Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama Signs Landmark US Military Gay Law

President Obama has signed a landmark measure ordering the US armed services to allow gay men and women to serve openly for the first time.

Approval of the measure by Congress this month was a victory for Mr Obama after he made the repeal of the so-called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy a campaign issue.

At the signing ceremony in Washington the president said that valour and sacrifice in the armed forces are no longer defined by sexual orientation.

Mr Obama said he was proud to fulfill his campaign pledge and sign a bill which he believes will "strengthen national security".

Since 1993, when the Pentagon introduced the policy allowing gays and lesbians to join the armed forces if they did not reveal their sexuality, at least 13,000 people have been expelled from the armed forces for violating the rules.


The Pentagon will now have to draft a plan for implementing the altered rules, deciding how troops will be educated about the new policy.

Decisions will also have to be made about disciplinary procedures and the status of those who were fired for violating "Don't Ask" in the past.

Some top military figures have opposed the repeal and believe it is too risky to make such a change when the armed services are already stretched fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A recent study found about 30% of troops expressed negative views or concerns about the repeal.

But the signing is a victory for America's gay community and for Mr Obama who had been criticised for not acting swiftly enough.

He hailed the courage and vision of defence secretary Robert Gates and praised Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who advocated changing the 17-year-old policy.

"No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country they love," Obama said.