Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the US’s policy on gays serving in the military, officially ended at midnight on Sept. 20, and to celebrate the Montgomery County Young Democrats hosted a happy hour in Gaithersburg.
“Fifteen thousand service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation,” said Barbara Henderson, president of the County chapter of the Young Democrats.
“Before [President Bill] Clinton, it wasn’t illegal to be gay in the military,” she added, saying that many of the Democrats she knew were “flabbergasted” by the policy.
The party, at Dogfish Head Alehouse, marked the end of a nationwide struggle by gay rights advocacy groups to repeal the policy. Locally, some of the MCYD members sent letters to the President and Congress lobbying for a repeal of the law.
The law, enacted on Dec. 21, 1993, barred gay, lesbian or bisexual people from serving openly in the military. If a soldier disclosed that they were gay while serving, they would be discharged.
Henderson said that although the fight against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell may be over, there is still plenty of work to be done to bring about true equality.
“Nationally, we’re taking the fight to the Defence of Marriage Act,” she said. That act, also enacted by President Clinton, defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
“And right here in Maryland, we’re in the fight for marriage equality,” she said.
Written by Nathan Carrick of the Gaithersburg Patch.