President Barack Obama and top Pentagon
leaders on Friday sent word to Congress that the military is ready to
end “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 policy that bans gay and
bisexual troops from serving openly.
Under the legislative terms of repeal
outlined in December, the policy ends 60 days after the president,
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Admiral Michael Mullen, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, certify that the military is
ready for the change.
After a meeting with Mullen and Panetta
in the afternoon, the president released their certifications to the
Armed Services committees of both houses of Congress.
“The final countdown to repeal begins
today,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal
Defense Network (SLDN), said in a statement. “Service members
celebrate this historic announcement, and they are ready for this
change. Our nation's top military leaders have testified that
commanders see no significant challenges ahead, and now the
President, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Mullen have certified to
Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of ‘Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell.'”
Laura W. Murphy, director of the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Washington Legislative office,
also praised the move.
“Very soon, gay and lesbian service
members will be able to serve their country openly, honestly and with
the dignity they deserve and for far too long were denied,” she
said in a statement.
Sarvis also renewed his call for the
president to issue an executive order banning discrimination in the
military based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Every service member deserves equal
respect in the work environment. Signing legislation that allows for
repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was necessary, but it is not
sufficient for ensuring equality in the military. It's critical that
gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as
their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and