Pentagon downplays ending of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

September 20, 2011

By Rowan Scarborough-The Washington Times

The United States formally ends a decades-old ban on open gays in the ranks on Tuesday, a historic day that the military services hope will pass as routinely as roll calls, marching and lights-out.

The Pentagon, after putting all active-duty and reserve troops through months of mandatory indoctrination, generally is playing down the event and has announced no special plans for the repeal of a policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, “has not indicated he is doing anything special,” said his spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Alayne Conway.

“We will actually be overseas attending a conference in Europe,” she added.

A spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta did not respond to a question about whether the secretary planned to make any special remarks.

The Pentagon will send new written policies and regulations Tuesday to augment the months of slide-show training.

“The training focused on the changes in policy affected by the repeal … and the expectations that service members continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” said spokeswomanEileen Lainez.

Gay-rights activists, basking in one of their greatest political victories, also sought not to make Sept. 20 an in-your-face day of celebration for the demise of the policy imposed by President Clinton in 1993.

“The most interesting thing that will occur on the 20th is deciding where I will go to lunch at,” said J.D. Smith, the pseudonym for a gay Air Forceofficer.

“Absolutely nothing new will occur on the 20th. Military members are likely to remember the 20th as the day the season premiere of ‘Glee’ is on rather than the day DADT died,” he added, referring to the policy’s initials.

“Glee” is a Fox TV prime-time series centered on a high school glee club and gay issues.

Mr. Smith founded Outserve, an underground group of gay military personnel and a magazine by the same name. He has won the right to distribute Outserve at Army and Navy exchanges. He plans to declare his homosexuality openly with a book next month titled “Our Time.”

“Being gay in the military is a non-issue, so I will come forward on Sept. 20th,” he said. “The cover will change to my real name as well on that day.”

At the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that led the fight in Washington for repeal of the policy, the message to gays is: It’s your choice.

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