ANNAPOLIS, Md. – When word came down of a judge's ruling that gays could serve openly in the military, an Air Force officer received joyous congratulations from a comrade. Realizing there was someone in the room who didn't know his sexual orientation, the officer pretended it was a joke and laughed it off.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ordered the Pentagon to stop enforcing the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops. The military promised to abide by the order as long as it remains in place, but gay rights advocates cautioned service members to avoid revealing their sexuality in the meantime.
The Air Force officer was at work on his military computer when news of Phillips' ruling flashed up on CNN. A friend who knew his secret ran in and said, "You can come out of the closet now."
"I had to push him out and kind of laugh it off with the other person there in the office," the officer recalled. "It made me really, really nervous at first, because my first thought was, `Oh, crap. I just was outed, and I know that the policy is probably coming back. What do I do?'"