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US Defense Department honors gay pride

US Secretary of Defense Panetta records gay pride message
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta released a video celebrating gay pride and the contributions of LGBT troops.

'The successful repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" proved to the nation that, just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values and different beliefs,' Panetta said. 'But together we form the greatest military force in the world.'

The official message was the first time the Department of Defense recognized Gay Pride Month. For 18 years, gay and lesbian troops served under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That policy, which started in 1993, barred discrimination of gay troops, but also kept military personnel from being out. According to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a non-profit that works with LGBT sailors, soldiers and airmen, approximately 14,500 troops have been discharged under DADT.

'A year ago, our brave gay and lesbian service members were still serving in silence due to the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law,' said SLDN's executive director Aubrey Sarvis in a press release. 'Today, in this historic message, Secretary Panetta has affirmed their invaluable contributions to our nation's military and in doing so, shined a bright light on how far we have progressed toward full LGBT equality in our military.'

As reported by the Army Times. the Pentagon has a history of celebrating diversity.

'Hallway displays and activities, for example, have marked Black History Month and Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month,' the newspaper noted.

Although the repeal of DADT repeal has brought changes few could have imagined, out students at military academies, the new environment has not impacted the armed forces' bottom line. In a May press conference Panetta noted LGBT troops serving openly is 'not impacting on morale. It's not impacting on unit cohesion. It is not impacting on readiness. Very frankly, my view is that the military has kind of moved beyond it. It's become part and parcel of what they've accepted within the military.'

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