Today, September 20, the repeal of the ban of gays and lesbians serving in the military, also known as “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” goes into full effect, with celebrations happening across the country, including in West Hollywood.

HBO will also air the documentary The Strange History of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which gives a historical look at gays in the military and how the policy was changed by Congress last year. We talked with one of the leaders of that battle who stars in the film: Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“The repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will go a long way to recognizing and restoring a measure of dignity for the servicemembers who were banned under the law,” he tells us.

Sarvis, the executive director of SLDN and a military veteran, worked for years to repeal the ban. He sees the end of DADT as an important step not just for the military but the entire gay rights movement.

“All people in the LGBT community should care because the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law infringed on the rights for people to serve in uniform,” he tells us. “It's pure and simple discrimination. (The repeal) lays the foundation for greater equality in the country.”

Sarvis says he was impressed with the HBO documentary: “One of the strengths of the film is the historical context, of how gays and lesbians have always served in the military. Then it shows how people today were willing to fight back.”

SLDN's Aubrey Sarvis

SLDN's Aubrey Sarvis

Sarvis gives President Barack Obama major credit for changing the policy.

“The repeal would not have happened without President Obama,” says the executive director. “He was determined to not repeat the mistakes of the Clinton Administration. He knew he would need a plan in place, and he knew he needed military buy-in.”

Sarvis, though, is concerned about the Republican candidates running for president in 2012.

“Most of the candidates say they would repeal the repeal. A new president could force the military to change the regulations, and we would go back to a post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell (when gays and lesbian were outright banned from the armed services.)”

In West Hollywood, a repeal celebration will take place in West Hollywood Park just south of the Abbey on Robertson Boulevard at 6 p.m.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

LA Weekly