A Long Year — With a Well-Deserved End to DADT

Obama, Congress, Pentagon coordinate repeal of gay-excluding policy; but it's not quite gone

On Jan. 27, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to give his State of the Union address. In it, he said, ”This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”

Roughly 11 months later, on Dec. 22 – joined by members of Congress, LGBT advocates and activists, and military veterans and those still serving – Obama signed into law the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

President Obama signs bill to repeal ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell''
President Obama signs bill to repeal ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
(Photo by Ward Morrison)

The path to get there was not easy and did not always go as expected, and there were difficulties faced by all parties in all parts of the loosely assembled and fragile coalition of repeal supporters. But on Dec. 18 the Senate passed the stand-alone bill that earlier had been passed by the House to send DADT to the history books.

With former Lt. Dan Choi attending the signing ceremony on Dec. 22, the year has been a long ride for the activist who on three occasions handcuffed himself to the White House to protest what he believed was a failure of the president to do enough on the repeal effort. Other servicemembers still serving and discharged, too, have raised their voices on the streets; through testimony in the U.S. Senate, as former Air Force Maj. Mike Almy did; or in the halls of Congress, as members and supporters of Servicemembers United did in the week before the Senate vote.

With compromises and failed votes and a nearly yearlong review and a survey of troops, the year was full of many topics ripe for criticism. As the year winds to a close, those compromises mean that, technically, the bill signing hasn’t wiped DADT from the books.

But the repeal bill has put DADT at its end, and continued advocacy and activism in 2011 – in conjunction with progress from the Pentagon on implementation – will result in the open service that has long been the aim of servicemembers like Almy and Choi.


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