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Melissa Carter: Marking the first Memorial Day without ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Melissa CarterMy father was a war veteran. During a debate on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with me years ago, he shared his thoughts on why straight men in the military were uncomfortable with gays serving.

It had nothing to do with sexuality, my dad explained, but instead came from an interpretation of weakness. He personally had no concern about someone hitting on him, but he was convinced a gay man would lose his nerve in battle and cause my father to die along with him.

That was based on the way my father grew up, thinking the only gay men he knew were the extremely effeminate men he saw around town and misinterpreted their character and womanly gait as frail.

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Soldiers in Afghanistan say ‘It Gets Better’

Soldiers in Afghanistan say 'It Gets Better'

A group of soldiers serving in Afghanistan are lending their voices to the “It Gets Better” project, a viral movement meant to reach out to bullied queer youth.

“It's hard being different when you're young and even when you're old. But once you realize that you have friends that are going to accept you for who you are, and the sooner the accept yourself for who you are, the sooner you'll realize that life gets better,” one female soldier says in the video.

A year ago, these soldiers could have been discharged under the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy. The discriminatory law was officially overturned on Sept. 20, 2011. Some 13,000 soldiers were discharged due to their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation before the law was repealed.

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Top national story of 2011: ‘Don’t Ask’ is history

President Barack Obama signs the repeal for the military's

The anti-gay law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” finally came to an end on Sept. 20 after prohibiting open gays from serving in the U.S. military for 18 years.

No other news event had as much impact on the LGBT community as the lifting of the ban — allowing an estimated 66,000 gay people to begin serving openly — which is why we’re naming the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as the story of the year for 2011.

The law came to an end thanks to repeal legislation that President Obama signed into law in December 2010. The bill provided for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after 60 days passed following certification from the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.