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Over and out — Ban ends on military service for gays and lesbians

Paul Groslouis, an enlisted sailor, made a cake for his command to celebrate the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It featured an iced gay pride flag.

An era ended Tuesday, as the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,  requiring that gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members serve in secret, went into effect.

“They all thought it was cool,” Groslouis said.

Others in Kitsap’s gay military celebrated in different ways. More than 60 people attended a celebration of the beleaguered policy’s end held at the Silverdale Beach Hotel, said Michael Goodnow, organizer of the event.

Although it was a “lower-key” celebration than he expected, Goodnow said he was happy with the number of people who came Tuesday evening, and that the tone of the evening fit the character of the community.

“I think one of the tough things (was) that in the community a lot of people thought it was a done deal,” Goodnow said. “It was very Kitsap in that it (wasn’t) a crazy Capitol Hill party, it’s people getting together, meeting people, with friends, and marking the occasion.”

The day came as the end to a journey toward repeal, the most recent stage of which began in late 2010, when a bill repealing the policy was passed on Dec. 15 by the U.S. House of Representatives and three days later by the Senate.

That bill specified that the policy remain in place until 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff all certified that the repeal would not affect military readiness.

July 22, those officials signed off on the bill shortly after a federal appeals court ordered the military to stop enforcing the ban, leaving one final roadblock to repeal: the 60-day wait.

While many at the celebration expressed relief that the wait was over, some also expressed reservations about the future and frustrations about the past.

Sailor Ryan Riley had specific feelings about the repeal: he was out before it, he said, and he’d be out after it.

“Nothing’s changed,” Riley said. “People talk, but never ever do anything about it.”

Others saw the repeal - and experienced the ban - differently.

Noah Reidell made lieutenant before he was selected for a transfer away from the area where he’d met his partner, who was also in the Navy. Since his partner and he couldn’t apply to be posted together, Reidell said it came down to a choice: his relationship or his career.

Today he’s in the Navy Reserve, he said, and is comforted by the knowledge that his days of having to dodge innocent questions are over.

Sarah Mount, formerly a chief petty officer aboard the USS John C. Stennis, which calls Bremerton home, said she was discharged just sixteen days before the repeal went into effect, not under DADT, but under military law prohibiting fraternization of superiors with subordinates.

While she had watched straight male chiefs emerge from more serious disciplinary proceedings able to at least finish their service, she said, within two months of admitting to fraternizing with a woman over whom she had no authority, she was discharged with only sic days’ notice.

In her case, Mount said the famous unity of the chiefs’ mess - the fraternity of those in the three highest enlisted ranks, responsible for putting command orders into effect - turned against her.

After coming out, Mount said, her fellow chiefs wouldn’t speak to her, and even stopped making eye contact in the hallway. Eventually, she said, she started taking her meals in her sleeping quarters, just to avoid fellow chiefs.

Mount said she thought the severity of her punishment - and her ostracism by her coworkers - had to do with the fact that as a female chief she had admitted to fraternizing with another woman.

“What is not going to be controlled by laws on paper is how they treat people,” Mount said. “That sort of bias is going to continue.”

Before going into effect, the bill survived several attempts to block it, including a December move to add vocal opponents as certifiers of it, a June letter from House republicans asking President Obama to delay his signing of it, and a Sept. 16 request by two House lawmakers for further delays before its implementation.

More than 13,000 service members were discharged from the military under DADT, many dishonorably.

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