President Barack Obama will sign a
landmark gay rights bill on Wednesday morning.
The president will sign into law
legislation that will allow gay and bisexual troops to serve openly
in the military, ending the 1993 law known as “Don't Ask, Don't
Tell” put in place by President Bill Clinton.
Before the law, gay men and lesbians
were barred from service.
Clinton, who promised to change the
policy, instead compromised. The policy he backed allows gay troops
to serve so long as they remain closeted and celibate. More than
13,000 service members have been discharged for violating the policy.
As a candidate, Obama pledged to end
the law. He reiterated his promise in this year's State of the Union
“I will work with Congress and our
military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the
right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” he
said in January.
“It's the right thing to do,” he
added to thunderous applause.
But gay rights activists questioned
Obama's commitment to repeal due mostly to his administration's
ongoing efforts to defend the law in the courts. In three separate
cases the administration argued it had an obligation to defend the
laws enacted by Congress.
Obama praised passage of repeal, which
was achieved in the Senate after two unsuccessful attempts.
“Gay and lesbian service members –
brave Americans who enable our freedoms – will no longer have to
hide who they are,” Obama said in an email to supporters after the
weekend vote. “The fight for civil rights, a struggle that
continues, will no longer include this one.”
Implementation is expected to take
months and supporters of repeal are cautioning gay troops not to come
“The bottom line: for now, gay,
lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously
closeted,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal,
said in a statement.
The signing ceremony is expected to
take place at 9:30AM in an auditorium at the Interior Department.