In December, when President Obama signed the historic law that ended discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans serving in our armed forces, he told a story about one of his visits to Afghanistan. “A young woman in uniform was shaking my hand,” he said, “and other people were grabbing and taking pictures. And she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear, ‘Get ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ done.’ And I said to her, ‘I promise you I will.’”
That promise made is now a promise kept. As of 12:01am today, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is over. Already, gay and lesbian men and women have sent in their applications to proudly – and openly – serve the country we all love.
I’m delighted to celebrate with friends from around the country, who worked with President Obama to help make this day a reality. Repealing DADT certainly wasn’t easy. There were those who believed our President would not be able to accomplish such a difficult task.
But even when the odds appeared to be against him, President Obama never gave up. Just as I’ve seen him do time and time again during our 20 years of friendship, he demonstrated courage, vision, and the ability get things done. Together with a broad coalition of Americans who care deeply about the ideals of this country, he made this moment happen.
At a time when the President is calling on Congress to put politics aside and act in the greater interest of the American people, it’s important to recognize that elected leaders from both parties deserve credit for ending DADT. In December, I went to the Capitol Building to watch the Senate vote on repeal. I saw eight Republicans join their Democratic colleagues to vote “Yes.” It was a reminder that when the stakes are high enough, and the choice is clear enough, Congress can come together and do the right thing.
Of course, while the end of DADT is a milestone, we’ve got a long way to go. Even on this happy day, there are young people who face bullying at school, just because of their sexual orientation. There are LGBT Americans who still face discrimination, and are denied rights they deserve.
So we are not done fighting. But today, we remember that when we all come together to make this country a better place, change is not just possible. Change is inevitable. On behalf of myself, and the entire Obama Administration, I look forward to working with all of you as we continue our journey toward a more perfect union.