Two groups which fought to end the military's policy banning gay troops from serving openly are merging into a new organization.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe announced Monday that they are merging in the coming months.

Legal services group SLDN represented service members who were discharged under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the policy which for 18 years banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly. Since repeal of the policy, the group has shifted toward advocating for equal benefits for gay troops.

OutServe is the leading group representing active duty gay service members. The group quietly lobbied for repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” operating mostly in secrecy.

(Related: DADT repeal made discrimination against gays visible, says OutServe's Josh Seefried.)

Mike Magee, an SLDN board member, called OutServe “an integral part of the fight to repeal” the law.

“It has become more and more clear that our shared mission – representing actively serving military and veterans, as well as fighting to achieve full LGBT equality in the military – is better accomplished by uniting the two organizations and working together as one on behalf of the brave men and women of our armed forces,” Magee said in a statement.

“What began as a simple effort to tell our stories has grown into something we could never have imagined, and today's announcement that OutServe and SLDN will combine represents the next step in that evolution,” said Josh Seefried, co-founder and co-director of OutServe.

Leaders of the two groups said they hope to complete their merger by October. (A video announcing the merger is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)