US president Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a law allowing gays to serve openly in the military, repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a sweeping and historic shift for the US armed forces.
"We are not a nation that says 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' We are a nation that says, 'Out of many, we are one,'" Obama said in a raucous and emotive ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington.
"We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot," Obama said.
The signing ceremony reconciled a promise from Obama's 2008 campaign, and followed a political and moral crusade by activists, and years of opposition from conservatives and some sectors of the military establishment.
The policy will not end overnight however.
Obama, Defense secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen must certify that lifting the ban on gays serving openly can be done without harming readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruitment.
Once the certification is made, the change will enter into force within 60 days.