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Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

Posted: December 19, 2010 11:55 AM

Years from now we may look back on Saturday's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and wonder why it was such as big deal in the first place. But today, as we analyze the impact of the 17 year struggle for recognition and acceptance forced upon gays and lesbians in our military, it is a big deal.

This would not have happened without the leadership of President Obama and it's a victory for all of us and a celebration of doing the right thing.

I was always taught to be honest and to live my life with integrity. And I have tried my best to live by those words each and every day, even though I too struggled at times with my own sexuality. But for thousands of men and women in our military, they have been forced to live a lie in a shame-based world.

Living and working under those circumstances is not good and it just isn't healthy.

In 1948 President Harry Truman used an Executive Order to integrate our armed forces and eliminate discrimination against African Americans in the military. And for the last 40 years women have had an increasingly accepted presence and active role in the military. Today, finally, we can add sexual orientation to the list of those who are accepted to serve and protect our nation.

The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" didn't need to be a big deal. In fact it should have been a no-brainer. All we have to do is look around the world at our allies. Many nations allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military and they've been accepting them for years.

I am proud to be an American and I am honored to have the men and women who serve in our armed forces put their lives on the line to protect our nation. Their race, gender or sexual orientation does not matter to me. What matters most is their commitment to our country.

And that is a big deal.