US President Barack Obama has said he will end the ban on gay people serving openly in the military. He said he would repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gay people to serve in the military if they do not reveal their sexual orientation. He had been criticised by some in the gay community for the lack of action on gay marriage and the military issue. Mr Obama was addressing thousands of gay and lesbian people at a fundraising dinner in the US capital. On the military issue he said the US could not afford to lose those people who had much needed skills for fighting. Mr Obama did not give a timetable for repeal of the policy, passed by Congress in , under which thousands of service members have been discharged.
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By Will Dunham. The repeal went into effect on Tuesday, ushering in a new era in the armed forces. The law had allowed gay men and women to serve in the military only if they kept their sexual orientation a secret. They faced the threat of being kicked out of the military if they were open about their homosexuality. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made it clear that the military would not tolerate mistreatment of gays in the ranks. Under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, more than 14, service members were thrown out of the military since it went into effect in , according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. See graphic r.
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The Pentagon had asked for time following the repeal to prepare troops for the arrival of openly gay comrades. Mr Obama's move affirmed the Pentagon had declared it was ready to accept openly gay troops. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian. With the certification, Mr Obama signalled that he, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have officially confirmed that the military is prepared, following extensive training and preparation, to implement December's repeal of the law. Under the US policy of DADT, established in , gay people could serve in the military but could not acknowledge their orientation.
Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and officer in the Army National Guard who is fluent in Arabic and who returned recently from Iraq, received notice today that the military is about to fire him. Because he came out of the closet as a gay man on national television. Some readers might think it unfair to blame Obama.