Residents took to the streets Tuesday night to celebrate the official end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
In a march from West Hollywood Park down the sidewalk along Santa Monica Blvd. to the Sal Guarriello Veterans’ Memorial fountain at Holloway, about 100 people cheered and chanted as they waved rainbow flags and carried homemade signs. Cars driving by honked to signal their support.
“Happy Repeal Day,” yelled some of the marchers, jubilant at the official repeal of the U.S. government’s 18-year-old controversial ban on gay, lesbian and bisexuals openly serving in the military.
David Woolery, who served in the Air Force during the first Gulf War, made a special trip from Whittier to attend, saying he felt it was important to mark the occasion and the West Hollywood celebration was the only one he could find.
Woolery told Weho Patch the entire time he was in the Air Force, he lived in fear that any squeak he made would get him kicked out.
At a rally in the park beforehand, Mayor Pro Tempore Jeff Prang told the crowd gathered, “This is a great day for West Hollywood, this is a great day for our nation.”
“[Former President Bill Clinton] disappointed a lot of us when he agreed to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which was not a remarkable improvement over what we had been enduring for decades before that,” Prang said. “After a lot of work hard work by a lot of people, by people both in uniform and out of uniform, we are here today, September 20, 2011, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The government has finally thrown open wide the doors to the biggest closet that has ever been ever created,” said Peter Renn of Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal organization fighting discrimination. “I am very glad to be able to talk about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the past tense.”
Councilmember Abbe Land gave a special shout out to “all the men and women who had to courage and the desire to serve this country when they couldn’t actually be who they wanted to be while they were doing it.”
Tom Carpenter of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the end of DADT a tipping point for the gay community. He said it was about the three “M”s – Marriage, Military and Ministry. With the collapse of the military leg of the “3M stool,” Carpenter predicted the other two legs would soon follow.
However, Carpenter did offer a note of caution. “What’s happened here is we have returned to where we were in 1993,” Carpenter said explaining the end of DADT merely transferred oversight of gays in the military from the Congress back to the Pentagon.
“They are giving us the right to serve,” Carpenter said. “But that can change. It’s not going to take another change in the law. We get a new administration in here . . . all they have to do is direct the Secretary of Defense to put the ban in place that existed before for a return to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. So our work is ahead of us. We must be vigilant.”
More than 14,000 service men and women lost their military careers under DADT. Another 70,000 LGBT military personnel are estimated to have served in fear of being caught under the DADT law.