(CNN) — In the six months since the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, many of the most prestigious military institutions in the country are adding a student group to their club rosters that they had never seen before: gay pride groups.
For nearly 17 years, gay and lesbian soldiers were expected to deny their sexuality under threat of dismissal as part of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” With the repeal of the rule on September 20, 2011, a new era began for homosexual members of the armed forces.
But what about the young cadets preparing to enter their ranks, studying in the nation’s top military academies?
In December, a group of students at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, formed a group called the Spectrum Diversity Council, to serve as a gay-straight alliance on campus.
The night before “don’t ask, don’t tell” ended, cadets at Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military academy, held the first meeting of the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies Club.
These clubs are school-sanctioned, and their numbers are growing, according to cadets and school officials.
Even at the United States Military Academy at West Point, cadets are forming their own Spectrum student group.
As one of the nation’s five federal service academies, The U.S. Coast Guard Academy follows the same rules as the U.S. military, and up until recently, this meant “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a rule. Even before the repeal, First Class Cadets Kelli Normoyle and Chip Hall were among students at the academy who met with school officials to discuss what might happen if “don’t ask, don’t tell” were repealed. “No one was allowed to ‘come out’ in the DADT Working Group,” Normoyle said, but it was an unspoken secret that many of the members of the group were gay.
Today, Normoyle and Hall are co-leaders of the Spectrum Diversity Council that boasts 60 to 65 members. They say the experience of going to the academy is one they would never trade, but they
This article originally appeared on: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/31/us/military-academies-gay-pride/index.html