Nashville gay rights activists are planning to toast the overturn of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy Tuesday night, as the repeal of the controversial President Bill Clinton-era law officially goes into effect.
Congress and President Barack Obama took action in late 2010 to abolish the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibits openly gay, lesbian or bisexual citizens from performing military service.
New measures, allowing gay and lesbian service members to be open about their sexual orientation, become law Tuesday, Sept. 20. The Tennessee Equality Project –– organized to advance gay civil rights –– is hosting a party Tuesday to celebrate the occasion at Nashville’s Canvas on Church Street. The free event begins at 6 p.m.
On hand will be military servicemen who support the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
“I have plenty of gay friends in the military,” said 25-year-old Lt. Tim Busch, a Fort Campbell product, who has fought in the war in Afghanistan and plans to attend Tuesday’s event in Nashville. “I know plenty of [gay] military members –– past, present –– who have fought, some who have died. I feel that it’s justice now to say that they’re actually a member of the military.
Busch said the military’s longtime “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy forced gay members into “a closet.” He said the new law allows gay military members to be who they are.
“It’s not a crime to be a gay,” he said. “It’s not a crime to be lesbian. It’s not a crime to be bisexual. But, it was in the military.”
In a U.S. Department of Defense press release, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the department is ready for the repeal. He said nearly all service members have taken training associated with the overturning of the law.
Chris Sanders, chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project’s Nashville chapter, said the repeal of "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" offers something to celebrate considering Tennessee’s track record with the gay community. During the most recent legislative session, for example, Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a bill that nullified Metro’s nondiscrimination policy that pertained to city contractors.
“Given the political climate in Tennessee, we get very few victories,” Sanders said. “This is a victory for all of us in the United States, and it certainly affects many people in Tennessee who either are currently serving or would like to serve one day.”