(CNSNews.com) - "Today's a good day, although it took way too long for policy to match reality," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told an LGBT Pride gathering at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
"[J]ust five years ago, an event like this would not have been possible," Mabus said. "There were those in uniform, on the Hill, in the American public who favored continuation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That policy required LGBT service members to lie, to hide, in order to serve.
"It's a policy that was insidious and morally wrong."
According to Mabus, there are 65,000 active duty LGBT service members and one million LGBT veterans. He urged people who received other-than-honorable discharges under DADT to "come in," and have their discharge characterization changed.
Mabus criticized those who opposed the repeal of DADT as using "the same flawed logic" as those who had earlier opposed racial and gender integration:
"When we faced racial integration, when we integrated women into the service, when we repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, every time those changes were proposed -- every time! -- there were naysayers saying the force would be weakened and unit morale would be decreased.
"And yet the Navy, the Marines, the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guard are the most powerful forces in the world today and it shows that a more diverse force is a stronger force."
Mabus said the military must draw from all of America's talent: "We need a force representative of and reflective of the nation it defends. And because of that, we're a more effective fighting force."
As the U.S. military becomes more representative of the public at large, it is forced to confront societal problems such as sexual assault.
In a report released last month, the U.S. military said it received a total of 6,083 reports of sexual assault involving service members either as victims or subjects in fiscal 2015, which is a one-percent decrease from fiscal 2014.
Of the 6,083 reports of sexual assault, 5,240 were Service member victims who made a report. Of those 5,240 Service member victims, 504 victims (approximately 10%) made a report for incidents that occurred before they entered into Military Service.
Nineteen percent of sexual assault reports in fiscal 2015 came from men, up from early years of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program; nonetheless, victimized men rarely report this crime, the report noted.
The report also said men and women experience the crime of sexual assault differently: Male victims "are more than five times more likely than female victims" to consider sexual assault as hazing.
"These male respondents perceived the incident as serving to humiliate or abuse them, as opposed to having some kind of sexual intent. Some male victims who experience such incidents may not even consider making a report because they do not perceive the incident as a sexual assault."