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Gay military members come out and celebrate

On the first day after the end of the 'don't ask, don't tell' law, many service members rush to openly declare their sexual orientation for the first time.

September 20, 2011|By David S. Cloud and David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

Under the new policy, Hall's discharge for being gay will be expunged, at least as far as his qualifications to serve are concerned. His "RE-4" discharge code, which would normally make him ineligible to reenlist, will be waived, he said.

"It's an exciting day," Hall said.

Army Maj. Casey Moes, 34, who serves with the military police corps at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas, said the repeal allowed her to align her values with those of the Army, most notably the values of respect and honesty.

"I pride myself on adhering to the Army values," Moes said. "Before the repeal, it was tough because you had to limit what you said — so you weren't truly lying, but you never fully told the truth either."

Moes said the biggest benefit of the repeal was finally being able to acknowledge her fiancee, Laurie Morano, her partner of three years.

"I now get to talk to my friends and colleagues at work about the other half of my life and give the full respect to her and the support she gives to me as both a military officer and a person," Moes said.

In Tulsa, Okla., three Marine recruiters showed up at a lunch sponsored by the nonprofit Oklahomans for Equality. The recruiters mingled with World War II and Korean veterans, and Marine Master Sgt. Anthony Henry, 37, set up the display he takes to career fairs.

Four young people approached, and he questioned each on the spot. Each had been disqualified — not because of their sexuality, Henry said, but for medical or educational reasons. One woman needed a high school diploma, for example. Henry encouraged her to get it and apply again.

"It was an opportunity for the Marine Corps to reach a part of our population that we previously didn't have access to," said Henry, who has served in the Marines for 19 years. "My personal position is if you can make it through our boot camp, good on you. They ought to have the right to serve."

In El Paso, veterans and service members, mostly soldiers, gathered Monday night at a local bar for a pre-repeal celebration.

"It's an end of discrimination," said Daniel Rollings, a former soldier and president of the local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "Hopefully it will also be an end to harassment."

Texas is home to some of the nation's largest military bases and facilities, and gay service members still face a long road to acceptance, he said.

"It will be harder to accept," Rollings added. "Texas is a pretty conservative state."

Photos: Faces of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Cloud reported from Washington and Zucchino from Raleigh. Times staff writers Stephen Ceasar in Los Angeles, Tony Perry in San Diego, Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston, Kim Murphy in Seattle and special correspondent Martin Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

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