Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach of Mountain Home Air Force Base told the Statesman Monday, "I'm doing great," after Saturday's Senate vote to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."
Fehrenbach was in the Senate chamber as the votes were counted. "It was overwhelming," he said. "I was very emotional."
Fehrenbach will appear on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show at 7 p.m. Monday with three other gay servicemembers and a live audience. Fehrenbach first appeared with Maddow in 2008 and became one of the most prominent faces in the fight for repeal.
On Tuesday, he'll be at the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol where the repeal bill will officially be sent to President Obama. He also hopes to be at the subsequent signing ceremony at the White House.
Asked to reflect on his effort to repeal the policy, Fehrenbach said, "For me, I always knew I was going to be OK, whether I was discharged or not, or whether I made it through retirement. I've been serving openly for a year-and-a-half. Soon, that shadow that I've been under, that limbo status, that'll be gone. That's a huge relief for me personally."
Fehrenbach said he's also gratified that a shadow will be lifted for an estimated 65,000 gay servicemen and women.
"They'll get to serve without being in fear anymore, with their dignity, integrity and honor intact. That's the part for me that means so much more."
Officially, the 19-year-veteran's future is still up in the air while the Pentagon moves to implement the changes.
Trace Giles, chief of public affairs at Mountain Home AFB, said the president, secretary of Defense and chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that allowing openly gay personnel to serve does not compromise unit cohesion, readiness, effectiveness, recruiting and retention. If that happens, another 60 days must pass before the military stops enforcing "don't ask, don't tell."
"In the meantime, 'don't ask, don't tell,' is still law," said Giles. Openly gay people who wish to join the military should wait until the process is completed before applying for enlistment, Giles said.
Giles said any pending discharges under "don't ask, don't tell," must be approved by the service secretaries. Fehrenbach's case was already subject to a decision by the Air Force secretary. Fehrenbach also sued in federal court in Idaho to block his removal.
Fehrenbach lives in Boise and is the assistant director operations of the 366th Operations Support Squadron. A weapons systems officer who flew in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has been grounded since 2008 after he was outed by a civilian. A Boise police investigation cleared him of an allegation of rape, but the Air Force moved to remove him because he acknowledged having consensual sex with his accuser.
Saturday's vote brought another wave of publicity for Fehrenbach, who appeared on CNN and Fox. Other weekend coverage included
KTVB-TV and KBOI-TV in Boise and a number of online sites: the Washington Blade, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, AMERICAblog, and ScienceBlogs.
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