The ban on gays in the U.S. military ended Tuesday. And it was greeted with little concern by soldiers, sailors, Air Force personnel and Marines.
That's as it should be. A person's sexual orientation is irrelevant in regard to a person's effectiveness in the military.
"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," President Obama said. "As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members."
The head of Pentagon personnel put out a memo Tuesday just after midnight advising: "All service members are to treat one another with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation. The Department of Defense is committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers that prevent service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility possible regardless of sexual orientation."
The U.S. military has had gay soldiers serve with bravery and honor throughout the nation's history. Often nobody knew they were gay, nor did most people care.
What mattered was that these soldiers, just like heterosexual soldiers, did their duty.
Unfortunately, a problem was not fixed when the Clinton administration implemented the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a compromise to eliminating the outright ban on homosexuals in the military. This placed unnecessary attention on sexual orientation of soldiers, fueling lawsuits and hyperbolic political debate.
The reality is sexual orientation does not matter in the military as long as it is made clear that inappropriate actions will not be tolerated.
And isn't that universally the case in the military?
The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all operate on a strict hierarchical structure. When it is made clear there will be no inappropriate behavior between same-sex soldiers (just like between soldiers of the opposite sex), those orders will be followed or disciplinary action will be taken.
In addition, if it is made clear that discrimination in any form will -- whether for reasons of sexual orientation, race or ethnicity -- not be tolerated that order, too, will be followed.
Lifting the ban on gays serving in the military is simply the right thing to do.