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US military gay ban to end soon

In a landmark victory for gay rights in the country, the US Senate gave its final approval to repeal the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' law, which would pave the way for gays to openly serve in the US military for the first time.

world Updated: Dec 19, 2010 08:38 IST

In a landmark victory for gay rights in the country, the US Senate gave its final approval to repeal the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' law, which would pave the way for gays to openly serve in the US military for the first time.

The White House said President Obama would soon sign the bill into law, which was earlier passed by the House of Representatives into law.

"Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend," Obama said in a statement soon after the Senate on Saturday passed the bill 65 to 31.

"By ending 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay.

"And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love," he said.

The 17-year-old law restricts the US military from efforts to discover or reveal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members or applicants, while barring those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known," the president said.

Allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military, will strengthen US national security while upholding the basic equality on which this nation was founded, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

"The President looks forward to signing the bill into law," he said.

"This is one of those moments in our history when we stepped up and squared our policies with the values this nation was founded upon," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey termed it as an important step for civil rights and for national security.

"Don't Ask Don't Tell is a ridiculous notion, a bad policy and a relic of a bygone era. Repealing it will keep our national defense strong by keeping good people in the military who want to serve," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Dick Lugar, who opposed the bill said he is concerned about the impact of lifting the law on unit cohesion and combat effectiveness, particularly at a time when so many US military personnel are engaged in combat-intensive missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The policy continues to be the subject of contentious debate within the military and among military families whose sons and daughters serve in the Armed Forces.

"The opposition of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, as well as other active and retired military personnel, underscores these concerns," he said.

Senator John Cornyn also voted against the bill.

"With three of the four military service chiefs expressing clear reservations over the proposed repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, today's vote shows blatant disregard for the opinions of those who know our military best," he said.