Nightly News   |  September 20, 2011

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is history

The military says it is ready for the lifting Tuesday of a ban on gays serving openly, while supporters of the repeal applaud the historic change as a victory for equal rights. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> assembly. as the u.s. gets ready to get out of afghanistan. there is a big change to report tonight for the u.s. military . the policy known as don't ask don't tell is now officially history. our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski on duty with the story for us.

>> this repeal of don't ask don't tell, which prohibited gays from openly serving in the u.s. military is nothing short of his toric. it's estimated that as many as 65,000 gays and lesbians actively serve in the u.s. military , including on the battlefields of iraq and afghanistan. but today for the first time ever they no longer have to live a lie. at the pentagon, mike mullen said for him, repeal of don't ask don't tell is all about integrity.

>> it's fundamentally against everything we stand for as an institution, to force people to lie about who they are just to wear a uniform.

>> reporter: in 1993 , the new president wanted to lift the bachb against gays in the military all together. but faced with stiff opposition from congress and the pentagon, he was forced to accept don't ask don't tell. the repeal marks an end to 18 years of official discrimination, and the beginning of a new era.

>> when gay and lesbian service members can serve their country hon orably without constant fear of being kicked out of the military.

>> i'm 31 years old, i'm a woman, i'm a united states marine , and i'm a lesbian.

>> were you living a lie?

>> absolutely. all of us. all of us were living a lie.

>> jonathan mills was among many who fought back. he's been executive editor of an online magazine , working anonymously behind the scenes for repeal of don't ask don't tell.

>> to be able to see something that has been so wrong. a policy that's ruined so many lives be overturned, i feel very proud of this. it's a moral accomplishment for our country.

>> at the stroke of midnight, the policy was officially dead . gory ross openly married his partner in vermont. the military still cannot recognize the marriage. in fact, same sex partners will still be denied some benefits, like medical care and military housing, the fight goes on. but brian, this headline and the latest marine corps times says it all, we're gay, get over it.

>> jim miklaszewski on this big day at the pentagon and elsewhere, jim, thank you for that.