The US army has notified its personnel around the world that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ban on gay and lesbian military staff has been officially repealed.

“Today marks the end of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ The law is repealed. From this day forward, gay and lesbian Soldiers may serve in our Army with the dignity and respect they deserve,” the notice, dated 20 September 2011, reads.

“Our rules, regulations and politics reflect the repeal guidance issued by the Department of Defence and will apply uniformly without regard to sexual orientation, which is a personal and private matter.

“For over 236 years, the U.S. Army has been an extraordinary force for good in the world. Our Soldiers are the most agile, adaptable and capable warriors in history — and we are ready for this change.”

The letter goes on to add: “Accordingly, we expect all personnel to follow our Values by implementing the repeal fully, fairly and in accordance with policy guidance. It is the duty of all personnel to treat each other with dignity and respect, while maintaining good order and discipline throughout our ranks. Doing so, will help the U.S. Army remain the Strength of the Nation.”

The almost 18-year-old ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ measure was enacted during Bill Clinton’s presidency. It allowed gays and lesbians to serve but only as long as they kept their sexuality secret. It resulted in more than 14,000 people being discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation.

The notice was signed by the Sergeant Major of the Army, Raymond Chandler, US Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno and the Secretary of the Army, John McHughes.

“Today marks the official end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America’s military,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has long campaigned to have the law repealed.

“Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.”

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