Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jim Toevs co-founded the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. In 1992, Jim was the Democratic nominee for Congress against then-closeted Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe. He resides in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.
Regardless of one's personal feeling about the U.S. military, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is cause for celebration by every member of the LBGT community on this Thanksgiving Day.
Just as President Truman's Executive Order integrating the Armed Forces paved the way for the modern civil rights movement, so the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be a cornerstone of the movement to bring about full legal equality in our lifetime. (And I am 70 years old, so it needs to be accomplished soon.)
Now that military personnel who choose to do so, can come out and serve openly, millions of members of the U.S. Armed Forces will realize for the first time that someone they know and work with is gay or lesbian. And as survey after survey shows, people who know someone who is gay or lesbian are much more likely to support equality than people who think they do not know anyone who is a member of our community.
The strategic importance of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, is hard to overestimate.
In general, gay and lesbian officers simply will not tolerate the abysmal treatment of women by many members of the "good old boys" network in the military. The culture of the military will now take some giant leaps forward in the areas of equality, diversity, and promotion based solely on merit.
Out members of the military can now be honored on two of our major national holidays: Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Patriotism can no longer be hijacked by the right wing politicians and the religious right. Gay and lesbian teenagers no longer have to suffer from the stigma that they are so flawed that they aren't even allowed to join, or serve openly, in the military. For many, joining the Armed Forces will be a new option open to those who are caught in desperate circumstances in their families, churches, and rural communities. Hopefully, it will even help to lower the suicide rate among gay teens.
In addition, out service members can now take advantage of medical, educational, and retirement benefits which are available to all veterans. The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a "win/win" situation for members of the gay community all of the way around.
Unfortunately, as is the case with so many of our victories, trans people are not covered by the repeal at this point. But repeal of DADT is a positive first step and one which will speed the day when trans folks will be welcome in the military, as well.
On a personal note, this past week I had the pleasure of meeting Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his husband, Dan Swezy at a mixer in Tucson. Gary and Dan were married in Vermont at midnight in the first few minutes following the repeal taking effect. They are a strikingly handsome and articulate couple, have received a good deal of mainstream press, and had just made a statement by attending a Marine Corps Ball as an out couple. Gary plans to continue with a career in the military, and is a great example of the impact one person can have in helping to bring about full legal equality in our lifetime.
There are many things for which to be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day, 2011. For me, and hopefully for every member of the LBGT community, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is cause for celebration. Let us remember all of the people who helped make repeal possible by including them on our list of all of those things for which we are thankful on this Thanksgiving Day.