[JURIST] The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] officially took effect [memo, PDF] Tuesday at 12:01 AM ET. With the repeal of the law, the military can no longer prevent gays and lesbians from serving openly among its ranks. The occasion was marked by statements of commemoration from various government agencies, as well as individual officials. President Barack Obama [official website] released a statement [text] celebrating the fact that “patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.” The US Army [official website] released a statement [text, PDF], signed by three of its highest ranking officials, heralding the end of the controversial law:
From this day forward, gay and lesbian Soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our rules, regulations and policies reflect the repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defense and will apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and private matter.
The letter also highlighted the training military personnel have received in preparation for the change. Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] press secretary George Little said that that the military is adequately prepared for the end of the current policy, with approximately 97 percent of the military having undergone specific DADT repeal preparation. Various Washington leaders have scheduled news conferences for later Tuesday. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta [official profile] and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen [official profile] will field questions about the repeal, while a bipartisan group of congressional supporters of the repeal will be answering questions on Capitol Hill.
The repeal took effect as scheduled despite opposition from some. Four days before the repeal was scheduled to go into effect, two Republican Congressmen sent a letter to Panetta asking to delay the repeal [JURIST report] of DADT. Earlier this month, lawyers for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official websites] to overturn a ruling that the DADT policy is a violation of service members’ constitutional rights, arguing that the impendency of repeal renders the original court decision moot. In July, the Ninth Circuit ruled that DADT would remain partially in effect [JURIST report] during the 60 days prior to its newly-scheduled repeal. The court effectively reiterated its order issued [JURIST report] the previous week, in which it reinstated DADT but explicitly ordered the military to refrain from investigating, penalizing or discharging any of its members as originally provided for under the policy. Hours earlier, Obama, Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified DADT’s repeal [JURIST report], scheduling the policy to end on September 20. Obama signed the bill to repeal DADT [JURIST report] in December. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 [HR 2965 materials] was approved in the Senate in December after being passed [JURIST reports] by the House of Representatives the week before. Since the enactment of DADT in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy.