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THE AP: “REPEAL OF THE GAY BAN WELCOMED BY CIVILIAN PARTNERS”

The following is an excerpt from a story by The Associated Press:

“After 19 years hiding her relationship with an active-duty Army captain, Cathy Cooper is getting ready to exhale. On Tuesday, the policy known as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will expire. And Cooper will dare speak her love’s name in public.

“‘This is life-changing,’ said Cooper, choking up. ‘I just want to be able to breathe — knowing I can call my partner at work and have a conversation without it having to be in code.’

“Much has been reported about the burdens that ‘don’t ask’ placed on gay and lesbian service members who risked discharge under the 1993 policy if their sexual orientation became known in the ranks. There’s been less attention focused on their civilian partners, who faced distinctive, often relentless stresses of their own.

In interviews with The Associated Press, five partners recalled past challenges trying to conceal their love affairs, spoke of the joy and relief accompanying repeal, and wondered about the extent that they would be welcomed into the broader military family in the future.

“Even with repeal imminent, the partners — long accustomed to secrecy — did not want to reveal the full identity of their active-duty loved ones before Tuesday.

“Cooper, who works for a large private company, moved from the Midwest to northern Virginia to be near her partner’s current Army post, yet couldn’t fully explain to friends and colleagues why she moved. ‘It’s been really difficult — it’s really isolated us,’ she said. ‘I became much more introverted, more evasive.’

“Cooper said her partner’s Army career is thriving, though she’s had to hide a major component of her personal life.

“‘I don’t know any of her co-workers,’ Cooper said. ‘She says, ‘You’re the best part of me and I have to pretend you don’t exist.”

“Looking ahead, Cooper is unsure how same-sex partners will be welcomed by the military establishment.

“‘Will it be, ‘Hey, come join all the family support programs’?’ she wondered. ‘I’m not going to be so naive as to think that … I’m just hoping the door is open.’”

READ THE FIVE INTERVIEWS >>

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