Celebration and concern mark the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Air Force Lt. Col. Sean Hackbarth expects Tuesday to be mostly a normal day. He plans to report for work at the Federal Aviation Administration, where he’s a military liaison, and commute home to Northern Virginia when the day is done.

Except that if someone asks or he decides to tell, Hackbarth can finally talk freely about his significant other. They’ve been together for nine years — and his name is Mike.

After almost 18 years, the Pentagon on Tuesday plans to formally repeal the ban on gays in uniform, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” permitting troops for the first time to publicly reveal that they’re gay without fear of official retribution. Enlistees who tell military recruiters, or troops discharged under the ban who are eager to reenlist, will be eligible to join up if they are qualified. And the Defense Department says it will have zero tolerance for anti-gay behavior, as it does for religious, racial and gender discrimination.

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