Panetta thanks gay service members, praises repeal of ‘don’t ask’
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Leon Panettatouted the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in a video message thanking gay and lesbian service members in honor of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month.
Repeal of the law that had blocked gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military “proved to the nation that just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values, different beliefs, but together, we are the greatest military force in the world,” Panetta said. (Watch the full video below.)
The law, in force since 1993, was repealed by Congress in December 2010, but it took until the following fall for the law to be officially halted.
Panetta said the repeal was implemented “with a focus on respect and individual dignity.”
“Going forward, I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America’s military a model of equal opportunity, to ensure all who are qualified can serve in America’s military, and to give every man and woman in uniform the opportunity to rise to their highest potential.”
He praised those who served before the repeal.
“Just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself,” Panetta said. “And now, after repeal, you can be proud of serving your country and be proud of who you are when in uniform.”
“Diversity is one of our greatest strengths,” he said. “And during pride month – and every month -- let’s celebrate our rich diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality for all.”