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The National Black Justice Coalition Celebrates The Official End to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Black lesbian, gay, and bisexual military households stand to benefit from DADT Repeal

Washington, DC – On September 20, 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal Act of 2010 became official and as of today all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have the backing of the United States government to serve openly in the military.

Since 1993, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy made it legal for lesbian, gay or bisexual servicemembers to be fired if they chose to live openly while they served. In December 2010, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, and the Department of Defense commissioned a committee to embark upon a comprehensive review of military policies that would potentially be affected by the repeal of DADT, with the focus of guaranteeing military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruitment and retention of the Armed Forces.

In response to this landmark confirmation of equal rights for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks stated,

“This victory has been long overdue, but the joy of justice from a well fought fight to secure equality for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers who have risked their lives in order to protect American civilians, makes me even more proud of our freedom to advocate and protest in this country. This law was wrong when it was put in place back in 1993, and has negatively impacted the lives of thousands of servicemembers, many of whom are Black lesbians. We are thankful to the Obama administration for their steadfast commitment to closing out this shameful chapter in American history; to restoring dignity to lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers; and to strengthening our military. With the victory of today’s repeal under our belts, we must continue to organize on behalf of transgender people who want to serve openly in the military.”

Lettman-Hicks adds,

“We, at the National Black Justice Coalition, are proud to have organized alongside hundreds of organizations and individuals to move America one step closer to becoming a land where all men and women receive fair and equal treatment under the law.”

Black lesbian, gay, and bisexual military households stand to benefit the most from the repeal as Black lesbian servicemembers were being discharged at three times the rate of their counterparts and many who were not out lived in constant fear that phone calls and letters, the most vital forms of moral support, from their partners would be used as evidence against them, should they be overheard or found by another servicemember.

“Since I learned that September 20th is the official day that the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will go into effect, the hot topic of discussion in my life has been with my partner about which photo I should put of her on my desk,” said Petty Officer Mikelle Smith, Navy Photojournalist.  “I have devoted five-and-a-half years of my life to serving my country. I’ve been deployed for several months at a time, sometimes in places most people would never want to see, and the one thing I asked for is the right to say ‘I’m going home to my girlfriend’ or to bring my girlfriend to the command functions and introduce her as my support system, as my rock. After spending almost the majority of my civilian life in the closet, and a good portion of my military career walking on eggshells I’m so excited to finally just be me.”

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.