"Today marks the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve." - Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, et al
With those words, distributed to soldiers around the world, the Army became the first branch of the military to officially declare an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation (click here to read the full memo). Starting today, all branches must follow suit, exactly nine months since the Congress voted for repeal and President Obama signed the order.
Since the passage of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 1993, approximately 14,000 American soldiers' lives have been turned up-side-down as they were removed from serving their country simply for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Tens of thousands more were forced to live a lie just to keep their jobs.
While today absolutely calls for celebration, we know there's more work to do tomorrow. We must continue to hold our elected leaders accountable and demand that they rectify the great wrong done to the 14,000 Americans drummed out of the service because of prejudice.
As we celebrate, we also pause to thank everyone who raised their voice for equality.
Thanks to the 5,454 Equality Florida members who took swift action as Congress prepared to vote on the repeal. By email and phone, our members contacted their elected leaders and demanded an end to this discriminatory law. Such an amazing response from our state only makes sense. Florida is home to over 109,000 military personnel, more than any other state except California and Texas.
So let's take the opportunity to celebrate today as a milestone in American history. And let us take an extra moment to acknowledge the courage, sacrifice and determination of servicemembers who risked so much to end discrimination.
We celebrate and stand ready for the work ahead.