Gay U.S. military members can now serve openly

Gay U.S. military members can now serve openly

Yuma, AZ-Openly gay men and women no longer have to hide their sexual orientation if they want to enlist.

 And here locally, gay rights activists are celebrating the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Since 1993, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" kept U.S. service members quiet about their sexual orientation.

Just after midnight the U.S. military ended the ban.

"What 'don't ask, don't tell' did is force good, honest American soldiers who wanted to serve their country to lie," Michael Baughman, a human & civil rights advocate of Yuma said.

Under the former law, military members were not allowed to ask about someone's sexual orientation and gays and lesbians were expected to not tell anybody either.

If they were outed, service members faced expulsion or punishment.

Baughman, treasurer of PFLAG Yuma, said the repeal was "long overdue".

"It should have never been a fight in the first place...its just one of those horrible things," he said.

For 18 years, the ban discharged about 13,000 men and women for being gay.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen praised the change.

"It was the right thing to do, it's done and we need to move on," Mullen said.

 They are men and women who put there lives on the line and that's what should matter most," Panetta said.

All pending investigations regarding service member's sexual orientation will be dropped.

Also those who were discharged because of the former law are free to re-enlist.

"This change means that someone can now openly go into a recruiting office and regardless of what their sexual preference is, they can join the military without discrimination," Captain Staci Reidinger of the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma said.

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