Around the Hill, senators hailed the official end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” today.
“I’m glad to say that the time is past when Americans willing to give their lives to defend this nation could be turned away from service because of whom they loved,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor today. “There is no place for intolerance in our great nation. And certainly not in the armed forces tasked with protecting it.”
At a press conference later, many senators who had worked over the years to repeal DADT gathered with gay service members to celebrate and share their stories.
“Today we’re finally putting it in the place where it belongs, which is in the dustpan of history,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said. “The service members who are with us and will come out today are the same soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines they were yesterday. The only thing that’s changed is that as of today they can be honest and open about who they are.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., hailed it as a milestone for the country that service members could now talk about the “style” of their lives.
“It’s a milestone for this country, it’s a milestone for equality, and it’s a milestone for really who we are as a nation,” she said.
Many of the service members at today’s press conference were officially and publicly coming out for the first time as they stood next to the senators celebrating the end of the policy that had so affected their lives.
“No words can describe how it feels to be able to stand up here and to say for the first time my name is 1st Lt. Josh Siegfried, and I’m a gay first lieutenant in the United States Air Force,” Siegfried said. “It’s a huge relief off my shoulders.”
With tears in her eyes and her voice quivering, Capt. Sarah Pezzat spoke of what repeal meant to her.
“I’m 31 years old. I’m a woman, and I’m a lesbian and prior to today if I had said that I could expect to be discharged from the military,” Pezzat said, “I loved the Marine Corps, which is why I haven’t been able to completely leave it even though “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” made me pretty miserable.”
In 2007, Pezzat said she didn’t want a double life so she joined the police force in Washington, D.C., instead of the Marine Corps. Now that DADT has ended, she said she could look forward to active duty.