US defence chief salutes gay troops

2012-06-15 20:15
Washington - Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday thanked gay and lesbian US military members for their service, as the Pentagon prepares to mark June as gay pride month with an official salute.

In a remarkable sign of a cultural change in the US military, Panetta said that with the repeal last year of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that prohibited gays from serving openly in the military, gays and lesbians can now be proud to be in uniform.

"Now you can be proud of serving your country, and be proud of who you are," Panetta said.

The defence chief also said he is committed to removing as many barriers as possible to making the military a model of equal opportunity.

Panetta's video message was part of a Pentagon salute to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender troops as the Pentagon joined the rest of the US government for the first time in marking June as gay pride month.

It comes nine months after repeal of the policy that had prohibited gay troops from serving openly and forced more than 13 500 service members out of the armed forces.

Recognising diversity

This month's event will follow a long tradition at the Pentagon of recognising diversity in America's armed forces. Hallway displays and activities, for example, have marked Black History Month and Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

Before the repeal, gay troops could serve but couldn't reveal their orientation. If they did, they would be discharged. At the same time, a commanding officer was prohibited from asking a service member whether he or she was gay.

Although some feared repeal of the ban on serving openly would cause problems in the ranks, officials and gay advocacy groups say no big issues have materialised - aside from what advocacy groups criticise as slow implementation of some changes, such as benefit entitlements to troops in same-sex marriages.

Basic changes have come rapidly since repeal; the biggest is that gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines no longer have to hide their sexuality in order to serve. They can put photos on their office desk without fear, attend social events with their partners and openly join advocacy groups looking out for their interests.

Firsts

OutServe, a once-clandestine professional association for gay service members, has nearly doubled in size to more than 5 500 members. It held its first national convention of gay service members in Las Vegas last fall, then a conference on family issues this year in Washington.

At the US Military Academy, the alumni gay advocacy group Knights Out was able to hold the first instalment in March of what is intended to be an annual dinner in recognition of gay and lesbian graduates and Army cadets. Gay students at the US Naval Academy were able to take same-sex dates to the academy's Ring Dance for third-year midshipmen.

Panetta said last month that military leaders had concluded that repeal had not affected morale or readiness. A report to Panetta with assessments from the individual military service branches said that as of 1 May they had seen no ill effects.

"I don't think it's just moving along smoothly, I think it's accelerating faster than we even thought the military would as far as progress goes," said Air Force 1st Lieutenant Josh Seefried, a finance officer and co-director of OutServe.

He said acceptance has been broad among straight service members and has put a spotlight on unequal treatment that gays continue to receive in some areas. "We are seeing such tremendous progress in how much the military is accepting us, but not only that - in how much the rank and file is now understanding the inequality that's existing right now," he said.

That is a reference to the fact that same-sex couples are not afforded spousal health care, assignments to the same location when they transfer to another job, and other benefits. There was no immediate change to eligibility standards for military benefits in September. All service members already were entitled to certain things, such as designating a partner as one's life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.

As for other benefits still not approved, the department began a review after repeal with an eye toward possibly extending eligibility, consistent with the federal Defence of Marriage Act and other applicable laws, to the same-sex partners of military personnel.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  gay rights
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!

Nothing, and we mean nothing, will keep goalkeeper Scott Stirling from stopping the ball!

 
 

Men24.com

Hottie of the day: Jesselyn
This invention makes farts smell like chocolate!
11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The Moon has moved into your sign, emphasizing the need to connect things to work together. There is a tendency to focus too far...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.