Written by Dabney B. on Friday, May 25th, 2012
The Air Force hasn’t always had the most graceful relationship with gay rights. What started out as a flat-out ban against homosexuals serving in the military slowly evolved into the highly controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The policy was repealed just last fall, resulting in the most tolerant Department of Defense the United States has ever known.
In a truly historic moment for both the US Air Force and gay rights, the first openly gay cadets have graduated from the USAF Academy at the Colorado Springs 2012 commencement ceremony. More than a thousand second lieutenants earned their diploma and a salute from President Obama himself, who was there to congratulate them on their accomplishments. Jets soared overhead and the graduates threw their caps into the air, drawing a cheerful roar of applause from the audience.
This was all made possible because the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed last September, forcing the military to accept each serviceman regardless of his or her sexual preference.
After 18 long years of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” you’d think that the transition would be rocky, but everything has gone smoother than expected. One cadet interviewed by ABC News said, “It’s pretty much just like any other appeal. Segregation, all that stuff. We got told, you know, ‘This is what’s going to happen and we all need to be adults about it.’” Another graduate agreed, stating, “It really wasn’t that much of a change.”
This tolerance seems to extend farther up the chain of command, as well. Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs Chairman said, “We are a stronger joint force, a more tolerant joint force, a force of more character and more honor.” The Pentagon has promised to a maintain a zero tolerance policy against harassment, which has helped to build trust between the government and secretly gay servicemen.
On the other side of the coin, the fact that some of these graduates were homosexual was not given extra attention. There were no rainbow flags, gay rights posters, or other LGBT symbols at the graduation. These young servicemen were no longer being identified by the term “homosexual.” The only identifying titles that matter now are “graduate” and “American.”
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