When the don't ask, don't tell policy officially ended last year, it marked a significant step forward for gay troops, and earlier this month they made even more progress. Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith recently became the first openly-gay general in military history when she was promoted at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, The New York Times reports.
Smith chose to mark the occasion in a very appropriate – and traditional – manner. She had her wife, Tracey Hepner, pin the star to her uniform. Hepner has been one of the leading advocates for gay rights in the Armed Forces, and founded the Military Partners and Family Coalition, a resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military partners.
Fellow advocates say that while the promotion is an important milestone, perhaps most significant is that Smith is open about her sexual orientation. Sue Fulton, the spokesperson for the organization OutServe, said there's still work that needs to be done.
"I would say that it's important to recognize 'the first,' because then the next person doesn't have to be first," Fulton told the Times. "Once we get over each 'first,' each hurdle of 'Well, that's never been done before,' it makes it a nonissue going forward."
The promotion is just the latest milestone for gay troops. Earlier this summer. the U.S. allowed active duty soldiers to wear their uniforms in gay pride parades, Reuters reports.