By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com September 18 2012 5:00 AM ET
One of the biggest victories of the gay rights movement was repealing "don't ask, don't tell," which officially banned LGBT members of the military from serving openly. While there are still issues for personnel with same-sex partners (like housing or health insurance benefits) or transgender troops who still cannot serve openly, there still have been many causes for celebration.
August 2011: The First LGBT Magazine
Timed with the official repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," military officials approved distribution of OutServe, a magazine for LGBT service members and their families, on military bases.
Sept. 20, 2011: The First Gay Wedding
At the stroke of midnight, Navy Lt. Gary Ross married Dan Swezy, his partner of 11 years, while simultaneously celebrating the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
December 2011: The First Reinstatement
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jase Daniels, who was discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," was officially reinstated to the Navy after the full repeal took place. He returned to his post as a Hebrew linguist after being discharged in 2005, and again in 2007.
December 21, 2011: The First Kiss
Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of California, returning home on the USS Oak Hill, won the traditional first kiss raffle on board. When her ship arrived at Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Gaeta found her girlfriend, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell, and engaged in the tradition. It was reportedly the first time the first kiss has gone to a same-sex couple.
January 25: The First Pinning
Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace was the first known out member of the military to have their same-sex partner participate in the pinning ceremony tradition that has been reserved for spouses and family members. Her partner of 10 years, Kathy Knopf, pinned colonel wings on Wallace days after the two attended President Obama's State of The Union address as a guest of the First Lady.
Feb. 11: A First for a Military Base
Navy Chief Elny McKinney and Anacelly McKinney were the first known same-sex couple to marry on a military base, according to Stephen Peters of the American Military Partner Association. They were wed at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego.
May: A First Time for Cadets
The first class of cadets from the country's military academies to include openly gay students graduated this year. Some of the other traditions like the Naval Academy's ring dance, could include same-sex dates of third-year midshipmen, and LGBT groups were formed at the academies.
June 26: The First Pride
The Pentagon hosted the department's first event honoring LGBT service members in honor of gay pride month. President Obama also hosted the annual White House Pride celebration, now with multiple service members attending. Marine Captain Matthew Phelps told ABC News, "I thought, 'how amazing is it over the course of a year that I could go from being fired for being who I am to having champagne with the commander-in-chief.'"
July 21: A First in Uniform
With the backing of the Department of Defense, the 2012 gay pride season was the first to feature openly gay, uniformed, active-duty troops who couldn't be investigated or discharged simply for participating. Service members marched in the 2011 San Diego Pride parade, before "don't ask, don't tell" was officially repealed, but this year, LGBT service members and personnel were even permitted by the department to march in uniform.
August: The First General
Tammy Smith became the first openly LGBT person to be promoted as an Army brigadier general, making her the highest ranking openly gay person in the Army. Smith received her stars from her wife Tracey Hepner in a private ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sept. 10: The First Conclusion
The first study on openly gay service members after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" reveals that lifting the ban had no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, morale, retention, or recruitment.