Gay service members may now openly state their sexual orientation after the repeal of a 1993 law allowing gays to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation private took effect Tuesday.
The repeal, signed by President Obama, puts an end to an 18-year policy that came into effect during the Clinton administration. Military officials announced that all necessary preparations were made in advance of the repeal and that the military is ready to step into a new era.
As of last week, 97 percent of the military had undergone training in the new law and applications from openly gay recruits, accepted for the past few weeks, will now be processed in light of the repeal. Also, the Defense Department will publish revised regulations to reflect the new law allowing gays to serve openly.
All pending investigations, discharges and other administrative proceedings that were begun under the law will now come to a halt.
Black gay advocates say the repeal marks an even larger win for gay African-American service members as the group was being discharged at nearly three times the rate of their non-Black counterparts.
"This victory has been long overdue,” said National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks. “This law was wrong when it was put in place back in 1993, and has negatively impacted the lives of thousands of service members, many of whom are Black lesbians."
However, even amid the excitement of the repeal, there are still challenges. Officials say there will not be any immediate changes to eligibility standards for military benefits and entitlements, such as designating a partner as one's life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.
(Photo: EPA/JIM LO SCALZO/LANDOV)