By Mike Campbell

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Tuesday,  Sept. 20 marks the official repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law — the controversial military policy involving gay men and women who serve.

The U.S. Senate voted last December to end the 17-year ban on openly gay troops, overturning the Clinton-era policy.

Repeal means that for the first time in  U.S. history, gays will be openly accepted by the military and can acknowledge  their sexual orientation without fear of being discharged.

“This is just about fairness,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, Exec Director of Equality Michigan, a gay and transgender equality organization headquartered in Detroit. “What changes now is that people no longer have to fear for the loss of their jobs, for the loss of their livlihoods, for the protection of their families and their children by hiding who they are.”

More than 13,500  service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law. Before that, they had  been explicitly barred from military service since World War I.

“It was the only federal law, indeed to my knowledge the only law, that actually mandated the firing of someone for being gay or lesbian. Trangender people still cannot serve,” said Brogen-Kator.

Brogen-Kator said her group does not agree with the military’s policy on transgenders, but isn’t actively pursuing a change in the law.

A four-year Navy veteran, Brogen-Kator said they’ll be celebrating the change in the policy in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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