2012 August 10

First Lesbian/Gay Brigadier General in U. S. Military


Tammy Smith was officially promoted to Brigadier General of the Army on this day, becoming the first openly lesbian or gay person to be promoted to the rank of General in the U.S. military. Tracey Hepner, Smith’s spouse, pinned the general’s star on her uniform at the official ceremony. When she had been promoted to Colonel several years before, she held a small private ceremony so as to not disclose her sexual orientation, which at the time could have led to her discharge from the military. Smith and Hepner married in October 2011.

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that allowed homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they did not make their sexual orientation public was negotiated as a compromise by President Bill Clinton, when he discovered that he faced fierce opposition from both the Pentagon and Congress to his campaign promise to allow lesbians and gays to serve in the military. The policy became official on December 21, 1993 and was ended on September 20, 2011.

Watch General Tammy Smith address the 2012 Out and Equal Conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Rl4qpcXiVQ

Learn more at a timeline on lesbians and gays in the military: http://www.usni.org/news-and-features/dont-ask-dont-tell/timeline

Learn about the history of lesbians and gays in the military: Randy Shilts, Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military (1993)

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