December 18 was an historic day: The Senate finally followed the House to repeal the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. On this vote, Congress lived up to the values that lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers swore to defend.
The fight against discrimination in the military has been long -- longer, by far, than the 17-year-old DADT law. Lambda Legal began to fight back with a lawsuit in 1975 and over the years, we have been proud to represent many members of the military including Margarethe Cammermeyer, Joseph Steffan, Dusty Pruitt and Copy Berg. This year, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a legal challenge brought by Log Cabin Republicans, arguing that the impact of DADT extends far beyond those in uniform, to include lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and youth who must contend with the consequences of the discriminatory messages perpetuated by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
But last weekend, we all heard a new message from the halls of Congress: A majority of the members of the House and Senate declared an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation in America's military. The President is eager to end the policy. A huge barrier to equality crumbled.
Congress is just catching up to the public on this issue. An overwhelming majority of Americans supports letting lesbian and gay troops serve openly and with honor. And the recent survey of military personnel and their families shows an overwhelming majority -- 90 percent -- are not concerned about serving alongside someone who is openly lesbian or gay.
We congratulate the many lesbian and gay servicemembers who risked or sacrificed their careers to fight for justice; the many LGBT advocacy groups and allies who fought together; and the members of Congress who voted for fairness.
Many battles for equality in our family relationships, at work or in school, and in all aspects of our lives still lie ahead. The U.S. military is the largest single employer in the country and if it can end discrimination in its hiring and retention practices, so can every other employer in the country. Many LGBT people live in states with no explicit state protections against discrimination. We should enact a national Employment Nondiscrimination Act without further delay that includes protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression for all servicemembers and workers.
As progress is made, the inequalities that remain seem all the more indefensible. For example, once DADT is ended, lesbian and gay members of the military will be able to serve openly and with honor - but their spouses and loved ones may not be recognized or receive equal services or benefits because of the discriminatory consequences of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA must also be repealed.
We still have a lot of work to do. But today, we feel stronger and more hopeful. We all fought for change, and we won it.
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