By Chris Hartman

Barriers have fallen as President Barack Obama recently signed into law the repeal of the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which has caused the forcible discharge of more than 13,000 of our nation's service members since its 1993 introduction.

We are now witnessing perhaps the most sweeping anti-discrimination reform of our nation's armed forces since President Harry S. Truman's 1948 executive order desegregating our military. We must look to this as a first step on a long path to full freedom and equality in America, but there are still so many left to tread along this journey.

The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will finally allow our brave women and men in uniform to defend their country without having to defend or hide their true identity. This will eliminate their fear of being fired from our nation's largest employer based solely upon who they are.

But this measure will not alleviate that fear for millions of other Americans who worry daily that they will lose their jobs if someone discovers -- or even thinks -- they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Even as this historic repeal becomes law, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would federally prohibit discrimination in employment based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, still languishes in the halls of the U.S. House and is likely to die without discussion before this lame duck session ends.

That law will live in abeyance long after the 111th Congress comes to a close and a more conservative faction enters the Senate. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans will then continue on a path of uncertain second-class citizenry as our legal discrimination endures.

Undeniably, the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will change the national debate on fairness issues for the better, and with hope, it will set a greater precedent opposing prejudice for our young people than ever before. Perhaps this law's repeal will trickle down to the teenagers who mercilessly bully lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children to the point of suicide, and there will be a greater sense of respect, understanding, and acceptance amongst young peers. Perhaps, but in all likelihood, this will not be enough.

Until it’s no longer legal in Kentucky -- or elsewhere in our nation -- to kick someone off a bus or out of a restaurant, deny them a place to live, or fire them from a job based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, there will be no true freedom for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers in America.

I welcome our President's historic pen stroke ending this institutional prejudice that has affected tens of thousands of Americans, but I also hope Congress and the Kentucky State Legislature can take it a step further and offer all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans the same protections our military members will now enjoy.

Bringing an end to all forms of legal prejudice and discrimination in the United States is the only just and fair thing to do. There is no better time to begin the process of peeling away our country's last vestiges of legal discrimination than what we have seen with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Hartman is the director of the Fairness Campaign.
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