Nine months after the U.S. military repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, that banned gays from serving openly in the U.S. military, the Defense Department is planning an event in recognition of gay and lesbian service men and women.
CNN reports that Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, said in a statement on Thursday, that the Defense Department is planning an LGBT Pride Month event for later this month. The Hill reports that Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. He said: "Because we repealed ‘Don't ask, don't tell,’ gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans can serve their country openly, honestly, and without fear of losing their jobs because of whom they love."
According to The Guardian, the Pentagon has not given details of the event. CNN reports, however, that Press Secretary George Little, said senior Defense Department officials will take part in the event that will be organized as part of the pride month. The Guardian reports that it will involve saluting of gay and lesbian troops in a manner similar to how African-American and other minority groups are formally recognized in the armed forces.
According to AP, Pentagon officials say that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta "wants to honor the contributions of gay service members."
Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, said, "Now that we've repealed 'don't ask, don't tell,' he (Panetta) feels it's important to find a way this month to recognize the service and professionalism of gay and lesbian troops."
AP notes that the event is in line with a Pentagon tradition of recognizing diversity in the U.S.armed forces.
The Guardian reports that lesbian and gay groups have hailed the move as a sign of how the military is quickly opening up the services after the repeal of DADT. Josh Seefried, an air force lieutenant with the Joint Base Maguire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, said: "This is a tremendous accomplishment to be happening not one year since the repeal of don't ask, don't tell."
Opponents of the move to repeal the DADT policy had said that it would cause problems in the rank, but supporter after nine months, say there have been no problems. Global Post reports Panetta said last month that after conducting surveys in each military branch, US military leaders agreed that the repeal of the DADT policy had not affected morale or readiness.
According to gay advocacy groups, the only problem so far is slow implementation of the proposed changes, such as benefit entitlements to troops in same-sex marriage, AP reports.
Enforcement of DADT forced about 13,500 service members out of the armed forces. But since the repeal, gay and lesbian service members no longer have to hide their sexual orientation in the military. AP reports that OurServe, an association of gay service members that used to be clandestine in the military, has now nearly doubled in size with more than 5,500 members. The group held its first national convention of gay service members in Las Vegas last fall. The group also held a conference on family issues in Washington this year.
According to AP, the alumni gay advocacy group Knights Out, held an event in recognition of gay and lesbian graduates and Army cadets. Gay students at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis were allowed to take same-sex dates to the academy's Ring Dance for third-year midshipmen.
Seefried, who is also finance officer and co-director of OutServe, commented on the process of integration of gay service members into the armed forces: "I don't think it's just moving along smoothly, I think it's accelerating faster than we even thought the military would as far as progress goes."
The Guardian reports that Seefried made a comparison with the British military services, where after lifting of ban on gays, it took a long time for gay service personnel to be open about their sexual orientation.
Seefried said straight service members are accepting gay service members. He also said that the repeal has helped to highlight some areas of unequal treatment of gays. He said: "We are seeing such tremendous progress in how much the military is accepting us, but not only that — in how much the rank and file is now understanding the inequality that's existing right now."