Five years after signing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” into law, President Obama posted a message on his Facebook wall to herald the positive changes in the U.S. armed forces and to look ahead.
“Five years ago, I signed a bipartisan bill repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ As Commander in Chief, I have no greater responsibility than keeping Americans safe. Today, openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women in uniform make our military even stronger. Looking back at the last five years, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished. Together, let’s do even more to make sure our kids can grow up safe, strong, and confident — regardless of who they are or who they love.”
The president also posted a longer note on Facebook that went into great detail in addressing LGBT issues.
“From the boardroom to the locker room, LGBT Americans still face prejudice in their daily lives. In far too many states, people still live in fear of being fired from their jobs just because they’re gay. Young people struggling with their gender identities are bullied and beaten and told they don’t belong. That kind of prejudice has no place in our country, and as Americans we need to let every one of them know that they are not alone. These are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. We stand with you, and we’re here to help you grow up strong and confident and proud of who you are. “
On December 22, 2010, The Advocate published an exclusive interview with Obama, the first ever by a sitting president and an LGBT news organization. In that interview the president regaled writer Kerry Eleveld with a story to show how “incredibly proud” he was to repeal the 1993 law signed by Bill Clinton. He had made a promise to a service member while working a rope line in Afghanistan.
“A young woman in uniform was shaking my hand — it was a big crowd — she hugged me and she whispered in my ear, ‘Get ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ done.’ And I said to her, ‘I promise you I will.’”
In that same interview, Obama said his attitude toward marriage equality was “evolving,” a process that came to fruition in May of 2012 when the president announced to out ABC anchor Robin Roberts he supported same-sex marriage.
Like marriage equality, the DADT issue is still a political hot potato in the 2016 presidential election campaign. Hillary Clinton has defended her husband’s decision to sign the law as a lesser evil, and Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have come out in favor of repealing the repeal.
But as Pink News notes in its coverage of the anniversary, activists want to see a redress of the harm that resulted from the original DADT policy, which led to the dismissal of approximately 14,000 troops. Most of those 14,000 lost military benefits and pensions, and activists say too few efforts have been made to restore those benefits.