The U.S. Senate's 65-31 vote to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces is a victory for all Americans, because it is a victory for tolerance and for freedom.

When "don't ask, don't tell" was first enacted in 1993, it was an unwieldy compromise. Gay and lesbian service personnel would not face discipline -- or prying -- unless they chose to reveal their sexual orientation. It was supposed to give the military time to modify its policies to reflect changing social attitudes.

Seventeen years later, prejudice against gays and lesbians has declined, especially among younger Americans. Most of this country's closest allies allow openly gay and lesbian personnel to serve, with no adverse effects -- including during joint operations with U.S. units.

Any justification for "don't ask, don't tell" has evaporated.

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