Tammy Smith has become the US Army’s first openly gay General following a promotion ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday afternoon. Smith was given the rank of Army brigadier general.
Smith is now the highest-ranking gay or lesbian military worker to be open about their sexuality and her promotion comes less than one year since President Obama repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” which had banned gays and lesbians from openly acknowledging their sexuality while serving in any branch of the armed forces.
For the most part the military has embraced its stance on the LGBT community with the Pentagon hosting a Gay Pride Month event in June. In July members of the military wore their uniforms to a gay pride event in San Diego.
Before she received her promotion Smith’s partner was introduced. An announcer at the time of the introduction proclaimed, “Col. Smith’s partner, Miss Tracey Hepner.”
According to the LA Times Smith and her partner were married last year in Washington, D.C. and had been together for nine years leading up to their marriage. Because of don’t ask, don’t tell the couple would attempt military functions together but could never officially acknowledge their relationship.
The event was not met with a bunch of hoopla surrounding Smith’s sexual orientation but instead focused on the traditional aspects of such a big promotion, mostly focusing on Smith’s 26-year military career which has included work in Costa Rica and Afghanistan.
Smith who is not an active member of the gay rights community recently told Stars and Stripes magazine that her sexual orientation was second to her career:
“All of those facts are irrelevant. I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”