How Troops Celebrated the End of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Soldiers come out in national media after decades in the closet

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At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, gay troops were finally free to serve openly. It's a huge national victory for gay rights advocates who've been pushing to end the ban on gays in the military for decades. Few expected the final end of Don't Ask Don't Tell would be met with a wave of troops coming out, but Tuesday saw many military members reveal they're gay: U.S. Marine Major Darrel Choat came out on NPR Tuesday morning. The activist known as J.D. Smith revealed he's really Air Force 1st Lieutenant Josh Seefried, The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reports.

At midnight, Navy Lieutenant Gary Ross (pictured at right) married his partner of 11 years in Vermont--a location picked because it was in the eastern time zone, the Associated Press reports. And the magazine OutServe is publishing a special edition with photos of 101 active-duty members of the military who are coming out as gay.

The repeal means relief for the troops the military was working to discharge over their sexuality. One of the highest-ranking officers in that situation was Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach. Fehrenbach, who's been deployed to war zones six times, spent three years in limbo as he brought a legal challenge against the Pentagon's attempt to oust him. He's happy he'll get to keep his retirement, he tells ABC News' Devin Dwyer, but, he says,  "When I began this fight, I said it wouldn't be over for me until it was over for everyone... In a lot of ways, today means more to me than my retirement overall." More than 12,000 troops were discharged for being gay; now they will be allowed to re-enlist.
Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, told The Wall Street Journal's Julian E. Barnes that the military's months-long training program in advance of the ban would make the transition easier: "Two million of America's most conservative youth went through this training," Nicholson says. "The seven months provided an unprecedented opportunity to train and educate people about the gay and lesbian community. It was an opportunity to realize the normalcy of the gay community."
Though the Pentagon plans on keeping it's marking of the ban's end low-key, gay rights groups across the country will celebrate the end of the ban. Servicememembers Legal Defense Network is throwing 100 "Repeal Day" parties throughout the country, and Log Cabin Republicans are celebrating in Washington, D.C. A gay community center in Tulsa will host military recruiters, ABC News' Luis Martinez reports, and gay World War II veterans were invited to attend. "It's very emotional to them, they never believed they'd live long enough to see this," Oklahomans for Equality's Toby Jenkins told Martinez.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.