President Barack Obama and Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta honored gay service members at the Pentagon's
first-ever event marking Gay Pride.
Obama and Panetta addressed the
standing-room only event in taped video messages.
“Before the repeal of 'Don't Ask,
Don't Tell' you faithfully served your country with professionalism
and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your
country before yourself,” said Panetta. “And now after repeal
you can be proud of serving your country and be proud of who you are
when in uniform.”
“Change never happens on its own.
Change happens because ordinary people, countless unsung heroes of
our American story, stand up and demand it,” said Obama. “The
story of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans is no
different. As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, we remember the
activists and advocates who refused to be treated like second-class
The celebration comes just 9 months
after the military ended its 18-year-old policy which banned gay and
bisexual troops from serving openly.
Jen Johnson, the Pentagon's top
attorney, delivered the keynote speech at the event. He said repeal
implementation was going “better than anticipated,” gay military
Johnson added that officials were
looking at what benefits could be extended to the partners of gay