HELL'S KITCHEN — The former head of the U.S. military will headline a night of celebration on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum commemorating the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
At the top of the list of prominent speakers at the fete is retired Admiral Mike Mullen, who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Congress repealed the controversial law banning openly gay men and women from serving in the military.
Proceeds from the Sept. 18 event will go to the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network, a legal service and watchdog organization dedicated to ending discrimination of LGBT members of the military.
"We've come a very long way in the year since Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been repealed — if they come out publicly, they don't risk losing their jobs," said Zeke Stokes, a spokesman for the organization.
"We're thrilled to honor Admiral Mullen, whose testimony before the Congress was so instrumental in moving the ball forward on repeal."
While the group achieved a major victory in the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the celebration is also a reminder that there's still work to be done on behalf of gay service members, Stokes added.
"Because of [the Defense of Marriage Act] and other federal laws, gay and lesbian servicemembers and their families are still treated as second-class citizens by the military because it does not recognize their families," he said.
Because of the act, spouses of gay and lesbian troops do not get health care, survivor benefits, and other perks offered by the military.
Organizers are expecting roughly 1,000 people to attend the event, with tickets ranging from $150 for currently serving military to $1,000 for a VIP spot. A who's who of LGBT celebrities are expected to attend, including MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts and photographer Mike Ruiz.
"We've seen wide acceptance of the new policy," Stokes said of the progress he's seen over the past year.
"The military is now leading the way for civilian society when it comes to acknowledging and affirming that gay and lesbian service members are a critical part of the military."
The one year celebration of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on the Intrepid. Tickets are available online.