FT. CAMPBELL, Ky. — The order banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military will end in 60 days, the Obama administration is expected to announce on Friday, according to several reports.
Earlier this month, all of the military services reported to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that their troops are ready to accept repeal, the Pentagon said — the final step before the defense secretary, the president and the chairman can certify repeal.
Once the 18-year-old ban ends, gay and lesbian troops can openly serve and will enjoy the same federal rights as civilians now do. It will be Panetta’s first major announcement since becoming secretary of defense July 1.
While the announcement is not a surprise, it will end months of ambiguity and legal wrangling over the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The courts have intervened, ruling that the policy is unconstitutional, only to have their ruling overturned in appeal. That has created confusion, including brief periods where the military did not enforce the ban, only to be ordered to enforce it days later.
The decision to repeal still sparks debate. Opponents have argued that administration is moving too fast; supporters of the repeal argue the Pentagon is overstating the potential impact on its forces.
Under a law signed last year, President Barack Obama, Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had to certify that the military was ready for repeal, which they are expected to do later today. Sixty days later, “don’t ask, don’t tell” ends, the law states.
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama ordered the end of the controversial law, signed by President Bill Clinton. A month later Mullen said repeal was the moral thing to do, all but ensuring that the military would embrace the repeal.
With that, the Pentagon began studying how to end the law, culminating with a department-wide training process covering everything from administrative changes to ensuring that troops would not lash out at those who came out of the closet.
Obama, Panetta and Mullen are meeting at the White House this afternoon. The announcement on the ban is expected afterward.