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Farewell to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

September 20, 2011

DENVER - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is history.

The controversial law requiring gay military members to stay closeted in order to serve expires today, bringing cheers from many veterans.

Luiza Fritz, who spent 13 years in the National Guard and is an Iraq War veteran, was forced to resign when a new command discovered she was in a domestic partnership with a woman - even though her superior officers knew, and didn't care.

"I served openly because I didn't feel like it mattered. It really hurt me that - I felt like I was one of the most dedicated of soldiers. I wanted to serve for 20 years."

Fritz hopes she can re-enlist now that DADT has been repealed.

The Department of Defense is downplaying today's action, and the Pentagon has said repeatedly that for troops the repeal will mean "business as usual."

Locally, however, several organizations are recognizing the policy shift. The Colorado GLBT Color Guard will host a celebration at Charlie's Denver on Friday, and the GLBT Community Center of Colorado will recognize the repeal at its 35th anniversary gala on Saturday.

John Kelly is organizing Friday's celebration. He was an Air Force medic in the 1960s, and says that before DADT, gay service members faced not only military repercussions but also social stigma outside of the service.

"It used to be that when you came out of the military and were looking for a job, you were supposed to have that honorable discharge in your hand. If they gave you a dishonorable or undesirable, you were labeled."

Kelly, who resigned rather than risk exposure, says today's repeal is a huge milestone - and Fritz agrees.

"What it does, it takes that constant monkey off your back. It allows you to serve with some sort of freedom."

Information on local events is online at glbtcolorado.org.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO