End of 'don't ask': more joy than dismay
Updated 10:58 p.m., Sunday, September 16, 2012
They are images Americans had never seen before. Jubilant young men and women in military uniforms marching beneath a rainbow flag in a gay pride parade. Soldiers and sailors returning from deployment and, in time-honored tradition, embracing their beloved - only this time with same-sex kisses.
It's been a year now since "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, enabling gay and lesbian members of the military to serve openly, no longer forced to lie and keep their personal lives under wraps.
The Pentagon says repeal has gone smoothly, with no adverse effect on morale, recruitment or readiness. President Obama cites it as a signature achievement of his first term, and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, says he would not push to reverse the change if elected in place of Obama.
Some critics persist with complaints that repeal has infringed on service members whose religious faiths condemn homosexuality. Instances of antigay harassment have not ended. And activists are frustrated that gay and lesbian military families don't yet enjoy the benefits and services extended to other military families.
Yet the clear consensus is that repeal has produced far more joy and relief than dismay and indignation. There's vivid evidence in photographs that have rocketed across the Internet, such as the military contingent marching in San Diego's gay pride parade and Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan leaping into the arms of his boyfriend after returning from six months in Afghanistan.
Tens of thousands of people clicked the "like" button for the photo on Facebook, and Morgan acknowledged it was "a great moment in history."
"But when it comes down to it, we didn't intend for this go to worldwide," he said. "We were just happy to be together."
The Defense Department says it is studying the possibility of extending marital benefits to same-sex couples, but has announced no time frame. Otherwise, the Pentagon has been emphatic in declaring the repeal a success.
Last week, the Palm Center - a research institute at UCLA - issued what it described as the first academic study of the impact of repeal, which it had supported. Co-written by professors from the military academies and Marine Corps War College, the study concludes that repeal had no broad negative impact.