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US Army officer becomes 1st openly-gay general

August 12, 2012 17:48 IST

A US Army officer has become the first openly gay person in the country to be promoted to the ranks of Brigadier General, marking an important achievement for the gay rights advocates.

Tammy Smith's promotion took place on Friday in a private ceremony at the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

She received her stars from wife, Tracey Hepner, the first time her longtime partner was officially recognized as her significant other at a military gathering, the 'Stars and Stripes' reported.

What the 49 year old glosses over is that along with the promotion she is also publicly acknowledging her sexuality for the first time, making her the first general officer to come out as gay while still serving.

Her promotion comes less than a year after the implementation of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT), the policy enacted in 1993 under US President Bill Clinton.

The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.

"All of those facts are irrelevant," she said. "I don't think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries."

Smith's pinning ceremony marks an important development in gay rights activism, giving the movement its most senior public military figure.

She has already been assigned as deputy chief at the Office of the Chief at the Army Reserve, and spent much of 2011 serving in Afghanistan.

Smith said she is still more focused on the work ahead than the significance of her personal life. But her wife, Tracey Hepner, said the last year has been a dramatic transformation for both of them.

"The support we have received has been amazing," she said.

Smith is not the first gay general officer but most have disclosed their sexual orientation only after their retirement or discharge under 'don't ask, don't tell'.

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