Service with Dignity

Lately, the LGBT community has won some important battles for our rights. History was made on September 20, 2011 when the military’s 18-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy officially came to an end. This was an important milestone for our community and a major victory for lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell began on December 21, 1993, under President Clinton and prohibited people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because their presence “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” Since 1993, more than 14,500 people were discharged from the military under DADT. This discriminatory policy kept lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from being able to serve openly. DADT codified discrimination and led to an increase in harassment and anti-LGB violence.

Thankfully, the days of open discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers are now over. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 (H.R. 2965, S. 4023) passed Congress in mid-December 2010 and was signed into law by President Obama on December 22.

Even with DADT repealed, other barriers to LGBT service members remain. Out lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members will need proper institutional support to report and address harassment. “A lingering question,” according to Robert Burns of the Associated Press, “is whether disciplinary procedures are adequate to deal with any future instances of harassment of gays in the ranks.”

Significantly, institutional discrimination against transgender service members remains in the wake of DADT. The National Center for Transgender Equality urges that “[t]he Department of Defense should eliminate transgender status and gender identity disorder diagnosis as automatic disqualifications from military service and should ensure that medical fitness standards treat transgender service members equally with all other service members.” They also suggest that the Department of Defense amend its Anti-Harassment Action Plan to include gender identity and expression.

As we celebrate the mountains we’ve climbed together as a movement, let us continue to push for the equality and dignity all LGBT service members deserve.

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