Gay activists celebrate end of DADT and look to the future

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Gay and lesbian members of the military celebrated the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which went into effect at midnight last night. Activists in Los Angeles, however, are worried the repeal won’t end discrimination.

Marine Corps veteran Tom Carpenter is a board member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “Never in the course of our history since 1776 has an American in uniform been able to say I’m gay, lesbian, or bisexual,” he said.

Military officials say the end of the 18-year-old ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy will be a smooth transition.

Carpenter, who was at a press conference at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, said there still will be some rough spots. “There’s no provision for non-discrimination in this law. All this law did is bring us back to 1993.”

In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that 97 percent of the 2.3 million service members have been trained about the implementation of the repeal. He said there is a zero tolerance policy for harassment.

“Coming out remains our number one weapon against homophobia and finally service members who do so no longer need to fear for their jobs,” Jim key, chief public affairs officer of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, said.

Carpenter estimates that 65,000 active duty, national guard and reserve forces could be affected by the repeal. This doesn’t include transgendered people, however. The defense of marriage act is also a stumbling block for the military, Carpenter said.

“In one fell swoop the world has changed,” he said. “In spite of that fact there’s still more that needs to be done.”

Activists are still fighting to gain the same marriage benefits as straight troops.