The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) celebrated the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ( DADT ) Sept. 20 at the Downtown Lounge Bar in downtown Chicago. Jim Messina, President Obama's 2012 campaign manager, was a guest speaker.
"As the vice president would say, this is a big F-ing deal," Messina said with a laugh. " [ The repeal ] showed all of us we can do great things again… We aren't the country that said 'Don't ask, don't tell.' We're a country that says, 'Out of many, we are one.' That's who we are."
SLDN hosted more than 100 simultaneous repeal parties across the country. Flagship events were in Washington D.C.; New York City; Philadelphia; West Hollywood, Calif.; Charleston, S.C.; and Chicago.
Smiles and laughter were abundant at the 2-hour gathering as veterans and allies mingled and enjoyed drinks. Scheduled programming lasted just 15 minutes: Discharged veterans Veronica Hernandez and Marquell Smith spoke briefly before introducing Messina.
As a token of appreciation, Smith presented Messina with a coin from his time in the U.S. Marine Corps. Military coins hold great significance for veterans.
Messina explained how difficult it was repeal DADT. The former deputy chief of staff said he keeps the pen Obama used to sign repeal legislation in his office.
"Our work has just started," Messina said. "There's many more things we've all got to get done, and… that means reelecting Barack Obama as President of the United States."
"To all of those who served our country so admirably, thank you from the bottom of our hearts," he continued. "You are American patriots. With that, I hope you'll join me in drinking."