September 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm EDT | by Valerie Jarrett
DADT repeal brings us closer to more perfect union

As of Sept. 20, 2011, the discriminatory law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ceased to exist. No longer will patriotic gay and lesbian Americans need to hide who they are in order to serve the country they love.

While this is an important step in our ongoing effort to form a more perfect union, it is also, in some ways, an unremarkable step. Gays and lesbians have served in our armed services from the time of the American Revolution. But they have served in silence; worse still, some have been forced out for nothing more than their sexual orientation.

We know that, to use an old adage, you don’t need to be straight to shoot straight. While there will never be a full accounting of the patriotism demonstrated by gay and lesbian Americans in service to their nation, we know that they have served, with honor and valor.  When President Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t’ Tell Repeal Act into law, he told a story about an act of heroism during the Battle of the Bulge.

A regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. During the combat, a private named Lloyd Corwin fell down into a ravine. He could have died there. But one friend, a soldier named Andy Lee, came back and scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safety.

Lloyd always credited his friend with saving his life. Four decades after the war, the two friends reunited, and it was only then that Lloyd learned that Andy was gay. Lloyd hadn’t known, and more importantly, he didn’t care. Andy’s sexual orientation had no impact on his valor and sacrifice.

That’s a refrain we heard time and time again in preparing to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — that our military is ready for the open service of our gay and lesbian service members.  That, simply put, sexual orientation is not a factor. Now that DADT is gone, gay and lesbian service members will continue to serve, albeit with one important difference — they can be open about who they are. This change will only serve to strengthen our military. As many of our nation’s top military officials have stated, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness will not be harmed or undermined.

Indeed, because patriotic Americans who happen to be gay or lesbian will no longer have to conceal who they are, our military, and our nation, will be better off.

We would not be here today were it not for the leadership of President Obama, current and former members of Congress, ordinary Americans, and those who wear or have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services. On behalf of the president, I also want to thank the leadership at the Defense Department. From conducting a comprehensive review of the issues associated with repeal, to offering a support plan for implementation, to training our forces to make them ready for this change, to rewriting masses of regulations to comply with the new law, the Pentagon has taken all necessary steps with full speed and proficiency.

As with any change, there will be apprehension from some.  But I am certain that we will look back and wonder why it was ever a source of controversy in the first place. The president has every confidence in the professionalism and patriotism of our service members. Just as they have adapted and grown stronger with other changes, we know they will do so again.

There is no doubt that our service members will continue to serve with integrity and honor, and approach each task and mission with the professionalism that we expect of them. Be they Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, or Coast Guardsmen – they remain members of the finest military of the world. It is that military that has fought to preserve the freedoms that define America. And now, with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we have furthered those American principles of fairness and equality.

Valerie B. Jarrett is a senior adviser to President Barack Obama. She is also the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and oversees the Offices of Public Engagement, Intergovernmental Affairs and Urban Affairs.

  • Valerie, nice political attempt at trying to woo many a gay voter who, like myself, are looking elsewhere to cast our vote next year. Instead of penning a warm and cuddly missive to the gay community, perhaps you should focus on updating your resume.

  • Dear Valerie Jarrett,

    This article is a fitting tribute to President Obama & his leadership in getting rid of DADT!

    I remeber when President Bill Clinton, who I believe was trying to do the right thing, allowed this ridiculous bill to pass! I was shocked, amazed, angry & really upset! To me, it was worse than what was already in place!? I still liked President Clinton but felt he just didn’t understand what us homosexuals had to go through in the military!
    Now, it is over, what a huge relief for all our gay & lesbian service members! WHEW! These honorable men & women can now serve with the dignity & respect they have deserved, but been denied, since the first war Americans have ever fought!
    I am very happy this has happened Valerie.
    Now, on to getting the same marraige rights for our community as well.
    I sure hope it doesn’t take too long because I’m 63 & don’t know if I can make it if it takes 20 or 30 years or more. lol.

    Thanks again for all you do to help our community Valerie,

    Annie Pace’

  • Thanks, Val — now go back to harming the economy!

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