Just after midnight Tuesday, gay members of the armed services could freely discuss their sexual orientation without breaking the law.
A statement released Tuesday by President Barack Obama said that for 200 years Americans have strived to extend freedom to all people and that the repeal is a “tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change.”
“Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans,” the statement said.
Gay activists all over the U.S. planned celebrations in honor of the end of the 18-year-old policy.
The attitude at the University of Minnesota Armory, where the school’s ROTC program is based, was business as usual on Tuesday.
A first-year cadet who had just joined the Army ROTC program spoke freely about the DADT change, but higher-level service members declined to comment without approval from superiors.
“I think if good men and women are willing to fight for their country, their sexual orientation really shouldn’t matter,” said University sophomore Steven Umentum, the first-year cadet.
Ross Neely, assistant director for the GLBTA Programs Office said the office always supports ending discrimination in public policy based on sexual orientation or gender.
Practical changes for most cadets at military academies are few.
“They've been having the conversation internally now for five, six, seven years, depending on which campus we’re talking about, so they were ahead of the rest of the military in getting ready for this change,” said Aaron Belkin, director of a research center that studies GLBTA participation in the military.
Obama signed the repeal for “don’t ask, don’t tell” on Dec. 22, but the order could not go into effect until he determined that the military was ready for the change.
More than 2 million troops have been trained in preparation for the repeal. The training included courses on how to deal with, for example, seeing same-sex partners kiss after a deployed ship comes home.
— The Associated Report and staff reporter James Nord contributed to this report
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