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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.

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Pressure on GOP candidates over LGBT positions ahead of primaries

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

The Grand Old Party has had a hard time dealing with LGBT activists this campaign season. From “glitter bombs” to awkward responses in town hall meetings, this year's crop of GOP presidential candidates has been forced to stand by their positions on marriage, gays and lesbians in the military and employment non-discrimination.

Thanks to the power of social media and the accessibility of amateur video for the world to see, activists have been able to highlight the often hypocritical or nonsensical anti-gay positions as the GOP's candidates make their way across the early primary states.

Take Michele Bachmann, for example. She and her husband Marcus run a Christian-based counseling clinic that practices “reparative” therapy in her homestate of Minnesota. “Pray the gay away,” in other words. That, and Michele's anti-gay positions, led to a series of “glitter bombs” and even an occupation of the Bachmann clinic by “gay barbarians” over the summer.

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Local veterans mark end of military’s gay ban

American Veterans for Equal Rights DADT repeal celebration

There were many poignant moments Sept. 19 as about 200 Atlantans gathered in Piedmont Park to mark the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But few were as touching as when Danny Ingram, national president of American Veterans for Equal Rights, brought to the podium the very officer who had discharged him from the Army for being gay almost 20 years ago.

Ingram was discharged in 1994, one of the first victims of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He explained how now-retired Colonel Kelly R. Jimenez, who is Latino, called him into a meeting with him and the second in command, who was African-American.

“My granddaddy had to get his ass kicked so I could serve in the U.S. Army,” Ingram recalled Jimenez saying.

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Do Ask, Do Tell for Pride

What a difference a year makes.

“Hopes dim for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal this year,” read a headline in last year’s GA Voice Atlanta Pride issue, which hit the streets on Oct. 1, 2010.

Headline on page 36 of this Pride issue? “Atlanta celebrates end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Of course, the end of the military’s discriminatory ban on openly gay service members was years in the making. Efforts to repeal the ban began as soon as it was passed in 1993 as a disappointing compromise after newly elected President Bill Clinton had pledged to let gays serve in the military.

Clinton’s election played a small but meaningful role in my own coming out story. I never doubted my parents’ love, but they weren’t exactly thrilled in 1991 when they found out I was gay.