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US officials have approved the distribution of a gay-themed magazine at Army and Air Force bases for the first time, coinciding with the end of a ban on openly gay troops, according to activists.
OutServe Magazine, which caters to gay members of the armed forces, said it would deliver a special "repeal issue" on September 20, the day the prohibition against openly gay US service members is due to officially end.
The upcoming edition will feature photos and biographies of nearly 100 service members who will be openly acknowledging their sexual orientation, the magazine said on its website on Friday.
"This marks an incredible time in the history of our military.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers once had to conceal their true identities," said a OutServe co-director on the website, who withheld his or her identity while the ban remains in effect.
"By featuring their pictures and their stories, we are signaling that time has passed. It is time for these military members to be honored for their extraordinary commitment and sacrifice in defense of our country," the co-director said.
The US Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which oversees merchandise and restaurants permitted to operate on military bases, approved the distribution of the magazine on publication racks, defense officials said.
"The Army Air Force Exchange Service centrally contracts for the distribution of free publications," a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Former soldiers and gay rights groups have fought for years to overturn the ban, introduced in 1993 as a compromise after military chiefs rejected a bid by former president Bill Clinton to open the doors to gay soldiers.
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" required gay troops to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face expulsion from the forces, and an estimated 14,000 service members have been kicked out of the military under the rule.
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