Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Anniversary: Move Changed National Landscape

One year after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gays and lesbians are serving without hurting morale, and openly gay people are changing the conversation, says Patrick Murphy.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Anthony Loverde should never have been forced to live a lie—certainly not by the country he was risking his life to protect. But for far too long, that’s exactly what happened.

A staff sergeant and loadmaster in charge of U.S. Air Force bombs and munitions, Loverde was a model airman. He served with dedication, distinction, and honor. In the military we swear oaths to our country and to one another. We live by codes. Sgt. Loverde took that seriously.

That’s why, back in 2008, he decided it was time to stop the lies. He courageously told his command he was gay, even though he would surely be discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He was kicked out of the Air Force soon after. That was the reward for his honesty. But for Loverde, it was a matter of integrity. Simple as that.

Four years later, after a long, arduous political battle that spanned decades, President Obama led the fight to finally end the discriminatory policy, and now Loverde—and thousands of others—serve openly, with pride and dignity.

Today, we mark the first anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We recognize the thousands of troops who were unfairly targeted by the policy and thank them for their service to our nation. We take a moment to celebrate the fact that our military has made historic progress in the march toward full equality for all men and women. Equality for people like Loverde—who rejoined the Air Force earlier this year.

And despite the dire warnings of those opposed to equality in the military, the implementation of DADT’s repeal has done nothing to hurt morale or “unit cohesion,” the popular buzzword thrown around in the congressional hearings I participated in.

By relegating DADT to the history books, we paid tribute to principles of fairness and justice on which this nation was founded. True, there is much more that must be done to ensure that the rights of all Americans are recognized by our military and by our government. But this historic achievement is paving the way for progress.

It has fundamentally changed the political landscape as it relates to LGBT rights. Openly gay candidates like Sean Patrick Maloney, who is running for Congress in New York are changing the conversation. Sean and his husband have been together for 20 years and they have three wonderful children. His family is central to his campaign. Not just to promote LGBT equality—which he does—but to connect with average voters concerned about education and the economy.

Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, marriage equality was included in the Democratic Party platform—the first time this has ever happened. Since DADT was repealed, four states have passed legislation supporting gay marriage.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically in our favor. National polls indicate that a majority of Americans support marriage equality—54 percent, according to a June 2012 CNN poll.

But as Bobby Kennedy said, change has enemies. That is still very true. Our success has stoked the far right, which has pressured legislatures in states all over the country to push ballot initiatives banning gay marriage. But the momentum is still on our side. Up in Minnesota, more than 40,000 people have lined up to support Minnesotans United for All Families, the organization leading the country’s most high-profile effort to protect marriage equality.

The timing here is very important as we head into election season. That’s because elections have consequences. It was the 2008 election that led to the repeal of DADT. And the next 48 days will determine whether we continue to make progress for equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation, or if we let the momentum of the DADT repeal slip away.

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While we can smile and take pleasure in celebrating today, we have a long road ahead of us to do everything we can to fight and to make our country a more perfect union. On November 6th, our nation will decide what path we take—a path that leads us backward to a less just past, or the challenging but necessary path forward toward a more perfect union for our country’s future.