Today marks a victory for homosexuals who wish to serve openly in the U.S. military. The Pentagon is scheduled to announce that that the military is ready to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Clinton-era policy banning gay men and women from openly serving in the military, without having an adverse effect on readiness. An estimated 13,000 people have been discharged from the military under the policy since it was enacted in 1993. Congress voted to repeal the law last December, but delayed ending enforcement of the ban until top military officials could verify that the military was prepared for the change. President Obama now has to sign a certification of the repeal; if he does so in the next few days, the policy will end 60 days after that, with the repeal becoming effective in late September.
Servicemembers United, an organization that represents gay and lesbian military personnel and veterans, praised the decision, as service members will no longer be obligated to serve in silence. “We are glad to see that just three weeks into his tenure as secretary of defense, [Leon Panetta] is already confident that this policy change can take place with little or no disruption to military readiness,” said J. Alexander Nicholson III, the executive director. Nicholson was referring to the fact that repeal of the policy will be one of Panetta’s first major acts since assuming the office of Secretary of Defense earlier this month.
While this is a momentous occasion, a few hurdles lie ahead. The military still has to figure out what services and benefits it would offer to same-sex couples. While it can now extend family support to same-sex partners of deployed service members, federal law will prohibit it from providing same-sex couples with the full range of health, housing and education services it grants heterosexual couples.