Tammy Smith, previously an army colonel, was promoted to brigadier general on Friday and at the same time publicly acknowledged that she is in a same-sex relationship, making her the first general officer to come out while serving.
What she glosses over is that along with the promotion she is also publicly acknowledging her sexuality for the first time, making her the first general officer to come out as gay while still serving. It comes less than a year after the end of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell”¯ law.
“All of those facts are irrelevant,” she said. “I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”¯
But Smith’s pinning ceremony on Friday marks an important milestone for gay rights advocates, giving the movement its most senior public military figure. She has already been assigned as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve, and spent much of 2011 serving in Afghanistan.
Stars and Stripes also reveals that, prior to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal going into force last year, Smith, 49, had spoken anonymously on how she did not anticipate coming out to her fellow servicemembers but that she did look forward to being able to go out with her wife without threat of a military investigation or discharge.
Smith’s wife Tracey Hepner has called the support shown for troops in same-sex relationships “amazing.” Hepner is a co-founder of the Military Partners and Families Coalition and so has been placed to watch the evolution in public and official military opinion surrounding gay and lesbian servicemembers.
Smith is not the first gay general officer, but Friday’s ceremony creates a quiet milestone as she is the first to be able to serve while being open about her sexuality.
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