At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the policy preventing gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military officially ended. The demise of the 18-year-old ban came after a long and bitter fight. Activists pushing to repeal it said the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy deprived soldiers of the very civil rights they were risking their lives to protect. But some politicians and military leaders argued that letting gays serve openly would be a distraction for soldiers. How will the military change now that the debate is over once and for all? Here, four predictions:
1. The military will be more honest and focused
"Gays and straights are already serving together in the military," says Rob Port at Say Anything Blog. Now that this "absurd policy" is finally history, everyone can stop pretending they aren't. "Don't ask, don't tell" wasn't making anybody happy; the only purpose it served was distracting our soldiers from the job of serving our country. "I'm confident that our men and women in uniform can adjust" to the change.
2. The military will be weaker
America's armed forces are in for some "inevitable problems," says Robert Maginnis at Human Events. The Democratic-controlled Congress repealed the ban last year, citing a "politically inspired Pentagon report" that claimed the military would be unfazed. But in a Pentagon survey, 13 percent of soldiers said they would shorten their future service after the ban's repeal, and another 11 percent said they would consider leaving early. "Retention is a critical readiness factor," so our ability to fight wars will suffer.
3. The entire nation will be stronger
Nobody expects the new policy to "go off without a hitch," say C. Dixon Osburn and Michelle Benecke at The Huffington Post. Still, "this is arguably one of the most significant civil rights achievements of our generation." And like desegregation of the military, it will remove excuses for denying people their rights in society at large. That won't just make the military a more accommodating place for patriotic Americans, it will mark a step forward for the nation as a whole.
4. There won't be any major changes
It's great that soldiers no longer have to live with the "constant fear" of getting outed, says an anonymous gay soldier at The New Republic, but "I am in no rush to tell everyone around me about my sexuality." It's still private. The new policy won't really change much in day-to-day military life. Gay soldiers will continue to do our jobs." And the military as a whole is "so used to taking orders and executing" them that the repeal should "be a blip on the radar," nothing more.