On September 20, 2011, the federal government repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that had allowed gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces only if they kept their sexual orientation a secret. “As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love,” President Barack Obama said.
“I am committed to removing all of the barriers that would prevent Americans from serving their country and from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their capabilities and talents allow," said U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Service members discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" were allowed to re-enlist.
After winning the presidential election in 1992, Bill Clinton announced his intention to end the military’s longstanding ban on gay people serving in the U.S. armed forces. The move met opposition, notably from top military leaders and key members of Congress.
In a compromise, Clinton gained support for a measure under which gay servicemembers could remain in the military if they did not openly declare their sexual orientation. The policy became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Gay rights groups denounced the law and called its repeal a milestone in the fight against discrimination against gay servicemembers.