Obama signs landmark law overturning 'don't ask, don't tell'

Thursday, December 23, 2010

United States President Barack Obama has officially repealed the law prohibiting openly homosexual people from serving in the U.S. military. Campaigners have praised the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) as a historic advance for gay rights.

United States President Barack Obama
Image: United States Senate.

The new law was signed into effect by Obama yesterday morning. DADT, in effect for 17 years, was repealed by the United States Senate on Saturday. The military will cease enforcement of the policy in 60 days time, after the Pentagon has certified to Congress that it, and the military are ready to implement the new law.

"This is a very good day," Obama told a crowd of soldiers and senior military officials. "This morning I'm proud to sign a law that will bring an end to 'don't ask, don't tell'. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country that they love." Obama added that the government would "not drag their feet" and they were "committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently."

He added the law would strengthen national security and the U.S. military. "No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were 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," he said.

Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, praised the new ruling. "Clearly, this is President Obama's Lyndon Johnson moment in history," he said. "A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence."

No longer will tens of thousands of Americans be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country that they love.

United States President Barack Obama

Obama has been an advocate for overturning the ban on gays serving in the military. Under the law, enacted in 1993, over 13,000 members of the U.S. military have been dismissed. Supporters of DADT have said the new ruling will damage the morale of troops. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain said earlier this month more scrutiny would be needed before the law was repealed.

A report by The Pentagon earlier this month concluded most U.S. service personnel do not believe reform of the rules on gays and lesbians serving in the military would affect morale, unit cohesion or military effectiveness. The report found only 30% believed that changing the law would have a negative effect.

Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, the highest-ranking officer investigated under the DADT policy, said: "I'm just incredibly proud of our country and of this military that so many service members will be able to serve with dignity and integrity. It's actually taken a day or two to sink in, because it seemed so unbelievable at the time."