Lambda Legal Celebrates the End of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.

Our Sponsors

Col. (Ret.) Cammermeyer: "I think you never know at the time you're doing something what the repercussions will be, all you know is that you take a stand for what you believe is justice."
September 20, 2011

(New York, September 20, 2011) - Today marks the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) - a discriminatory policy that banned gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers from serving their country openly. DADT ruined thousands of careers, and the frequency of discharges disproportionately affected women of color.

Watch a slideshow of Executive Director Kevin Cathcart in conversation with Lambda Legal client, retired Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer.

"This has been a long time coming. After 18 years and more than 13,000 people discharged based on their sexual orientation, the end of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law is here. Today, Lambda Legal celebrates with lesbian, bisexual and gay service members who for the first time in history will be able to serve their country openly," said Lambda Legal Executive Director, Kevin Cathcart. "We congratulate the many lesbian, bisexual and gay servicemembers who risked or sacrificed their careers to fight for justice, our colleagues at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Log Cabin Republicans and everyone who has valiantly helped bring the freedom to be out to those who fight for freedom for all," Cathcart said.

"But much work is yet to be done. The government has not yet taken steps to address the widespread and lasting harm that DADT continues to inflict upon previously-discharged service members - including a disproportionate number of African American women who were discharged at three times the rate at which they are represented in the armed services. Many who have been discharged received less than honorable discharges or have records noting that their discharge was based on DADT, outing them and adversely affecting their job opportunities," Cathcart added.

Lambda Legal's fight against discrimination in the military has been longer, by far, than the 18-year-old DADT law. Over the years, the organization has represented many members of the military including Margarethe Cammermeyer, Joseph Steffan, Dusty Pruitt and Copy Berg. Lambda Legal won its first case against antigay discrimination by the military in 1975, when the organization represented Ensign Vernon (Copy) Berg III. Berg was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an admiral's aide in Italy when he was anonymously outed and then discharged. In 1979, the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. found that the Navy rules on homosexuality were too vague. Under pressure from the Carter White House, the Defense Department entered into a settlement. Fifteen years later, Lambda Legal won a federal court ruling that the prior ban on gays in the military was unconstitutional, resulting in the reinstatement of Col. (Ret.) Margarethe Cammermeyer, a 27-year service member and Vietnam veteran.

"I think you never know at the time you're doing something what the repercussions will be, all you know is that you take a stand for what you believe is justice. For me that's how it all began and all of the other things that have evolved over these past 17 years have been just remarkable opportunities to speak out on behalf of those who continued to serve and had to do so in silence," said Col. (Ret.) Margarethe Cammermeyer on a phone call with Cathcart. "A discriminatory law was set up by the American government and Congress and that had to be repealed, and that is what we are celebrating."



Contact Info

Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267; jadams@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Related Issues: Military