Exuberant. That’s the only adjective to describe the mood of Wednesday’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal bill signing ceremony with President Barack Obama at the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. (the invite list dwarfed East Room capacity at the White House, thus the alternative location). With nearly 18 years of a discriminatory and insidious policy now off the books — and headed into the all-important period of Pentagon repeal implementation — we asked ceremony attendees of note what December 22, 2010, ultimately means for them.
"I had no doubt that this day would happen. And as far as all the naysayers go, we just took them down and out-worked them. I used to jump out of airplanes for a living, so I was always confident that my chute was going to open up. Paratroopers don’t quit." —Pennsylvania representative Patrick Murphy, who sponsored repeal legislation in the House of Representatives
"This is just the best day. The best. Today, America is more American." —House speaker Nancy Pelosi
“If what I went through in any way had any impact on the repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' then I think this day is truly vindicating. And
worth whatever I went through. I’m just very fortunate that it
happened so soon in my time line so where I can return to uniform without
really skipping a beat.” —Petty Officer 3rd class Joseph Christopher
Rocha, who was discharged in 2007
was a turning point in our movement, and today is truly a day of
celebration. But tomorrow we will wake up and again focus on the task at
hand. And that task is full equality under the law." — Chad Griffin,
cofounder and board president of the American Foundation for Equal
Rights, which has organized and funded the federal challenge to
California’s Proposition 8
this crowd: There are people here who have been working on the gays in
the military issue for 30 years, well before 'don’t ask, don’t tell.'
There are people here who were thrown out of the military 10 years ago,
20 years ago, 30 years ago, and we’re all here together because we won.
And because the country is now going to start treating us like human
beings." —Aaron Belkin, founder and director of the Palm Center, a
research institute focusing on "don't ask, don't tell" at the University
of California, Santa Barbara
"After the two failed votes in the
Senate, I was starting to have my doubts. But we got there. I’m
ecstatic. It’s absolutely amazing. A huge day for America. And now’s the
time where we need role models in the military now — gays and lesbians,
officers and enlisted alike. A year from now, hopefully this repeal will
be fully implemented. And open service will be a nonissue. We will
look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. It will be a big, fat
nonevent." —Maj. Mike Almy, who was discharged under “don’t ask, don’t
tell” in 2006
“I think of all the young men and women that we helped who called crying and needing a lifeline. and, to me, this means America has responded. America’s the lifeline now. This is a victory not just for those who are serving in the military but for the entire country. I don’t think that any state government, local government, business, can discriminate now. If the military can do this, anybody can do this." —Dixon Osburn (in background), who cofounded the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, reflecting on many of the clients the organization had helped over the years
"To play a part in the case which has helped shape history was certainly worth the effort. And we're delighted. But our lawsuit continues: Repeal won't be effective until a certain time, and unless the government agrees not to discharge any more service members, our lawsuit is alive and kicking." —Dan Woods, lead attorney in the Log Cabin Republicans' challenge to DADT in federal court. Following the July trial, U.S. district judge Virginia Phillips struck down "don't ask, don't tell" as unconstitutional.