Yesterday's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" — the military's 18-year ban on openly gay people in the military, is being lauded across the country as a historic and monumental tipping point in the gay rights movement.
The Clinton-era policy barred military officials from asking about service members' sexual orientation, but required the discharge of those who declared themselves to be gay or engaged in homosexual activity.
The repeal was enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama last year, but legal action delayed the passage.
"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," Obama said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Mark Galipeau, a teacher at John Reed Elementary School in Rohnert Park, saw the ruling as a teaching moment.
"I told my class of 4th and 5th graders about the end of DADT today," Galipeau said in a Facebook post after school.
"Another great barrier broken — I told them about segregated military, and linked the struggle to Rosa Parks whose photo hangs in a prominent place in my public school classroom," the post continued.
In a later interview, Galipeau said the repeal underpins the that requires school districts statewide to incorporate the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgender people and the disabled into history curriculums.
But moreso, Galipeau said it was about teaching kids about what's going on in the world — the repeal led small and large news outlets yesterday.
"This is a huge turning point in our country's histroy — I saw it as a sharing a current event," Galipeau said."It's a law, and it was signed by our president."
"As a gay man, some people say people like me are bad, and I try to give equal weight to that in discussions," he added.
Galipeau likened today's gay rights movement to the civil rights movement.
"I have a poster of Rosa Parks in the back of our room, and we've talked about her and other people who were willing to stand up and make a decision when it may not have been the most popular," he said.
More than 14,000 gay and lesbian armed forces members were discharged under the former policy, many of whom are seeking reenlistment, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for soldiers impacted by "don't ask, don't tell."
Several speakers from the Bay Area yesterday cautioned that additional battles remain to be fought in the quest for equal treatment for gays and lesbians.
"It is a day of celebration, but it is just one more step in the struggle," said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who cited the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage as additional hurdles.
State Assembly member Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said, "If anything needs a dishonorable discharge, it should be Proposition 8."
Chris Bowman, a Vietnam veteran and member of Log Cabin Republicans, said, "We need to make sure the repeal is fully implemented."
The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles in 2004 to challenge the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and won an injunction from U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips last year blocking enforcement of the policy.
The injunction was stayed for a time during the government's appeal, but in July -- after the policy repeal was enacted but before it took effect -- the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the military to stop discharging openly gay people.
The U.S. Justice Department has now asked the appeals court to dismiss the case as moot, but the court has not yet acted.
In the meantime, Bowman told the gathering, Phillips' ruling last year "was the thing that pressured Congress to get off the dime and pass the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'"
-This article is by Angela Hart and Bay City News.