misread the young people of America, who are far more open and tolerant, welcoming, and inclusive than generations before them, particularly around LGBT issues. I think they miss what is a basic cultural shift in the direction of tolerance.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)
LEVIN: “Change” has kind of been our middle name here in America. It’s another milestone on a road to a better county and a greater country, but it’s also proof that we can deal with our mistakes and correct them and pull together and be a better country when we do pull together.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)
UDALL: If Americans of all backgrounds, all regions speak up and draw attention to those discriminatory thoughts and policies, they’re going to fall through their own weight. They’re not going to last. They never do.
John Berry, White House Director of the Office of Personnel Management
BERRY: My dad was in the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal. And before he passed away at 86, he was talking to me one night about this issue, and he said, “You know, I don’t know what all this fuss about gays in the military is all about.” He says, “You know, back then, we didn’t call them ‘gays,’ but they were there and they served and died as bravely as anybody else.”
For those of you who are serving, thank you. For those of you who have served, thank you. For those of you who will serve, God bless you. God bless each of you for your service. God bless all who serve our country. God bless our President, and God bless the United States of America.