In a historic shift for the US armed forces, President Barack Obama signed into law the repeal of military's 'Don't ask, Don't tell' policy, allowing gays to openly serve in the army.
Fulfilling one of his major campaign promises, Obama said this law will strengthen the national security and uphold the ideals that its fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. "No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who are forced to leave the military -- regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -- because they happen to be gay," Obama said.
Last week, the Senate had repealed the 1993 "Don't ask Don't tell", which requires gays to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face discharge. By repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' today, the US is taking a big step toward fostering justice, fairness and consideration, Vice President Joe Biden, said. The existing policy actually weakens America's national security, diminished its ability to have military readiness and violates a fundamental American principle of fairness and equality, he said.
"Today we're marking a historic milestone, but also the culmination of two of the most productive years in the history of Congress, in no small part because of their leadership. And so we are very grateful to them," Obama said in his remarks on the occasion.
The old policy remains in effect until Defence Secretary Robert Gates, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and Obama certifies the military's readiness to implement the repeal, and it's especially important for service members to remember that, Obama said. "I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs, and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently. We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done," he said.
"At every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands," Obama said.
"There can be little doubt, there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the western front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials. There headstones dot the grounds at Arlington," Obama added. "So as the first generation to serve openly in our armed forces you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after," he said. US Senator Frank Lautenberg, an Army veteran, who was present at the signing ceremony, said the bill marks an historic milestone in their pursuit of equal rights for all Americans. "I was proud to be with President Obama as he signed the law that will bring an end to the military's discriminatory policy. Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is the right thing to do and will make our country and our military stronger," he said.