Active Duty Service Members March in Pride Parade
By: Mattheus E. Stephens

Last Saturday, July 16, 2011, for the first time in history, openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force marched in the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade. As these brave individuals—all willing to give their lives for the protection and well-being of our country—marched proudly down University Avenue, a sense of awe struck the crowd. While some parade goers cheered loudly, others rested their right hand over their hearts, and still others looked on reverently, tears wetting their sun-kissed cheeks.

More than 200 days have passed since President Obama signed legislation repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Because the statute requires “certification,” however, DADT has not yet been fully repealed, and LGB service members technically remain subject to discharge if their sexual orientation is revealed.

“Certification” requires the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to certify that they have reviewed certain reports, prepared necessary policies, and implemented essential regulations so such things as military readiness and effectiveness are not compromised when the repeal is fully enacted. A key step in the certification process requires sensitivity training of current active duty and reservist service members.

On June 6, 2011, military official reported that half the entire military had been trained and estimated that training would be complete by mid-August 2011. In an interview on June 13, 2011, Secretary of Defense Gates said, “I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this process is going forward. I think people have been mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the training.”

While news of progress is hopeful, others wish the process would move faster. At the request of a group of Log Cabin Republicans, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal recently lifted its stay of a lower court’s decision ending the enforcement of DADT. The Ninth Circuit changed its mind, however, after the Justice Department filed an emergency request to keep the stay in place, stating: “Any court-ordered action forced upon the military services so close to the completion of this repeal policy pre-empts the deliberate process established by Congress and the President to ensure an orderly and successful transition of this significant policy change.” Some say repeal could be complete as early as September 2011.

In place for more than seventeen years, DADT has destroyed the military careers of countless individuals and compromised the effectiveness of our nation’s armed services. It is understandable then, that most in the LGBT community find the repeal process sluggish at best. What’s clear, however, is that complete repeal of DADT sits clearly visible on the horizon. And what’s even more clear is that the LGBT community will continue to march, as it has done for decades, toward that horizon—not only for itself, but for the principles of freedom and expression that embody this melting pot called America.

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