Obama: Ban on Gays in US Military to End in September

Posted July 22nd, 2011 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama says the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military will end in 60 days — on September 20, 2011.

In a statement Friday, Mr. Obama said he had notified Congress that the requirements have been met to end what he called a “discriminatory” law that “undermines our military readiness” and violates American “principles of fairness and equality.”

The president's announcement follows a law he signed in December that overturned the 17-year-old “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they kept their sexual orientation a secret.

The law required Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the military's top uniformed leaders first to certify that military readiness would not be harmed once the ban is lifted. The Pentagon said that certification was transmitted to the president Thursday night.

Under-Secretary Clifford Stanley told reporters Friday the military was ready to implement the new law allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, and that it would not have any impact on military readiness, effectiveness, or unit cohesion.

Stanley said nearly 2 million soldiers have received training since March preparing them for the transition> He pledged that military leadership would “swiftly address” any issues or questions that arise once the new law takes effect.

Stanley said the military would have “zero tolerance” for any harassment or discrimination against anyone for that person's sexual orientation.

Major General Steven Hummer, who oversaw the training and policy review, said the general consensus was that the transition would be “smooth and orderly.” But he said one large policy question that remains unresolved is how benefits like health insurance will work for the partners of soldiers in same-sex couples.

Generally, husbands and wives of military personnel also receive these benefits, but Hummer said the military is reviewing whether existing federal laws preclude extending the same benefits to same-sex partners.

About 14,000 men and women have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation since “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” was first adopted in 1993.

A U.S. appeals court earlier this month ordered the Obama administration to stop enforcing the policy, but the administration persuaded a higher court to allow the policy to stay in effect while the Defense Department went through the repeal process. The court prohibited the Pentagon from investigating, penalizing or discharging any service members for being gay.