Hundreds in Charleston celebrate lifting of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Hundreds of people in the Lowcountry are celebrating the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"We're free to be who we want to be in the military," said former service member Michael Schwarzott.

Schwarzott remembers what it was like back in 1977 when he wasn't free. Schwarzott was discharged from the Navy for being gay.  He said lifting the military's ban, which restricted service members from serving openly, is a step in the right direction.

"It's just another step forward into the normalization and the movement of accepting LGBT people for who they are and not who they love," Schwarzott said.

Hundreds of people celebrated what they call a victory for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement at Taco Boy in downtown Charleston.

Doug Warner resigned from the army so he could be with his partner.

He said he was in the room when President Obama signed the legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and said he's been waiting for this day to arrive, to be able to serve openly gay in the military.

"The big thing about the military in all branches is the issue of integrity, honesty and honor. And asking someone to lie about who they are is countering all three of those points," Warner said.

Tom Clark is a volunteer for Service Member Legal Defense Network, a group that led the fight for the repeal.

"It does seem a little unreal to me that we're actually here with a major victory like this.

"Nationwide, this is the biggest movement in LGBT history," Schwarzott said.

It's estimated that about 65,000 members of the military, currently serving, are gay.

About 14,000 have been discharged since the policy was signed into law 18 years ago.

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