US Defense Secretary Pays Tribute to Gays in Military

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has released a video message honoring gay and lesbian service members, as the Pentagon marks gay pride month for the first time.

Nine months ago the U.S. military formally ended its “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy that allowed gays to serve only if they did not reveal their sexual orientation.

In his video message released Friday, Panetta tells gay and lesbian soldiers that the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” means they can now be proud of who they are when in uniform. He said he remains committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make the U.S. military what he called a “model of equal opportunity” and to ensure all who are qualified can serve.

Under the old policy, service members discovered to be homosexuals or lesbians were immediately discharged.

The policy was instituted in 1993 during the administration of President Bill Clinton, as a compromise to the complete ban on homosexuals in the military. During the nearly two decades the policy was in effect, about 14,000 members of the U.S. military were kicked out for revealing their orientation.

In December of 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation to repeal the policy and allow gays and lesbians to openly serve. “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” was officially abolished last September.