If you are a man and liked another man, you were supposed to hide it, if you were in the American Army. If you were found to be gay, you could be dismissed from service but all that was only until today. The draconian 18 year 'don't ask, don't tell' policy has officially come to an end, and Barack Obama has declared that it’s a symbolic moment which assures that every American citizen is treated equally.
Sometime back, the US Army had already begun to recruit gay people and had kept their applications on hold so that the law was officialised. This would usher in a new era in the country's history of equality and the fight against all sorts of discriminations. Perhaps, it is one of the most important steps towards making the army a happier and warmer place to men and women who prefer people from their own genders.
They would no longer have to hide and feel like a culprit who holds an embarrassing and dark secret. To be gay in the army and to hide it can be especially difficult when homophobia is rampant among those who serve in the army. The new move would help millions of gay American youths to feel comfortable with who they are, and what they are, and what they believe in. It is one of those symbolic moments that would tell other countries too, that homosexuality is a non-issue, and those who make it an issue still live amidst outdated and draconian rules.
While this may not affect the heterosexual population, the gay population which is a sizeable minority in any community has to face the brunt. Again, it boils down to the issue of being a member of the minority community. Perhaps these progressive laws would help Americans to truly become democratic, where everyone gets the equal and fair treatment that the American constitution promises. Open displays of affection would still be not allowed, regardless of the soldier's sexual orientation.
Barack Obama candidly and poignantly spoke about how gay people do not need to lie about who they are anymore. Of course, this would attract a lot of criticism from the right, and also from conservative army servicemen, who feel that being gay is somehow not 'good enough' to be in the army. Hopefully, that will change with time too. The journey towards LGBT rights and equality is still a long way ahead, but this particular one is significant and is a reason to celebrate the notions of freedom and equality.